New Language

English: Thomas Blount, Glossographia, or, A d...

English: Thomas Blount, Glossographia, or, A dictionary interpreting all such hard words of whatsoever language now used in our refined English tongue (1661). Definition of the English word “Jehovah”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main reason I initially started this blog was to record the bilingual development of my son.  Looking over the last few posts I have hardly mentioned this and I figure it is because when you are up close and personal the changes come so slowly it can seem as if nothing is happening.  Instead I have been writing about all manner of other stuff that affect us a bilingual family and family life in general.  I have no problem with this I reckon I will keep writing about whatever takes my fancy, but I thought I would do today is give an update on Thomas’ language status at the moment.

Active Vocabulary

We have had a few new words in the last couple of weeks.  ‘Digige’ (pronounced /dɪˈdʒɪdʒə/or something like dee-zhee-zhee) means ‘dirigir’ or ‘drive’.  He uses this almost every time we go to get in the car as he wants to sit in the driver’s seat and drive for a few minutes before we leave.  Thanks for that vo vô.

He has started to say ‘poo poo’ after he has made a mess in his nappy.  My wife thinks he said it last week just before he made his delivery which augurs well for the fateful day of potty training.

The English word ‘dirty’ seems to have taken over from the Portuguese word ‘kaka’.  The Portuguese word was one of the first that he learned, but in the last few weeks has disappeared.  The problem with ‘dirty’ is the way he says it it can sometimes sound like ‘daddy’.  There are some who would make a disparaging remark at this point.

He has said ‘tee’ a couple of times for ‘tree’.  We pass a lot of trees on our way to playschool and he has recently become very interested in them.

Some motorbikes parked in Manchester city cent...

Lots of pies


‘Pie’ or ‘bi’ means ‘bike’.  This is an interesting one because until a couple of weeks ago he was ‘mo‘ which I think was short for ‘moto’, the Portuguese word for motorbike.  He uses this for motorbikes and bicycles.

‘Poor’ is another interesting word as it seems to be half of the English word ‘door’ and half of the Portuguese word ‘porta’.

‘Dodói’ is a Portuguese word that has a number of meanings in English, for example a pain or a sickness or a wound.  Thomas uses it in the sense of a wound because he fell over recently and grazed his knee.  He loves to say ‘dodói‘ to random people and show them he scab on his knee.

Nanar’ is a Portuguese word used by young children to mean ‘to sleep’.  He uses this if he sees anyone sleeping, if he wants you to pretend you are sleeping so he can wake you up, of if he actually wants to go to sleep.

As well as these words he has all of the old words with one colour; blue, the names of various family members, cartoon characters, ‘car’ and both ‘tchau‘ (pronounced ‘tau’) and ‘bye’.  And then of course there is his favourite word ‘no!’


English: A Highland cow on Pupers Hill, in sou...


He says ‘au au’ (/aʊ aʊ/ or ‘ow ow’) whenever he sees a dog because this is the sound that Brazilian dogs make, apparently.  He also says ‘moo’ whenever he sees a cow in a story book, ‘maa’ for a sheep, ‘po po‘ for a chicken or anything that looks remotely bird-like and, occasionally, ‘meow’ for a cat.

Passive Vocabulary

It is surprising how much Thomas seems to understand in both languages.  We can tell him to go and get something, for example the car keys, and will go off to the kitchen where they are usually kept and look for them.  When we are reading a book we can ask him ‘where is the tree?’ and he’ll point to it.  If we ask him a question he will usually answer with a ‘no’ or occasionally a nod of the head.

Sentence Structure

I wrote once about how he had used three words in sentence.  That seems to have been a fluke, but in the last week or so he has started to use two words together a lot of the time.  A lot of these phrases involve the words ‘car’, for example he will say ‘mimi car’ which means bus (and tap his head), or ‘mamãe car’ which means ‘mommy’s car’ which he says whenever he sees the same car that we drive.  The words can be either way around, sometimes following for Portuguese structure, i.e. ‘car mimi’ or sometimes the English structure ‘mimi car’.


He has developed this really cool way of saying ‘ah’ in the last few weeks.  Whenever he finds something new or interesting he says ‘ah’ but draws it out with a rise/fall intonation pattern that sounds like he has found the most interesting thing in the world ever.  Maybe for him it is, who knows?

Body Language

He stills circles his index figure around the palm of his other hand when he wants to watch TV, but he has now developed

The French Sign Language (LSF) vocabulary word...


a number of other sign as well.  He taps his head whenever he sees a bus, he points the direction he wants to go if you are holding him, he points to any wound he has if it hurts and he will literally pull you wherever it is he wants you to go.

So there we are, a longish description of where we are with Thomas’ language at the moment.  He seems to be slowly developing his active vocabulary and it seems to be roughly 60% Portuguese and 40% English.  He understands a lot of what we say in either language and is developing his intonation skills.  If he doesn’t know how to say something then he can find ways around it.


2 thoughts on “New Language

  1. I think I am right in saying that children of deaf parents learn sign language long before they learn to vocalise words and here is Thomas making up his own signs to get his point across and it seems to work well for him. From my limited knowledge of Portuguese I think they use intonation much more than we do in English.

    Strange that ‘idiot’ and ‘Jehovah’ are on the same page!

    • I hadn’t noticed that ‘idiot’ and ‘Jehova’ were on the same page. A coincidence, I am sure.

      I have read before somewehere that kids were able to sign long before they could actually talk. I wonder how long these signs are going to continue once Thomas can tell us what he wants.


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