As a learner of a foreign language I sometimes get this feeling that I am about to make a breakthrough. After lots of struggle without really improving my language, I can occasionally feel as if I am on the verge of figuring something out, or performing better in my adopted language. I am not sure if this feeling really does presage an improvement in my language or is in fact the result of an improvement in my knowledge that has already taken place. Whatever the reason, it seems to be real to me.
I am having the same feeling now, but with regards to Thomas’ language development. In the last week or so he hasn’t started producing any new words, or improved his pronunciation. Instead, he seems to be using the words that he does have much more readily and in what seems to be a more ‘real’ way.
We can now have conversations with him when he will answer immediately, so long as these conversations are about cars or people that he knows. He came home today and I asked him ‘Where have you been?’ and he immediately replied ‘Vovô.’ He puts together a string of natural sounding speech that, when you listen carefully to it, is actually comprised of just three words. If you weren’t really paying attention, though, you would swear that he was having a deep and meaningful conversation with himself.
He is also integrating his signs with his speech. As he is using his limited vocabulary he is always doing things with his hands or his body to help him get his message across. He used signs in the past, but they never seemed to be so integrated with his own language. We never set out to teach him any signs, but he has developed his own so easily and quickly I think that if ever we were to have another child this is something I would definitely look into.
In short, what I think I am trying to say is that Thomas seems a lot more fluent now, even if he still has limited vocabulary: he seems to be consciously trying to communicate what he wants. I am hoping that this means that as and when he learns new words, phrases and structures, he will be ready to use them. It will be interesting to see how our trip to the UK will affect this, whether it will give him a boost in English or whether it will slow him down a bit as he gets used to not hearing Portuguese.
Milestones and Regrets on Teaching my Son a Second Language – discoveringtheworldthroughmysonseyes.blogspot.com
Baby Sign Language – julomanus.wordpress.com
Edit 17.05.2013, 08:30
Thanks to Damian Williams from Tailor Made English who pointed out this excellent article from Scott Thornbury called ‘T is for Turning Point‘. Scott Thornbury writes ‘An A-Z of ELT‘ which is a must read blog for anybody interested in teaching English and language learning in general. I don’t know how I missed this article because it is totally relevant to what I was writing about.