Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Language Pick 'n' Mix

Nicholas has, it seems, inherited my love of languages.

Not long ago at playgroup, the other mums were discussing their kids' favourite tv programs - almost exclusively divided between Peppa Pig and In the Night Garden. Nicholas shows absolutely no interest in either.

He would much rather watch something in another language! Most of the time we watch the Wink to Learn dvds in Chinese, and occasionally (when I need an electronic babysitter) I allow him to watch the full twenty minutes of Little Pim the Panda. Usually  in Chinese, but sometimes in Japanese or Spanish.

I don't force this; he demands to watch his Wink to Learn Chinese every time he's near the computer. And he will come running from the other side of the flat, or instantly stop a temper tantrum at the sound of the Pim intro music...

But, it seems, he has started getting picky! About 80% of the words he uses are English, and almost all the rest Russian (since he hears both languages frequently during the day). He does know a couple of Chinese words, too.

However ALL words are spoken only in one language. It seems that he picks the one he likes best and sticks with is. The word 'dog' has dissappeared from his spoken vocabulary since he learned the Chinese word. Similarly for the word 'bellybutton' and Russian.

It is not that he chooses the easier option, though. Initially he said, very clearly, 'peese' for please. Then I taught him the Russian (pozhaluysta) and he went through a long transition of 'pee-poo-da' and similar mixes until he could pronounce the Russian word with accuracy (for his age, at least!).

I find this quite a bizarre, if cute, practice. I know that he understands a lot more Russian than he says (presumably he prefers the English word) and I suspect the same is true of Chinese, though I can't check with any accuracy.

I know this is a phase - he's not going to be ten and still using one language per word - so I'm not really bothered by it. Though it is hard to explain why he says 'goa' instead of dog...

 He is excited by and willing to use other languages - I can't fault that! I just hope it lasts a lifetime!

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