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Posts Tagged ‘language’

The Pink Tower of Language

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013 6:49 pm | By Stephanie Woo
M on swings

M on swings

It’s been a month since you last heard from me. The main reason is because Mark and I decided to try life without a nanny. We lasted exactly 29 days. 

Now that we have a nanny again, I’m over-the-moon excited (and have extra appreciation for all nannies out there) because I feel like I can finally get back to the projects I’m passionate about and have a little more me-time. Granted Mark has been a god-send this past month, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children, while I finished all the final details of my book and DVD. If you want to know more about my ‘second set of twins’ – which took much longer to birth than B and M! – visit www.RaisingYourTwins.com.

As some of you know, we’ve always hired Mandarin-speaking nannies because I want another person to speak Mandarin to B and M. However, our new nanny only speaks English, so I called my mom to ask her for some advice on how to keep up the Mandarin at home. 

Mom tells me a story about Renee, my 3-year old niece, who wanted a popsicle. Grandpa thought a whole popsicle was too much for her, so he said he needed to take a few bites before he could give it to her. He takes a big bite. “That’s too much!” she said nervously. He takes another bite. “Okay! That’s enough!” she says. As he took yet another bite, she exclaims, “No more! No more!”

In her moment of panic, she said the same thing in three different ways. The first way didn’t work, so she had another way of expressing herself to Grandpa, and when that failed, she came up with yet another. When a 3-year-old can say the same thing in so many different ways and all in the right context, it’s a good sign she lives in a rich language environment. 

B and M (now 2 years and 7 months) were on the swings a couple days later. As we were swinging, I started commenting on what was happening, “You’re going so high!” “Now, you’re not going as high anymore. You’re starting to slow down.” “Look, the swing stopped completely!” 

When they said, “Higher!” I’d say, “Is this high enough? Do you want to go even higher than this? Or is this too high?”

Whether something is ‘high enough,’ ‘too high’ or needs to be ‘higher’ are all subtleties in our language that young children can absorb. It’s a little like the ‘Pink Tower of Language.’ You have high on one end, low on the other end, and everything else in between. 

This point is especially important for children of bilingual parents. Children will likely pick up these subtleties in normal everyday interactions at some point, but when there is only one person speaking that language to the child, then they need to absorb all those subtleties from one person. If you are that person for your child, you need to vary your speech enough so that they have the chance to hear all those differences. 

I dropped the children off at camp this morning. As we are getting closer to school, B comments, “We’re not far now!” 10 seconds later, she adds, “We’re almost there!” As we pull up in front of her building, she says, “Now the school is right in front of us!” I love living with the magic of the Absorbent Mind. You give the child language, before you know it, they’ve absorbed it and it’s all coming out.  

What to Say When Your Child Gets It Wrong

Friday, January 11th, 2013 11:18 am | By Stephanie Woo

"This is a...?"

We went to the supermarket yesterday to do some shopping. As we were going through the fresh produce section, I picked up a good-looking cantaloupe and asked, “This is a…?” B (24 months) flashed a huge smile and the word “Watermelon!” burst out of her.

Here are couple ways I could have reacted:

  1. “Watermelons are green on the outside, this isn’t. What is this?” (Using an adult’s logic with a child to get her to the correct answer)
  2. “No, it’s a cantaloupe. Say cantaloupe. No, not ‘antlop.’ Can-TA-loupe.” (trying to get her to remember the word by making her say it over and over, till she says it perfectly)
  3. “Wrong, honey. It’s a cantaloupe.” (Flat-out telling her she’s wrong)

Instead, this is what I said:

“Yes, this DOES look like a watermelon. They’re both big and round. This is a ‘cantaloupe.’” (See it from her point of view and then acknowledge what she said – I mean, watermelon and cantaloupe are extremely similar, at least she didn’t say it was a ‘flower,’ right? And then just give her the correct word without using negative language.)

When you create a loving, accepting relationship with your child around language and speaking, she will want to communicate with you (selective mutism is when children don’t).  Listen to her attentively. Don’t insist on perfection. You don’t need over-the-top praises or enthusiasm every time she opens her mouth. All you need is to acknowledge what she says. It’s simple – take the time to repeat exactly what she said. This lets her know you’ve been listening and she was understood.

Is that an ‘SUV,’ a ‘Jeep’ or a ‘Hatchback?’

Monday, December 24th, 2012 12:23 pm | By Stephanie Woo

Vehicles on the Road

Ever since B and M could sit up in the stroller by themselves, our daily walks would include identifying everything we see on the streets. It started with stationary things, like “mailbox,” “street lights” and “STOP sign.” Pretty soon, we got into vehicles.

Instead of ‘car,’ I’ll distinguish for them whether a vehicle is an SUV, jeep, hatchback, sports car, convertible, truck, commercial truck, 18-wheeler, school bus or bus. Before they could walk, I didn’t want people overhearing me enunciating “com-mer-cial tr-uuuuck” to 10–month olds, so I always got down to their level and  kept my voice low. When they were 20 months, whenever I emphasized to them that something is a ‘Jeep’ and not an ‘SUV’ (for a time, they called every vehicle an SUV) , I would look around and hope no one overhears me and thinks I’m a crazy mom. But now, when they walk down the streets and name the vehicles correctly, I know my hard work has paid off. When they say things like, “That’s a hatchback. That’s not an SUV,” I find myself clapping – for them and for myself!

Between 0-3, children are at the height of their Sensitive Period for language. I can just hear my Montessori Trainer, Judi Orion, say over and over, “You keep giving them the language and one day, it will come out.”