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Apr 18, 2011

Language progress, 3 1/4 years

It's been a while since I gave an update on Daniel's language development. The last time was a quick note around his 3rd birthday. At the time, we had just spent 2 weeks surrounded by German-speaking grand-parents, and we had noticed great progress in German. To my surprise, Daniel continued to use a lot more German even after the grand-parents were gone. He is now regularly saying pretty good sentences in German. They are usually grammatically incorrect because he follows the order of words in English, but they have the right words, and it's great to see him use German spontaneously. On a side note, Daniel still makes some mistakes in English as well, even though we can now have very interesting conversations with him. For instance, he confuses "nobody" and "anybody", "him" and "her" and having difficulties with past and present tenses. We are not doing much to correct him, so we will have to wait until he realizes his teachers are saying things differently.

Daniel still understands French well, and he incorporates some vocabulary, but he doesn't say many French sentences yet. I have to say that I am a little bit disappointed about that. I spend a lot more time talking to Daniel in French than my husband spends talking to him in German (although I sometimes catch myself talking to him in English, when I need to explain something complex he might not have much background about). And it's not that the German grand-parents are visiting us all the time. So, I would have expected that by now Daniel's French would be better than his German. That was without counting on the fact that German is much closer to English than French. So that's where French loses.

In thinking about it, it makes sense that Daniel has an easier time translating for example "can you help me" to "kannst Du helfen mir" than to "peux-tu m'aider". Most German sentences Daniel has mastered are very close to their English equivalent. I think this is why it's been easier. I guess it will take more time for him to learn sentences that are very different. It's encouraging that the other day, he spontaneously translated an English word (I believe it was "nuts") into the corresponding French and German words. And he knew exactly what he was saying and why. So he is aware and interested in the three languages. I think, he just needs more time. Hopefully, when we go visit my family over the summer, we will see some long-lasting boost in French. Crossing my fingers. Otherwise, he might be an unhappy visitor if his cousin doesn't understand him!

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