Language learning on holiday


You wanna be where everybody knows your name (Wikipedia)

Just before we went on holiday to the UK and Ireland for the best part of 4 weeks I wrote about how I thought Thomas was on the verge of stepping up his language skills.  I wasn’t sure how the trip would affect this because it would be throwing him into a whole new language environment.

Before we left he was saying mais  whenever he wanted more of something.  After a couple of weeks’ holiday this had morphed into a combination of the English word and the Portuguese word and he would say ‘mais more’.  Lots of people, including this hardened cynic, thought this was one of the cutest things ever.  In the last week, when my wife came back to Brazil and we stayed on in Birmingham, he seemed to drop the ‘mais‘ and started to only say ‘more’.

He created a new name for my dad.  The last time we were there he never called him anything and we tried to get him to say ‘gog gog’ as this was the word that I used for my granddad when I was the same age, but it never really caught on.  This time around he started calling him ‘doe doe’ and we have absolutely no idea why.  This caused a problem for a while as Thomas would be shouting ‘doe doe’ but my dad was totally unaware that he was being shouted at.  After a few days of his one and only grandson yelling at him he soon learned.


Raising a glass (Auburn Skies)

Whenever we had a meal together we raised our classes and said ‘cheers’ to each other.  Thomas thought this was a brilliant game and insisted on doing the same with his bottle.  The only problem was that he forgot to take a drink from it afterwards.

One new word that he seems to be experimenting with is ‘nice’.  I am not sure he knows exactly what it means yet as it is almost as if it slips out without him realising it when he is excited about something.  I will be looking out for how this word progresses in the future.

Other than that, he didn’t really pick up any new words.  There was the hint of him saying my brother’s girlfriend’s name, but this was never confirmed.  Most people also thought that his pronunciation became clearer over the course of the three weeks.  This might be true but it might also be the fact that everyone else got more used to his language and he got more comfortable around them.  It is true, though, that he had no problems understanding what people wanted him to do by the end so that his passive understanding was probably on a par with that of Portuguese.

So all in all, the trip didn’t see the surge in Thomas’ language ability that I might have been hoping for.  However, I am convinced that it did he bilingual skills the world of good and that, sooner or later, it is going to start paying off in both languages.

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11 thoughts on “Language learning on holiday

  1. I agree – not sure if Thomas’s language improved or if we just understood him better. But I was surprised at his understanding of what was being said to him even with all the different accents, I would swear that he was saying ‘dirty’ with an Irish accent just like his doe doe. Also he easily understood Helena saying something in Portuguese and then us repeating it in English so he already has more than one word for the same thing which I think is impressive for a child of his age.

    • Saying ‘dirty’ with an Irish accent is by far the best way to say it.

      It has been noticable how quickly he has got back into the swing of things back here in regards to dealing with language. It seems he has no problems at all.

  2. Pingback: Multilingualism and Travel: June Blogging Carnival | All Done Monkey

    • You are right! Once he has started to say a word he can gradually figure out what it means by saying it again and checking the reaction he gets. And ‘nice’ is so much better than the normal ‘no.’

  3. Great post 🙂 My son is fully bilingual when spoken too (we speak to him in both languages since birth) but at times he will pretend not to understand in English. He’s slowly starting to speak English but prefers French for now. I don’t push he’ll get there when he’s ready, for now he’s storing the information 🙂 Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks for taking the time to visit and leave your kind comment.

      From what I have read (it is still too early to know from personal experience) but the key is not to push when they don’t want to use a language, but just maintain the opportunities.

      • You’re welcome. Exactly, so far I see more progress when I don’t push and praise when he tries on his own. It also creates less friction between you and him, and no negative experiences related to the language. Like you say maintaining the opportunities is important, keep up the good work 🙂

      • I remember when I was learning French I had a lot of negative experiences. These put me off learning languages for a long time. I tell my trainee teachers nowadays that if they can’t teach something to their students (it happens sometimes), the least they can do is make sure they don’t prevent the possibility of future learning by turning the student off their subject.

  4. It doesn’t matter how little or how much exposure he got from this trip the important thing is that he was exposed to another language. Every little bit helps towards helping him be bilingual. By the way is this the same granddad he didn’t want to skype with because of Peppa Pig? 😉

    • It is impossible to know what he learnt, but he had such a good time I know for certain that he will associate the language he heard with positive connotations.

      And yes, it is the same granddad. They really got on like a house on fire and, since we have been back, he has loved seeing his ‘doe doe’ on Skype. (Thanks for remembering that!)


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