The importance of correct verb conjugation
We gathered around the back door, myself, Suegra and the boys, to watch the baby bird learning how to fly. His attempts weren’t successful and then he stopped trying – just sat there like a feathery lump, as if he had given up. The mother and father bird encouraged him, flapped their wings, flew from one point to another to demonstrate, but the baby bird seemed to look away with indifference.
Suegra clicked her tongue, “pobrecito,” she said.
My older son shook his head, “No puedo volar,” he commented.
I caught the wrong verb conjugation but didn’t want to correct him directly. Instead I just repeated what he said correctly so he would hear the difference and self-correct later.
“No,” I said sympathetically, “El pájarito no puede volar.”
Suegra snorted. She takes a more aggressive approach when the children make mistakes in Spanish.
“No ‘puedo volar’ decís. Como sos pajaro vos! Claro que no puedes volar, cipote.”
My older son sometimes gets defensive when corrected in this way. He doesn’t like being made fun of and can be kind of sensitive. This time he just smiled and flapped his arms.
Note for non-Spanish speakers:
The verb “poder” (to be able to) – is conjugated “puedo” to mean “I can” and “puede” for “he/she can” … By saying “No puedo volar” my son said “I can’t fly” instead of “No puede volar” to mean that the bird couldn’t fly.
Pobrecito – poor little thing
No puedo volar – I can’t fly
El pájarito no puede volar – The little bird can’t fly
No ‘puedo volar’ decís. Como sos pajaro vos! Claro que no puedes volar, cipote. – ‘I can’t fly’ you say. As if you’re a bird! Of course you can’t fly, kid.
Note for bird lovers:
The bird did eventually learn to fly. (Sí se puede!)