bilingual parenting: an interview with my daughter at 19 months

Here’s a little video of C. talking at 19 months. If you’ve been around since the beginning of her joining our family, then you know that I’m very interested in how bilingual children aquire language and how it develops over time. Besides looking to other families for guidance on how they’re managing multilingual households, I also posted a few updates on how our situation has been going: 14 months & 18 months.

By now, at 19 months, C. is quite the talker and mimicker. She loves nothing better than to repeat words and is constantly surprising us with new ones. Just this past weekend, while T. was making apple pancakes, she pointed to his cutting board and completely unprompted said the word “apple.” And we didn’t even teach her that one! It’s so much fun to see her language usage just explode this past month.

She also understands so much more than she can say and follows instructions really well. She is also pretty good at telling us “da” (yes) or “nu” (no) when we ask her whether she wants more food, is tired, wants a certain book, etc.

I thought I’d get a little bit of her talking on film because it’s so darn cute and because it will be fun to look back on and compare to how she talks even a few months from now. Right now, she’s still primarily at home with me. I only leave her with a sitter three times a week for a few hours at a time for me to go to campus and teach or to lesson plan. When she’s with me, I try to only speak Romanian with her. But because we’re always out and meeting friends on a daily basis, she also gets a lot of English exposure when we’re together. She hears me speak English to our friends and their kids for a large chunk each day, so her Romanian exposure isn’t as much as one might think given our stay-at-home situation.

This will soon change as she’s due to start daycare in May. Her world will primarily function in English, both during the day at “school” and in the evenings when her dad’s home and English becomes the household language. I will have to make much more of an effort to speak with her and to read to her in Romanian. I’ve requested more Romanian books and Romanian children’s DVDs from my mom who will be going to Romania this summer. I will have to get creative and insistent about using Romanian.

For now, as this video shows, C’s very good at responding to all of my prompts given in Romanian. She can answer with the different sounds that different animals make when asked in Romanian. The same questions in English seem to lose her a bit. When asked in English what a dog says, she knows to say “woof woof.” Asked about a kitty, she’s a bit stumped until I use the word “cat” and she replies with “meow.” The cow and bee are also credited with saying “meow” when asked in English. Asked in Romanian and she knows to answer “moo” and “bzzz.”

As you can see from her signing “more” towards the end of the video, she could keep doing this all day long. She loves having me give her words to repeat or asking her to make the sounds she knows for different animals. Like any new skill acquired, it provides no shortage of fun and pride. We’re now getting to the point though where I lose track of all of the words she knows and end up asking all of the same original ones over and over again. It’s so exciting to see her develop like this.

For more posts on bilingual parenting, see the archives here. Are you raising your children with more than one language? What have been your greatest rewards and what has stumped you the most? I’d love to hear from other parents in similar situations!

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About simplybike

{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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20 Responses to bilingual parenting: an interview with my daughter at 19 months

  1. Bobbie says:

    T loves that video! He also said “woof woof” when you asked what a dog says. However, now he keeps asking where his friend C is, so I may have created a problem in showing him the video ;)

    • simplybike says:

      Ha! I’m really sad already about splitting them up when C starts daycare. They have such a sweet little friendship. Maybe we can borrow T for sleep overs and playdates on weekends?

  2. Rebecca says:

    I love it! I keep meaning to do a video with Ari, but haven’t gotten around to it. C is so cute!

  3. Andreea says:

    Awww …little C is very sweet!
    Spune-i ca este o fetiță tare frumoasă!

  4. Annabelle says:

    18 months is said to be, in the language acquisition literature, a time of fast growth in terms of words, so she is right on track.

  5. Alex says:

    I love it. My father is from Sicily and he wanted my brothers and I to learn Italian but my mother did not want us to grow up learning two languages. My other cousins did grow up learning Italian and English simultaneously. When my parents divorced, my father remarried and had two babies with my stepmom. He made sure that my two half-brothers learned Italian and English. I applaud you because I wish I had more control over my father’s language, especially since his side of the family converses in Italian most of the time. I know C will thank you one day.

  6. Heather says:

    Good grief, she’s adorable, and now I want to learn Romanian too! What a lovely language!

  7. Laura says:

    This is indeed adorable. I love that we get the chance to hear Romanian. I’ve been trying to repeat the questions you ask and figure out vocabulary. The word multumesc is now stuck in my head!

    • Laura says:

      Is C. also learning ASL? I noticed she signed “more”, so it made me wonder how she had picked it up and if she signs more words.

      • simplybike says:

        Hi Laura,

        I tried to teach her a few signs but wasn’t very good about it. The only two that suck and that she uses all the time are “more” and “food.” More is actually a really useful and versatile one because she’ll usually combine it with pointing to what she wants more of. She just last week started saying the word “more” along with the sign but she’s been signing more since she was about a year old.

        I read that teaching kids sign language (baby sign language) in a bilingual household is really great for making that bridge between the two languages since they can see how the same word in both languages has the same sign for it. It makes sense since signing milk or more or food while saying the word for it in either language would help cement the idea that both of those words pertain to the same object/action. I wish I had taught her more baby sign language but it didn’t come very second-nature to me.

        S.

        • Laura says:

          Hi S.,

          Thank you for the explanation. It makes sense indeed and I learned something new. I have read somewhere that kids tend pick up sign language very fast and find it comfortable to use before they develop verbal language. But kids will stop signing once they start speaking unless they find a meaningful use for it.

  8. Katrina says:

    S, she’s so great! And what a pleasure to get to hear a little Romanian – I was there a number of years ago, and don’t think I’ve heard any since. It’s such a lovely language. I grew up with some Spanish (my father’s native language) because my family traveled so much, but I’ve always wished my parents had made the effort to speak Spanish to my brother and I at home – I bet I’d be a much more competent speaker now.

  9. hannie says:

    Cute video. I also love to hear the Romanian and it’s fun to hear that the tone of your conversation stays the same in both languages. Did you learn C. to use certain gestures? I think it is really impressive how the number of words kids use seems to explode when kids are about 18 months old. I really enjoyed this phase with our first and am looking forward to it with for our second (who is starting to babble right now).

    Our four year old is now very aware of the fact that there are different languages and often asks how a certain word is pronounced in Frisian or English. We have translated Dutch nursery rhymes and songs into other languages at his request . He is in a phase where playing with language is fun. Sometimes he makes up his own language (this is a secret language mamma and mem don’t understand and that’s cool!).

    • Bruninho says:

      Kelly–First figure out which Google pocrudt or service your question relates to (web search, AdWords, Blogger, etc.). Then go to Google’s and select that pocrudt. In most cases you’ll see a link to that pocrudt’s Discussion Group on the front page of that pocrudt’s Help Center; that’s the best place to ask questions.

  10. Unnati says:

    OMG! This is the most cutest thing ever! I grew up bilingual and my parents used to do this to me. My mom would only respond to us if we spoke to her in our native language. We even wrote letters to our family back home as kids to maintain our native language writing skills. As a kid I was often annoyed at these practices but now I really appreciate it and take pride in knowing my native language. Now we do this our niece whose mom speaks Hindi, Dad speaks Telegu, they live in a city with different language and school is strictly English. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Sharon says:

    This is a great video. I appreciate all your posts but I’m a particularly big fan of the ones on bilingual parenting and academia. I am a French professor and I try to speak as much French as possible with my 15month old daught, even when other people are around (but not actively involved in the conversation). That takes discipline but works most of the time. I do get tongue-tied sometimes when going back and forth between my her and our dogs who are not bilingual, unfortunately. :) I thought you might be able to relate since you have a dog too.

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  13. Frumoasa! It’s really fun and fascinating to watch your cute little girl and her development of language :) please do keep it up, I just found your blog today and can’t stop reading :)

    Salutari din Austria!

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