Monday, September 27, 2010

Bilingual Blogging Carnival

Hear ye, hear ye, the carnival is "in town!"

I recently learned about something called a Bilingual Blogging Carnival, where bloggers submit postings about various topics related to bilingual child-rearing, including joys, challenges, fascinations and discoveries. Each month it is hosted by a different blogger, which is great because it gives others a chance to check out different blogs each month, as well as connect with other parents in a similar boat.

This month it's being hosted by Fab Mum. I'm hoping to take part in these carnivals in the future...just gotta get on my horse and ride into the wind...

Until then, have a looksie if you're curiosity is piqued!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Her FIRST of MANY tests in life: The Oxford University CDI

I felt this pang of guilt as soon as I finished tallying the numbers. Wow. I just finished scoring Kaya's first of surely millions of tests she'll be scored and ultimately judged on in her life. Did I really have to start it so early? Ouch.

I'll chock it up to that wascally analytical brain of mine that I keep mentioning. Sorry Kaya. I'm trying hard, VERY hard, not to screw you up in other ways...

In the meantime...

Last week, I read the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman, and was fascinated to learn a bunch of little things about language development. Naturally, I can remember none of them as I sit to write this entry...except one: in this book, they referenced a test called the Communicative Development Inventory that they use to assess, yup you got it, communicative development. I jumped on the internet as soon as possible to get my hands on a copy of this test. Unfortunately, that was much easier said than done, unless I wanted 25 copies for $120, or something ridiculous like that. Monday rolled around, and not even my sweet little voice and jedi mind tricks could persuade this company to sell or even GIVE me just one:

"Sorry," was their reply, "we only sell them to people with purple hair, seven gold teeth, and over five feet tall in stature--and to those people, we only sell 500 copies at a time for 856 dollars each. Good luck, Shorty."


So, I turned to my good friend, the internet, for some moral support. After a few searches, two to be exact, I found a CDI knock-off. Yes!! I knew one HAD to be out there! Of course, I still really want the original, and still have irons in the fire to get me one (two, actually--one in German and one in English), but in the meantime, I couldn't help but download a copy of the CDI that was created by the Oxford University Babylab. From what I've heard, that's a pretty reputable place...seems like they oughta be able to create a test, COPY a test even, nearly as good (if not better!) than the original, right? (Siting my source as requested: Hamilton, A., Plunkett, K., & Schafer, G., (2000). Infant vocabulary development assessed with a British Communicative Development Inventory: Lower scores in the UK than the USA. Journal of Child Language, 27, 689-705. )

Ok, ok, ok, Tamara, get to the good part already, wouldja?!

So, the Oxford CDI is a checklist of 416 words that are typical in children's vocabularies, and serves as a tool for assessing the development of receptive and productive vocabulary through parental report. It is typically used for children aged from about 11 to 26 months. From my understanding, they are generally testing monolingual children. I thought I might go out on a limb and test her in both languages, though I can't be sure that there's any REAL science to that...

I was VERY curious to see how she would fare, not so much in the English or German tests by themselves, since I haven't even looked at the results of other toddlers yet from their data, but particularly in the two tests that Geoff and I each scored for her in English and German, respectively (I translated their English version into German). So, here are the results of the first test that Kaya never took but will be surely judged by for the REST OF HER LIFE!:

at 20 months, 4 days
Understands 244 of 416 words
Understands and speaks 73
Understands or speaks a total of 317 of 416

at 20 months, 4 days
Understands 249 of 416
Understands and speaks 72
Understands or speaks a total of 321 of 416 words

For those of you who hate to analyze data, let me help a bit...
It seems that Kaya is TRULY BILINGUAL at this point in her life. She currently understands about 5 more words in German than she does in English, and says MAYBE one more word in English (though I am aware of a few repeat words on the German test and a few words that each of us were unsure about).

Wow. I'm SO excited. =)

So excited that I went so far as to create Google documents of the scanned tests in each language so that those of you who are as excited as I am about this stuff can actually see the words that she can speak and understand today (she must be learning at least 5-10 new words a day, while speaking at least 2-3 of them!).

Kaya's English CDI:
Page 1: CDI Overview
Page 2: Animals and Vehicles
Page 3: Food and Drink, Body Parts, and Clothes
Page 4: Furniture and Rooms, Outside and Household Items
Page 5: People, Games and Routines
Page 6: Action and Descriptive Words
Page 7: Question Words, Time, Pronouns, Prepositions
Page 8: Quantifiers and Extra Words

Kaya's CDI in German:
Page 2: Tier Gerauesche, Tiere, Autos
Page 3: Spielsachen, Essen und Trinken, Koerperteile, Kleidung
Page 4: Moebel und Zimmer, Draussen, Haushaltsgeraete
Page 5: Leute, Spiele und Routine
Page 6: Tuwoerter, Adjektive
Page 7: Fragewoerter, Zeit, Pronomen, Praepositionen
Page 8: "Quantifiers", Extrawoerter

Well, I'd really like to be able to take a look at the other data that exists on these tests, but the server over in England must be down...or, I'll simply add the link, as I was planning on doing anyway, so that all of us who are so inclined (ok, so maybe that will only be me!) can check out the data and see what it means in regards to our little Kaya. Her language is progressing so quickly now, though, that I want to 'publish' this blog entry on the same day that we completed the test for her. I'll have to get around to analyzing other data on another day, perhaps when I haven't just spent 2 hours preparing and analyzing hers.

The Oxford CDI can be found at the following link:

If you prefer the original, I found it at San Diego State University as the MacArthur Bates Communicative Development Inventory:

I will also post these as links on the right, under Multilingual Links.

Thanks, once again, for joining us on our journey!!

Guacamole "A-a"

Maybe if I use the German term for 'poop' in the title of this post, I won't send as many people away, disgusted at the fact that I seem to incessantly write about defecation...

Tonight, Geoff and I 'treated' ourselves to dinner out with Kaya. Ok, it wasn't exactly planned--we were out shopping and realized that there was no way we could make it to Nordstrom AND home in time to satiate our hungry toddler. So, with Chipotle around the corner, it became the obvious choice (I HATE the fact that they are owned by McDonalds, but can't help but appreciate that they profess to use meat that isn't infused with antibiotics!).

We get home with our food, and do our darndest to slap her bib on and help her climb into her chair before she starts screaming. She's eagerly grabbing at the silver wrapping on the burrito, while I make meager attempts to fasten her bib.

Finally, we're all set to go: place mats on the table, forks in place, baby all 'bedeckt'. Putting the shiny burrito to the side for a few, I set out to remove the lid from the burrito 'bowl'. Kaya's eyes are as wide as a whale's, drool nearly dripping to the floor. As I peel away the last part of the bowl and remove the lid, Kaya sees the big pile of green, chunky guacamole on top of the rice dish and proclaims that she knows EXACTLY what we're having for dinner: "A-A"

For those of you fluent in German, or if you happen to remember my post from a few weeks back, I don't need to say much more. I'm just really glad that number one, she can't yet speak full sentences and share those full sentences with other people in our lives: "Mama gab uns A-a zum Abendessen heute. Es war gruen und grob und ecklig!" (Mama fed us poop for dinner tonight! It was green and chunky and disgusting!) I'm also similarly glad that she chooses the word "a-a" over "poop" 90% of the time, and that we weren't eating AT Chipotle during the other 10%.

I'm confident that I have a life time full of embarrassing moments ahead of me now that I'm a parent...but maybe, just maybe, this German thing will work out to my benefit in that department?!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ay. Bee. Ceeee!

I wish we had been successful at recording the sound of Kaya's (and my!) laughter tonight at bedtime...squeals of laughter, long silences while she tried to catch her breath, and on-going giggles were the happy notes coming from her room between 7:30 and 8pm. And it all started with what Geoff had been trying to teach her for three weeks: A. B. C.

Kaya was sitting on my lap, facing me, as we were reading books and drinking milk before bed (ok, you're right, only SHE was drinking milk...). I was wearing my St. Mary's Academy sweatshirt with the acronym SMA in big blue letters across the front. She suddenly noticed the letters, as she'd been saying "Mama". Geoff started saying, "SMAma", as a joke, at which point, Kaya pointed to the letters and said, "C". I was confused, but he caught on to the fact that she had connected the fact that these were letters on my shirt, just like the ones that Geoff usually points out when he says, "A, B, C" to her. So, after she said, "C", he said, "a, b, c", which is when she said, "A. B. C," for the first time. According to Geoff, she's been able to say the letters individually for at least two weeks, but tonight was the first time that she uttered them together, one right after the other.

In the grand scheme of things, I really don't think it's THAT big of a deal that she said, "a, b, c" together in order...but her response to our excitement--that's what gets me. That's where that recording would be SO great here! We were SO excited that she said it, that we hugged her and kissed her and made a big love pile of heads on the glider chair! We all snuggled for at least a minute, laughing and giggling and kissing and hugging. It was truly one of the best moments I've ever had. And the moment lived on for the next half an hour as Kaya continued to play with those sounds. A few minutes after initially saying "a, b, c," she said, "A, Baby, C," and began to laugh hysterically. This pattern continued for another 20 minutes, with her laughter causing me to laugh, too. At one point, as she was saying "baby", she indicated that she wanted to go get her baby from its bed. Within minutes, she was back on my lap, baby and all, making more silly sounds. But then, it hit her. That poor baby was tired and needed sleep, so once again, she slid off my lap and was down at the baby's cradle, baby in arm, laying a blanket over her sweet little dolly. "Baby Bett Mama," she said, as she laid down her little love, in her gentle, mothering way. But the laughter ramped again, once she was reminded that "baby" had been in the middle of "a" and "c". Despite my prior desire to calm her down for sleep (read: VERY challenging week of bedtimes after a week away from home), how could I put an end to such fun (and important language development!!)? Instead, I reversed the psychology, telling myself that I could surely tire her out if I got her to laugh REALLY hard...a VERY easy task if I just ran my fingers up her belly and lightly grabbed her chest. (Is there really anything better than the sound of toddler laughter?!)

My analytical brain is still wanting to find a place for this story, some sort of developmental milestone, despite my last "epiphany" in my last post about not "needing" to do that anymore.

Some things die hard.

But there is a place for this story, even if it doesn't officially stand to mark any official linguistic progress: I realized the other night that I've been SO focused on writing about and focusing on Kaya's German development, that I haven't given English it's fair spotlight. After all, we want her to be BI-lingual, right, with English as one of the languages? I've been SO afraid for all these months that the German-thing just wouldn't fly, that I couldn't let any of the limelight fall on the English aspect of this endeavor...So, I thought this little anecdote would be a fun way to remind me that her English development is important in this process, too.

And by the way, after 5 nights of 1-2 hours of crying and screaming at bedtime, I laid her down in her bed tonight after our giggle-fest, telling her that I'd just be outside her room if she needed me, "ok?"
"Yeah," she replied.
I then told her that she could go to sleep now and we'd come if she needed us. "Verstehst du,?" (Do you understand?) I asked her.
"Yeah," she said, again, with nary a quiver in her voice.

And then I walked out, fully expecting at least a whimper, but feeling only joy that the giggle-fest had had the side-effect I was secretly hoping for!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bilingual Poop Phraseology

About a month ago, my Dad told me that I'd no longer be able to keep a running tally of her words, now that she's progressing so quickly with her language. Well, he's right (that feels good to hear, huh Dad?!). Though she definitely has the words that she picks up and makes a part of her daily vocabulary, her general tendency now is to repeat words, many words, that she hears throughout the day--sometimes right after she hears them, and often hours later, leaving us utterly impressed that she even heard and processed all that she did! This change has left me a little stymied as to how to proceed with this here blog, if it's now no longer a matter of adding words to our growing lists--where is my deepest satisfaction going to come from if I can't watch the lists grow? Am I actually going to have to seek satisfaction from being with this sweet child, and listening to her cute little voice say all of these amazing things?? And just share stories as they touch our hearts, as opposed to "keeping score" on the German vs. English "battle"?!

Apparently so.

So, here goes. Circle up. It's story time.

The first anecdote of the evening (ok, LATE night) has to do with poop, once again. While I understand that not everybody "enjoys" talking about it as much as I, it happens to be a HUGE part of our lives these days with a 20-month old (in 3 minutes!). So, humor me while I tell yet another caca-concoction...

In the past, I've written about how Kaya, along with many other budding bilinguals, generally picks a term in one language or the other, generally according to the ease of sound production, and continues to use that term despite understanding the other. Last week Friday, however, as we were in Santa Cruz on a visit with my aunt and uncle, Kaya uttered her first exception. As I've mentioned, Kaya also likes to tell us what's happening in her pants--not always with the greatest accuracy, though it's increasing quickly with every passing day (and with every successive cloth diaper, after a week of disposables). So, in her communicative fashion, Kaya was babbling away in the back of the car, and began to tell Harry and I that she had BOTH "A-a" AND "poop" in her diaper, by pointing to her diaper and saying both terms, repeatedly, back to back: "A-a, poop, a-a, poop..." One could come to some disheartening conclusions about how full her diaper might be after such a bilingual description--however, the most impressive part of that story is clearly the dual-language aspect, NOT the accuracy of the description. =)

Geoff was sadly unable to join us on our journey, slave for days to the nasty stomach flu (I'll avoid THAT body function story!) when we returned after a full week away, he was quite surprised as to how much Kaya's language had developed. He had a hard time describing how, exactly, it had changed...I think I can shed some light, though, being the linguistic note-taker that I am:

--She's making FOUR NEW sounds now with ease: H, F, L (in the middle of words) and S

Here's a few stories to illustrate the changes...

Before we left, I had been trying to teach her to say 'Hilfe', and Geoff was, naturally, working on its English counterpart, 'help'. She was able to produce "Hilthe" and "Hep". On our trip, after a 20-minute 'buckle game' (during which she would buckle the buckle, ask for my help by saying "hilfe" so I would unbuckle it, and then buckle it again), she mastered the term "Hilfe", which she now says about 80% of the time she needs my help. MUCH preferred to her previous attempts at help which left me feeling like running the opposite direction: "EHHH!!"

She also started saying "Haus" on our trip, and I swear I heard her say "Hund" (dog) once, though I can't be sure and I have my doubts, since she's only ever said that word in English....

My aunt and uncle had a couple of light switches in their house which were just low enough for Kaya to reach while standing on her tip-toes. They provided the perfect opportunity for her to work on her "an" and "aus", as she turned the lights on and off, over and over and over again. I wish I had a sound byte of the sound of her "s"--it's SO cute, a slight mix between an "sh" and a whistle...Tonight, while she was in bed, she seemed to be truly enjoying that she can now tell me when she wants me to turn her crickets off and on for her listening pleasure. Oh, and to piggy back on that story (Kaya is now 20 months!), she also can now differentiate between "aus" (off, out, from) and "auf" (on top of, open), as she demonstrated while we were in the kitchen and she asked me to open the cupboard for her ("auf").

My aunt Sue initially wanted to be called "Mama Sue" by her granddaughter who is a few months older than Kaya. However, over the months, it morphed into "Bubba Sue", naturally stuck, as all good nicknames do. Kaya apparently didn't like this nickname so much, however, and attempted to give her a new one that sounded an awful lot like a sneeze: "Aaaah Su" She is clearly capable of saying "baba", so it must be that she wants her OWN nickname for her 'new' grandma!

--She's stringing words together that she knows

I love this new tendency of hers. She's been doing it for a few weeks, but up until last week, it was only two words...often "MamaDada, DadaMama..." Last week, however, I heard her say three: "DadaMamaBaby"

And a couple cute little stories to end the eve (now early morn!):

Kaya has a new fascination with babies, and her baby (doll)...after we spent the afternoon with my friend's 4-month old, not a baby passes on the street that Kaya doesn't point out. So, she's been eager to spend more time with her 'baby', putting it to bed, covering it up, riding with it in the car (today was the first), and sleeping with it in her crib. For the past two nights, she has been saying "Ni-ni Baby", and stroking its cheek and chest, just as we do with her as we're tucking her in. And tonight, she clearly said "Ni-ni My Baby", as I often say to her (actually, "Mein Baby", but it's hard to hear the "n" when I say it). And Geoff said that he swears he heard her say, "Ni-ni my sweet little baby"...that would be impressive for sure. Where's the tape recorder when we need it!

It took Kaya 3 hours to fall asleep tonight...we were doing everything we could think of to help her, including rocking her, negotiating with her about disposables vs. cloth diapers, and dousing her with saline to help her stuffy nose. The thing that helped her most, however, at least in regards to keeping her from crying, was a long story that Geoff made up on the fly using a bunch of words that he knew that she understands. It became a story about a dog who played with a ball and met a squirrel and went to the park and ate peaches...or something like that. The part of this whole story that I loved hearing from him, though, was that she stopped crying as soon as he started telling it...and that when he was telling her "that the dog then went up to the squirrel and said...", Kaya filled in, with no prodding, saying, "Ufff, Ufff"! She's finally learning her animal sounds. Heehaw, reason to celebrate!

Oh, how I clearly love my child, because it's 12:15am, my throat hurts, and I can only hope that her 10:30pm sleep-time will allow us both more sleep in the morning!

Thanks for joining us in our 20-month update...til next time!