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C is for Cat

"Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” I grew up with a very healthy and happy relationship with the third letter of our adored Latin Alphabet. The soft and hard sounds of the letter “C” are music to my ears and my favorite hardbacks of The Cat in the Hat and Curious George Circus Act were right there on my bookshelf waiting to be read to my son Max.  During his first two years, it was easy to recite bedtime stories as I rocked him to sleep, but now that he’s interacting with each letter on every page, I’ve finally had come to face to face with the intimidating characters of my husband's Cyrillic Alphabet.

In an effort to relieve my fears, my husband has proudly explained to me that the simple “write as you speak, read as it is written” concept of Cyrillic, developed by acclaimed linguist Vuk Karadžić, is actually easier to learn than the Latin alphabet.  In his favor, even though their alphabet is longer, it is mastered so easily by Serbian children that they don’t even sing along to a song to memorize the sounds.  However, as I look at the Cyrillic charts pinned to Max’s wall, I find myself searching for the kidnapped U,V & W and I have begun to wonder if this is why Max enjoys repeating the last few verses of our popular American ABC Song.

My husband insists that my fears of Cyrillic or Ћирилицa spawn from watching too many movies about Russian spies.  Arguably, the shared Slavic symbols of Russian do appear in the backgrounds of many scenes in the The Bourne Supremacy blockbuster and ironically, it is the Cyrillic characters: B, P, C, X and Y that seem perfectly disguised as Latin letters while actually symbolizing different sounds.  Needless to say, when it comes to Cyrillic, I am a bit suspicious about that letter C.
Accents on letters are vital in deciphering codes in any language but particularly made into assets when Serbian is written in the Latin form, where the letter C is pronounced three different ways, each narrowly distinguishable by an almost spylike pronunciation mark.  C alone is pronounced “ts” as in peanuts, while the character “Č” is voiced as “ch” as in chocolate and finally symbolized as “Ć” where there is no equivalent sound, almost as if it were intentionally made a secret.
In our house, letters have bellowed into a tsunami of vocabulary and Max seems to be weathering the storm as best he can.  So far, the forecast is still a bit foggy but as history recounts сунце or the sun will soon shine again.  Just as k is for kitten and c is in maca, Mommy still says “cat” and Daddy says “mačka.”  Regardless of phonetics, it is clear that learning a language and becoming allies takes understanding its history, resilient themes and methodic evolution.