Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Selective hearing 2

Imagine my surprise when Max began screaming "crane, crane" as we walked past the building site on the way home from the creche. I called Jerome to tell him. And he said, I know, he did that this morning. He said "grue".

Now I obviously think my son is brilliant but I am realistic about what an almost 18 month old is capable of. So there are 3 options to this condundrum:
1) our son is amazingly bilingual and can already code switch
2) he has combined the french and english words to create a new one.
3) we both have selective hearing.

But what I find most fascinating about Max at the moment is how much he can say. It all came suddenly and has been reinforced with Grandma's visit . The problem is us trying to figure out what it actually is he's saying at times. But everything has meaning.

For instance, when I get him at the creche, he repeats "mion" over and over. I thought perhaps he was refering to his friend named Primo. But it wasn't til this weekend when he was trying to play with the toy house repeating "key, key" that we realized : maison. There are certain words that he has begun using in both French or English, depending on the prompting such as water. And there are other words, such as encore, that he refuses to say in the other language.

And since he's obviously capable of saying anything in French or English, we did a little test a few days ago. I said a few words and he repeated after me : diaper, bath, poopy, morning, Maisy. For all but the last one, he spoke English without hesitation. He just looked at me and said said Mimi (Maisy mouse's French alterego). I love these little games because it's like getting a glimpse of how his bilingual brain works.

And in the past couple weeks, Max's vocabulary has increased enormously. But to my dismay, Max is speaking mostly French (it's like déjà-vu because this is the same debate we had for Suzanne. But most of the feedback I've had from people outside our household says he speaks mostly French). The up side is that Max is a good communicator and, even if we don't understand the word, he uses a lot of gests and contact to explain what he wants. He now says go, water, shoe, stop, read (although my mother thinks he said lire), book, cow, cereal and apple. But helas, he insists on calling Maisy mouse Mimi!

Through Suzanne's speech, I picked up one of my language ticks : I used to say "huh" at the end of most sentences. Now it's Jerome's turn to have his language ticks thrown back at him. Every other word (that isn't Mommy?) out of Max's mouth is "beh alors".

One of Suzanne's fossilized mistakes in English was not using the relfexive. She would say "She hurt sheself" or "I hurt me". Somewhere over the last couple months - and completely without my noticing - she auto-corrected. This weekend, I realized she now uses the reflexive correctly.

And since my mother's been here, Suzanne has conquered other language fossils. Sometime over the fast 2 weeks, Suzanne began saying "I saw it" instead of using seed as the past participle. Go Suzanne!


Mil said...

I've noticed my two and half year old will certain things to her papa that she never says to me. It's weird indeed how they switch so automatically. I recall at 18 months I couldn't get her to say "milk" for the life of me. It was always "lolo". Slowly it changed. I think Max will go through phases but obviously he does know a lot of English so that's encouraging.

Anonymous said...

I love reading your bilingual stories although i read 'crane' in French the first time I saw it so I guess I'm no better!! Maybe mimi is mimi because she couldn't possibly called something else in another language - it's a first name after all. :o)

Reb said...

Mil, I hope Max will go through phases. Suzanne speaks English so well, especially considering the amount of time she spends swimming in French, that I forget what she was like at this age. I guess that's part of the reason I have this blog :)

Emmy,you may be right about Mimi/Maisy. It would be like us all of the sudden calling the cat Lulu instead of Lola....

Sarah said...

Such fantastic progress! Sounds like Max is talking a lot (in both languages) for such a young child.

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