Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Cubling spricht Deutsch!

It's a rather exciting period as far as Cubling's speaking is concerned. The Easter break and outstanding annual leave took Cubling and me to Germany for a full 12 days. Hubby didn't join us so she ended up experiencing 12 days of almost German only. Interestingly though, some of my friends (all of whom speak fluent English) couldn't resist speaking a few words of English to her, not sure why, maybe to make her feel at home, or to hear her speak English, or maybe because they thought she'd understand them better?

Still, the effect the short holiday had on her language was amazing. Maybe it was because it came at a crucial point in her language development, what with the 2 word phase fully established and occasional 3 word sentences being uttered. She copies words freely, happily cooperates with my approach to acknowledge her English word, give her the German and ask her to repeat it. She loves doing it. And she's good at it. She's starting to distinguish between languages, has an awareness of the same thing having two words and that she should use one with me and the other with those not speaking funny like mummy.

On top of that she knows that a "please" or "bitte" will make mummy happy and get her what she wants, and she is very good at putting on her cutest "please" to dispel any reservations.

She is a confident speaker, even though her active language is still lagging behind many of her pears. If I say that of course I have to mention that my main comparison is that of her cousin who is a linguistic prodigy so I may be wrong, although I guess that at 25 months, it would be normal to expect more than just two 3 word sentences (mummy do that, put it there). Of course this slight dealy is rather normal in bilingual children, and she compensates by fabulous non verbal communication and making her language go very far indeed. There's also lots of singing of nursery rhymes involved, and amazingly she does equally well in both languages.

In both languages her pronunciation is perfect apart from obvious difficult sounds. She's losing some made up words slowly (loulou is now finally often replaced by yoghurt and tata by jacket) but she also uses longer expressions which I simply cannot understand although they sound like perfectly possible words.

It's lovely to hear her finally speak German and to also realise that words which I used months ago and forgot to keep using are not forgotten and make surprise appearances. All the effort of exposing her to as much silly chat as possible finally gets rewarded. She also catches so many snippets of conversation which should tell us to be extra careful with anything we say. She'll catch the word chocolate for sure if we mention it and will make her desire for some of it rather clear. Better not to mention it if there's no intention to let her have some. Hopefully the 12 days will have given her a lasting boost for speaking German and not evaporate in another week's time.


zooarchaeologist said...

how fantastic! She really sounds sweet, its so lovely to hear that she will be able to speak to her grandparents in their language and will be happy and confident in both countries

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I'm so interested in bilingual language development. My two speak English at home and are in a Bosnian nursery. We are going back to the UK next week so I am interested to see whether their English language development has been impeded by having to take on board a foreign language outside of the home.

They say that the benefits of speaking 2 languages are huge, although it is not until they are about 8 that you really start to see them. Until then they can lag behind a bit. Apparently. But if my experience is teaching me anything it is that different kids take to it differently, so goodness alone knows!

Please keep us updated as I'm fascinated to know how she progresses as she gets older.

Anonymous said...

Thanks zooarchaeologist! She can be very cute to get what she wants... esp. chocolate. I don't blame her.

Brit in Bosnia, I did a little bit of research into what's good to do when children grow up bilingually. Your situation sounds ideal, a home language and a language outside of home, both surely have equal status. That's not the case for us, so I'm always worried that she may refuse to speak German one day, as the daughter of a friend of mine did in a similar situation. Do you speak Bosnian (it is Bosnian?) yourselves, i.e. do you understand and react to your children's utterances in Bosnian?

Metropolitan Mum said...

It's a strange thought that your own children grow up with a different 'mother tongue' than their mother's tongue. I guess she will speak English without any accent and most likely will be laughing at her immigrant parents...
Little L will be growing up trilingual - with me being Austrian and Big M being Swedish, I hope we do not expect too much of our little darling.

cartside said...

MM, I have two friends in a similar situation - Hungarian/Swiss German/English and Gaelic/German/English. It's not so uncommon an if the research is right, 3 languages can be acquired to full proficiency with equal exposure. It's a great gift! Hope all is going well and you're enjoying Little L.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Our situation does make it easier for us - 2 native English speakers at home and Bosnian native speakers outside. We make a conscious effort to not speak Bosnian to them, but mainly because our Bosnian is so awful we would actually end up teaching them errors. If they speak to us in Bosnia we understand but reply in English. If they have Bosnian friends over I still speak in English to them too even if they don't speak English. I figure that they will know what I mean and will benefit from having the exposure to English at a young age. I do speak/try to speak Bosnian to adults though.

The 3 year old has a good concept of there being 2 different languages but he had a good grasp of English before Bosnian arrived on the scene. The 2 year old is struggling a bit more, gets mixed up. Neither of them are really that interested in talking Bosnian to adults, although they do use it with other children.

I would love them to become bilingual, but I'm very much letting them take it at their own pace. Bosnian is not the worlds most useful language and I don't know how much we will be able to keep it up once we have come back to the UK. But, they are getting a lot of exposure to Bosnian in day to day life which is pretty different to your situation.

I feel like I'm waffling so will draw to a close, but please keep posting on this as it is a subject that I find very interesting.

ps - englishman in strasbourg did a piece on bilingualism in children - his son went completely silent for a very long time and then refused to speak English. Have you seen it?



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