I have a new best friend. Her name is MK. She is Moroccan - and 10 years old. Little MK came to the Netherlands with her mom in April this year. She could not speak a word of English. She could however speak Arabic, French and Spanish. She picked up the language quickly, as children do, and now converses casually in English and can also say a few things in Dutch, with near-perfect accent. It's unbelievable.
So her mom has asked me to help with her English development. I don't speak down to her, she really is incredibly bright (or is it just that all children soak up information so easily?). She's come from a very conservative household in Tangier to the far more liberal culture of the Netherlands, which has opened her eyes (and her mother's) fast. Even so, she is still very naive compared to other children of her age.
Shortly after dinner on Saturday, MK was told to get ready for bed. As she was leaving, the adults carried on with the banter around the table which at that stage was focussed on (of all things) how well do you really need to chew your food. Now, every time I have an opportunity to use this word, I use it. It's funny. It gets a reaction. A lot of people don't know it, and it sounds like something else. So, in my usual unthinking mode, I announced that it's "always important to masticate". This got the desired reaction - one guy laughed, Mills called me out for being a show-off, MK's mom wanted to know what it meant.
MK stopped on her way up the stairs and with a proud grin, loudly proclaimed, "I masticate! You masticate! We masticate!"
I shrivelled. Mills glared at me. MK's mom and her partner tried not to make a big deal of it, while at the same time tried to focus her on other tasks, in the hope that she would soon forget this word.
Crap. Crap. Crap. Crap.
What is it about children that makes them pick up - immediately - on the words that they shouldn't? Seriously, I had thrown tons of words at her over a friendly game of scrabble earlier that afternoon and THIS was the one she chooses to commit to memory? How do you explain to a young innocent girl that this is just a silly word that she really doesn't need to remember and that she really shouldn't shout out in the playground, because it sounds like another word which is not so silly, which some of her classmates probably already know and will either get her into trouble or laughed at because they sound so similar. Omigod, please forget that word. Instantly!