Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dada, Done, Mimicking and Music

Tonight, we went to a parenting class--the first in a series of 4 classes over 4 weeks. We had our friend Greg ("Uncle Greg") babysit Kaya, which, as I realize now, was the first time she'd ever been put to bed by anyone other than family. All in all, it went well, though she wouldn't let him feed her a bottle, pushing it away with both hands. She ultimately fell asleep, as she used to do, with a mere 20 minutes of tears beforehand. When we got home, she cried out a bit, and I went in to make up for lost milk, so to speak. She drank like a champ, as would be expected, and let me put her back in her bed, no problem. But then, something I'd never seen before: she cried out for "Dada", having heard him outside the door. Often, she will point him out when she sees or hears him, but this was a VERY clear, "I want my Dada" tone. =) SO sweet. Granted, no NEW language development there, but something worth noting in this process, nonetheless. =)

There have been a variety of new developments since I last wrote 20 days ago (!!), however. A few are easier to pinpoint than others...here's a few stories to illustrate:

This morning, Kaya and I were taking a bath. She LOVES bathing, and will normally stay in the bath until we deem bath time over; at which point, she gets out without fuss and the moments move forward. This morning, however, she told me very clearly that she was "duh" with her bath by raising both arms (her sign for done) and saying a very definitive, "duh". Neither this word nor sign are new in themselves (she's been doing both for at least a few months it seems), but generally the word and/or action accompany mealtime and nothing else. Today was the first time (at least that I had witnessed) that she signaled that she was done with something OTHER than eating. This seems like new brain development to me! =)

The other story represents my surprise at how closely she listens to song lyrics (and that she's now signing water consistently and has been for 2 weeks). It doesn't surprise me that she listens to the lyrics of the songs that I sing directly to her. This became clear to me one day as I was singing a German ducky song to her ("Alle meine Entchen") in the bath one day. When I got to the word "Wasser" (water), she made the sign for "water" very soon after I said the word. This was about 2 weeks ago when she started to sign water on a regular basis (instead of the 3-fingered W tapped in front of her mouth, she taps her whole right hand against her mouth, sometimes seeming like she's hitting herself). But what does surprise me is that she listens and responds to the lyrics in songs being played through the stereo! Today, as we were driving to sing with Mister Ben (www.mrbenmusic.com), I heard Kaya say "Babah" twice. Knowing that "babah" is her word for Baby, I looked around our surroundings for something that might tip her off to saying it. But then the chorus of the song on the radio was sung again, and at the end of the verse, he said "baby, baby". I was shocked (and overjoyed, of course!).

Signing Water along the Willamette River

As I mentioned above, her language continues to develop, but not in a way that has her saying particular words with any greater clarity. She continues to "tell" us about her world in the signs that she knows:
the wind blowing (right arm moving in front of her body);
the birds chirping (pointer finger of her left hand bending to touch her thumb);
the sun shining and casting shadows on the book that she's reading with Gramms (sign for light--open/shut fist);
fan and animals (same sign for her, as she has an animal mobile above her crib)...

And she still has a few solid words that she can says clearly on a regular basis: Mama, Dada, Nana and Bye-bye in English
Ja, Da (here/there), und mehr (more) in German

But her vocabulary is expanding to include concepts that she can't quite pronounce but can say clearly enough for us to know what she's talking about:
Ma = Milk
duh = done, door
Dah = dog or da (here/there)
Baba = baby or bottle
Bah = Book
Breh = bread
Berbah = Birne (pear)
recka = Cracker
reh = Greg
ramm = Gramms (hard to create the exact sound she makes for Gramms, but it's close enough to the word to be clear).

There's surely more that we're forgetting, but the point that I'm wanting to make (and remember) is that she's got a few words solidly; lots of little words without their endings, as she still struggles to mix different consonants in words. She said "Baeume" (pr. boymah) (trees) that one day that I wrote about, but since then, she hasn't said it, even with lots of prompting.

She also continues to recognize more words than I could ever take note of...in books, for example. Geoff was shocked the other day as the three of us sat down to read a book written in English and she was able to recognize a bunch of words in German that he had know idea she knew (Auto, Fuchs, Elefant, etc).

Then, what's really new is her ability and tendency to mimic. This feels a little (no, a lot!) scary for me now, as I hear my voice starting to echo in hers. I yelled at this dogs this morning, for instance, and she mimicked me in intonation and basic word structure (rounded out of course). Yikes. The time has come for me to REALLY be careful. Granted, she's been hearing all my foibles this whole time, but now I'm being reminded a lot of the time it happens. Good thing we started this parenting class tonight! =) But it happens in the happy moments, too. There have been many times in the past week where I "swear" she just said something, but it only happens once, and I can't really put my finger on what she said...it just sounds INCREDIBLY similar to the word that one of us just said. It has me feeling that much more excited for this next stage where she'll be completing more of the words she can say partially, and adding new ones to her repertoire.

Well, it's getting late and this here post is growing long. But I feel good. Relieved to have gotten some details down so I can make more room for the new ones that will surely fill the space.

As always, thank for reading! =) Tamara

oh. p.s. To go along with this latest language development, she's currently cruising like a pro (along furniture and with her walkers) and can walk with us with one hand held. It won't be too long, I think, before she's really moving on those 2 feet all by herself!

This video is of a conversation she and I were having at breakfast about the wind and the birds (which she couldn't hear so she wouldn't sign!):


  1. I think it's so cool that she's using signs for such a variety of situations--her signing clearly extends beyond just expressing her needs. She's observing and commenting on the world around her! And her knowing signs will almost certainly help her learn two spoken languages--the consistency of the signs will function as a bridge between English and German.

  2. I would be very careful about exposing the child to 2 different languages mixed like this... Most of children in natural biligual families have big problems when going to school. They start talking later than other kids, they speak less correct( in both languages) and have big difficuties in adapting to school habbits( writing, reading etc). Of curse, things might be different in US because school is very different there. Still, I wouldn't experiment on my own child. I would teach him/her to speak english very well, and after he is 3 I would start to expose him gradually to the second language( through cartoons, books, songs etc).I would keep a "comfort" permananet language within the house to give the child some emotional-language support because 2 languages mixing all the time could be extremely confusing for a small child.

  3. Thanks, Sarah, for your continued interest, and esp. your comments here. I've always been excited about the bridge between the two languages with the sign, and am very curious to see how it will continue to play out. =)
    Looking forward to reading more of your blog soon!
    Hope all is well with you guys,

  4. Rosabell,
    I hear your concern and appreciate your willingness to be open with me about it. If I had your concerns, I wouldn't experiment on my child, either.
    I have done a LOT of reading on the subject, however, and the common agreement, according the latest brain research, is that multilingualism is a true benefit to children, despite many common assumptions. The fact that some children may speak later and have a smaller vocabulary in each language, for example, has been shown to have no long term effect on their language or social development. Combined, their vocabularies tend to be larger than that of a monolingual, and in cognitive tests, particularly in areas of multi-tasking, multilinguals consistently score higher.
    I also hear your belief that starting after 3, once their native language has been strongly established, is much better. I have read about that method, and that is certainly one way to go about raising a multilingual child. The OPOL (One parent one language) method, however, teaches the child two "mother" tongues, essentially, so that the child is learning 2 or more languages simultaneously--a function that the human brain can easily handle. The benefit and reason that chose to employ the OPOL method is that a habit and language relationship can be established...something that is naturally VERY hard for many people to change once established. I have experienced this on a number of occasions, and didn't want to "risk" that challenge once she was three.

    Again, thanks for your comments. I wish you well on your language endeavors!



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