The last time I talked about parenting it was in the context of a childcare timetable, where my wife and I divide the day explicitly hour by hour so that one of us is "in charge" at all times.
For example, I might take care of Oiva from 7AM-12pm on Saturdays, then she takes over until 5pm, and I take 5-7PM (bed-time). We alternate who gives him a bath and sits/reads with him until he's asleep.
Even if all three of us are together there is always one person who is in-charge, and will handle nappies, food, and complaints. The system works well, and has done since he was a few weeks old. The big benefit is that both of us can take time off, avoiding burnout and frustration.
Anyway that's all stable, although my wifes overnight shifts sometimes play havoc with the equality, and I think we're all happy with it. The child himself seems to recognize who is in charge, and usually screams for the appropriate parent as required.
Today's post is more interesting, because it covers bilingual children, which our child is:
- His mother is Finnish.
- She speaks Finnish to him, exclusively.
- I'm from the UK.
- I speak English to him, exclusively.
Between ourselves we speak English 95% of the time and Finnish 2% of the time. The rest of our communication involves grunting, pointing, and eye-contact.
He's of an age now where he's getting really good at learning new words, and you can usually see who he learned them from. For example he's obsessed with (toy) cars. One of his earlier words was "auto", but these days he sometimes says "car" to me. He's been saying "ei" for months now, which is Finnish for "no". But now he's also started to say "no" in English.
We took care of a neighbours dog over the weekend, and when the dog tried to sniff one of his cars he pointed a finger at it, and said "No!". That was adorable.
Anyway his communication is almost exclusively single-words so far. If he's hungry he might say:
- leipä! leipä! leipä!
- muesli! muesli! muesli!
He understands complex ideas, commands, instructions, and sentences in both English and Finnish ("We're going to the shop", "Would you like to play in the park?", and many many more). But he's only really starting to understand that he can say the same thing in multiple languages - as per the example above of "ei" vs "no", or "car" vs "auto".
Usually he uses the word in the language he heard it in first. For example he'll say goodbye to people by saying "moi moi", but greet them with "hello". There are fun words though. For example 99% of the time a dog is a "woof woof", but sometimes recently he's been describing them as "hauva". A train is a "choo choo", as is a tram, and a rabbit is a "pupu".
He's started saying "kissa" for cat, but when watching cartoons or reading books he's more likely to identify them as dogs.
No real conclusion here, but it's adorable when he says isä/isi for Daddy, and äiti for Mummy. Or when he's finished at the dining table and sometimes he says "pois" and other times says "away".
Sometimes you can see confusion when we both refer to something with different words, but he seems pretty adept at understanding. I'm looking forward to seeing him flip words between languages more often - using each one within a couple of minutes. He has done that sometimes, but it's a rare thing. He'll sometimes say "daddy car" and "äiti auto", but more often than not the association seems random. He's just as likely to say "more kala" as "more fish".
Tags: bilingual, english, finnish, languages, parenting, suomeksi