Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Wanna Be a Polar Bear, or switching code (the linguistic type)

I wanna be a polar bear, I wanna be a bear that wears a Wonderbra!

My kids came home from school today, and we continued with our dig through the Eurovision stash that my families accumulated throughout the last 35 years or so. You see, both Israel and Ireland are big on the Eurovision Song Contest.

The 70's were an era when whoever won went on to perform the winning song in several languages, as demonstrated with the 1979 winner Hallelujah (that was translated to and recorded in English, French and German). So I wasn't even surprised when Justin found a single of the previously mentioned 1978 winner A-Ba-Ni-Bi (and any and all variations that kinda sorta fit אבאניבי) by Izhar Cohen and Alfabeta in English.

Kevin dug out the record player and put it on, and at that moment the strange thing happened. My boys are all fluent in Hebrew. They speak, understand and read Hebrew, and know the song in Hebrew. They have sung it in Ivrit (modern Hebrew) countless times. But as soon as the song was on in English, the opening line "Abanibi obohebev" - I love in "bet language" - turned into "I wanna be a polar bear". Why? Because in English that made sense! This I have experienced a few times with the twins especially: when they switch code - they switch between English, Hungarian or Hebrew - they switch completely and certain things will be heard in the new language, even if they bear the language in which it is.

Now click play, and enjoy A-ba-ni-bi in English!


  1. It's wonderful that your boys are multi-lingual! What a tremendous advantage. Kids try to make sense of things with the vocabulary they have. Example: I knew a little boy who thought synchronized swimming was "sink your eyes swimming." Apparently your kids aren't the only ones who hear it as "polar bear and Wonder Bras (bars)" or there wouldn't be the YouTube. Am I confused??

    BTW, in the last sentence, do you mean "BEAR the language" or "HEAR the language in which it is"?? All this talk of bears threw me off.



  2. This reminds me of the kid from Bill Cosby's Fat Albert cartoon who added all the extra "buh" syllables to his speech. This is so funny!

  3. Miriam,

    The song is partly in Bet language. It is the Hebrew equivalent of bird language, a certain children's code. :-)

  4. Michal Ann,

    Yes, they do bear the language. :-) Made sure I used just the right word! :-D

    And yes, they are not the only ones. I am not surprised, though. They didn't hear the wonderbra part though! :-)



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