Monday, January 25, 2010

Language Development in the First Year: German, English and Baby Sign

A New Sound!!

Last night, Kaya uttered her first "V" sound, which for us is really exciting because it was in response to my saying "Wasser" (water, pronounced like Vahsah) to her--a word she's been hearing for at least 6 months. This is VERY exciting for us, because at this point, her English output (word production) is greater in English than in German. I think this is due primarily to the fact that the sounds in the words she knows are easier sounds to produce in English, and are those that she has been producing for a long time ("d", "ai", "ah", "m", "b").

Language Recognition
Up to this point, her vocabulary recognition is higher in German than it is in English, due to the fact that she hears German all day from me (when speaking directly to her), and isn't spoken to much in English until her dad gets home around 5:30. So, during the week, she gets an average of 8 hours of German input a day, and about 2-3 hours of English. On the weekend, she gets an equal amount of input in both English and German, since both of us tend to be with her in equal amounts. This makes for about 80% German input, 20% English.
  • German Input Recognition (words she clearly identifies, but doesn't produce): 25-35 words--(Wasser, mehr, Essen, Banane, Cracker, Fertig, Fan, Baum, Baeume, Puppe, Hund, Luftballon, Komm, Hol, Steh auf, Wo, Tiere, Lampe, Stern, Licht, Affe, Schnulli, to name a few)
  • English Input Recognition: 10-20 words (hard for me to list many out because this is Geoff's territory)
I recognize, as well, that there are SO many more words that she understands that we say, but it is more challenging for us to identify them as understood because they are more abstract in nature (like "let's go," or "I'm coming" or "do you want"). There are also too many of them to list. Being as unscientific as I'm being with my data, it's kind of silly to analyze some of the data and not others (though I find myself wanting to do it anyway!).

Language Output
So, in regards to her language production at this point, she says two words clearly:
  • Mama--she started saying "mamamama" at 6 months while crying. She said "Mama" and pointed at Mama when asked where Mama is at 8.5 months of age.
  • Dada--she had been saying this sound since at least 6 months as well, though it was more of a "daidaidai". At one year, she clearly says Dada and will point to and look at Dada when asked who he is.
Other "words" that she says are a bit less clear:
  • "dah" for dog.
  • "buh" for book or Buch.
  • "muh" for more or mehr.
  • "lai" for light.
Baby Sign
We've also been using sign language with Kaya with some key words. Geoff uses the sign with her and speaks English. I do the same in German. At this point, she is clearly able to sign:
  • mehr/more
  • fertig/done
  • stillen/nurse (milk)
  • licht/light
  • fan/Fan (thanks for the reminder, Sara! Yeah, I made up this sign! But she's good at it!)

I can imagine some people thinking that it just seems ludicrous to be teaching her three languages. I realized this as I was adding the piece about sign language. Thought I might clarify that the baby sign is to help ease our life for the next few years so that she can more easily communicate words that she is still unable to say with her mouth--the whole point of baby sign. We've seen the benefits already, and are loving them!


  1. I have an interesting semi-related tidbit to share - your mention of Kaya being able to identify the word Mama with her actual Mama (YOU) reminded me of it --
    My friend Andrea has a son, Anthony, who is about 23 months. He often plays with an Indian boy, Sahishnu (sp?), who lives next door. Sahishnu calls him mother Ama, which is the Tamil word for mother. So Anthony started calling Sahishnu's mother Ama also, and Sahishnu calls Andrea "Mommie." They basically followed each other's examples.

    And then we noticed that Anthony calls me Ama. He also does this with any other woman in his life who are not his mother. Sahishnu does the same, calling other women who are not his mom Mommie. It's like they each learned the appropriate name for their own mothers, then moved on to create another category for other important women, based on their observations of each other, and assigned another word to these women. Eventually they will acquire enough language skills to apply names to individual people, but this takes time.

    Thought that was really interesting!

  2. Nicole,
    I love your example. Thanks so much for sharing, AND for taking interest in my blog! There's a term for what you're talking about, which is totally escaping me right now--but I noticed that Kaya has been doing this with her "dah" (Dog) term. Granted, she tends to say Dah a LOT, but the other day, while we were on a walk, she pointed at a seagull and said "dah!" It was the first time that I'd noticed that she was generalizing (is that the term that I'm thinking of?) like that! So cool to observe!

  3. I thought she could also sign "fan;" or is that something you made up?


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!