Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Combining Syllables for the "Doggy"

Kaya must have heard me doing all this analysis on her, and wanted to show me what she's really made of:

Today, she said "doggy."
Clear as day. Twice.
Of course, I wasn't there to hear it, but Gramms and Dada were.

New territory now! Just think--Blau (or blue), blind (or blind), blustery (ok, maybe down the road a bit), foggy, soggy, froggy!!

And this morning, as she was fascinated with the flowers on my shirt, she began saying "bl-bl-bl-bl-bl" after I told her they were called Blumen. She referenced my flowers later as such, as well.

Pretty soon here there's gonna be so much language development so quickly that I'm not gonna be able to get it all down here...esp. since she'll be walking one of these days here soon, too!

"p" AND "v" in the course of 2 days

Looks like Geoff won the bet!!(...even though he'd already won before I even opened the table for betting):

After the addendum for my post last night, in which I explained that Kaya had already said "p" in "pah" and "peh" (park and pear), Kaya asked for water this morning (Wasser) by clearly enunciating a "V" and reaching for the glass! YEEEHAAAWWWW.

2 points Tamara. Lots of points Geoff.
Oh right. This isn't a competition. =)

Of course not, it's our BABY! Speaking and understanding both languages at 13 months. Positive pulsations flowing through my veins (!!!!)...especially after my trip to my hair dresser who expressed her strong desires to be able to do the same.

But my competitive nature is leaking out quickly, and I find myself wanting to find words in German that we would use anyway for her to say in German. I can justify it by saying that my "giving in" to this "competition" would be helping her language development regardless, so what the heck, right? And now my curiosity is getting the best of me, so I can't ignore the idea altogether anyhow. =)

So, let's see, with help from (they have MANY languages available, and LOTS of phrases defined),
single syllable words in German that start with--
M:Maus, Mais (Corn),
B: Bauch (belly),
V: Wald,
N: neun (9), null (0), mach (do/make)

Ok. I'm abandoning ship for the time being because DICT.CC is SO extensive that I keep getting distracted by all these cool words that I like to learn and think about. I think it might be better to look through our kid dictionaries, anyway, and just update this as I go.

AND maybe there's some of you out there that have some ideas and can fill in the blanks? Would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Theory: Why Kaya speaks more English than German

I have been noticing that Kaya has a lot more words, or beginning of words, that she says in English than she does in German, which I have been thinking is a bit strange since she is with me all day long, and her English-speaking Dada on the weeknights and for only a couple hours each night. I've addressed this briefly in a recent post, which is why this may sound familiar, but I put more thought into it tonight and wanted to sound my thoughts.

I find myself worrying at times that perhaps "she isn't going to pick up the German" like I hope. Fortunately, however, I have my teaching and linguistic background on my side, so here's my theory (it may even be more than that outside of my head, but I haven't read anything on this yet, and am actually now very motivated to do some research on it!):

At this point, Kaya has "mastered" the following consonants: B, M and D, N, L. She has said a "V" once, a month or so back. If you're a linguist, it may be obvious to you as to why I grouped the letters above the way I did. If you're not, though, you could figure it out pretty easily:

B and M are both made by closing one's lips and vibrating one's vocal chords.

D and N and L are created by putting the tongue behind one's teeth and vocalizing.

All the other consonants letters of the Roman alphabet are formed in ways other than that (go ahead and check--I'll wait...).

(On a side note, I am guessing that it won't be too much longer until she learns words with P and T, as they are formed with the tongue in the same position as the other groups, but with puffs of air instead of vocalizations--wanna place any bets with me?)

As you may or may not know, Kaya forms a variety of words with the above letters:

B and M: mama, "beh" (her newest term for book), "ba" (ball/Ball), "baba" (bottle/Flasche), mehr (more), "moh" (mond/mood), baer (bear), "buh" (book/Buch), "bau" (Baum/tree)

D, N, and L: Dada, Nana (LOVES that word and concept!), nenenene (uh-uh in German), "dah" (Dog/Hund), "duh" (duck/Ente), "lai" (light/Licht)

Ok, so here's my theory:

I think there are more everyday words in English that start with those 5 (B, M, D, N, L) letters, than there are in German.

If Kaya hears a word in both languages, she will default to saying the one with the sounds that she is already capable of producing. I'll spell out my observation a bit:

Mama: same in both languages.
Ba (Ball): same in both languages, can't yet combine two different syllables, so she can't add the "l" end on yet
Baba (bottle/Flasche): Can't say an "F" yet, so goes with the "b" from bottle
mehr (more): her first german word--one consonant, one vowel sound. In German, the "R" at the end of the word is more of an "aye-ah" sound--vowel sounds. "More" has TWO sounds, which she can't combine yet.
"moh" (Mond/moon), baer (bear), "buh" (book/Buch): same theory as with mehr above
"bau" (Baum/tree): can't yet say T or R or EE. =)

Because I'm having so much fun with this (no wonder I majored in German and Spanish!), I'll keep going:

Dada: we were going to go with the German term Papa (though now that seems silly from a language standpoint), but as you might expect, Dada came first, so that's what's stuck!
Nana: coincidence. =) It's what my mom wanted to be called. She picked a good word with nice, easy consonants! (unlike Grandma or any other G derivative)
nenenene: she doesn't hear this much, except mirrored back to here when she says it, or when I react quickly and don't want her to so something. She doesn't hear the word "no" much, so no big surprise that she's saying this one instead.
"dah" (Dog/Hund): No "h" yet
"duh" (duck/Ente): no words starting with vowels yet
"lai" (light/Licht): doesn't have the soft "i" sound in English yet, or the "cht" in German yet, nor the ability to combine the multiple syllables

To anyone who hasn't experienced Kaya, or doesn't know what a linguistic nerd I am, these may all sound like very good justifications to make myself feel better about her speaking more English words than German ones right now.

But the process itself has actually been really fun for me. I LOVED my German pronunciation class in college, but had no idea it would come in so handy while raising my child! It's also exciting to be learning about phonics and such through experience. Being a middle and high school teacher, I've never officially taught anyone to read. And never put so much thought into it before this, either.

Nothing like having a baby to get you to think in ways you never have...

Bets are on? T or P? Or a repeat performance of the V?

*oh my gosh! After talking to Geoff about this, and him placing his bets on the "P" because he worked with her on the word PEAR last night a lot, I remembered that she actually said "Peh" (Pear) today, while I was giving it to her! I was SO shocked at the time that she said that instead of the German equivalent (Birne), that I must have blocked out the progress! =) Now, however, it's clear to me (and surely to you, too, if you've followed me thus far): Birne has a sound "EER" that she can't say yet, and more than one consonant, unlike her version of "peh"! =) YAY. I love this! Now that I'm thinking in terms of "p", I also remember that she said "Pah" today for Park/Park!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Connecting with Others

This weekend I spent many hours researching resources and collecting links for my blog (see list to the right). I found a bunch of great videos on YouTube, including smurfs and Hakuna Matata in German! I also found a great forum hosted by Sarah of Alphabet Garten. I'd been to her site in the past, but didn't realize how extensive it was (or maybe it wasn't when I was first there?). Either way, I am very excited about this forum, because there are so many families in the forum who are raising their families bilingually--some of them even as non-natives like me. Many, if not all of them, are doing it in German, too, which is an extra bonus for me, too!

My point--it really helps me to make these connections--helps me feel less alone in this process, knowing others are not only out there, but available should I need some support along the way.

I ended up writing to one man in Germany, curious to see how his process turned out, since he'd written about his family about 10 years ago on this old forum that seems to now be out of commission. He also has a website ( that I visited. Anyhow, I wrote to him, thinking that his address might be defunct (as many others from the BYU-language-site are), but he wrote me back and we're planning on skyping during the first week of March. VERY exciting for me--he's doing the same thing that Geoff and I are, but flip-flopped (he lives in Germany, both wife and he are native German speakers, he speaks to children in English).

All right. All for now!

More words after a few day lull--AND a kiss for the baby!

Kaya is 13 months today!!! Yay oh yay!
Here's the latest and greatest of today's exciting news:

This morning, while reading in her favorite reading spot (the rocker in her room), Kaya signed "vogel" (bird) after about a month of us showing her the sign (and a 4 day long intensive of late). Her's, as usual in an amended sign: she has a hard time extending the thumb and forefinger to touch, with all the other fingers wrapped into a fist (as is the sign), but she curls her finger and thumb and touches them together, with most of the other fingers curled out of the way. I was, yet again, SO excited to see the sign emerge today!

Another sign she finally got today while eating in her high chair was "Essen" (eat). She's been seeing this one for months, and I'm kind of surprised that it took her so long to demonstrate it herself, as it's a pretty basic sign (fingers together, gathered to a point, and touched to mouth). I do this sign a lot right before we eat, asking her if she wants to eat, and if she's hungry. She did it today in the process of eating, today, as if to tell, or ask me?, that she's eating. Once again, YAY!!

And, another big surprise for the day: a KISS for the baby that she was holding in her arms at Jamie's next door!!! Kaya doesn't have a baby at our house (a raggedy ann is her only doll right now), but maybe it's time for us to find her one! Jamie and I had been talking about how Kaya doesn't have a baby, and while we were talking about it, Kaya crawled over to the baby on the floor at Jamie's, and picked it up. I went to her immediately, and started talking to her about it: "Du hast doch ein Baby? Du hast uns gehoert, gel? Halt das Baby so." And then it happened: she pulled the baby's face up to hers and kissed it!! Ok, not such a big deal at all for most 13 month olds--many of my friends' babies already kiss all the time, humans. We've tried to get her to kiss us, but she doesn't seem to get it. So, when she up and kissed the baby, it clearly warmed my heart and brought a HUGE smile to my face! I think it is time to get her a baby, indeed. =)And a truck.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Word a Day? Just about...!

They're coming quick, these new words! Especially in sign!!

Today's newest communication with her hands: Baby! (crossed arms in front of chest, rock back and forth). Granted, her baby is an amended "Kaese" (cheese): she crosses her hands in front of her chest, but doesn't move them as she does in "Kaese" (cheese). This word came as we were reading a book in her rocking chair this morning--as soon as we sit in that chair, she's adamant that we pick a book off the shelf and read it (a habit born through lots of repetition!) She pointed at a book full of dogs and babies--perfect opportunity to practice a word she clearly knows with one that we're trying to teach her. Larry Cohen, of Playful Parenting, talks about the importance of following a child's lead, especially when you're hoping to achieve a certain outcome. How's that for following her lead?!

As for the verbal piece, she doesn't yet say "baby" completely, but "babah" came out of her mouth soon after I said "baby" (same word in German and English) multiple times and showed her lots of pictures!

Similarly, while we were looking at a book before bed tonight, she actually said "Baer" (bear) after I pointed at the bear and told her what it was. More yay!

And yesterday, during our neighborhood breakfast at Jamie's house, Kaya signed "wasser" (water). That was super exciting for me because, like cheese, she's been seeing that one for at least 6 months, but it's a relatively hard sign to do (three fingers in front of one's mouth, in the form of a W). Her form is true to baby signers everywhere--close enough to send the signal, loose enough to be real. =)

I'm finding that it's getting easier and easier to use and teach her new signs, because she keeps reinforcing my efforts through her learning!! =)I'd imagine that, one day, I won't be nearly as excited about all these words. But for now, Oh My Gosh!! I love it. She just keeps getting more and more fun EVERY day! Language is amazing--communication is really. Our brain. It's crazy spectacular!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nodding Cheese Bottle

Ok, ok, so I know this is a language blog. But, I don't think that all that many people are reading the finite details anyhow--the posts that I don't announce individually that is (if you are, I'd love a reminder that you're out there!). So, I'm gonna share my joy that Kaya, despite initial resistance this morning, held and fed herself her own bottle this morning!!! She's been able to take and lift a sippy to her lips, but struggles to tip it up and keep it there long enough to drink (without then starting to scream and insist that we do it for her). This morning, however, she was so hungry while I was changing her diaper that she accepted my prompts for her to hold it herself! YAY!! She drank about 3/4 of the bottle that way, all by herself. Then, when I took her in my arms, available to help her, she continued to hold it herself, seemingly quite happy to be able to do it herself.

Beaming mom moment. =)

Yesterday, on a similar progress note, Kaya learned how to sign "cheese", or what she knows as "Kaese" (cay-zuh). I've been signing this to her for many months, but it wasn't until yesterday that she crossed her hands and rubbed her palms together, twisting back and forth. It's a relatively complicated sign to make, so it doesn't surprise me that it took her until now to get it.

But I've been realizing that she picks up on these signs SO quickly (with dog, for instance, after just a couple times seeing the sign) that all we need to do is learn or make up the signs and use them! So, we're working on "baby". "help", "grandpa Crackers", "Gramms", "potty" and "water" (also hard to make) and "bed". See how it goes! She's still doing her right-handed palm bounce while she's eating that I can't figure out--I think I've done it for her when I want her to slow down. But maybe she's confused it with something else--and I've been inconsistent. It's no wonder I'm confused!

My all time favorite communication on her part right now is her head nod, often accompanied by a quick, verbal "ja" (yes). If you haven't seen it, I'll try to give you a mental image right now: she juts her chin out a little bit and proceeds to bounce her whole head, the bouncing affecting almost all of her chest. =) SO cute. I love how I can now know, with greater accuracy, what she is understanding and what she isn't.

It's possible that I hear her cries next door--today is our alternate swap day with the neighbors, so I've been able to jot down all these thoughts while sitting in the sun on the bench in our front yard: such a luxury at this time of year in Portland to be sweating in the sun!

Once again, thanks for reading, whoever's out there. Fun to have you along in my thoughts!

It's gonna be Ok (perhaps even better!)

I've been doing all this reading, listening and learning about brain function, and how attachment (to parents/primary caregivers) really affects how we make sense of our world, and interact with others. I won't go into the details here (though I'll share the resources in a moment), but instead share what has really been most alive for me since I was driving home last night:

Kaya is going to be OK.

Despite all of my fears and doubts surrounding this relationship that I am developing with her in a language other than "my own", our attachment has already, in this past year, been solidified. Granted, I haven't done the official clinical tests, but from what I can tell of my own observations, and from the input that others have given me, Kaya is"securely attached". As opposed to "avoidant" or "disorganized" or "anxious" attachment, Kaya demonstrates contingency with not only me, and not only with Geoff, but many other important people in her life. Research has proven that, if a child is securely attached to the primary caregiver, then socially, emotionally, and cognitively, they will be "ok" (that's my VERY loose interpretation of Daniel Siegel's information that he shares is "The Neurobiology of WE," which Geoff and I have been listening to on CD).

So, the language connection, if you haven't already made it?

So what if I (or you, or anyone for that matter) speak this language to my child. So what if I didn't grow up with it. So what if I get afraid that I might not know some words here and there. So what if I wonder how our relationship will look in 5 years in this language (or in English?). The reality is, we have been successful in creating a secure attachment (with MANY caregivers!), and THAT, according to the research, is what really matters.

She will be OK.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Babysitting Bilingually

Today is a relative veer from my typical posts...not quite as much detailed language focus, but a landmark day nonetheless!It was the first day of a babysitting trade between my neighbor, Jamie, and I: Simon will come to us (as he did today) every other Thursday morning, and Kaya will go spend time with Simon and his older brothers (Luke and Oli) on alternating Tuesday afternoons. Simon is a mere 12 days older than Kaya--it's GREAT to have a neighbor her age right next door!

So, how, you might wonder, does this relate to bilingual babes?

Well, as you may know, Jamie and her Austrian husband (Ivo) speak German with the kids. Jamie spoke mostly English with the twins when they were younger, but is now speaking more and more German with all of them. Ivo has spoken German with all of them since their births. As one might expect, all of the boys understand German just fine

For me, today was really exciting because it was the FIRST time that I was able to interact with Kaya in German and know that I wasn't excluding anyone around her--especially her little play buddy! I loved being able to speak one language to both kids and know that they were both understanding me. At first I wasn't sure with Simon...but after awhile, it became clear to me that he understood me perfectly well. He was fascinated with all the balls at our place--he found balls that Kaya never even touches--like the soccer ball stuffed partially in the basket, and the tennis ball behind the plant.

It makes me smile to watch them together. Kaya stares at him in fascination, and seems to enjoy his company. So did I, without a doubt. It's important to me to foster a close relationship with him, as the rest of his family means a lot to me, too--even though they live right next door, it's amazing to me how rarely we visit. This opportunity is perfect, though, as it gives all of us the opportunity to grow trust. Today, for example, Simon cried for the first 20 minutes. Only once I turned on some music and sang and danced with him in my arms did he finally start to calm down. But then, throughout the rest of the morning, he'd come to me, open arms, and give me a snuggle. SO sweet. So trusting. I love it, and truly look forward to more of the same!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Der Schmiege-Kuschel-Liebhab-Reim

I feel fortunate, very fortunate, to be able to have worked out a deal with a local german school to borrow books from their library. YAY!! My doctor told me that Kaya will start showing more interest in the actual story, as opposed to just the pictures and the pages, as she is now. So, though we have some German books already, I'm continually motivated to build our collection, esp. those with sweet stories that will not only teach her, but teach me as well. I've found one, in particular, that I really's about love and cuddling, neither of which I did much of while I was in Germany. The sound and rhythm of the rhyme is great, as are the sweet little words it uses. I'll share it here, with a poetic translation at the bottom. If I get it together enough, I hope to frame and hang this in our house soon!

Der Schmiege-Kuschel-Liebhab-Reim

Ich drueck dich fest an meine Brust
und geb dir einen dicken Kuss
auf Nas und Stirn fast jeden Tag,
weil ich dich ganz einfach mag.

Ich mal dir einen grossen Stern
und sage dir: ,,Ich hab dich gern!"
Wangen schmiegen, Haare wuscheln:
Wir sind Weltmeister im Kuscheln!

Naeschen aneinanderreiben.
Immer beieinanderbleiben!
So kuscheln wir, ob gross, ob klein,
zum Schmiege-Kuschel-Liebhab-Reim.

With a few poetic liberties, here's a rough translation:

I hold you close into my chest
and give you a big fat kiss--
on the nose and on your head,
because I simply love you so.

I draw you quite a really big star
and tell you then, "I like you so."
Nuzzle our cheeks, tousle our hair,
we are super snuggle masters!

Rubbing noses with each other,
always staying close to one another,
That's how we snuggle, whether big or small,
to the Nuzzle-snuggle-loving-rhyme.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Sounds and Obscenities

Remember that scene in Meet the Faulkers when the little guy learns his first word from Adam Sandler? The parents come home quite dismayed to find out that their little tyke could now say "As-hoooooooole" better than any other word in the English language. Well, I thought we might have a repeat performance tonight when Geoff got home (though Geoff would surely laugh and share in the delight at her ability to speak ANY new word!). Today, my friend, Greg, and I were on a hike in Forest Park. We were talking about this and that, hiking up the hill from the St.John's bridge--Kaya was on my back in the Ergo. Greg was feeling strongly about something, and shouted out "Fu--" pretty loudly. Within seconds, Kaya similarly proclaimed, "fah!" It was quite the reminder to me that not only is she really listening to us, but she's working really hard to be able to copy what we say. The time has come to "watch our language"! =)

In general, I see great strides in the language process. I realized about half way through yesterday that Kaya was "talking" a ton! It seemed that her babbles were constant, almost like she was narrating everything she was doing. SO cute. Today, it continued like that, to a greater degree, in fact. I love it! It's like she's moving her mouth around in new ways, experimenting that much more with how it works.

The practice seems to be paying off...she's getting much better at forming the words that she hears and seems to want to express. Tonight, as we were reading a bedtime story, she was pointing at all the animals on the page: the cat, the duck, the mouse. When I said "mouse", she said "mau", which is definitely a new sound for her (au). For the past week, she's also been saying "duhh" for "duck"--a very close sound to "dah" which she says for a lot of things, including "dog", "da" (here/there), and the beginnings of "dada". Yesterday, while we were about to sit down with her for dinner, she said a very definitive "dah". "Dah" was?!, I asked her. "Da-da", she said, with affirmation. =) Maybe that counts as her first 'knock-knock' joke?

Kaya has also mastered the word "Nanah", which couldn't make my mom any happier! Today, in fact, as Kaya was sitting with her toys, playing by herself in the family room, my mom told me, "I don't have the words to express how happy I am right now." When we get to my mom's house, Kaya says "Nanah". She says it sometimes when she sees my mom, too, and when I tell her that we're going to visit her. Most often, she'll say it after I say it...regardless of when she hears it, it makes my mom smile every time, and she's glad that she 'got first pick' at the "grandma" alternatives. Kaya likes to point out the "lai" to my mom, which is what was happening here. My mom had turned the lamp on, and Kaya said "lai" when it came on.

And as far as her baby sign goes, she's learned the sign for "dog", and now pats her leg now and again when she hears me say either "Hund" or "dog". =) She loves to point at them, too, and let me know that she sees them. When she hears them bark, or their tags rattle, she will also say "dah". We can tell when she means 'dog' because she says it with a bit more emphasis than her other "dah"s. She's using the sign for "more" a bit less now, though she will often combine it with her use of the word "mehr". She also does this sign where she moves her right, open hand up and down, palm down. She usually does it while she's in her high chair. That must be her secret sign--I have yet to figure that one out. I appreciate the challenge, though!

On a different note (an input vs. output one), I was at my mom's today with Kaya, playing with her and her basket of toys. In the bottom of the basket were a bunch of wooden animals: cows, horses, chickens, and pigs (2 of each). I asked Kaya where the cow was, and within 5 seconds, she reached passed all the other animals and grabbed the COW! One might think that by now, I'd expect her to easily identify all the words I ask her, and that I'd stop being impressed with her ability to simply recognize and follow a direction. However, it's not consistent, so when it happens, it makes it clear to me that there are words that she knows, and ones that she doesn't (also, to be expected): when I asked her after that to identify the pig, for example, she paused, and then picked up the chicken (we haven't talked about pigs as much as we've talked about cows).

Well, that's all I can think of for tonight!
Thanks for sharing in my joy!