Yesterday was the annual children's presentation in Sacrament Meeting. A year ago, the girls prepared their parts in English and another girl stood up and translated what they said into Finnish after they were done. It was the best we could do after only a few months in the country.
This year, both girls prepared their parts in English first. Miriam prepared a 2-minute talk about temples, and Magdalena prepared a 2-minute talk about her baptism in August.
Magdalena translated her own talk into Finnish and the Primary leader fine-tuned it and corrected a few mistakes. The same leader just translated Miriam's talk for her, by Miriam's request. It's enough to ask two young girls to get up and speak into a microphone in front of an entire church congregation - I wasn't about to insist that Miriam translate her talk into Finnish. Maybe next year, hmm.
Yesterday, during the real thing, both girls read their prepared talks out in Finnish with no major difficulties. Miriam needed a little help when it came time to talk about someone's twelfth birthday - the word "twelfth" was written in numerals rather than spelled out, and she couldn't remember how to say it in the right case. The Primary leader came to her rescue and she recovered just fine.
Magdalena gave her part perfectly.
Afterwards, friends told us (and we have heard this before from other Finns) that Magdalena sounds like a native - you literally can't tell that she is not Finnish based on accent alone. She still makes grammatical mistakes, but lucky her, she lives in Turku, where people tend to swallow the grammatical endings of words anyway.
The same friends said that you can still tell Miriam has an accent, at least most of the time. She reads in Finnish quite fluently, but her pronunciation isn't quite Finn-perfect.
Of course I am mostly proud of the girls for standing up in front of a congregation and presenting a talk in Finnish...but I confess it's also interesting from a linguistic standpoint! I suspect it's mostly age that has determined their difference in native-like accent acquisition - Magda was 7 when we moved here and Miriam 10. Technically, though, Miriam was (and is) still inside the critical period, which means it is entirely possible that she, too, will pick up the accent perfectly. Only time will tell.