Toddler Linguistic Development: 語彙収集

The kid has been on a real growth spurt recently – in terms of his vocabulary. Despite our intent to use plenty of Japanese with him in order to raise him properly bilingual, we’re using both English and Japanese (and little bits and pieces of other languages) in front of him and with him somewhat indiscriminately. Add to this the English-language environment of his daycare, and the result is a kid who speaks his own unique pidgin that is probably more English than not.

I doubt that he makes much of a distinction between various languages yet, although I’m sure he’s noticed that they don’t use the latter at daycare. I would like to make sure as he gets older that 1. he grasps and uses the grammar of each language properly, and 2. he learns how to read and write Japanese, despite its labor-intensive learning process. (Or even because of that, perhaps. If he can develop the self-discipline that Japanese writing practice demands, then he’ll be in good shape for many of life’s challenges.) In any case, here are some of his new words:


Traan – “crayon.” He has a box of crayons in eight colors. He also has a coloring-book, but his favorite activity so far has been to take the crayons out of their box and then put them back in.

Nounoru (乗る). This means “to ride,” and he primarily uses it to ask us to take him out on a bicycle ride. This has been a habitual evening activity lately, since his mother is still learning to ride. She’ll be using this new skill, starting next Monday, to commute to campus and back for the summer session.

Aadchaʔ – “woodchuck.” Note the glottal stop. There are a couple of fields along our usual evening bicycle route that house woodchucks, with about half a dozen in one and perhaps a pair in the other. The kid is very into woodchucks, and commands me to chase them down when we see them. They are not amused.

Gama – (ガマ, or 蟇 if you want to be fancy). “Toad.” I caught one the other day and kept it in an empty peanut butter jar we had lying around (empty plastic jars being one of the kinds of toy we keep around for the kid to amuse himself with) until the kid came back from daycare. Unlike many of the other animals he meets, he seemed really nervous about the toad, keeping away from it and generally being on his guard even though I was pretty casually picking it up and moving it around. Eventually he touched its back a couple times. In the evening we released it back into the woods and said bye-bye gama.

Haihae (蠅). “Fly” (the animal). I managed to stun and capture one and we fed it to the gama.

Eeʔ – “eat.” He seems to mostly use this to express things that other people eat, or as an imperative. So he’ll talk about how the gama ate the hai, or say “Papa, eeʔ!” and give me the part of his snack that he doesn’t want. When he wants to eat something, he simply asks for the thing.

Shiʔ – “sit.” This is another imperative. He responds just fine to the Japanese equivalent, 座る (suwaru), but doesn’t try to say it himself. He’s gotten very insistent recently about having one of us sit with him on the floor for certain activities, such as traan time.

Aabui – “RV,” as in “recreational vehicle.” We see these occasionally while out and about. He used to call them buses, but I corrected him and he seems to enjoy pointing them out now.

Pyun pyun – as close as he can get to pyon pyon (ピョンピョン), a Japanese onomatopoetic word for hopping. Both bunnies and gama go pyon pyon.

Momo – (桃). “Peach.” They’re in season, so we’ve been eating a lot of peaches recently, along with grapes and mangoes.

He can say all of the above (and several others that I’ve forgotten, no doubt) as well as the names of several of the other kids in his class. (One of them he just calls “baby.”) In addition, there are a number of Japanese words that he can clearly understand, although I haven’t heard him try to say them yet, such as 寝る (neru), “to lie down” or “to sleep” and 立つ (tatsu), “to stand up.”

Most interesting of all, he’s starting to chain words together. So he’ll hold out a slice of peach and say “Momo, eeʔ!” It’s all very exciting!  8^D

About Confanity

I love the written word more than anything else I've had the chance to work with. I'm back in the States from Japan for grad school, but still studying Japanese with the hope of becoming a translator -- or writer, or even teacher -- as long as it's something language-related.
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