Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Explosion of Language

My son is now almost two and a half years old and recently has been speaking quite a bit. He says things at night like, “Daddy, go to bed?” “Daddy, boat coming!” “Kai, neh neh (baby talk for sleep in Japanese).” He also speaks a lot more in Japanese, his first language. His language has been progressing at a very surprising and exciting pace.

I started a three-week vacation about three weeks ago (sadly only one day left before I head back to school). I have been spending a great deal of time with my son during that period. Both my wife and I have noticed a sudden explosion of language in the last month and luckily I have been present to enjoy so much of it.

The amazing thing that has happened is he can now express his needs and wants in English and Japanese. He was able to tell us what he wanted Santa Claus to bring him for Christmas (Santa got him the TOMICA City parking garage set he so desired).

He can also use both his English and Japanese to play with Mom and Dad. The other day he walked up to me, placed some toy food on the table and said, “Daddy, eat this.” His favorite phrase in the past few days has been “Come here Daddy” which he has said at least thirty five thousand times!

I think my mind was really blown the other day when my son said, “Daddy, two boys going over there.” I looked up and sure enough, there were two young boys running across the street in front of us!

I realize that often children in Canada, where I am from, at my son’s age may be able to communicate more, but my son has to process twice the information. He doesn’t just have to learn the word “cat” for example. He must learn that Daddy says “cat” and Mommy says, “neko” (my wife is Japanese).

Language switching:

This is another impressive thing (in my eyes as a father) that amazes me. When I am alone with my son, he pretty much only speaks English. When he is with his mother, he pretty much only speaks Japanese, the language he can communicate more in. When we are together as a family, he mixes it all together and at this point, really only his mother knows exactly what he is saying.

I suppose that in the little world that is “my family”, we are going through some fun and exciting times.

As someone who was raised in a unilingual household, it is amazing to see someone raised bilingual. It’s like looking into a new world!

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev


AndiYo said...

I used to work at a preschool in Japan where it was an English only education for the kids. It never ceased to amaze me how naturally and unconsciously they switch languages depending on who they are looking at. Always English to the teachers and Japanese as to Mommy or Daddy picking them up. We even had one girl who spoke three (!) languages! English to us, Japanese to her Mommy and Urdu (I think) to her Daddy! Effortlessly!

One really cute moment was when one of the kids had it firmly in his head that Daddy speaks English, Mommy speaks Japanese and that was that. Even while his mommy was talking to me in her extremely fluent English, he was convinced she was incapable of doing so. He firmly told us that Mommy speaks Japanese, she doesn't know English. That was that as far as he was concerned! We laughed and told him English...but he remained unconvinced.

Jeff Rivera said...

This is wonderful to hear. What you’ve shared is actually nice thing to read about especially with regards to your child, who you said to be only 2 and half years of age. Such an intelligent kid that he was able to know bilingual languages and can talk to both of you and your wife with your native dialects. Who would not love to go home earlier from work if you have a kid such as smart as yours? I believe that your son became smart as he is now because of good parenting that he has and of course it is also because of his surroundings, and let us not remove the fact that he has an inborn intelligence. You know, when I make stories for my children’s book, I really use the naturally wise side of every kid for them to easily understand what they are reading. And your son is one good example of a wise kid. Good luck on bringing him up more intelligently.

Allen said...

I was raised trilingual (or is it multilingual? same difference) and my parents always told me that it was amazing for them to see me switching between languages so easily (my brothers and i developed a creole language that we still use, and nobody ever understands what we say :D )

Anyway, you mentioned that Japanese is your sons first language, why is it his first language (i mean, he speaks both languages when his brain is still developing it's language sector, so i just though it made sense that both English AND Japanese would be his first languages)? (And if Japanese is his first language, then does than mean that English isn't a native language for him???)
I really dont even know if you answer to comments on here, but it's just such a fascinating topic for me.