I’m no linguist. I just muddle through my family’s bilingualism with the help of Google, Wikipedia and bloggers.
People in the know have pointed me to fascinating information and articles on semantics and linguistic relativity. I’ve bought books and even read them. But so far I have found little insight into the mystery that is a toddler’s brain.
I can’t wrap my head around language acquisition even as I watch it in action. My bilingual toddler has an exploding vocabulary and I would love to understand how this happens. Not the universal issues of language learning, but the kid specific factors. How did he choose his first words? Why does he choose certain words in each language? Why does he enjoy the sounds of P and K? Why the heck won’t he say Mommy?
Here is a list of his most common words, in order of frequency of use. From this list can I conclude anything about his language learning or priorities?
I will include the English translation the words he uses in Spanish.
- Papi (Daddy)
- mas (more)
- otro (other or another)
- barco (boat)
- Yah (Canadian slang for yes)
- pato (duck)
- luna (moon)
- moto (scooter)
- buitre (vulture)
These are the words that populate his spontaneous monologues and get shouted from the top of the slide. So what is the motivating factor when a kid picks up a new word? Based on Yago’s vocabulary, I can see evidence of these possibilities:
- preferred sounds
- personal interests
You know what baffles me? Mommy doesn’t even make the list. Granted, Mommy doesn’t have a P or a T, but he has definitely been exposed to the word. Am I not needed? On his personal interest scale do I rank below vulture and taxi?
He has started calling me “Otro Papi” (other Daddy.) Is he just messing with me or is there a linguistic explanation?
I’m getting a complex.