Honestly, it is a giraffe. Maybe not the best giraffe you’ve ever seen, but what do you expect? I’m not a giraffe artist in the normal course of events. So here he is: a giraffe. A girafje in fact, because he’s Dutch.
Maike, is staying with me at the moment: she is six, Dutch and very fond of girafjes. She also displays the keen perception of the very young and, after a few days enquiry, has determined that what i do for a living is to draw pictures. Since then, she has diligently asked me what i’ve been drawing each day and been suitably disappointed when my pictures have failed to include giraffes of any sort. Today, i’m making up for that.
Maike is interesting: at aged four, we went to the zoo together and she talked to me all day in Dutch, seemingly oblivious to my almost complete inability to carry a conversation back again. She didn’t seem to register that we spoke different languages, except to give me a faintly scornful look when i failed to give an appropriate response.
Today, aged six, everything has changed. Today, it’s a constant stream of “weet Julian het word voor…” (“does Julian know the word for…”), then any household object that surrounds us.
She has moved from being a passive user of words to an active teacher of them.
Today, she is fully aware that we speak different languages. She still speaks to me fast, in Dutch, but she is much more aware of my limited ability to understand. And when i try to speak her language, she increasingly gives me feedback on my pronunciation, as well as offering new words.
She is insatiably curious about what i know or like: which animals, colours, foods and so on. She is a highly active learner.
So today, for Maike, a giraffe. For making me think about learning in a different way, because learning itself is something that we learn to do.