I never get any peace and quiet anymore between the time the little red-haired girl goes to bed and her falling asleep, but I don’t mind at all.
“Daaa-deee,” she’ll call from her bedroom five minutes after bedding down. “What does philanthropic mean?”
So I get up out of my chair and go in to tell her.
“Well, philanthropic is being nice to other people, but in a way that benefits everybody. Like you donate a lot of money to support a hospital for sick children, or for buying space for young artists to work in. That’s being philanthropic. It has two root words in one – philo- meaning love of, and anthropos- meaning human being.
I’ve always spoken English with her, but she’s only 11, been taking English in her German high school for all of eight months, and I’ve never used such vocabulary in my conversations with her, so where does it come from?
Calvin and Hobbes. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, 1400 pages spread over three volumes in a boxed set covering 10 years’ worth of colour and black-and-white comics.
She’d already dog-eared the two Calvin compilations I’d given her, books from my younger days when I too was a fan of the little guy with the big ideas and his imaginary tiger. She bought another one herself a few months ago, but after also reading through that one several times over, went on a hunt for more. After discovering the three-volume set up for auction on eBay, she snapped it up, using her own allowance and birthday money.
I know she’ll probably not retain half of the new words she comes across this way, but that’s not important right now. Expat parents are always trying to make sure their native language gets passed on to their kids in the face of the constant bombardment of the majority language and culture they swim in.
If she’s found something in English she not only loves to read but can’t seem to get enough of, my job is that much easier.
© 2008 lettershometoyou