Friday, August 27, 2010

More Benefits of Multilingualism

To have another language is to possess a second soul.
— Charlemagne (742/7 – 814), King of the Franks

I was just alerted to an article written about the Benefits of Multilingualism. Though I have a few links to other articles like this one in my resources section on the right, I felt like it would be beneficial to post some of the highlights of the article here. Clearly there are moments in my life, and perhaps in yours too, when a reminder could be helpful...

One point that was made is that "multicompetence does not require perfect fluency in all the languages at one’s command...", meaning that I, and the rest of us in this endeavor, can let go of the belief that making mistakes in our non-native language will harm or take away from our children's multilingual experience. Letting go of this belief feels HUGE to me...

In addition to this valuable point, the author sums up a number of other important benefits, adding that "the advantages that multilinguals exhibit over monolinguals are not restricted to linguistic knowledge only, but extend outside the area of language. The substantial long-lived cognitive, social, personal, academic, and professional benefits of enrichment bilingual contexts have been well documented. Children and older persons learning foreign languages have been demonstrated to:

* have a keener awareness and sharper perception of language. Foreign language learning “enhances children’s understanding of how language itself works and their ability to manipulate language in the service of thinking and problem solving” (Cummins 1981);

* be more capable of separating meaning from form;

* learn more rapidly in their native language (L1), e.g. to read, as well as display improved performance in other basic L1 skills, regardless of race, gender, or academic level;

* be more efficient communicators in the L1;

* be consistently better able to deal with distractions, which may help offset age-related declines in mental dexterity;

* develop a markedly better language proficiency in, sensitivity to, and understanding of their mother tongue;

* develop a greater vocabulary size over age, including that in their L1;

* have a better ear for listening and sharper memories;

* be better language learners in institutionalized learning contexts because of more developed language-learning capacities owing to the more complex linguistic knowledge and higher language awareness;

* have increased ability to apply more reading strategies effectively due to their greater experience in language learning and reading in two—or more—different languages;

* develop not only better verbal, but also spatial abilities;

* parcel up and categorize meanings in different ways;

* display generally greater cognitive flexibility, better problem solving and higher-order thinking skills;

* “a person who speaks multiple languages has a stereoscopic vision of the world from two or more perspectives, enabling them to be more flexible in their thinking, learn reading more easily. Multilinguals, therefore, are not restricted to a single world-view, but also have a better understanding that other outlooks are possible. Indeed, this has always been seen as one of the main educational advantages of language teaching” (Cook 2001);

* multilinguals can expand their personal horizons and—being simultaneously insiders and outsiders—see their own culture from a new perspective not available to monoglots, enabling the comparison, contrast, and understanding of cultural concepts;

* be better problem-solvers gaining multiple perspectives on issues at hand;

* have improved critical thinking abilities;

* better understand and appreciate people of other countries, thereby lessening racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, as the learning of a new language usually brings with it a revelation of a new culture;

* learn further languages more quickly and efficiently than their hitherto monolingual peers; (YEAH BABY!!)

* to say nothing of the social and employment advantages of being bilingual – offering the student the ability to communicate with people s/he would otherwise not have the chance to interact with, and increasing job opportunities in many careers.

This, my friends, is why I teach language. And why I continue to stick it out when my doubts hold the reigns. Recently, Kaya's German "jaaaahhh" has morphed into a clearly English-sounding "yeeeaaahh". I can't help feeling a little sad and I've "lost" one more word to the other language (how in the hell did I grow so competitive?!). But reading this list helps me get my little brain back on track, and remember that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter. Once again, I can tell myself, Kaya will be fine. In fact, according to this article, it seems like she'll be even better than that...!

Monday, August 23, 2010

It's finally time to watch our words and our tone...

I've been "waiting" for this day, "dreading" would be a MUCH more appropriate term, for a long time. I knew it would come, I just wasn't exactly sure as to when. Well, tonight, after I got home from work, Geoff told me that tonight was the night...oh dear...

We hired a dog trainer while I was pregnant with Kaya to avoid this very thing.

I go to therapy on a regular basis to help us avoid this.

But alas, the time has come, where reality mixes with her spongy verbosity:

Kensa, true to form, was whining at the back door. Geoff, in his true form, attempted to be nice and gently tell her to be quiet. But, she persisted in her wascally husky manner, and continued to whine, long and loud. Surely learning from yours truly, Geoff decides to raise his voice at Kensa, telling her, "No, you stay out."

Within seconds, our budding bilingual says, in a tone more stern, loud, and definitive than we've ever heard her use,"No. No. Nein. Nein. Nein. Nein. Nein. Nein. Nein." No pause between the two different negations...simply a continual flow of bilingual no-isms.

On the one hand, I'm clearly dejected. I've been dreading this day, the day I knew would come, the day I "knew" I would hate as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. Life is hard, especially right now. I miss my mom. Geoff's hand is broken. And together, in all of our tiredness, we're raising a one and a half year old. How the hell am I supposed to keep my cool when my 2 dogs are whining, barking, and waking the baby?! As cute as they are, I can't quite keep it together all of the time when one of them runs away for hours and the other one keeps begging at the kitchen counter. I try, dear Buddha knows I try...but reality is brutal sometimes, and so is my tone.

How, oh how, am I going to keep my daughter from "inheriting" my harsh tone with my dogs? Patience? Acceptance? Meditation? No dogs?

I don't have the answer. But what I do have is a bundle of mixed emotions at the fact that, one, our daughter finally "Did what we do, not what we say," and two, because she did it bilingually. I know I have a choice to dwell on whichever emotion I want to...shall I focus on how ecstatic I feel for her smooth bilingualism? Or on the deep-seeded fear based upon the unknown of how to solve our plight?

The answer is obvious...and shockingly, it's not feeling so challengin--the happiness feels like a hot spring welling up through all the other emotions that come so naturally. And what a wonderful experience that is...

(It's not ALL she is feeding the canine beasts, who have come to love as one of their own!)


Two-way Conversationalist and Three-word Phrase

Handing us rocks along the N.Fork of the Little Santiam

I'm not exactly sure how to verbalize exactly what happened over the past week in regards to Kaya's language abilities...but something took place, for sure. The nuances are hard to put a finger on, but the closest I can come to summing it up is to say what implied in the title:

Kaya has become a two-way conversationalist.

She has been answering me with simple "ja" and head shakes for a while now (again, I'd have to check the blog record to remember exactly how long), but starting the middle of last week, and all this weekend, conversation with Kaya felt VERY different. Let me try my hand at adding a few details which may shed some light on what I mean...

-She responds to 95% of what we say to her or ask her, with not just a simple, "jah" like before, but now with a more heartfelt, "Jaaaahhh". I've got to get it on video because her tone just warms my heart and makes me smile almost every time!

-Even when Geoff and I are talking with each other, usually about her or something she responds. For example, while we were camping and swimming this weekend on the North Fork of the Little North Santiam, I was letting Geoff know what it was that she was wanting, what she was pointing at. "She wants the T-U-R-T-L-E," I said, spelling out the key word that I figured would upset her. "Jaah," she reponded, immediately, looking intently across the water and pointing at the big, blow up turtle.

Here she is before the turtle came along, enjoying the peace and solitude of the river with Dada

-She now repeats things on her own, a great deal of the time, without us having to ask, "Can you say ____?". It seems that she chooses words that she either likes the sound of or thinks she'll be able to muster with her existing vocal abilities...

-On Wednesday evening, before we left for our camping trip, our neighbors, Lena and Andrea, both heard Kaya say, "Look at Mama," while pointing at me across the way. That marks the moment of her FIRST three-word phrase!

-She's been saying, "Hello, Mama" very clearly over the past three days...she'll start saying it, often when she's playing peek-a-boo through her "schnulli" (pacifier) string. She says it over and over again, continuing even longer if I say hello back to her. I'm very surprised at how CLEAR her annunciation is when she says it.

Her favorite word these days: Baaaow (Ball)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two-Word Phrase Phase?!

I've read a bit about the phase when they'll start creating two-word phrases. In fact, just last night, I read that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children "should" be able to create two and three-word phrases by the time they reach 24 months. Naturally, I wasn't sure when our little Kaya would start doing this, since the word on the street is that it often takes longer for bi- and multilingual children to start speaking. But I think we've entered our next phase...!

The more comical story (of two) is one that also leads me to believe that she's nearing her potty training phase as well: I went into the bathroom this morning, and Kaya quickly followed me in, with grunts implying that she, too, wanted to be sitting on her potty (which is on the floor just across from ours). When I asked her if she wanted to sit down, she said, "Jahh", and motioned to sit...but then spotted her rubber ducky in the tub. Doing the same as she did yesterday, she grabbed the duck from her toy bin, and put it on her potty, saying, "a-a", meaning 'poop' in colloquial German. What was different about today is that she not only said, "a-a" as she set the ducky on the potty, but that she combined with it with "duck" as she set it over the hole, making for her first official two-word expression: "duhh a-a!"

How proud am I?! The daughter of a mother with irritable bowel and the mother of a daughter with lingual poop skills. =) Could life be better than this?

Similarly sweet, as Kaya and I were lying in bed this morning, she said, "dada...bye bye" just after he walked out the front door for work. The words were a little bit more separated than her duck and poop phrase above...but I think it qualifies, too.

She's comin' along with this language thing, mixing her languages as they are expected to do until about 3 1/2 years (though I'll have to check my numbers on that one). To her, they are all words...two names for any particular items are simply synonyms to her right now, and will continue to be for a few years. Hence, mixing is only natural--there's no reason to keep them apart, as far as her brain is concerned. Until then, she'll just choose to use the synonym that is easiest for her to say, like "duck" (vs. Ente) and "dauh" (dog, vs. Hund), or the one that she learns first, like "a-a" and "Affe".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Our daughter hasn't been a big "no" kid as many toddlers can be at this age. We've been very selective about how we tell her 'no', specifically avoiding the word 'no' and 'nein' to help keep her from being obsessed with the word and the concept (being of the Mindful Parenting viewpoint, we do our best to tell her what we want her to DO, as opposed to what NOT to do--when she's on the verge of something super dangerous that we need her to stop doing right away, we say "Danger/Vorsicht!" and distract her from the action). So, instead of no's, we've been getting sweet little head shakes when she answers our questions in the negative. The other day, I did hear her call out a long "Noooooohhh" when she saw something in her chair that she was unhappy about--but otherwise, she hadn't used No or Nein in true context...

...until TONIGHT! I feel like I 'shouldn't' rejoice over something I've been trying so hard to avoid, but the details of the story have me smiling somethin' big.

As told to me by my in-laws: Kaya was showing her Tante Jules her rocking horse at their house tonight. It's one of those big horses on springs that rocks back and forth impressively...but instead of hard plastic like we had as kids, it's soft and plush and says a variety of things. Kaya has ridden it a few times and loved it,(as you see here!) but the last time I was there, she seemed a bit spooked, perhaps by the talking? Whatever it was, she clearly wasn't interested in riding the horse any more that night. So, tonight as I said, she was "showing" her Tante the horsie, when grandpa walks in the room and asks Kaya if she wants to ride the horse. "Nein," she declared, adamantly. He continued to explain to her that the horsie was lonely, and that it might really like her to ride it. "Nein, nein," she responded, this time shaking her head. She's got it down, it seems...I'm curious what this will mean for our car rides and bedtimes and lima beans in the future. But despite my 'curiosity', I'm beaming with excitement that "nein" came out instead of "no", and that she combined it with the head shake to make it clear that she knew exactly what she was saying!

Also, as much as I have my concerns for how Kaya's German in the next few years will challenge some of the moments that she has with her other care givers (particularly her grandparents and Tante who see her regularly and don't speak any German), I am finding a deep level of excitement at the fact that this phase has begun. Because what that signifies is HUGE for me--the bilingual experience is setting in to the point that it will begin to make a difference in her interactions with others!

Yeeehaw and Giddeee-up!

Family Language Layout

After writing at length about my experience with German and why we chose the German over Spanish, I realized that I had yet to go into detail about our language situation as a family. I find that I enjoy reading about what others do, so maybe by sharing our situation here, I can offer some insight to others as well, or perhaps just serve as another example out there in the world of multilingual families.

As I briefly address in my profile, we use the One Parent, One Language (OPOL) method in our family. Geoff, my husband, speaks English with Kaya all the time while 99% of my communication with her is in German. Geoff and I communicate with each other in English, and the language of our community, Portland, Oregon, is English as well. So, German is the minority language of our family as well as in our community.

As I've addressed in older posts, when I am completely overwhelmed and beside myself with frustration or anger, I allow myself to speak English with Kaya. When I first came to terms with this need of mine, I would allow myself to speak to her at length in English, until I felt more calm. This would often be 3-5 minutes in English, with a minimum of 4 sentences or utterances at a time in English. After a conversation with another non-native German speaker who is also raising her daughter bilingually, however, I have gone back to focusing on staying in German 100% of the time, including those challenging moments. Soon, I will write just about that concept alone, but in the meantime, I'll say that I've gone from saying 4-5 sentences or more to Kaya in English when I'm overwhelmed to maybe one or none. I'm finding that it's enough, lately, to get out one frustrated comment in English in the most challenging moments and then immediately move back to German. I've also noticed that I'm better able to express frustration in German lately, so that I don't even need to move to English to express myself in those hard moments. That feels relieving and promising, for sure!

Why German (as opposed to Spanish)?

During the year before Kaya was born, I gave an immense amount of thought to how I would raise Kaya bilingually. Clearly, it wasn't going to be IF, it was surely a matter of HOW. For months, I exacerbated as to whether to go with Spanish or German, and actually settled on Spanish for about a week. The idea didn't sit well, though, and I changed my decision back to German for a three primary reasons:

1. My heart is in German. I love the language, the culture, the German-speaking nations, Europe in general...I don't feel at all the same about Spanish.

2. German will be hard and expensive for Kaya to learn if she doesn't learn it from me. Spanish, on the other hand, is everywhere, including in a very strong immersion program very close to our house.

3. My roots are German. I am from a line of Schnettlers and Kiefers. Nothing like learning one's "heritage" language.

When I made my list of reasons to raise her bilingually in Spanish, the list was literally 4 times as long...let's see if I can remember some of the most salient reasons:

1. Geoff, my husband and Kaya's dad, knows some Spanish. He has studied it a bit, uses it a bit at work, and has a true desire to know more. Speaking Spanish to Kaya would be the perfect opportunity for him to improve his Spanish.
2. Tons of resources available in the community (schools, libraries, playgroups, signage, etc)
3. My step mom is Ecuadorian. It would be a GREAT connection for them to have.
4. I could give her a jump in her second language and solidify it with a local immersion program at Portland Public (Beech Elementary, or one of the other 2 Spanish immersion programs)
4. Spanish will surely be helpful in finding employment, with all of the Latinos we have in the Portland area.
5. Resources are cheaper than German ones--schools, books, etc
6. I've been learning Spanish longer than German (this feels like a lame reason at this point, but it was on the list)

I have the distinct recollection that there were 12 reasons on our list originally, but now that I've chosen German and have been using it with her for her whole life, the other reasons escape me. But the point is, I chose German because of reason #1--"My heart is in German"--I knew that without THAT, I'd have no chance of sticking with it, much less finding success in the process.

So, with Kaya's birth in January 2009, I started speaking German to her all the time. My step mom told me that it takes 3 weeks to form a habit, so as awkward as it felt in those first hours and days and weeks, I told myself that I'd stick with it for at least 21 days. Once I had that much time invested, it was easy for me to keep going, esp. since I wasn't really saying a whole heck of a was mostly a matter of growing comfortable with the words coming out of my mouth and passing over my ears. I could go on and on about the comfort level process, but I'll save that for another time and another post.

For now, suffice it to say, I know I made the right choice. I've found plenty of affordable resources (read: German American School, garage sales, and Powell's Books); Geoff is learning German along with Kaya and making some efforts to learn the language on the side, too--he only needs to be able to understand it, we've decided, since I'll be the one speaking to her; I have family in Germany, too, just more removed than my step mom (very distant cousins!); I've found an affordable German preschool option and I'm now more excited about a different elementary school option than Spanish immersion; and German will be similarly as useful for Kaya when she is job will just lead her down different roads than Spanish would. And to me, that's what this endeavor is all her as many roads as possible to choose from when she's ready and wanting to choose.

Language Experience

After writing a lengthy blurb about language assessment, I realized that it would be best if I addressed my experience with German so that there would be some context to the assessments that I did, both self and more official. If you haven't read that post and you are interested, click here, or see Language Assessment in the right column.

I started learning German in 1992, in my first year at Lewis and Clark College. I was tired of learning Spanish, and wanted to learn another language (I took the good advice of my dad and continued to study Spanish as well). So, I decided to add German for a variety of reasons, the first of which was because I'd be able to spend a year in Munich during my junior year. I loved the language so much that I quickly decided to change my major from Biology to Foreign Language (German/Spanish), and was much happier without having to attempt to pass O-chem! I did spend my junior year in Munich, studying through Lewis & Clark College at the Ludwig-Maximilian Universitaet (LMU). Most of our classes were privately taught for only our program participants, so I interacted little with the university system and students themselves in class. But they were all in German, so I learned a great deal about both the language and culture.

I lived in student housing in northern Munich, at Studentenstadt. In my house, many of the students were Germans, but it took me most of the year before I grew to be accepted into their circles. Because of that social challenge, I ended up spending a lot of time with the other Americans on the program, and by the end of the year, found that my German wasn't nearly as proficient as I was hoping it would be.

On the Goethe-Institut Zentrale Mittlestufenpruefung (Central Middle Level Test), I scored as follows at the end of my year there in July 1995:
Listening Comprehension--fair
Reading Comprehension--good
Written Expression--good
Oral Expression--satisfactory

On the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Exam in German, I received a score of Advanced High. This is one level down from the highest rating of Superior, and is described as follows on the American Council for Teaching of Foreign Languages website:
Able to satisfy the requirements of a broad variety of everyday, school, and work situations. Can discuss concrete topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence. There is emerging evidence of ability to support opinions, explain in detail, and hypothesize. The Advanced-Plus speaker often shows a well-developed ability to compensate for an imperfect grasp of some forms with confident use of communicative strategies, such as paraphrasing and circumlocution. Differentiated vocabulary and intonation are effectively used to communicate fine shades of meaning. The Advanced-Plus speaker often shows remarkable fluency and ease of speech, but under the demands of Superior-level complex tasks, language may break down or prove inadequate.
(for further ACTFL information, click here)

As dissatisfied as I was by my proficiency in German (and my intimidation about life after graduation in the US), I decided to return to Munich for a year in 1996-1997. I spent part of the year living with a host family, teaching their daughters English, and the rest of the year back in student housing in a very international and active house. That year, my German-speaking friendships solidified more quickly than they had 2 years prior. I also had a nanny job, as well as two data-entry jobs with two different companies. After that second year in Germany, my German improved immensely. Unfortunately, there was no assessment that took place, self or otherwise, immediately upon returning to the US after that second year in Germany, but in looking at the above assessments, it's clear to me that I would have been a strong C1 German student, with some areas being at the C2 level.

Between 1997 and 2004, I did little to maintain my German, other than communicate with friends in Germany through email and interpret the random German medical appointment. I maybe read a book or two in German, and still felt just as passionate about the language, but was focusing more closely on my outdoor pursuits as they related to my career than I was on my foreign languages.

In 2002, however, I was hired as a teacher at Pacific Crest Community School. Initially, my position was Language Arts and Astronomy teacher, though the director was clear that I had dreams of starting both an outdoor program as well as a German program. After a year at Pacific University, where I earned my Masters in Teaching with German and Spanish endorsements, I was given the green light to build both the outdoor and the German programs that I dreamed to create.

It was at this point, in April 2004, that my German was once again officially assessed by the Educational Testing Service on my Praxis exam:
German Content Knowledge 186/200
German Productive Language Skills 196/200

Apparently, that 7 years didn't take too big of a toll on my German, as I would have expected. Maybe I did more with it back then than I can remember, but it certainly wasn't anything drastic, like living abroad or taking any on-going courses.

So, between 2004 and 2008, I ran the German program at Pacific Crest, including teaching levels 1-4 of German every day, and coordinating and accompanying two groups of students to Leipzig, Germany, in 2006 and 2008.

Which brings us to 2009, when our precious little love and the whole purpose for this blog came into our lives. And naturally, the next thing to discuss is the concept of why we chose to raise her bilingually in German (as opposed to Spanish). One day I might go into the reasons why we chose bilingualism in the first place, but there are a couple of great articles that I found which lay it all out better than I feel I could. Check out the resources to the right for links to those articles, if you're interested.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Language Assessment

A few months ago, I was asked by a fellow linguist if I would be interested in doing a self-assessment of mine and Kaya's German to help her accumulate information for her thesis on bilingual language development. Though it took me longer to get around to doing the assessment than I was hoping (no surprise there!), I have been very excited about the opportunity, as it will give me a starting point from which to base all progress that is made over the years...hopefully serving as continual motivation to keep on the horse with this endeavor. I will include the link to the global scale and assessment grid so that others of you can do the same, or at least have access to this information, should you so inclined!

Minority Language: German
Global Scale Level: B2/C1

At this point, I feel that I have a blend of both B2 and C1 skills in my German.
B2: Independent User
Can understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. Can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party. Can produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of
various options.

C1: Proficient User
Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognize implicit meaning. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes. Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

The Assessment Grid breaks down the Global Scale according to the specific areas of language: Understanding, Speaking and Writing. It offers a more detailed account of what one can do with language. My self assessment according to the Assessment Grid is as follows:

I can understand extended speech even when it is not clearly structured and when relationships are only implied and not signaled explicitly. I can understand television programs and films without too much effort.

Reading: B2/C1
B2--I can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints. I can understand contemporary literary prose.
C1--I can understand long and complex factual and literary texts, appreciating distinctions of style. I can understand specialized articles and longer technical instructions, even when they do not relate to my field

Spoken Interaction: B2/C1
B2--I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views.
C1--I can express myself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. I can use language flexibly and effectively for social and professional purposes. I can formulate ideas and opinions with precision and relate my contribution skilfully to those of other speakers.

Spoken Production: B2

I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest. I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.


I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests. I can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. I can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.

I have also filled out an even more detailed self-assessment checklist, which breaks down the abilities even further within each of the above categories. I have yet to figure out how to post my personal assessment checklist here, but I have linked a blank checklist for you to use should you be interested.

In completing these self-assessments, it reminded me of how my German has deteriorated over time after such a long time in the US with no visits to Germany. It also occurred to me that it would make sense to provide a short description of my experience with the language, so that the assessments are in context of that experience and current life situation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Progress at 18.5 months

I was told recently in one of the comments posted that I'd soon feel the effects of all my efforts, that Kaya's speaking would continue to motivate me each day to continue in this endeavor and improve my German as much as possible. I have been telling myself this, as well, expecting that these benefits would show up around the time she starts putting two words together, or at least has a larger vocabulary of single words that she uses regularly. However, despite the fact that her vocabulary is still very small, I am beginning to feel that motivation as she says more and more German words with every passing week!

I've been working on a list of the words that she says regularly--I'd love to have a complete list of all the words she says, but at this stage, she repeats a lot of words or word sounds, often never repeating those words again for months. Like "strawberry" for example...I didn't hear her say this, but my cousins and my sister heard her and it was clear what she was saying. Granted, the consonants were surely vague, and some of the vowels were missing...that's her pattern these days. But she gets enough of the consonants and vowels in there to make many words clear...yesterday, for example, we swear she was trying to say "lila Blume" (purple flower) as she was pointing at the flowers outside of the Huckleberry Inn in Government Camp. It was mumbled, but it was clear enough for us to raise our eyebrows and smile, excited at the fact that she's getting to that point of using two words at a time!

At this point, here's the words that can say clearly and uses on a relatively regular basis:

German: In order of common usage
1. Mama
2. mehr (more)
3. Ja (yes)
4. Hallo (hello)
5. danke (thank you) (soft K, smooth sound overall)
6. Auge (eye)
7. siehst du? (do you see?) (was "deedoo" morphed into "zeedoo" after a month or so)
8. Blume (flower)
9. Kuk-kuk (peek a boo)
10. bitte (please, you're welcome)
11. lecker (said perfectly in context on her own, with no prompting last week!)
12. Auto
13. Affe (very soft, smooth F, almost non-existent--this word is new, just learned to say over the past few days. Very exciting word around here because monkey has become the favorite collectible animal--it's the snuggly that she sleeps with it at night. So, she's been hearing this word for a very long time, and it was the first word that she demonstrated a recognition of when she was 5 months or so (I'll have to check that)...she'll have lots of opportunities to perfect this word over time.)
14. Tante ("ta-ta", meaning Aunt--she doesn't say this that often, but has been saying it for at least a few months, and uses it in context with her Tante Jules)

English: Also in order of usage
1. Dada
2. Bye/Bye-bye
3. uh-oh (has been saying this one for about two months...whenever she drops anything, passes gas, and sometimes when she messes her diaper)
4. Door (muffled almost non-existent R)--perhaps her FAVORITE word and concept these days
5. Dog ball ("doaoh-baaaohh")
6. purple ("puhrpah")
diaper ("dihpa")
7. No ("noooooooooh"--I've only heard her use this twice so far, only when she seems sad or disappointed in something, when things aren't going quite right. Has yet to use it in defiance.)

Same in both languages
1. Hi
2. Yeah/ja
3. Ball (sounds like "Baaoh")
4. Cracker (sounds like "creckah")
5. ok (using more often in context these days, though not regularly yet--last week, I asked her to show me the turtle in the bathtub (in German of course) and she quickly responded with "ok" before she did it.
6. Elmo (this is a new word as of this week...Tante Jules heard her say it twice, very clearly in the bathtub on Sunday night!)

Common Sounds she's been making over the past few weeks/months:
uh! (meaning up, down, open or help)
ah! (similar to above)
da doo
a-e-i-o-u (German vowel sounds. We say these a lot to her, using them now to count down to various actions, like sliding down the slide...she can say them by herself in the right order some of the time, though she often mixes up a sound or two.)
Ga goo
Kuku (the name she uses to refer to Kahlua, our dog)
"khah!" meaning, kalt (cold)

Additional language points:
-lots and lots of "kaya" language, where she is babbling with all sorts of different consonant and vowel sounds
Here's a sound clip (so if you see nothing, that's normal) that I captured last night at bedtime as she was in her bed. Geoff started saying "Night-night" to her, so I think that's what she's saying in part of it, though it sounds very similar to Nana at times...

-In the morning, she'll call out the name of the person she expects to come get her (generally the person who's been getting her a lot recently)
-She can recognize and point out most of the common body parts in both languages at this point: head, arms, elbows, legs, feet, hands, nose, mouth, toes, fingers. She still gets confused about her possessive pronouns at times, meaning that she'll often point to our nose when we ask her to point to her own.
-Seems to know many of her colors, more in English than in German (Dada works on these with her a LOT)

We recently got a new bathmat for Kaya that has Elmo all over it. She has had little exposure to Elmo in the past, so he and his name were new to her. When she saw the bathmat, she grew very excited at it, quickly noticing and announcing the "ball" that she saw on it. When we told her that it was Elmo with the ball, she immediately pointed to her elbow. Apparently, she's more well-versed in her body part recognition than she is in her Sesame Street characters. Nothing like the lack of TV and an aversion to hard-core marketed characters to help make that a reality.

And one other story I just have to share here because it's too cute to avoid. Not exactly language-related, but it can contribute to the overall picture of what she's doing to go along with all this other language progress. Geoff was in the bathroom with her, getting ready for work at the sink. He heard her giggling, and looked down at his feet to see her brushing the head of the rubber ducky with a toothbrush. Smiling as well, he asked her what she was doing, when he suddenly noticed her bathtub book (in the bathtub) with a picture of a mouse brushing a duck with its toothbrush!

And, alongside her language development, are the following observations we've made about who Kaya is now!:
-walking everywhere (since July 11), falling a lot without stressing about it
-plays by herself for long periods of time--up to an hour sometimes
-can eat with a spoon/fork, always with her right hand, but prefers to use her left hand to shovel the food in
-adapts well and quickly to strangers--cries for about 1-3 minutes right after I leave, but is then quickly distractible to other activities/things
-will smile on command (or just with a camera pointed in her face) for a camera
-loves to sit on the couch or chair and pile clothing/blankets on top of herself. Will do this activity for up to 45 minutes sometimes.
-Continues to point to what she wants.
-loves to climb (usually climbs up into her Stokke chair alone)
-enjoys throwing balls, bringing me clothes or things she thinks are mine and I might want
-seems to prefer "order"--puts all her crayons, for example, back in the cup they came out of after she's done using them without us asking her to do that
hands us her plate when she's done eating
-goes down the stairs backwards on her own
-LOVES opening and shutting doors
-LOVES the water, bath and pool...goes under the water with no fuss and enjoys sliding down the tube slide into the pool where we catch her
-requests her toothbrush (by pointing at the medicine cabinet) about twice a day, morning and night. She "brushes" her teeth by moving the brush around in her mouth and chewing on it. Gets so excited when she asks for her toothbrush!
-sits on her potty on her own, often when we are sitting on 'ours'; the other day, she motioned for me to go into the bathroom with her and sit down on the toilet after she sat down on hers. She had a diaper on, so I'm not sure if she went after sitting down, but she's certainly close to being ready to potty train. She lets us know a lot of the time when her diaper is full, either by pulling at her diaper or answering our question with a "Ja" if she needs a new one. Sometimes she'll bring us a cover for her diaper.

As always, thanks for joining in for a peek at the ride!

Nana Lives On...and On and On and On!

Kaya with her Nana--3 weeks old, Feb. 2009
Wow. It's hard to believe that it's really been two months since I've been able to find the time and opportunity to write again here. There have been at least 3 moments when I was dying to sit down and pop out my thoughts on some profound experience I'd had with Kaya or with some friend in relation to this whole bilingual experience. But alas, life has clearly been crazy: my mom, Kaya's Nana, Karen Ann Lasnover, died on June 11 after an incredible nine-year "fight" against Non-hodgkins Lymphoma. And though that nine years was incredibly full and busy and emotionally draining, the past two months were even more so. Or maybe not more so...just different so. Watching and being a part of the dying process is so drastically different than knowing that it is going to come but not being sure about when.

Being that this is my language blog and not the first chapter of the book that I dream about writing, I'll get back to Kaya and how her Nana's death relates to her language development...cuz I swear, it does. =)

Back when I'd bring Kaya to her Nana's just about every Friday, Kaya would say "Nana" (rhymes with Banana in English) as we'd pull up to her apartment. I'd estimate that she started this about 4 months ago..., when she was about 14 months old? When she'd see my mom sleeping in her room, as she often did when we were there, Kaya would say, "Nana" and eagerly crawl over to her door. She'd get to the doorway, point, and say, "Nana" again and again, slowly, as if she was trying to process the problem: Why is she just lying there while I'm here?

After my mom passed away, we naturally started bringing more of her things into our house, many of them into Kaya's room. My mom always had a penchant for giraffes, which my sister created into an amazing collection of the long-necked mammal. Stuffed giraffes, wall hangings, prints, vases, frames, magnets, the end of her time, my mom had giraffes in EVERY corner of her life. So, when we brought a couple of the stuffed giraffes into Kaya's crib, she saw them and immediately said, "Nana". When we hung the giraffe and her baby on her wall, she uttered the same in the same sweet, loving voice. Recently, I learned that giraffes have the biggest heart of any land mammal on earth. It's no wonder...

The giraffe label was one thing, but when we brought one of my mom's chest of drawers into Kaya's room, and laid her on it the next day as her new changing table, she let us know, once again, that she knew it was Nana's. The same applied to the wardrobe that we brought into our room. Nana. Funny how they are so observant of so many things that we just take for granted, or don't even know they are furniture in one place moved then to another.

The most shocking "label" of all happened about two weeks ago, as my sister was up here for my mom's memorial that took place on July 24. Kaya was in my sister's arms, facing my sister. She looked at the necklace that my sister was wearing and quickly announced, "Nana", clearly recognizing that the same necklace had been on Nana's neck when she'd last seen it...the aspect that I find that craziest is that my mom didn't hold Kaya all that often, especially in the last few months...what Kaya was remembering were very selective observations of that silver charm.

Nana-labeling isn't just specific to my mom, though that impresses us and makes us smile the most. Kaya constantly points to things and announces their rightful owner. Whether this is her intention or not we can't say for sure: maybe she is saying the name of the person who she thinks of when she sees the item. Clearly hard to know. But, it's certainly something that she takes pleasure in doing these days (and for the past 3-4 months or so). For example, she'll point at my glasses and say, "Mama"; at Geoff's, and say, "Dada." She often points at my plate while we're eating and says definitively, "Mama!" At this point, my mom, Geoff and I are the only one's who's things she "labels", though that may change as she gets more comfortable with others' names. She has said "Tante", referring to her Auntie Jules; "Sah", referring to her Auntie Sara; "Bempa" for her Grandpa Ralph--and perhaps Papa for my Dad and "Gemms" for her Grandma Bev, though I'll have to check with the authorities on that one.

But, rather than post on and on about more progress "notes" here, I'm going to let this one be all about Nana--she certainly deserves her own post after the amazing life she lead. Before adding a couple videos and a tribute link, though, I want to add something that my mom said to me about 4 months ago while I was talking to her about my fears and frustrations in speaking non-native German to Kaya (I think I may have written about this already, but I really like keeping the silverware organized...). I was telling my mom about my tendency to narrate the world to Kaya, often asking her if she sees this or that or telling her what I see in front of us. One day, a squirrel ran across the trail in the park and I realized that I only had one word that I knew to use for "run". I felt frustrated that I didn't know more, that I couldn't be creative with my language and talk about how 'the squirrel had scurried into the underbrush', or 'the critter had clambered across the trail into the bushes'...or fled or scampered or bounded. I felt fearful that my lack of extensive vocabulary would hinder Kaya's development into an intelligent German speaker and US citizen. My mom's response: what's wrong with just saying to her what you know? The squirrel ran across the trail into the bushes. Ok, so in the moment I admittedly felt misunderstood by my mom, was hoping that she'd empathize a bit more and see my fears better. But even more importantly, I really appreciated the simple message that she was sending:

Bilingualism is powerful enough in it's own right,
it doesn't need fancy words to spice it up all the time.

I often think of her words when I'm feeling fearful and they help calm me down and focus on the facts: she is still growing up bilingually, despite my fears or my imperfections or my desire to know the word 'scamper'. (And then I'm validated further when I look up these words, only to come to find that they don't really exist in the same way in that language.)

Thanks, Mom. !! Your confidence has always made me strong.

I know how much this endeavor impressed my mom. She was always SO fascinated and curious by how I was doing this, and just the mere fact that I'm making it happen. I rode 200 miles on my bike for my mom in 1995, to raise some money for her...if I did that, I can certainly continue to raise her granddaughter bilingually, right? (momentary motivation used when necessary!)

I don't know how long this online tribute will be available, but until it's gone:

And for some sweet images of Kaya with her loving Nana:

November 13, 2009. Kaya was nearly 10 months old. My mom would always call this stool Kaya's because it was the perfect height for her to stand at and eat at when we'd go over there on Friday afternoons:

"Dai dai dai"