set up for awkward

Our little family tries to surf in the rough sea of languages every day, the waves sometimes so violent that I fall of the surfing board and wash up on the shore all bruised. Especially so after a morning with my son at the playground.

My wife and I speak Japanese and English, I speak Swedish to my son, he speaks a little bit of everything including Baby, and on top of that we add the Fukuoka dialect as a spice to make life more interesting (or confusing). While I struggle with my Japanese (not to mention the Fukuoka dialect) and with my ambition to be a helpful Swedish language teacher for our son (and not teach him strange mannerisms, bad words and so on – it is a lot of responsibility to being the only Swedish speaking person in his every day life apart from our video-calls with his grandparents in Sweden), it is amazing to watch how languages seems to come naturally to him. He repeats what he hears, plays with sounds and has a retaining ability that makes me so jealous.

Our little boy loves his cars and trains and buses, and he often gets excited when he sees a bus on the street, sometimes saying bus (in English), バス, basu (bus in Japanese), and buss (bus in Swedish). As it turns out, the way our son says bus in Swedish sounds a lot like a very rude Japanese word meaning ugly woman – ブス, busu. That would be enough to make an interesting time at the playground when my son sees a bus driving by, pointing at it while saying buss with a few mums between us and the bus.

(Un)fortunately that is not enough, filing me with a sense of amusement mixed with horror. One more favorite of my son’s is to not drive his toys forward but instead to make them go backwards, or backa as it is called in Swedish. And when he says backa it sounds a lot like the Japanese word for idiot, バカ, baka. So imagine my bewilderment when we are playing with the other kids and their moms in the sandbox with the cars and tractors and buses and my little son says backa buss backa buss (idiot ugly woman).

While I at the moment am struggling to not think about what the moms think about my parenting (hoping they can tell Swedish from Japanese), I am sure that in the future it will make a very fun story that we will laugh at many times. In fact at home my wife and I are already laughing – when our son wants to play with me and mum is in the way, he says mummy go backwards in Swedish – mamma backa, mamma backa.

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