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!

The Blackboard

So now that he’s turned 1, it’s high time he learned the alphabet.

We’ve devoted an entire wall in the kitchen to this, painting it in blackboard paint.

Super fun!

Word #4

So Leon’s first word was papá. I felt a tiny bit of outrage but then figured that that only shows who is there constantly, i.e. who he doesn’t feel the need to call out for. Then it was mamá. So we’re even. Then it was the next member of the Gómez Hawkes-family: bebé. Although pointing at mamá’s boobs instead of her tummy slightly gets her into outraged mode again.

And now…it’s tatú! Yes! My son is showing true Bolivian spirit by making sure to include Mr. Armadillo in his baby vocab. And I’m bursting with pride. //s.

P.S. Thanks to Anna Homer for yet another educational toy!

A One-Year-Old’s Communication Skills

This last month Leon has been making remarkable progress. It’s like suddenly everything slotted into place in his little brain. All of a sudden he’s making new signs, things we’ve been showing him for ages but which he finally seems ready to incorporate into his communication repertoire.

So now, instead of just signing flower and train and dog, he’s also doing duck, jaguar/lion/large feline and, more excitingly, he’s started to babble loads, with an impressive Polish-esque combination of consonants thrown into his ramblings! He now imitates the sounds of a bird, a cat, flying insects, a woofing dog instead the sign for it, food time, a snake, cars/any wheeled vehicle, a little kiss and green frogs. And only a couple of days ago he surprised us by signing his first word which requires two hands: his favourite food, toast. Most of these words (and our accompanying commands “what does the cat say?”) he knows in both Spanish and English. Oh, and a few weeks ago he learned to clap properly when he means bravo/music/mum’s singing is lovely. Well I just love him!

But best of all is that he’s finally found his legs! He’s pulling himself up on any box, table and sofa, then starts laughing out loud of sheer euphoria and clapping bravo at himself, only to end up on his bum again of course! And the day before his first birthday my Mum caught him taking his first crawls! Yes, my peeps, up until day 364 of his existence the only way Leon’s moved around has been through the army shuffle. And now that he’s crawling I expect my chill days to be officially over. //s.

P.S. I’ve had to update this post twice in the last couple of days to add more words and sounds that Leon just keeps popping up with. The latest thing is him signing his little friend Noelle’s name. Funnily enough, because they both involve a rotating motion with his hand, Noelle’s name becomes very similar to the sign for washing machine… :)

Extra footage: Brad’s educational lineup… “Where’s Kevin the Kangaroo?”

Personalised Planner

Photo: personligalmanacka.se

Just thought I’d share with you the job I’m working on at the moment.

Personlig almanacka, or Personalised Planner as they’re known in plain English, is the brilliant idea that you should be able to customise and design the content and look of that little book you use everyday. The possibilities to tweak and change and add what you want into the planner are immense, and clicking your way through the design-app and seeing your very own planner come together is super fun! So don’t be one of those Apple-heads and go “it’s all in my iCal”; the paper stuff is here forever!

I’m really enjoying working with these cool and professional guys! Don’t forget to check them out! //s.

Rootworks (and Cyber-Suicide)

First then, an apology for the long absence. They tell me irregularity with blogs and tweets and things is cyber-suicide. Let’s hope not..! Signs of life, please!

Quite a bit has been happening during these silent weeks. My lovely in-laws from Australia arrived for a 6 weeks stay with us (first time they meet Leon and vice-versa; so exiting!), Leon’s first little tooth broke through (insert tears here), Kate and Will tied the knot (we shared the big day with a pumping crowd on Victoria Square, watching it on big screens, waiving Union Jacks and standing up solemnly for God Save the Queen!), and… AAAND I gave up my day job. I am now officially a:

1. Wife

2. Mother

3. My own Boss!

Ever since we moved to the UK we’ve been running a translations business on the side. We’ve never really spent much time marketing it or actively looking for jobs and projects, rather using the company to channel the jobs that kept dropping into our laps. Now though, we feel the time is ready to launch it big style, so I’m going for it and we’ll see where it takes me!

The name of the company? Rootworks!

So if you have any translation/proofing/editing/writing needs, drop us a visit! Where? At Rootworks!

See you there! //s.

We’re Reading

Leon likes his books! This one is particularly quick read…


Finally we found a brilliant, clever and Irish speech therapist! Meet Katie Cummins. Katie, Leon and I (plus Mega Awesome Connect-ers) spent an afternoon a while ago chatting about early communication, multilingualism and carrot cake glazing.

Katie’s just graduated from uni and works at Cambridge Hospital with adult rehabilitation, with patients who have had their ability to speak reduced following for instance a stroke or an accident. Patients in these situations have that in common with babies that they cannot express themselves verbally in the conventional way. This is where sign language comes in and saves the day!

– People often have the misconception that teaching you baby to sign will get in the way of them starting to speak. It’s actually the other way around, says Katie.

Babies are curious and love learning. They’re wired to communicate, and sign language will never slow down their speech learning but rather introduce them to communication and facilitate it from early on.

Really it’s a win-win concept: baby learns to sign “hungry” or “nappy” and mum and dad won’t need to guess what the cry means anymore! And imagine how much easier potty training becomes when baby can just sign “potty” or “wee wee” (uuu I know a song about that!).

Baby signing also introduces the basic idea on which all language is built: symbols. The word and the sign for “teddy” for instance is a symbol of the actual physical object.

– To encourage a baby in their speech learning it’s important to constantly put words to their actions, Katie explains. Say you’re playing with a ball and baby rolls it over the floor. You can just say something obvious then, like “oh, you’re rolling the ball!” and this way make the connection between action and its symbol in the form of language.

At this point in our chat Sarah’s luscious carrot cake makes an appearance, the conversation drifts into the decadent world of cream cheese glazing, and I stop taking notes…

Inventory of Leon’s Vocab

We’ve had a busy night. And by that I mean Leon has had a busy night. We’ve been blessed with a child who normally sleeps from 8-ish in the evening until 7 in the morning (with a small snack around 11pm, or whenever Brad and I go to bed). Up until now he’s had his cot in our room, mainly because we haven’t got around to putting second glazing in his room and so it’s quite drafty. Last night though, Leon decided 1am and 5am were great times for feeding. The first time, I played along as the long suffering mother and did what was expected of me; the second time I ignored him. So in the strange, hazy land between dream state and awake, I listened to Leon chatting to himself (once he’d given up crying..). Apart from his all time favourite “HE-HE-HOO” combination, this week he’s also started to say “BBBA-BA”. Last night though was the first time we’ve heard him say “DA”, loud and clear, and then again “DA”. Obviously, Bradley is over the moon. Me too. But just to make sure, this afternoon we had Leon’s first reading lesson: “Mm”. And this old rhyme from my first alphabet book really came in handy: Mi mamá me mima. Amo a mi mamá. (My mummy spoils me. I love my mummy.)

Leon Learning Español

In a break from our usual “Brad speaks English to the child and Sara speaks Spanish”, Brad made an attempt to teach Leon Spanish via the iPad. Here’s the result.