It is finally starting to happen: my daughter is losing her English accent.
Despite being born in the states and having an American dad, Daisy--as she would like to be called this week--has always spoken like her English mum. "She sounds just like the little girl from Mary Poppins," smiling strangers will say.
Not for much longer. We live in America, which means there are an awful lot of Americans around, and Daisy has started to pick up the things that they say. When she learns new words at school, they come home wrapped up in a sparkly American accent.
"Mummy, did you know that Mars has volcanoes, and Ju-bid-err has got a red spot that's a storm and Sad-urrrn..."
"Oh yes, Ju-PiT-ah, and Sa-T-un..."
Why is it so important to me? Daisy is half English and I want her to hold onto that side of her identity. I'm quite happy for her to wave American flags at the parade on Memorial Day, and soak up countless American traditions, but I also want her to know the joys of an English childhood. Like picnics on the motorway while the rain streams down the car windows, or of sitting in a freezing beer garden sipping a Panda Cola, while you wait for your dad to finish his pint and come out of the pub. Who would rob a child of that?
And I want her to keep speaking like me!
Daisy has friends from Germany, Italy, and Croatia. These kids get to maintain their identity in the form of a distinct language, but how do you preserve an accent?
As the Americanisms increase, it is starting to get tiring, and a report came out the other day that made me wonder why I am even bothering. According to Oxford University Press, British children--the ones living in Britain--are using ever more American terms. OUP held a writing contest in order to study the language used by children for a dictionary it is compiling. American terms such as flashlight, garbage truck, sidewalk, and sneakers, frequently cropped up.
OUP also said that American vocabulary was especially common in stories written by 10-13 year olds, "arguably due to the vogue for US-penned novels such as Twilight and The Hunger Games."
I find this interesting because I read a lot of British-penned children's novels here in the US, and frequently find that many of the British terms have been edited out.
For example, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets terms such as summer holidays, motorway and car bonnet are changed to vacation, highway and hood.
It's the same with our television exports. Take the Thomas & Friends television series. In the UK, the series was narrated by former Beatle Ringo Starr and the English actor Michael Angelis, but most of the programs shown in the US feature the voices of George Carlin, the American stand-up comedian (who died in 2008), and American actors Alec Baldwin and Michael Brandon. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Meanwhile, we Brits are busy scribbling down the American terms that pop out of our children's mouths and sticking them in dictionaries.
I assume that people who know about the "American market" feel that American children will lose interest in a book or TV program if it uses a handful of terms that they don't recognise. How can this be true though, if English kids are picking up American terms with such alacrity? Are English children more clever than American ones. Of course not! Everyone knows that Americans are the best at everything!
Imagine if JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels, had not insisted that the films of the same name were made in the UK and starred English actors for the main (and most other) characters. Would those films have been as successful? I doubt it.
These efforts to Americanise almost everything, make my job of preserving my kids' Englishness even harder. But I don't think they are good for American children either. Children need to grow up aware that there is a world beyond their country's borders, and in the knowledge that it isn't in fact their way, or the...motorway. This is, in part, how we create tolerant, worldly adults.
This weekend, as Britain's Jubilee celebrations were in full swing, I felt sad that my children were missing out on jam tarts and street parties, so I sat down with Daisy and showed her some old BBC footage of the Queen.
After watching half an hour or so of golden horse-drawn carriages, a burning Windsor Castle ("Where is the Queen, is she all right? What about her children?") A speech, or two, and plenty of bouquet presentations, she proclaimed, "I want to be a Queen when I grow up. Can I mum?"
Unlikely, but you can keep talking like one.