Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bilingual Max at 20 months

Once again, I have They Might be Giants to thank for my child's introduction to numbers and letters. Max, an avid fan of the very appropriately chosen song "E Eats Everything", has been pointing to letters and numbers saying "E" in his little man voice which sounds very much like Bobby Brady in the episode where his voice changes.

Max still hasn't made a complete English sentence yet so I can let my guard down just yet. But, he is making a lot of progress speaking in both English...and French. It's all normal, I keep reminding myself.

Just yesterday, he pointed to the sky and said blue (more like bleu), said "airplane sky" and then pointed to the beater I'd used to make whip cream and said , "Mommy whisk!" He is also able to name more animals and vehicules. He is favoring French for many things but for others, he seems to have understood that there are 2 words.

Last week as I was getting him ready for bed, I turned on the tub and he said "hot....chaud...hot...chaud". Unlike Suzanne, he's not making franglais words but seems to choose one language or the other. He says "milk" but prefers "eau" (Suzanne made up waleau). He says "pain" but prefers "apple" (where Suzanne said bapomme). He will only say "oui" and "pas" but will also only say "read", "car" and "truck" so I think it's a good sign that his English is strong. My theory is that Suzanne was less socialized than Max, being at the nanny's with limited contact to other adults and children and therefore chose English because she heard it more at home. Max, on the other hand, is extremely socialized at the crèche with 20 kids and 5 care givers at any given time. That aside, his English is still progressing well because at home he hears a lot of English because Suzanne and I have constant chatter going on.

There is a lot of mimicking going on which is great. Just this morning, I caught him counting to three just like his sister. His comprehension is great in both languages, which is to be expected. And, besides being incredibly loud and extremely bullheaded, I think I like him...Everything my dear friend E told me about boys is true: they grunt, they climb on everything and they are very very loud. The loud part is a discussion for another post ie loud American genes...

For an idea of what Suzanne was saying at the same age, there is this post from Jan 2008 and this one from Feb 2008.

I'm not really sure how we've done it, but it seems we have made 2 loquacious, language sensitive, intelligent Franco-American beings. Actually, I do know how we did it and I can't attribute it all to good gene pool. I have to pat myself - and my husband - on the back for sticking with it. I honestly think that being rigid and strict with the language system (OPOL) has been the key...Go us!


Tamara Staton said...

What a GREAT video, and song to boot! Thanks so much for sharing.

I also really really appreciate your comment about the OPOL approach. I am seriously on the brink right now of re-assessing my method (strict OPOL), and would love your input. I have a 27 month old, whose Dad speaks English with her and whose Mom, German...non-natively. I can't believe how hard life feels right now...just with the toddlerhood alone, not to mention with the icing (which feels like WAY more than icing!) of speaking my non-native language with my daughter. I keep telling myself that it WILL get easier...it HAS to. Right?!! And then I wonder, am I just fooling myself? Maybe I should just seriously assess my well-being with this undertaking and make adjustments accordingly. I was thinking we could do something creative, yet structured, where I speak German with Kaya for 2 weeks, but then English with her for one. And so forth.
I'm so on the fence. Mostly, I'm so annoyed with how trapped I feel in my non-native language at times, and the idea of a day or week off where I can build relationship with my duaghter in English, too, is really relieving.
Would love your thoughts!


Reb said...

Don't give up Tamara! You're doing a great job. Raising kids is hard to begin with without throwing in a second language. Even speaking my own language to my kids (my husband speaks French although his English is close to perfect), it still gets frustrating. Sometimes I ask myself if I'm missing out on part of who they are because I refuse to speak to their French side. That said you have the added dimension of speaking a non-native language to your child. She will appreciate it later, even if it's hard now. From what I've seen around me, the most important thing is to be consistent. If you do decide to speak English to Kaya, you need to choose your moments and be strict about when and how you introduce English moments into her life. For instance, I have a French coworker who speaks English with her canadian husband and French with the kids (her hubby doesn't speak French well). So when Daddy's around, everyone speaks English. When it's only Mom, they speak French. Her kids seem to be doing well because they have understood that it's only in certain situations. Have you found a German speaking community ? Have you thought about in what situations you would like to speak English with her? Good luck! And remember that no matter what, you're doing a great job! Second language or not, being a parent is exhausting and trying...

Sarah said...

Bravo! It sounds like this would be a good time to update your family's profile on my blog--are you still interested? Let me know and I'll email you the questionaire. (babybilingual@gmail.com)

Reb said...

Sarah, I think this would be a great time for an update - I think Suzanne was about this age when you did the profile. He's making so much progress and a lot of credit goes to his big sister!

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