Shortly after Sprout started walking about a month ago, he also started to actually say some words. He has been saying “mama” for quite a while, although I’m not exactly sure he’s referring to me or just asking for comfort… He clearly says “papá” in Portuguese. Other words he says are “bye-bye” (said “baba” and referring to going out, not to people leaving) “ball” (“ba”) and “dá” (as in “gimme”, although he sometimes uses a similar sound to point “there”). He has said “tiger” (“tiga”) once referring to his favourite stuffed animal, and I’m glad I had a witness because otherwise I would’ve thought I dreamt it! Clearly he’s staring to speak English. Which is normal because he spends most of the day with me. However he does understand both fairly equal. In funny way sometimes! Like when daddy asks him to get his “sapatos” (shoes) to go out, he always gets daddy’s, but when I say get your shoes, he’ll bring his!
I’ve been asked many times what we are doing regarding languages. Both me and R are Portuguese, although I was born and lived in the US until I was 12 and am bilingual. It’s only natural we speak Portuguese to each other, although I must admit I mix in quite a lot of English, especially since Alex was born. Our arrangement consists basically of one parent, one language. I only speak English to Alex (although I have a hard time doing so around Portuguese speakers because I feel I’m being rude!) and Rod only speaks Portuguese. We both speak Portuguese to each other. Outside the home, he has contact mostly with English (both by native and non-native speakers) and French. I never worried much about him picking up all these languages. That’s one of the good thing about living in Brussels – it’s so multicultural. A real melting pot where it is quite common (especially among expats) to see couples with different cultures and languages with their children who speak various languages from an early age. Being bilingual myself, I know firsthand how it is to grow up with more than one language. I’m fluent in both, although at varying levels. For instance, I feel my English never really “grew up” once I moved to Portugal. On the other hand, I feel I can only express certain ideas adequately in English. I never considered writing this blog in Portuguese (although I did consider doing both). I think in both languages and I can switch easily between them. However, I also know my Portuguese wouldn’t be nearly as good had I not lived and studied in Portugal.
I’m really curious to see Sprouts language develop. Will he have my American accent? Will he have a French accent? I also wonder where he’ll grow up. We plan on staying here for the forseeable future, but not sure if that will be for life.
Considering the amount of parenting books I’ve read (I really should post about them!) it’s amazing I haven’t read anything about multilingualism. I’m thinking about getting this book. I’ve heard very good things about it. I’ve also looked for information on http://www.multilingualchildren.org/ and I’ve also been reading the blogging Carnivals on bilingualism. There seems to be more information out for bilingual children than for children with 3 or more languages, but I’ll keep looking! Please drop a comment if you have any good resources.