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Apr 3, 2009

First words

Since our son is being raised in 3 languages, we were particularly anxious to hear his first words. Which language would he prefer to use? Would he use words in the right context?

At 10 months, he finally uttered his first word. Language? None of the 3 we were teaching...
The word was "wawa", and as far as I know this doesn't have any meaning in neither English, French or German. But this represents the sounds dogs make, in French. So in a sense, he started with a French word (what a happy mom I should be!). It was interesting to notice that he started with an animal sound, instead of what I thought was the most typical mommy/mama or daddy/papa words.

While over time, he added more words to his vocabulary (including about 10 words that sounded like "bah" for bottle, bus, ball, bath, etc..), his interest for animals remained strong. And the naming pattern continued for several months. For the longest time, dogs were "wawa" although baby D definitely understood the word for dogs in all 3 languages early on. As he started learning about other animals (at around age 1), this pattern continued. Baby D would refer to the animals with their sounds, including the sound of frogs or birds (which I can't imagine are easy to produce for a young voice). Was it his way of simplifying his vocabulary since animal sounds are pretty similar to each other in all languages, while the true names can differ tremendously? He won't give us the answer...
What is encouraging is that he can point to images of the right animals when being asked in German, in French or English. So at least, he is able to understand, something he learned quixkly in the last 2 months. Time will tell when these words will finally become part of his active vocabulary.