In China I try to speak Dutch to Scott, but he normally does not really understand what I say, except for some frequently used sentences (where are your shoes, you’ve got to go to sleep etc.). The problem is probably that I am the only one talking in Dutch to him at home, and when I talk to my wife or the staff at home I always speak English or Chinese. So often I end up talking to Scott in Chinese as well, to make sure he understands what I mean. Not good of course, because you should stay with one language while talking to your kids.
Exactly one week ago today we flew from China to The Netherlands. Since then Scott has mainly heard Dutch, because my parents and I speak Dutch to him. When my wife and I went to Maastricht last weekend, Scott stayed with my parents. At first we were wondering whether my parents would be able to communicate with him, but it turned out we didn’t need to worry. Scott understood a lot of what they were saying and picked up words very quickly.
Now that we are almost one week in Holland I realize I only speak Dutch with Scott and he perfectly understands me. One week ago he probably would have looked at me showing that he does not comprehend what I am trying to tell him, and now he even replies to my Dutch questions (in Chinese or by nodding, not in Dutch yet). I think it shows kids can pick up a language in a one week. Of course not the complete language, but the main words he needs to understand, and the structure of sentences. I am truly amazed by this, I wish I would still have this ability!
His own talking is still mainly in Chinese, his favorite words right now are qiche (Chinese for car) and mei you (don’t have, finished), and he starts to make sentences such as dao qiche boom (when he rides his tricycle backwards and he hits the wall, with boom being the sound of hitting something). But if he is looking for something and finds it, he now says “Daar!”, which is Dutch for “There!”. The only English word he regularly uses is “no”. As usual for toddlers his age (20 months) that’s quickly becoming a favorite word. But he also starts to use the Chinese variety of no, especially bu yao (Chinese does not have one word for no, it depends on the verb you use).
I like to observe his language abilities and I wish I had learned several languages as a toddler already. I look forward to seeing his (and soon also Elaine’s) progress over the next couple of months.