Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Look at me playing with my food in Japanese.... (Alex, nearly 3)

Apparently we ate dinner too early today because Alexander was definitely not hungry. He showed us this by playing with his pasta and putting it into his milk.

I removed his milk from the table and then we proceeded to ignore him (after telling him to eat of course). He was quite persistent in trying to get us to notice him before he finally decided he was ready to leave the table and let us eat in peace.

HEY! MAMA! Look!

HEY LIZ (our visitor)! LOOK!

LYDIA, hora MITE YO! (hey look)

I'm sure if papa had been here he would have tried it in German too.

He is quite persistent.

We continue to encourage the children to speak Japanese with each other because that is how they feel most comfortable. They seem fine speaking English with other English speaking kids and German with other German kids. They are also doing great with separating the languages at home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lydia is learning Hiragana

Japanese children first learn to write in Hiragana. Of course growing up in a western family, Lydia is learning the Roman alphabet first. She can write her name and knows more than half of the letters of the alphabet. She really enjoys letters.

Her friends at school are all impressed that she can write her name in Romaji, but Lydia, on the other hand, wants to write in hiragana like all of her friends.

I got some writing drill books for her and now we are working through them day by day. Today she was learning "te" て. "te" means hand. We were talking about "te" and other words that start with "te". She was practicing the pencil strokes and I asked her, "What letter are you writing now?" She replied, "Hand".

Lydia likes her "really really much"

Age 4 is presenting many challenges for us. Lydia knows exactly what she wants... but she doesn't quite understand limits. One of our daily battles is about picking up the baby. In reality I think she is big enough to pick up Hannah in certain circumstances and under supervision. The problem is Alex. If Lydia is allowed to pick up Hannah then Alex will want to pick her up too. So to make things simple, our rule is "DON'T PICK UP THE BABY!"

You'd think a 4yo (4.5 really) would eventually get this concept. I have to tell her 20 times a day... and still I have to tell her the next day, and the day after that. I am really losing my temper with this and have started making her sit on the steps when she breaks the rule. Then Lydia starts crying and says "but Hannah likes it. and I like Hannah reaaaaallly realllllly much!" How can I possibly punish her for loving her sister too much?

Hannah 10 months - our 3rd "talker"

Hannah has started using her verbal skills in a way that seems purposeful and not experimental. She likes to say "baa baa baa" and "maa maa maa". She definitely uses the "maa" sounds more regularly when she sees me or wants to nurse. And she always uses "baa baa" when papa is around. So I guess those are her first words.

She is also signing milk like a little lunatic. When she gets tired she waves around her hands frantically squeezing them in the "milk" sign hoping someone will take her seriously - poor 3rd child always waiting for someone to notice her! I try as best as I can to react to her needs quickly. I want her to feel like she can communicate with us.

Hannah loves music. She bops to anything she hears. Her favorite song is Japanese and I am probably going to spell it wrong: Ouma ma mina papaka hashiru (about a little horse...). She mouths along with the "papaka hashiru" part. "pa pa pa pa pa" It is so cute. I should be better about talking video.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Pondering some "lydia talk"

I was just thinking, maybe Lydia always says "I'll do it my/a lonely" instead of "I'll do it myself" is because in German it would be "... aleine." which sounds kinda like alone.

Also, Lydia consistently says "Morning" to mean tomorrow. "Morning we will go to the zoo, mama." At first I thought she was using that word because when I try and put something off I will either say, we will do it in the Morning or we will do it Tomorrow. But I think it is more likely that she is applying the German word to English here. In German, the word "morgen" means both Morning and Tomorrow. So she translates it from German "morgen" to English "morning" when she really means Tomorrow.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lydia talk...

March 11, 2009. Lydia age 4.

Here's what she dictated into her new elmo diary today:
"I eat obento upstairs. I played a game. Somebody runs to get a chair. (she demostrates) oops. no chair there! I sing Aruko. I'm big is, I wanna write this. (meaning: when I'm big...) I'm big is, I wanna pick Alex my lone is. (meaning: I wanna pick alex up [from school] by myself. I played outside and then go home. Now I go to nap. After nap I goin' to Motoki house. Mama went to doctor."

She constantly says, "I'm big is...." and "my lone is" or "my lonely"
I'm big is, I wear fancy shoes like mama. I'm big is, I drink coffee too. I'm big is, I drive mama's car.

Then there is Alex who is 2, nearly 3. His language is sometimes so much better than Lydia's! He was chattering away the other day and he said, "When I'm big, I be Lydia. When Lydia little, Lydia be Alex." So when Alex grows up he wants to be Lydia. And he thinks that when Lydia was a baby, she was Alex. He also thinks he is a girl penguin. So I guess where he excels in language skills he lacks in intelligence. Ha Ha!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

January 2009 - Lydia 4.5, Alexander 2.5

We have had lots of developments in the last few months.

Lydia has been really growing with her Japanese thanks to her new kindergarten. Her enunciation is much clearer. Long phrases that she has had trouble saying for aaaages she can finally say - for example: itadakimasu and gochisosamadeshita (you say these before and after eating meals in japan), she would always mumble. Now she can correctly say each syllable. Also lots of lyrics of songs she would mumble along and now she has learned what the actual words are. I think she is feeling very good about her communication abilities in Japanese. She is getting along in her new school just fine. She seems to communicate well with the teacher and with her friends. Perhaps she isn't as conversational as some of her friends but she definitely understands as much as they do and really loves going every day.

We went to the US for the month of December. Just for the heck of it I scheduled a speech evaluation for Lydia. Honestly I'm not really concerned, but I know she is much less conversational than monolinguals her age and I just kind of wanted to know *how* much less. Also I wanted to see if the therapist had any suggestions for us.

The result (as I suspected) was a minor language delay and a minor to moderate pronunciation problem. The therapist was also not overly concerned given our situation. She reminded me that Lydia really only gets English from me. Of course this is absolutely true but it honestly surprised me to hear this. Lydia doesn't have any English speaking kids to play with - all of our foreign friends are German. At home she doesn't speak English with anyone else but me. In regards to helping her pronounce some sounds more correctly the therapist helped me understand where in the mouth the sounds came from and some easy ways to remind Lydia how to get the sounds out more accurately - for example, she has a tendency to lisp when she says "s". When I remind her to keep her teeth closed and not let her tongue come out then she can say it perfectly.

The language evaluation was on one of our first days in the US. After this, Lydia and Alexander were enrolled in a full-time preschool for two weeks. Their developments were really amazing.

Lydia was very impressive. First of all, her ability to adapt to the new environment, teacher, friends (who were all nearly 1 year older than her) was amazing. She didn't cry about being there. She wanted to go every day. She loved it. At the beginning, the teachers said she seemed really quiet and shy about talking. I think she did have some trouble making herself understood because they didn't know her. Some of her classmates were so chatty when I would take her and drop her off. I was a little worried that she would get shy (something that is rare for her!).

But instead she fit right in. She learned lots of words. She tried really hard to talk and started talking a lot. She started wanting to tell me things about her day when I picked her up - something she doesn't really like to do in japan. Or maybe it is that she can't explain to me in English what she did at school in Japanese. Who knows. Anyway it was really nice to hear how excited she was about her days.

She also started talking more and more with my parents. She got very interested in learning some Christmas songs and reading certain books.

I would think that if I had taken her to the speech therapist at the end of our stay, she would have seen a VERY noticeable change in Lydia's language.

Now for Alexander. The transition into the daycare was much more difficult. He was very uncomfortable with having to speak English at school rather than Japanese. He was withdrawn and shy and clingy. The best thing that happened was that one of the teachers was fluent in German! Alex latched onto this teacher and followed him around like a puppy. Alex was really funny about trying to speak Japanese with people. Anytime he met anyone who wasn't Caucasian, he would try and speak to them in Japanese - the Mexican neighbor we met on the street, the African American friend, the Vietnamese teacher at preschool, the Caribbean friend - Japanese was the first language he would try, just hoping to find someone to speak back in "his" language!

He and Lydia continued to play in Japanese. They also started to incorporate more English into their play.

Alex's English is pretty good for his age anyway, but he became more comfortable with playing in English. He also started repeating some funny things that apparently I say a lot - he really likes to say "oh my goodness!" and "it's okay, sweetie" and "Don't do THAT. I don't like it!"

We are back in Japan after the busy month. The kids are both settled back into their Japanese schools. Lydia is fine as always. Alex was happy to get back to his Japanese teachers but is still talking about the teachers he had in the US, so he must have had fun!