A Bilingual Child: Dynamic Language

Into the depths of language acquisition

Into the Deep by Tormod Ulsberg – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s been a while since I posted anything related to the language developments of my son, Mr. T.  First we had the World Cup when all I wrote about was in some way football related.  Then I took a month off to get back some of my motivation for blogging.  Fortunately, I am now up for writing again, but it means I have missed out describing some of the language milestones we have passed.

A toddler’s language is always changing from day-to-day.  But with a toddler who is learning two languages at the same time this changes become even more dynamic.

1. Better Language

For a long while we were slightly concerned that our son’s language was way behind other kids of the same age.  We knew it was probably because he was having to deal with double the vocabulary and grammar at the same time, but there is always that part of the brain than betrays you and says it might be something else.  Fortunately, we managed to avoid that treasonous element and it now seems as if Mr. T is fast catching up with his peers.  He still isn’t quite as good in his Portuguese as they are, but then again they are nowhere near his levels of English.

2. More Portuguese

In March I went to the UK for a few weeks with Mr T and my wife stayed in Brazil.  When we got back to Brazil Mr. T’s language had exploded, and obviously it was nearly all in English.  SInce then, his Portuguese has steadily improved so that now I would say about 90% of the words and phrases he comes out with are Portuguese.

This isn’t to say he has forgotten his English.  I only ever speak to him in English and he understands me perfectly, it’s just that he chooses to answer in Portuguese.  I am not worried about this in the slightest.  I want him to feel happy speaking in whatever language he feels most comfortable. I am not going to force him to speak English and make him feel even worse about using it.  Instead, I am just going to continue speaking in English to him until he is ready to use it himself.

3. Language mixing

The occasions when Mr. T does use English it is often in a sentence with other Portuguese words, or as complete chunks of language.  Some examples of when he has mixed the languages include: ‘Daddy, swimming pool esta ready agora? (‘Daddy, is the swimming pool ready now?’) and ‘Me like Batman roupa,’ (I like Batman clothes).

Some chunks of language that he still uses in English include ‘Let me see,’ ‘I show you,’ ‘Morning now?’ and ‘Rainy day!

And for some reason he seems completely unwilling to use the word ‘voçe’, preferring to use ‘you’ instead.

4. Portuguese accent

This is a strange one.  When he speaks Portuguese he has the perfect accent for someone from the interior of the state I live in.  He lengthens his vowel sounds and rolls his r’s as if had come straight from a farm growing fruit in the middle of nowhere.  This is a mystery to us as none of my wife’s family has this accent and it bares no resemblance to an English accent.

5. Writing

He can now write 3 letters!  The first letter he ever wrote was the letter ‘T’ as it is the first letter in his name.  He can now write the first three letters, and if you squint and use quite a bit of imagination you might even be ale to decipher them.  We haven’t been pushing this on him at all, instead he just seems to be genuinely interested in it.  We painted a picture for a relatives birthday the other day and I asked him to sign it, when he got the 4th letter he told me he couldn’t do it and just put down the pen.  I didn’t encourage him to learn it or give it a try, I just wrote the end of his name so he could see it.

 

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4 thoughts on “A Bilingual Child: Dynamic Language

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, We’re bringing up our 16 month old son bilingually (English and Welsh), so it’s really interesting to get an idea of how things may develop and what it’ll be like further down the line.

    Reply
    • Hi Jonathan. Is really good to hear you say that as one of the reasons I started writing the Bilingual Child posts was precisely because I had not found a sorry of diary-like description of what a bilingual family went through. Your reaction is exactly what I was hoping for. Thanks.

      Reply

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