Baby K was born in November 2007 in Prague. We started out immediately with OPOL: I spoke only English with her (at home; sometimes I spoke Czech to her around people*) and my husband spoke only Slovak with her, and we parents spoke English or CZ/SK (me Czech, him Slovak) depending on the situation and our mood. This is still how we do things, with very few exceptions. When K was 5 months old, we moved to UK for two years for work (we’re still here and planning to return to Prague later this year).
This means that K has, as far as she can remember, been in a predominantly English environment with her only Slovak input from her father, who spends all day at work, and the occasional visit from family or friends. And a couple of CDs of children’s songs. She spends her days with her American-accented mother and everyone else around is British. Predictably. So English, in one form or another, is pretty dominant at the moment. It will be interesting to see how that starts to change when we move and she goes to Czech preschool.
K started talking a little bit late, but slowly built up a vocabulary and by 20 months was putting together her first two-word sentences in English. They increased in complexity pretty quickly and now, at 29 months, she uses sentences several words long, just missing the connecty words like prepositions and articles. She uses “a” (Slovak “and”) as a placeholder for all those in-between words. Just this week I heard her say her first entirely Slovak sentences. Two words each and not at all conjugated, but no English in sight. She may have said some before that I didn’t pay attention to, but these were the first I picked up on.
She is starting to get a grip on some grammatical features in English, like adding –ing onto verbs: “Mama come” is “Mama, come here!” and “Mama coming” is “Mama is coming now”. She has also worked out –s for plurals and verbs, and sometimes just because. “Where are we goings?” indeed. She is also – oh happy two-year-old – very big on possessives. K’s! Mama’s! Apo’s! Mines! No yours! She does not yet make any grammatical distinctions in Slovak (which has many more of them).
Apo and I are both pretty consistent in sticking to just one language, but Baby K still doesn’t really distinguish between languages. She is just becoming aware that the different words she knows for things can be sorted into two groups, I think. We have started asking her “How does Apo/Mama say that?” For the first time this month she looked at me, looked at Apo, and then came up with the right answer. She’s starting to get it I’d say. But she still has no problem addressing either of us in whichever language she pleases. That’s fine – we’re the only ones around at the moment who understand both languages, anyway. When she breaks out the Slovak on her nursery teacher, or English on her Slovak grandparents, she just gets blank looks, though. I am reasonably confident this will sort itself out as she learns to talk better, though. I’ll let you know…
* Like the whole three days in the hospital before we took her home. True story.