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.