Evidence of Bilingualism


Image: ntwowe/freedigitalphotos.net

Thomas is learning more words every day now.  Most of them are in Portuguese, although he is quite happy to repeat whatever you say to him, no matter what the language.  It is interesting, then, to see evidence of what he will hopefully become; a bilingual citizen of the world.

The only word that he really uses from both English and Portuguese is ‘mommy’ and ‘mamãe’.  He often shouts out for his mom first of all in English, then in Portuguese and then back to English.  It seems that his mother has got two names and the fact that she will respond to either of them is good enough for him.

Then there are other words that he says in one lnaguage, but obviously understands in the other.  The most obvious example is that he always says ‘daddy’, but if anybody asks him about ‘papai’ he will often repeat with the English ‘daddy’.

For a while he has been doing the same with ‘water’.   He says ‘agua‘ for any sort of liquid but has always understood me when I say ‘water’.  Today, I offered him some ‘water’ and he nodded his head and whispered back to me ‘agua’.  I was thrilled to bits as this is the first time, other than for me and hismother, that he has shown he can understand from one language and translate to another.  (I am not sure he is translating, in fact I have no idea what is going on in his head, but these are the best words I have for what he is doing.)

He hasn’t quite mastered to word ‘tchau’ yet in Portuguese, instead he says something like /taʊ/ or something that rhymes with tchau but has a t sound at the front.  But if you say ‘tchau’ or ‘bye’ to him he responds with a wave.  Likewise if you ask for ‘kisses’ or ‘beijos’.

All in all, everyday we can see things changing in his language skills.  The fact that he is improving in both his English and Portugues reassures us that we are doing something right.


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