Monday, 27 August 2007

Language Explosion

When I first started to read about Dr Montessori, BabyEbi was still a bump, I was very interested on the "language explosion" that she talked about and so I have observed BabyEbi's language skills with great interest. It is amazing, how over a couple of months he has gone from odd words to mini sentences and not just in English, Japanese too. I speak mostly English to him and DaddyEbi speaks mostly Japanese. Some people seem to thing that a toddler should not be exposed to more than one language at a time because it will confuse them, I poo-poo all that.
When I lived in Jerusalem for a year, the family next door had a little boy who was 4, twins that were 2.5 and a one year old baby. When I arrived there, the baby only had a couple of words, the twins could make short sentences in Hebrew and English but would sometimes mix a sentence with the 2 languages and the eldest spoke English, Hebrew and understood French but didn't speak much. By the time I left the twins had figured out which language was which and would correct the baby when she made mistakes, they had also picked up some French, the eldest was speaking French pretty well and all four of them understood Yemeni to an extent (the mom would shout at them in Yemeni when she was angry at them!). Watching the twins play was fascinating, one would ask a question in Hebrew, the other would answer in English and they would just switch back and forth.
I have friends here in Japan with kids, it is interesting to see how they know which language to use with which person, one friend has a 4 year old daughter, she understands that she needs to speak Japanese to her daddy but she can use Japanese or English with her Mommy, she knows that she needs to use simple Japanese with me or better still English, she needs to use Japanese with her Baa-chan and Jii-chan but English with granma and grandad. I don't think anyone has sat down and explained all this to her, she figured it out herself, the same way she figured out that some words are one language and others are a different one.
BabyEbi is at the point where he is making short sentences like "look, bird up there" but he still mixes the two so he will say things like "pretty cho-cho" (pretty butterfly) or "kawaii yellow duck" (cute yellow duck) he also sticks "neh" on the end of everything no matter which language, neh is very Japanese, it is like a confirmation marker after you have stated something, I suppose like "isn't it". It's hot isn't it? or Atsuii neh?
I don't want to force English on him, he is living in Japan but on the other hand, it is important that he speaks and understands English so that he can communicate with the English side of the family, I also feel that English is an important language, people pay a small fortune to learn the language here, so I feel it is more my duty to encourage his Engliah skills.
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