Thursday, July 11, 2019

Raising a bilingual child

Research on how many words a child should have by a certain age varies. I've read that most (but not all) toddlers can say around 20 words by 18 months and 50 or more by the time they turn two. Apparently by 18 months many toddlers can even link two words together to form mini sentences already. In my facebook group of babies the same age as Mini and there is a huge discrepancy. Some babies are apparently saying as many as 40 words already whereas others aren't saying any.

Many people believe that bilingual children take longer to talk but I've also read that is a myth so I'm not really sure about that! I've read different advice about at what point to worry when your child isn't talking. I only speak English to Mini. Her Dad speaks German to her but when we are all together, our family language is English. She gets plenty of German exposure from daycare and just being out and about.

At her last doctor's checkup I mentioned she was only really saying "mama", "dada" and babbling. The doctor said they aren't concerned here unless the children don't have 20 words by age two. However she then said that some two year olds aren't talking at all but if they show *understanding* of 20 words that's enough.

A few weeks ago Mini started saying "yea/ja" which is very cute. She's still not saying any other new words (she's 16 months) but she does understand a lot and is able to make her wants known using gestures. If I ask her to point out body parts like "nose, mouth, eyes, hair, eyes etc" she's well able to point to them. She does get mixed up though between "where's MY nose?" and "where's YOUR nose?".

If she wants to be picked up she walks over and puts her arms above her head and makes a little noise to get your attention. Or she'll take your hand and pull you over somewhere to play together. She points at doors she wants opened or things she can't reach. She'll gesture at the stair gate in our house and I'll say "oh, do you want to go upstairs?" and she answers "yea".

I'm fascinated seeing how she learns and the associations she makes. Recently, I pointed out a bus to her as we were passing during a walk and she started doing the arm movements for the "wheels on the bus" song! When we feed her, my husband often says "mmm", like "try some broccoli, mmmm, yummy". And now I've noticed she points to food and says "mmm" when she wants to eat.

I'm excited for when she started saying more words and I'm curious about whether they'll be English or German!


  1. Ali is 15 months, and he sounds like he's right about where your little one is, although he can only reliably point to ears, haha. Still working on the rest of the face. :) And he says "poop" when he means "diaper." I'm always pointing to his diaper and saying, "Did you poop?" and I guess he assumed I was just pointing out his diaper. It is so fun and fascinating watching them slowly piece it together. Can't wait to hear more of his little thoughts!

    1. A friend of mine told me her daughter says "pee pee" but only when she has pooped, haha! I definitely love the learning to talk stage!

  2. These milestones can vary so much-- I've had friends worried about their toddlers' word counts, but they all caught up eventually. One of my friends is from Germany but lives here in Rochester, and her twins are bilingual. They did take a little longer to speak in sentences, but if imagine party of that is weighing which language to use. So interesting, language acquisition!

  3. From what I (vaguely) remember of our language acquisition module at English A-Level confusing "my" and "your" goes on for quite a while. I think until they're about 3? It's such an abstract concept that I'm not really surprised!

    Once she has more words you should try and keep track of which language she uses most words in. I think that would be fascinating.

  4. Your kid don't know the difference from one or the's WHAT you teach her... English or German..or both...THEN if you teach her both languages fluently...only then will she be BILINGUAL. bilingual
    (of a person) speaking two languages fluently.
    "a bilingual secretary"
    a person fluent in two languages.


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