Leon 16 Months

Leon has just turned 16 months and it’s high time to review his language development.

During the month of October, I diligently wrote down every single new word that he used in our Port Stephens wall calendar. The selection process was rigorous: Before a word made it to the calendar, Leon had to show complete command over it, using the word at least three times and in the correct context. So just repeating a word after me or somebody else didn’t count. However, I was more relaxed with the pronunciation of a word, e.g. if he didn’t manage to say the “l” in pulpo (SP for octopus) it was still valid, as long as he was consequent with both pronunciation and usage.

By the end of the month there were just over 30 words on the list. Around 15 of these were Spanish, just under 10 were English, and the remaining were either Swedish or people’s names. Add to that another 10 or so signs or sounds and the total tally lands at around 40 words/signs/sounds.

I recall our first exhaustive conversation that month. I said we were having food, and he lit up and said “¡Pollo!”. No Leon, not chicken. He tried again, “¡Vaina!”. No, we’re not having green beans either. He made one last attempt, “Apple!”. This just cracked me up, a one-and-a-bit-year old shooting his entire food repertoire at me (except “toast”, surprisingly!), hoping to guess the menu!

Looking at the October list now, I’m surprised that such a high percentage was (and still is) English. Because him and I communicate exclusively in Spanish, and because it’s me he spends the most time with, I just assumed that my language would also be his strongest. However, it would seem that the environment and society around him (and his dad too, of course) influence him just as much as I do.

Needless to say, I’m worried! Not that I’m a language Nazi…but it tells me that I need to find other forums where Leon can use his Spanish and as a consequence also value it as a viable communication tool, rather than ditching it for English once he realises that that’s what everyone else is speaking and that’s what works around here!

When it comes to Swedish, I’m less worried. We spend a lot of time with Mrs Louis, and Leon adores Noelle and copies lots of her words. Also, with my (lazy!) siblings only speaking Swedish to their kids, his cousins are all communicating with us in Swedish.

Here’s a sample of Leon’s October words:

ENGLISH: tractor, piggy, book (sounds like “boo-ty”…don’t ask me), owl, wheel

SPANISH: uva (grape/raisin), auto (car), tiza (chalk), diente (tooth), vamos (let’s go), bulbo (bulb)

SWEDISH: lampa (lamp), mormor (mat. grandma), dricka (drink)

There are a few more interesting developments now in November; will add these later! If you’ve read this far you’re either a fellow language acquisition nerd or a grandparent—thanks!

5 Comments on “Leon 16 Months”

Friday, 9. December 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thanks too to Jakob (www.jcbk.me) for the piccie!


Tuesday, 7. February 2012 at 10:29 pm

I guess I must be a language acquisition nerd… I’m really interested to know how many words he has now!


Sunday, 11. March 2012 at 10:30 pm

han kommer att behärska 5 språk elegant. engelska, spanska, svenska, kärlekens och trons.. :) o yeah!


Wednesday, 11. April 2012 at 10:41 am

Oh I am SOO a fellow language acquisition nerd! And sadly I am also reading this 6 months late. But I SO agree with your conclusion! The environment (and of course dads) affect our little bi or tri linguals so much more than we give them credit for! So other forums where they can use their ‘minority’ languages are very important. Did you manage to find any Spanish ones?
I am astounded by Aliyah, whose dominant language is very much English at the mo. This has been the case since she started going to nursery for 2.5 hours a day during the week. Only 2.5 hours! That, plus the fact that all her Greek girlfriends are at school now, and thus can’t meet as regularly as we used to (once a week) has made her Greek usage diminish. BUT during the Easter holidays, I took her to Greek toddler group, and she has been singing Greek songs ever since. Plus using more Greek, since she spent whole days with me again. I think I was starting to underestimate the effect of these other ‘forums’. And I have now concluded, especially after reading this (beit 6 months late) that I need to make more of a conscious effort to bring her into these forums again.
Which brings me to my other mummy dilemma… I often disagree with the way other Greek mums discipline their little ones. Or rather the way that they don’t. So although the language thing is desirable, the cultural peer influence is most often NOT. But that is a subject for another post eh?
Thoughts on these Sarita?


Wednesday, 11. April 2012 at 10:42 am

Oh and before I leave you alone, check this out:



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