First Words

Ok, so she hasn’t actually said anything clearly yet except for “Mama”. Even so, I can tell that Olivia is really making major progress on her language development since she is starting to copy some words, and obviously understands quite a few more.

We are a tri-lingual family, speaking English, Spanish and German. (I am American, my husband is Mexican, and we live in Germany). So Olivia is growing up with all three languages, and I am SO incredibly excited to watch how her language develops!

Olivia will be one year old tomorrow, and so far she has had a lot of exposure to English (through me, obviously) and over the past month she has basically had Intensive Spanish immersion, since we have been visiting family in Mexico. My husband does speak Spanish with her at home, too, but since he is at work most of the day, her exposure to Spanish had been pretty limited until he got to go on paternity leave.

As for German, well, I admit that it has been very meager so far… She does hear it when I visit German friends and neighbors, but again it really isn’t a whole lot. I don’t think she understands anything in German yet, but I’m sure that will come more once we are back home in March.

So what exactly does she understand?

In English:
————–
Olivia (her name;))
Bye-Bye
Kitty
Look
Water
No
Here (I think…)
Doggy (I think…)
Daddy
Mommy

In Spanish:
—————
Adios (goodbye)
Hola (hello)
Mira (look)
No
Si (yes)
Bravo
Gato (cat)
Agua (water)
Mamá
Papá

There are probably a lot more words she can understand, but it’s difficult to tell since she can’t demonstrate it. These are only the words I know for sure that she understands.

She is also starting to say a few words – she says “kitty” (sounds kind of like “kee kee”). And she also very rarely says “bye bye” (sounds like “buh buh”). I think she is trying to say “daddy”, too (sounds like “duh da dee da duh dee”)

I know that multilingual children often take a little bit longer to speak, but Olivia seems very verbal, babbling all the time, so I guess we’ll see. Even if she is later than most I don’t really mind at all, since having three languages right from birth is a gift worth having!! It takes us adults years of effort to learn a foreign language, so It is totally worth it if it takes her a few extra months.

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10 Responses to “First Words”


  1. 1 mtetar February 5, 2013 at 4:47 am

    Olivia is going to be fine, keep talking with her, because she’s listening and words come out when you least expect from children, especially at her age. They sometimes hold on for their right time to talk. Mtetar

  2. 2 adoptionista February 5, 2013 at 5:17 am

    Awesome! What a great experience for her to grow up around 3 languages. I use some french with the babies. They seem to understand french/english terms with equal ease, but we’re still waiting on some spoken words! 🙂

  3. 3 jackielahora February 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Wow, how old is Olivia?

    It’s amazing she’s exposed to these three languages at such an early stage in her life. But I doubt her development would be slower than monolingual kids.

    My niece was exposed to four languages in the first six years of her life. These languages are English, Tagalog, Kalinga, and Ilocano. I actually made her my case study in a linguistics course and I found that her multilingualism doesn’t interfere with her pace in learning all languages. All the grammatical systems in each language are intact, actually. And of course, there is still the codeswitching and code-mixing thing, which won’t be a severe problem.

    Children’s minds are like sponges. They absorb anything (any language) they get exposed to. That’s why children are called universal linguists.

    And the fact that Olivia is so verbal is a good sign too, because that means she’s linguistically productive and is exploring the different sounds in the different languages she hears.

    • 4 christiana83 February 5, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      Hi Jackie, thank you for your insight! Olivia is one year old (her birthday is today, actually!) It’s good to know that learning multiple languages doesn’t slow the child down. I am reading a book about multilingualism right now, but it really wasn’t too clear on that.

      I have met quite a lot of bilingual kids, but so far no tri- or quadrilingual! It really is such an awesome thing to see kids who can easily navigate two or more languages, especially after putting in so much effort to learn languages as an adult.

      What is code-switching?

      • 5 jackielahora February 6, 2013 at 8:12 am

        well, code-switching is switching between two or more languages in one conversation. this is very common among people who know more than one language, and as they grow older they come to distinguish them by context. 🙂

      • 6 christiana83 February 7, 2013 at 6:19 am

        Ok, yeah that makes sense. Yeah I’ve met some other bi-lingual kids and they seem to keep thier languages straight even at very young ages, so I’m not really too worried about it. But it will definitely be i teresting!

  4. 7 Dad February 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    She definitely knows “kitty” – she said it twice within a few seconds one day – she saw the cat and said “kitty!” … then rapidly moved towards the cat, who was surprised. Then she said “kitty!” again as she got closer, and the cat ran away.

    So the cat knew what she was saying …

    • 8 christiana83 February 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm

      Really?! I didn’t know she had already been saying it since December…! Oscar’s brother’s family has a cat, too, so Olivia has been getting TONS of practice with that word!

  5. 9 motherhoodisanart February 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    1 years old….Oh my!!! It goes by too quick even through blog posts!!! All of the fun stuff of learning is just beginning!!!


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