Saturday, January 17, 2009
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!