#SOL17 – Day 14 – Learning a New Language


I was taking both “Psychology of Language” and “Developmental Psycho-linguistics,” the first semester I brought Mea home, so forgive me for finding her language developed nerdily cool.

Mea was 18 months old when we brought her home, which will help for reference for what to typically expect for language understanding and use at that age. Receptively, she could understand about 200 words; this number grew by the day.

As I have shared, in country, she immediately started to add English words to her single-word vocabulary. She didn’t realize that they were English versus Amheric – she just added them to what she could say.

We never heard her say anything in her birth language. Although we tried to remember how to say “thank you” and “mom” and “dad,” we quickly abandoned saying these words. We were extinguishing her hearing about 200 of her known words. Of course we were adding in words, but these old ones were lost.

After about a month at home, Mea stopped talking altogether. Luckily, I was reading about English Learners, in my text, so didn’t panic. She had finally recognized that the language we were speaking, with its tones and pronunciation was different than her first language. It was as if she said to herself, I’m going to stop to listen for a while. Something’s different here. I have to pay attention.

It was completely normal, much like with older ELs, that she would need time to understand how this language worked – its cadence and rhythms. It was certainly different from Amheric. She studied us and listened.

After about a month, she started talking again – completely in English, with more words than she had when she had stopped. She understood two and three word sentences as well.

When we had her tested through early intervention, she never qualified for educational services. She’s been reading above grade level since Kindergarten. She is a very smart girl and it was amazing to witness her learn a new language. I know that somewhere, in her brain, her first language is hanging out. Maybe she will study it one day. Maybe she has a giftedness for languages that we have yet to discover.

14 thoughts on “#SOL17 – Day 14 – Learning a New Language

  1. I would find that cool too! My children have both received speech therapy, and I have to keep reminding myself it isn’t professional development for me. 🙂

  2. I love your posts. I look forward to them. I know it also helps that you roomed with 3 speech language pathology students in college. I guess we wore off on you a little. 🙂 Adrianne

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Interesting how she stopped and just took the language in to learn this new language for her. I’ve had ELs in my class and it it amazing to watch them bloom into speaking and understanding the English language!

  4. It’s so exciting to learn and observe at the same time. Language acquisition always fascinates me. Mea is a darling little girl. I enjoy reading about your journey.

  5. It is so amazing how children pick up languages. I find bilingual families so fascinating, especially when children are learning 2 or 3 or more language simultaneously.

  6. Wow, Aileen, it is good that you were studying about language development at that time. I didn’t realize that silence is a characteristic of what Mea went through. Nice to know, so you didn’t have to panic.

    It is a miracle the way we learn, isn’t it? I’m always amazed that my students can do school work in both Arabic and English, and they DO–every day.

    Are there Amharic speaking folks in your area? Do they have lessons to learn it?


    1. We don’t live in an area that’s diverse, but one day I would like to take Mea to a restaurant outside of D.C. with her name.
      We won’t always live here. There is an Ethiopian church about an hour away.
      I think that Rosetta Stone or something like that will have it. It’s spoken by a lot of people 🙂
      Thank you for writing!!

  7. LOVE the picture! Isn’t funny how the brain adapts. Ironic as well that they were the courses you were taking at that time. Funny how the world works.

  8. I had a student from Lithuania, who came in ,7th grade. She had a Russian tutor from Millersville all of 7th and 8th grade,who only came twice a week to work with her for 2 hours. She was amazingly adept at not only learning English, but understood the basic constructs of the language. By rhe end of eighth grade, she was one of my best writers. It was so wonderful to be a part of it.

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