March 16, 2010


Even before PK was born, I always knew that I wanted her to learn Portuguese. It is, after all, my mother tongue. The thing is, I always felt really weird about speaking to her in Portuguese, since I only ever use the language when I speak with my mom and when I spoke with my grandmother and great-aunt, back when they were alive. So for the first 10 months of PK's life, the only people who spoke to her in Portuguese were my parents. And that worked out really well, because my mom would often come over three times a week to help out.

Then in June 2009, while renewing my Brazilian passport, I met a Brazilian mom at the consulate. She was married to an Aussie, but she spoke to her 3-month-old daughter in Portuguese, since she wanted her daughter to learn the language. We hung out a couple of times, with a couple of other Brazilian moms. That's when it hit me that I was being totally silly about not speaking to PK in Portuguese. I would soon be starting back at work, and my mom would only be looking after PK once a week. That's only one day a week of Portuguese. If I didn't start speaking to PK in Portuguese, it would be harder for her to learn the language later on. And what a shame that would be, since kids at this age are such little sponges.

And so, I began to speak with PK in Portuguese on a regular basis. I now speak to her in Portuguese when I'm alone with her. When the hubby is around, I'll usually speak in English, though if he's in the room but I'm playing with her, I'll often switch back-and-forth.

Now my efforts are paying off, because PK understands both English and Portuguese equally-well. She can point to body parts when prompted in both languages, and responds to various requests/commands (I feel like I'm talking about a robot or something when I use the word "command"). She can even say a few words in Portuguese - like "àgua" (water), "suco" (juice), "luz" (light), "lua" (moon), and "vovó" (grandma), "xixi" (pee) - though her English vocabulary is more extensive. I'm a little jealous of the fact that her English vocabulary is more extensive, but she does spend more time immersed in English than she does in Portuguese. All things considered, she's doing really well.

Her English vocabulary has grown quite a bit lately. I'm always impressed by how many words she knows. Some of her new ones include "oooh", "wow", "star", "car", "heart", "flower", "umbrella", "banana", "apple sauce", "butterfly", "shoes", "latch", "phone", "socks", "eyes", "mom", "dad", "iPhone", "iPod", "cheese", "cracker", "pop", "row", "bathtub", "swish stick", and "poo" (we get a 1-20 minute warning on impending bowel movements these days). Mind you, she has trouble with three-syllable words, so she often condenses the word so that it becomes a two-syllable word. This means that "banana" becomes "nana", "apple sauce" becomes "ah-sah", and "umbrella" becomes "brella". Butterfly was an interesting one, because she started out by saying "fly", but she now says "buttah". "Apple sauce" is another funny one, because she can say "apple", and she can say "sauce", but she has trouble combining the two words.

Now PK's vocabulary has expanded, she also tries to chime in when we sing to her. She does this for "Pat-a-Cake" (fills in her letter and her name), "Pop! Goes the Weasel" (eagerly saying "POP!"), and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" (says "row").

The funny thing about her language development is that, while she will know a word in both English and Portuguese, she will not say it in both languages. For example, she knows that "àgua" and "water" are the same thing, but she only says "àgua". She also knows, that "bye" and "tchau" mean the same thing, but when I prompt her in Portuguese to say bye to me, she won't repeat "tchau", but will instead say "bye". Not that I'm complaining. It's pretty interesting to observe. I have a sneaking suspicion that when PK starts putting sentences together, she'll be mixing up both languages. I remember back when I first started learning English at age 3, that happened to me all the time. Hell, I still do it when I can't think of a word in Portuguese that I know in English, and vice-versa.

One other thing of note is that we've started teaching PK letters and numbers. She can say the number 1 in Portuguese, and the number 2 in French. My mom taught her the number 1 in Portuguese, and I taught her the number 2 in French. I've been trying to teach her the numbers in French since they are typically one-to-two syllables long, and she can usually repeat most of them (she has tons of French books, which I read to her often and which she loves). She can also repeat some of the alphabet - between 2/3 and 1/2 of the letters. She can also say and recognize 3 letters - the letters of her initials. Pretty freaking cool.

I can't wait to hear her speak both English and Portuguese. Maybe she'll even pick up French. But I shouldn't rush. She'll have plenty of time to learn these languages, and I just want to take in as much of this phase in her life as I can. It goes by way too fast.

1 comment:

Fawn said...

You're doing great! I never got comfortable speaking to Jade in Chinese, which is technically my mother tongue, but I speak at a very rudimentary language, making monologuing challenging. Sometimes I feel like such a lazy ass when I think of the stuff you do with PK! LOL