Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back issues...

I have disappeared again, I know, and without even leaving an explanation note...my apologies to my faithful handful fo readers, not to mention family, friends and supporters of Multi Tongue Kids. I've just been hammered with a nasty disc hernia which had me laying in bed pretty much all summer, and I'm just recovering. Not that I am trying to move you or get your empathy, but I was really unable to type (nor to think about) any post...the good news is that I took notes and I am back in action. Back with my back. And with lots of interesting insights, as Mr. Milo is now 3 and a half and has a very talkative personality, while Mr. Zeno is barely 17 months and is picking up fast the multilingual heritage!




  • Milo's French is impeccable and up-to-speed to his age level.

  • His Italian is perhaps a tiny bit more sophisticated, however he does make certain mistakes: he does not know all of the irregular past participle (he'd say prenduto instead of preso) and has an awkward use of the reflexive mode (devo mi lavare le manine). But he can entertain family and friends with pretty elaborate conversations!

  • His Dutch is lagging behind in vocabulary, and also he seems to wanting more and more speak Italian with the Belgianite. The latter is inflexible and keeps steering him back to Dutch, but Milo at one point said clearly "I prefer speaking Italian." I assume it's just a matter of (lack of) exposure, hence less motivation. In February they'll go skiing together with some Belgian friends, and that should help his Dutch to progress.

  • His understanding of English has become impressive, and he really tunes in into our conversations and then asks the meaning of words. He has expressed the desire to learn it, so I picked a children book and randomly teach him sayings , colors and a little vocabulary. We are not doing this systematically or academically, just for fun, but I imagine that the daily exposure plays quite a role in cementing the words in his memory.

  • He is aware all together of the existance of different languages and loves to learn little words or phrases in Spanish from Zeno's nanny, or in Japanese (we met a Japanese woman on a flight to Italy, recently).

Zeno, on his side is another interesting case because he not only has a mum who speaks Italian, a father who speaks Dutch, a nanny who speaks mostly French, and his parents speaking English with each other: he also has an older brother switching back and forth among all of the above. And his brother is THE main point of reference when it comes to interplay, talk, communications. He seeks tremendously his attention. Zeno has a very playful personality and is very expressive, but I have a feeling that at the same age Milo said more.

  • He says a lot of bisillabic words (Mama, Papa, Dada, Lulu, Doudou, Dodo, nonno, nonna) and a few words that he picks up here and there ( ciao ciao, seduto, uva, auto, acqua) but he does not use them systematically.
  • He recently sapent 10 days alone with his dad and he picked up several monosillabic Dutch words as well (kjek, dag).

Milo speaks to Zeno mostly in Italian and has nicknamed him Zelol, or he calls him occasionally 'Piccolino'; from time to time , when he is playing alone, Milo would switch to French and he then occasionally addresses Zeno in French as well.

The most challenging of it all, as I predicted in one of my early entries, is keeping a fluid conversation at dinner; frankly, all the switching back and forth gives me headackes. Uncounsciously, I am addressing the Belgianite more and more in Italian directly, and he oftens replies in Italian to the kids as well. So, without any preconceived strategy, it's my language which is becoming the lingua franca of this euro-puzzled family, instead of the initial equilizer, that is English. But the wind can change fast...stay tuned for more anectodes of my two little polyglots in the making!

7 comments:

Brikebrok said...

I'm glad you're back ! :-)

Zorglub said...

Hi Clo, I found your blog 1 or 2 weeks ago, looking for "trilingual kids".
I, French & Swiss, my hubby, Brazilian, and all three of us, with our son, living in the US.
We chose the method "one common language in the family (French), and daddy speaks Portuguese when alone with kiddo". Thus, Portuguese is gonna take a backseat (as the third language, least spoken) in my son's life, but will enable him to understand it and improve it when he feels like it or just has the opportunity (visits to Brazil, etc).
The learning process is so interesting to observe. Arnaud is now 22 months and has got the bilingual thing between family and strangers. He knows now he has to say "vache" with us and "cow" with others.
Fortunately, as Milo, he's a talker, though it's only now that he dares to speak to his playmates, mixing the languages!
Take care, I'll keep reading.

Clo said...

Welcome to the MTK world, Zorglub! You sound like a very interesting case as well, you should blog about it too! Keep me posted on Arnaud's progress and do keep up the Portuguese!

Francesca said...

I find the languages spoken diagram pretty confusing but also pretty impressive. My French is shamefully only conversational and my Spanish is at best poor :-(

Zorglub said...

Hi Clo again, about blogging, gosh I am far too lazy. I wish I had kept a log about my son's acquisition of the languages though.
He's really got the "different languages" stuff. Yesterday, he repeated the same sentence in French and then in Portuguese to his dad.
Raised a monolingual myself, I find it fascinating.

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert said...

Hi Clo,

I am looking for bilingual families for mini case-studies for a new book on Siblings & Bilingualism. Your family is fascinating and I love your blog!

You can read about the project at my blog: bilingsiblings@blogspot.com

or email me: bilingsiblings@yahoo.com

Thanks,hope to hear from you soon..

Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

Lilian said...

I'm delighted you're back!!! Thanks for leaving me such a sympathetic comment -- our lives are really going upside down this year, so many changes, pretty unbelievable, but we'll survive!

It's great to hear about the boys and their language development again.