Hiccups in language development

1:29 PM

When Queenie turned four she was barely verbal. Most people didn't understand her when she spoke. Her father and I knew that she had a mini-language that she used, using the sounds that she could produce better than the others. We went with that for a long time before we finally convinced the pediatrician that she needed to go to speech therapy.

Whenever we spoke to someone about Queenie's speech problems we constantly received a shrug followed by an exclamation of, "Well, she is learning three languages......!"

If we chose to further expain that it was NOT due to being bilingual they usually didn't believe us. If we dared to compare her to other bilingual kids we almost always received the advice to not fall into the comparison trap as "all kids are different".

Thankfully our speech therapist didn't have the same opinion.

Now, as she is about to turn six and almost two years into speech therapy she is highly verbal, LOVES to talk, is not afraid of speaking in any of her languages even if she still makes mistakes, and has dropped quite a lot of her control and behavioral problems.

Raising a bi- or tri- lingual kid isn't always so "easy". It isn't about just speaking to them in one language and putting the cartoons on in another. In fact, as we are learning this year, it is not always just about putting them in the environment to hear their language either. This year, our real work is beginning with reading.

The whole concept of reading is a bit lost on Queenie, although she is slowly understanding it. As I am the one who does homework with her there are some things I have realized, and one of them is just how strong my little Queenie is.

She is a smart girl. Very observant. And she is a survivor. In the past few weeks I have realized that she got through two years of preschool and one year of kindergarten without really understanding all the vocabulary that her teachers thought she understood. Instead, she simply found another way to do her work around the words she didn't understand. Those ways include elimination, deducing, memorizing and plain guessing. I bet she has a few other tricks up her sleeves too, I just haven't found them.

She, of course, doesn't see them as tricks. She sees them as a way of surviving school. And I think it is awesome that the brain works in such a way as to allow her to do that. Unfortunately, now I have to undo some of those ways of thinking in order to get her to understand reading. Like the fact that memorizing words is not reading. Neither is assuming what the next word is going to be based on what you read yesterday. Because, while those tricks work sometimes, they don't always!

Right now she is learning to read in French at school. I wish a little bit that we had worked on reading before now in one of her home languages, but looking back on the last two years it was more important that she became verbal rather than moving ahead into reading. Slowly, she is understanding reading and I am willing to take all the time she needs to get it. Because, in the end, she still has two other languages that she has to learn to read in!

Raising a bi- or tri-lingual kid is not joke. There is a lot of work that goes into it, especially for mommy! But I get the benefit of learning some more French as well. Plus, I am hoping that Queenie will take all this education and use it to teach her sisters so mommy can focus on her wine studies......

Well! A girl can dream, can't she?

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