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.


  1. keep going with your languages! my own chinese is just so-so, but we've been working hard to speak both chinese and english to our son. he's done so well. his chinese is actually better than his english now (and in fact, when we came back from 7 weeks in asia, he had totally forgotten his english!) and my chinese is about reaching its limits, but i'm so glad we did this.

  2. Children pick up languages so quickly! I had a Korean girl in my class last year. She moved from Korea to Canada, and the next day she was at our Summer Camp, speaking NO English at all. Her mother had a translator with her, but dropped her daughter at school and left. By June of this year, the little girl was speaking English as well as her Canadian playmates. Her mother had taken English as a SL all year, and her 4 year old daughter spoke and understood more than she did! It was very interesting to listen to how her English grew over the year, when she figured out where certain words went in a sentence, meanings of words, when she started telling her own stories (very early on!). She wasn't at all afraid to use her broken English. I have had several experiences like this one, one with Japanese and a few who spoke only Chinese. I have at least 1/4 of my class who have another language as well as English at home, and are learning French at school (which the Korean girl was doing as well!) When a second language is given at an early age, physical synapses are happening in the child's brain that makes learning more than one language easier. Those of us who didn't get that before 5 (me!) have a harder time with second languages (or 3 or 4 etc) Sounds like Bebyebi is doing great!! In Canada people put "eh!" at the end of sentences - "Great day eh?" sounds like neh!

  3. It is amazing how they pick up language, I have a really hard time picking up another language - as my pitiful Japanese proves, I am sure babyEbi will be speaking better than me in a few months.


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