When I last took stock of our son’s language skills at 20 months – almost a year ago – we were expecting a language explosion starting any day. After all, that is exactly how it happened with his sister.
Well, let me just say that we probably should have had learned by then that each of our kids
What Language E
In case you are not familiar with the term, language explosion is used to describe a period typically lasting several months during which toddlers rapidly expand their vocabulary, at times learning as many as 10 new words per day.
Bamm-Bamm’s language explosion might finally be starting now. At any rate, he is all of a sudden eagerly repeating words that he hears from us. This is something that he had had little interest in up until the last week or so. Currently, his vocabulary is widest in the few subjects that are important to him, e.g., his favorite foods (who wants some šokolāde?) and vehicles of all kinds.
If Bamm-Bamm makes the effort, his pronunciation is good, even for words that he tries saying for the first time. Yet with language – as with almost everything else – he mainly does what he finds interesting (or sees as necessary) as opposed to what parents or daycare teachers might want him to do.
Communication > Language
But why should our youngest make the effort to learn to speak properly if he can already get pretty much everything that he wants? In most situations, he successfully communicates with the help of simple words in combination with appropriate non-verbal communication.
The same goes for mixing languages. Birdy has shown a fairly analytical approach to language learning from early on: she figured out who speaks what and, to this day, barely ever mixes. Bamm-Bamm, on the other hand, is steadily increasing his vocabulary of the same words in our family languages but mostly uses them interchangeably. I never know if he will tell me “bye bye”, “Tschüss” or “atā”. He knows I understand all so why not mix it up?
When playing by himself, he usually chats in his own language. From the few words that I understand, there is definitely lots of action as well as character dialogues. It sounds so convincing that the daycare teachers were certain that he speaks Latvian!
Songs and Melodies
Bamm-Bamm’s ability to reproduce the rhythm and intonations of language can be clearly observed when he sings. And he sings a lot! It seems that he has a giant repository of songs in his little brain. He often chooses melodies he hasn’t heard anywhere for months.
He can repeat a melody after hearing it just once or twice, the words, of course, take a little longer. Definitely a great way to learn and expand vocabulary in all languages!
Taking the Time
As Bamm-Bamm is slow with language-related milestones, I’m really appreciative of the fact that nobody has mentioned anything about dropping a language or speaking only German at home. From what I hear, such (misconceived) advice is still all too common.
Bamm-Bamm may not speak very much but he clearly knows what he wants and how to get it. His vocabulary in German is currently bigger than in Latvian but he understands both languages equally well. Bamm-Bamm is always polite and never forgets to say please and thank you, to greet and to say goodbye. He can count until 14 (not coincidentally, this is the number of kids in his daycare group), and is gradually learning colors.
I’m certain that our youngest simply needs a little more time and he will get there in his own speed.
Check out also these posts about our family’s languages and the children’s language progress:
- Bamm-Bamm Talks: 20 Months – the first overview of our son’s language progress
- Birdy Talks: 2 ⅔ Years – our firstborn’s language skills at a similar age
- Trilingualism: the Building Blocks – how we manage the three language mix in our day-to-day lives
- My 5 Commandments for Staying Consistent as the Minority Language Parent – my attempt to formulate the method behind the madness of our trilingual daily life
- Trilingual Baby’s First Words – the first words that our kids learned and how deciphering first words in anything but straightforward
- Of “right” and “wrong” languages – should we pretend not to understand our bilingual child if he/she uses the “wrong” language with either of us?