This is already the fifth blog entry that sums up Maja’s speech development. It is getting more and more interesting. The results of non-native bilingualism which is sometimes called intentional bilingualism are well beyond my expectation. While browsing the Internet I came across such terms as “artificial bilingualism” or “limited bilingualism” but they have negative connotations to me.
Below you can find my previous posts concerning the speech development in a baby which has been intentionally brought up surrounded by two languages: Polish and English. We have been implementing OPOL strategy (one parent one language). Additionally, her speech development is supported by the Doman method, especially by whole-word reading programme in two languages.
As had expected the Polish language dominates. At the beginning of August I had a week away in Croatia with my husband. Maja stayed with her grandma. She had even longer break from English at the beginning of July. I was on a two-week course for teachers in Greece.
However, I came to conclusion that my absences hadn’t done any harm at all. She has been calling me “mummy” since my return in July. She has completely stopped using the Polish word when she addressed me after I returned from our holiday in August when I was away with my husband.
My mum is a bit impatient and she can’t wait to hear my baby speaking in full sentences in the Polish language, of course. She claims I did that when I was around one-year old but I doubt that. I think her memory deceives her.
After grandma had taken care of Maja, her command of the Polish language improved significantly. However, she didn’t forget the English language after such a long break. I think I will have to stop writing down every new word because there will be too many of them soon.
There are a lot of new words now. I always have a sheet of paper and a pen with me and I try to take down every new word or every expression used by Maja either in Polish or in English. What a crazy mum!
Not long ago Maja repeated the words only when we asked her to do so. Now she repeats everything like a parrot. Her pronunciation is often correct. The following example illustrates this perfectly:
My mum: Będzie lało. (It’s going to rain)
Maja: lało (rain)
I envy my husband introducing the reading cards just now. Maja often repeats all the words in a session. When I was going through this step with the English flashcards for whole-word reading programme, she wasn’t able to speak.
I never write down any words, phrases and sentences she just repeats like a parrot. I am sure she can use the word only when she uses it on her own initiative. While writing this post I hear my husband saying “dawaj” (give me) and Maja repeating it. I ignore it though. If Maja ever says “dawaj” on her own initiative, I will write it down as her word.
A CHILD BROUGHT UP BILINGUALLY AND FIRST SENTENCES
My baby is only 17 months old and she has already said her first sentences. I present them below with a translation and a context. All the mistakes are there on purpose to reflect her speech.
Mummy, titty tam.
Interpretation: Mummy let’s go there for a titty.
Context: I had just returned from the cinema. My husband was spoon-feeding our daughter. The moment she saw me she didn’t want to eat anymore. I hardly managed to go to the toilet. She was pulling my hand and saying the above sentence. She wanted me to go upstairs. It was late and our bedroom is there. It’s a mixture of Polish and English: Mummy (English), titty (English), tam – there (Polish).
Bedzie ziaziu, bam.
Interpretation: If I fall down, it will hurt. (all Polish: “bedzie ziaziu” is like “I will have a little injury” plus onomatopeia “bam” is like the sound of falling down)
Interpretation: The motorbike is going. (all Polish: “jedzie”- is going, lolek-Maja’s version of motorek which means “a motorbike.”)
Context: This is a part of a Polish lullaby. She sings it before going to sleep. The lyrics don’t make much sense but I think she didn’t invent it. I am sure my mum taught her to hum it.
Koko, jajo, tam.
Translation: There was a hen which says “cluck” and lays eggs. (All the words are in Polish: koko- cluck, jajo- an egg, tam- there. )
Context: My mum took her to her great-grandma where had the chance to see the hen for the first time in her life. She explained to her that her favourite food- eggs come from hens.
Interpretation: The cow is pooping.
Context: This time I took Maja to the only lady in the neighbourhood who has a cow, ducks and other farm animals. On our return my mum explained to Maja that cows give milk. Maja had different associations with this animal. I was not surprised after what we had seen.
Translation: Bring me the sheep. It is there. (all Polish: bee – baa, tam- there. )
Context: Every day when I take her out of her cot she asks for her favourite sheep-pillow.
Interpretation: This is Maja’s version of: I am.
Context: Maja initiated this by herself. Almost immediately after I heard her say it, I assumed it must have been her version of “I am.” Later on, whenever I asked her “What’s your name?” she always answered “am, em.” Only after I finished saying “Maja” she said “mama.” Actually, “Am em mama” was the next step in her introducing herself before she was able to say “I am Maja.”
While we were away on holiday (this time with Maja), the mirror helped her to learn to pronounce her name. She could see her whole body, not only her face like at home and this was really interesting for her. When looking at herself on the first day she commented: “baby” and she learnt to say her name. At the moment, when asked about her name she answers clearly both in Polish and in English: “Maja”.
Maja ljubi jajo.
Translation: Maja likes an egg.
Context: I am wondering if Maja’s night routine is what every small baby likes. She always does a sort-of revision of all the words she knows. She is really talkative. Somewhere between her “Chinese,” her English and Polish she said the above sentence which makes a perfect sense.
Translation: Maja is. (jest= is in Polish)
Context: The same as for the previous phrase.
Translation: The car is there. (stoi = standing in Polish)
Context: Unfortunately I don’t remember. I have just had this sentence written down 🙂
Translation: Mummy is not good. (niedobra = not good in Polish; the mistake in spelling is made on purpose to reflect Maja’s pronunciation)
Context: While my husband was driving during our journey, she got really impatient and she wanted to walk around the car instead of sitting in her child car seat. I had to put her back there by force after she slyly convinced me to take her out for breastfeeding.
Translation: I don’t want. (nie- don’t, chcę- want and again the mistake in spelling is made on purpose to reflect Maja’s pronunciation)
Context: Maja often sort-of practises this phrase with the aim that is clear only to her. My mum claims she is a poor-eater and she does everything to make her eat the whole jar of soup. I am different and I respect Maja like with everything else. When she says “no” I feel she means it and I do not force-feed her. However, I never react to a Polish “nie” (no). Maja has already noticed it. She made me laugh once saying “nie” and then “no” to my mum who speaks no English at all. She probably hoped either of them would work.
VOCABULARY OF A BILINGUAL CHILD AT 17 MONTHS
There is something new every day and that is why I had to edit this post a few times before I was ready to publish it. Next words and phrases will appear in the major analysis of my baby’s speech development at one year and a half.
I write down every single word and I have even created a special folder on the computer with the aim to collect them there. Soon I am going to estimate the ratio of her words in Polish and in English. Now I am sure she is bilingual. The following are the most important pieces of information regarding the vocabulary of my 17-month-old baby.
As I have mentioned before, Maja takes the initiative in repeating whatever she wants after somebody else:
– her pronunciation of short words is mostly correct (if the word is in Polish I provide the translation in the brackets):
ziaziu (little injury),
I think I may have overused the last word telling her that she was naughty because she often is. Once she saw herself in the mirror and she immediately said: “naughty” in her sweet voice.
– Maja shortens or creates her own versions of longer and more difficult words (in case of Polish words the translation provided in brackets):
truskawki (strawberries) – kaki,
motorek (motorbike)- lolek,
wujek (uncle) – lulek,
spać (sleep)- pać,
woda (water) -oda,
closed, which she pronounces without the final sound.
She once surprised us during her “lesson” with the Doman flashcards in Polish. She was supposed to show us where is “pani” (lady) but she was not interested in choosing any card. She found a my sister’s make-up brush (she is a make-up professional) and she said clearly in Polish: “pędzel” (brush), which I think is quite a difficult word in terms of pronunciation.
Once she even managed to repeat more than one word. I was explaining her that “Mummy is too short” to touch the lamps on the ceiling and Maja repeated: “mummy, short.”
Maja can say what sound a cat, a dog, a snake, a sheep, a cow and a hen make in both languages. When asked about the duck she makes a sound in English only. Of course, my family interferes with animal sounds and they all try to correct her that, for example, a horse doesn’t say “neigh-neigh” but “i-ha-ha.”
Surprisingly, it sometimes happens that when she learns something in one language she transfers it to the other. My husband taught her to hiss like a snake. She heard the word “snake” from me in English some time ago but I didn’t teach her the sound. I asked her: “What sound does a snake make?” and she hissed. I have already mentioned it while analyzing her speech development at the age of 15 months. Maja’s quite recent achievements are the sounds of a tiger and a fish. However, I had to teach her these separately.
PLAYING WITH WORDS
Our clever baby doesn’t limit herself to using one word in only one context. I think she is trying to figure out the proper use. The following situations present our funny moments with her playing with languages:
- while I and my husband were away on holidays, Maja started calling my brother-in-law “tata” (daddy). My mum was her “mama” but immediately on my return I became “mummy.” How nice!
- “dziadzia” (Polish for “grandpa” but it is a real baby-talk version of “dziadek”) refers to any old man
- she changes her ways of referring to her grandma: “babcia” (granny), sometimes “ciapcia” (no meaning at all but it rhymes with “babcia”), on other occassions “baba” because my mum calls herself like this but this is an extremely augmentative version of “babcia”
- the word which was the most challenging for us was mysterious “opsia.” For a long time we hadn’t had any idea what it meant. Now I know – this is “obraz” (picture) which is in our bedroom over the main bed. She can’t pronounce it correctly yet.
- Maja has already used so-called Saxon Genitive. She recognizes whose clothes there are around her. She often fetches something saying, for example: mummy, daddy or babcia (granny). I had corrected her a few times that “The shoes are mummy’s” and she has started using this form recently.
- Maja can decline chosen Polish words and I think this is a giant step in assimilation of the Polish language:
– when my sister asked her: Lubisz jajo? (Do you like an egg?) she answered: “Lubię” (I like)
– she uses the word “masz’ (here you are) passing me something e.g. a monkey
– doble (“dobre”, which is the correct spelling and pronunciation meaning “good” in English) and also the opposite “niedobla” (niedobra meaning “wicked” or “bad”)
– “dziemy” instead of “idziemy” (let’s go)
– idzie (he/she/it is going)
– moje (my/ mine)
Moreover, she can pronounce “r” but only as a separate sound. She replaces it with “l” in words.
GROWN ADULTS BABY TALKING – MY PERSONAL OPINION
I don’t support teaching a child such nonsense words like “uciu” instead of a real word “wujek” (uncle). It doesn’t make any sense to me. By the way, the word “uciu” which was introduced by my mum was quickly replaced by Maja’s version of “wujek” (uncle) which sounds more similar – “lulek.” However, she sometimes uses the first learnt version. I think it is okay in her mouth but adults should speak in a normal way without inventing word that simply don’t exist.
I can accept “ziaziu” meaning a small injury, though. I even searched for an English equivalent and I found it – “boo boo.” However, I used it just a few times because I prefer an adult version of the language.
NON-NATIVE BILINGUALISM: POLISH VS ENGLISH
It looks as if a more extended analysis is going to take place when it comes to both languages. For the time being, the information from this article should be enough.
My baby uses the Polish words when she knows both Polish and English versions. She understands them in English, of course, but for now she is reluctant to use them. When she wants to show her eye, she says “oko.” I correct her saying that it is an “eye” and she repeats this word after me. When I ask her “Where is an eye?” she points at one of her eyes. An “egg” may be another example because Maja prefers saying “jajo”.
There is one exception and this is “bye bye,” which she prefers using in English though the Polish version is also sometimes used. The words such as “daddy” and “mummy” are in the same situation. I hear “mummy”more often than its Polish equivalent.
Surprisingly, either Maja doesn’t know some Polish words or the Polish version is just too difficult to pronounce which is highly possible. She uses English words instead. We had real English time in the morning today:
empty – I remember I told her once that her cup was empty. She used this word to describe an empty drawer.
tongue- she pronounces it like “tan”
I think she knows English versions of all Polish words she uses. I really do my best to ensure that. I immediately translate every Polish word into English.
I like the way she transfers the meaning of words and uses them in different contexts. For example, she learnt “dziura” (hole) from her grandpa who showed her “a hole” in my leggings. Shame on me! 😛 Then, she noticed a hole in the street and called it “a hole.” She kind of had figured it out it was the same.
WHAT DOES A 17-MONTH-OLD SURROUNDED BY POLISH BUT WITH AN ENGLISH-ONLY SPEAKING MUMMY UNDERSTAND
I guess I have admitted at least few times that I modify Doman whenever I feel like it, especially when it seems more interesting or more creative to change something. Doman advises providing no more than 2 possible answers for problem solving opportunities. Once I did something which was not in accordance with his principles. I put all number cards 1-5 the grass because we have already started this step. I asked her questions such as: ” Bring me 2.” She took the wrong card only once.
I have already mentioned many times that her favourite food is an egg. She even recognizes the sound of our egg boiler which means her egg is ready.
The other day we had a funny situation. There were two motorbikes in our garden. I told her: “This is daddy’s bike.” and “That is your uncle’s bike.” and she commented in Polish: “ucia” (uncle’s – her baby talk version of the Polish word “wujek”).
She understands and follows more complex instructions in both languages:
To give you some examples:
– She pulled daddy’s motorbike sock off the bath. I told her: “Pick it up and put it on the bath.” She did it.
– My husband asked me to bring him an energy drink to the garage. Maja did it after I gave her the can saying: “Take it and give it to daddy. “
– While daddy was lying down on the sofa, she brought him a pillow. She brought another when daddy said: “Przynieś mi drugą poduszkę” (Bring me another pillow)
A VIDEOCLIP WITH MAJA TALKING IN ENGLISH AND IN POLISH TO COME SOON
I am waiting for my husband to put some short videos together. I really regret I didn’t record her so often when she was even smaller. I have most videos from the time she was 16 months old altough a few interesting ones from the time she was only a 9-month-old baby.
Have you found my experience useful? If yes, share with others. What can your baby say at 17 months? Do you do Doman, too? I would be delighted if you leave a comment and share your experience.
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I have created a Facebook group for parents doing Doman as I haven’t found any. This is just the beginning but I hope there will be more and more of us soon and that we will share our experience with one another.