Friday, May 07, 2010

10 Little Words

Did you know you can measure the average number of words a child uses to compare their levels of language knowledge and usage? The calculation of number of words spoken over a period of time gives the mean length utterance (MLU). For my Masters course I had to calculate the MLU of a young child. Conveniently my own son, Marc, was then aged two and a half and I diligently noted and counted his words for a week.The results showed that our English conversation was heavily overloaded with ten words. Marc said No! Yes! Why? and I want! frequently, and I replied with Stop! Don't touch that! and Because.

Looking at the results I couldn't imagine how on earth this child would become bilingual with such a limited vocabulary. When I told my mum she laughed and said it was him being in the Terrible Two's phase and that things would improve. Over time, Marc did become a great conversation partner. By the time he was four I couldn't possibly count his daily word-count.

Now Marc is an official teenager, and we seem to have returned to the 10-word-count days again, which is not enough to support his English. Our daily after-school conversation goes on the lines of:
'How was school?'I ask,
'OK'
'Any homework?'
'No.' (not true). Marc says, 'Can I go on the computer?'
I say 'No!' and he asks 'Why?'
An argument breaks out between him and his siblings and I shout 'Stop!' It's déjà-vu, but with a child who is now 160cm tall....

I heard on the radio that the best place to talk to teenagers is in the car. It's true if they are alone with a parent (if Nina or Gabriel are there he'll hook up to his Nintendo and ignore everyone). Car journeys are the place where we talk in long sentences. The twenty-minute trip to drop him off at tennis, or at school when he has a late start, are the rare times when he is chatty, interesting and thoughtful. Can the car be a useful tool for maintaining bilingualism? I think so, and it's worth trying at least until your child gets his own drivers licence...

5 comments:

淑娟 said...

Nice post ~ 3Q..............................................................

Best4Future: Bringing Up Baby Bilingual! said...

Glad to find another person who promotes bilingual life. Me too! I am a big fun of bilingual education, bilingual parenting, and bilingual life as you are. Right now I am teaching my baby to learn Chinese, hoping she will become a bilingual in the future.

Can we exchange link? My reciprocal link goes like this:

Best4Future Blog: Bringing up baby bilingual!
Devoted to bilingual learning, parenting and teaching!

You can submit your link at http://www.best4future.com/blog and click "links". Thank you!

kimananda said...

The age of 'stop!' and 'don't touch that!' is right where I am now...for the first time. It's always nice to hear that my 2-year-old isn't the only one who elicits that type of thing from her parents.

feli5289xv_ferrari said...

No garden without its weeds.......................................................

Canadiagaditana said...

Too funny. Now I am thinking, how can I be more creative with my 15 month old. Hot, no, and boobie are getting kind of old.

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