Thursday, February 18, 2010

You Say Potato, I Say Tomato

I love watching the bilingual learning process unfold. Peanut has this adorable habit lately of calling tomatoes, potatoes. Her pronunciation is perfectly Japanese "poh-tah-to" and it cracks me up every time. If we practice with her "TOmato" in small syllables she says it correctly (in fact until a few weeks ago she correctly said tomato) but as soon as she tries to say the whole word, it now comes out as potato. Fascinating!

And that's her other new word. She looks at the ceiling and says, "fascinating". We have no idea what she's looking at (the air vent?) but she smiles and giggles and says it's fascinating.

Additionally, she's has started to mix, in grammatically correct ways, both English and Japanese. We get identical requests like "apple kudasai" one minute followed by "ringo please" the next. She has also taken to saying things like "Mama is going benkyoh suru-ing" (her "Japanish" word for studying). It's unbelievable to see what she comes up with.

I love that she understands and speaks both languages without hesitation now. When we first arrived here in Japan at the end of December, she seemed hesitant to speak any Japanese to anyone other than her father. I attributed this in part to her shyness and also the fact that many people here were attempting to speak English to her (despite their own English skills limitations). I thought this might have created some confusion for Peanut. After all, she tends to catch on quickly that if she's asked a question in English she can answer it in English and vice versa.

Needless to say, not hearing the question in Japanese, why should Peanut answer it in Japanese? But this seemed to fluster my in-laws who couldn't understand why she wouldn't speak to them in Japanese. Gboy and I kept telling the in-laws that they could use Japanese as Peanut is perfectly able to comprehend them, but it took a good month or so before the adults finally started to speak to Peanut in regular Japanese - just like they would when speaking to their other grandchildren. I'm awfully glad that they did because her Japanese vocabulary is now growing exponentially and everyone here is so excited to see it and they reinforce her learning because they want to see more. It's amazing how the adults are often the slowest learners!!


  1. I had to delurk for this one!

    That is just so adorable! My husband taught himself Japanese and he wants our future child to speak it too, so I've been trying to learn. Let's just say I wish I had Peanut's language skills! I keep accidentally slipping into Spanish whenever the words are the same in one place.

  2. Language development in kids is already so fascinating (the way the ceiling is, apparently). How cool to see her developing too very different languages.

  3. That is so cool! I have heard that being bi lingual is so good for many cognitive processes so she is very lucky to have both families to help her.

  4. Wow!! I am so amazed with Bean's language development, I can only imagine the extra layer that a second language brings. Their minds are incredible. How awesome that she'll soon speak both fluently!