Language/Communication development is fascinating

Sunday, 26 May 2019

We have a child who is now reaching 2.5 years old, and watching the language develop is fascinating. No doubt every parent experiences a similar level of amazement, but it's still new to me.

Part of the fun of watching our child grow his communication skills is obviously his bilingual nature; his mother speaks Finnish to him, and I speak English. Of course the pair of us communicate in English almost exclusively, but by contrast basically every other conversation he hears will be in Finnish.

Today I was struck by a new milestone, as he said the word "dog" for the first time.

I continue to read books to him, and of course they're simple books with lots of pictures. For over a year now he's been able to follow simple instructions:

  • Can you point to the dog?
  • Can you point to the cat?

I remember being really impressed when he was coming up to two years old, and he was consistently able to play that game - despite the various dogs/cats being drawn in different styles, and from different perspectives. (Cartoon dogs vary a lot; but he always was able to recognize them. He's obviously internalized the nature of the dog...)

Anyway he speaks pretty well, getting into two-four word sentences now. His favourite words are predictably enough "Äiti" (mother) and "en" (no). But he's never said dog until today, instead he's said:

  • Woof-woof
    • Probably as a result of months of me saying "dogs go woof", "cats go miow", & etc.
  • Hauva
    • Finnish for "doggy".
  • Dana
    • We have a neighbour with a dog. This dog moved in with us for a few days, and he fell in love.
    • That dog is called Dana, so suddenly all dogs became Dana.

Anyway today we were walking to the park and he said "iso-dog", "iso" being Finnish for "big". Indeed there was a big dog in front of him.

Good dog. Good boy.

Some of our conversations are quite intricate, some of the instructions we give him he can clearly understand/follow along - in two languages - but when I hear him use a new word, especially an English word, I'm suddenly reminded how awesome everything is.



Comments On This Entry

[gravitar] niq

Submitted at 13:55:03 on 26 may 2019

Good for you!

For what it's worth, I know some Swiss folks who grew up like that in Zurich but with an English father who always spoke English to them. When I first met them - late teens - I'd never have guessed they were less than 100% English.

Since then I've known others with more languages. Like the French children growing up in Italy (where I was working at the time) but attending international school in English - trilingual.

I think it's a great thing for any couple whose own mother tongues differ to bring up their children as fully bilingual. Or more, where available.

Damn, I read your blog through Planet Debian, yet it's a post that has nothing whatsoever to do with Free Software that I feel motivated to reply to!

[gravitar] kula

Submitted at 14:35:10 on 6 june 2019

It's nice to read about similar experiences of other parents, thx a lot for sharing.

You should try to read Gruffalo to him, my offspring is also 2.5 and bilingual and love Gruffalo I think it's due to very catchy wording and great illustrations.

[author] Steve Kemp

Submitted at 14:40:09 on 6 june 2019

We go through phases with books - mostly I read English books to him, and my wife Finnish.

Sometimes he demands a Finnish book, and I just make up my own stories to go along with the pictures. I think he enjoys that best.

Gruffalo I've heard of, but only because we had some books by the same authors - "Foxes Socks", "Rabbit's nap", etc. But he got bored with them very quickly.

(I noticed he enjoyed pointing out the duck on almost every page of Foxes Socks - and like me he wept at the lack of continuity when Fox appeared in Rabbit's Nap, with no socks!)


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