Geo is a 4-year-old boy being raised bilingually in monocultural home.

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Stinky Comment Makes Mother’s Day

Many people were excited to hear about Geo’s recent hearing test and his 70% hearing capabilities. However, we were not happy with this news. Geo went in July 18th for his hearing test. We expected to learn that he was hearing at almost 100%. The news that he is only hearing at 70% and may now need additional surgery was a great disappointment to us.

We must remain positive, though. Geo used to hear at 50% in his bad ear…and now he’s hearing at 70% after two surgeries. The doctor will see Geo again in six months and if he is still at 70%, then we will schedule another surgery. Luckily, the follow-up surgery is less intrusive. There is a small metal implant in Geo’s ear and the surgery would simply shift the implant slightly to try to improve Geo’s hearing. The doctor’s goal is to bring him up to 85%.

Additionally, since his improved hearing, we have noticed that Geo is speaking a lot more! It’s not always well articulated, but he is definitely feeling more confident and is speaking much more. He still reports that he hears so much better and that it’s “really cool” to hear better. Also, Geo is more open to having me sing to him his lullabies! (Wonderful news to a mommy who loves to sing to her children!)

Finally, another positive point is that Geo has started speaking more French. He is spontaneously coming up with things to say en français! This is exciting, especially since Geo has often asked that we speak English and has not really latched onto French like his sister has. One reason he could be enjoying French more now (in addition to his improved hearing) is the fact that we’ve hosted several “Sunny Earth Camps” where many children from the community have come into our home to participate in a fun and active French lesson. I am using AIM Language Learning’s La Poule Maboule kit for the majority of the camp. In the video above, you’ll see him saying the words for “boy” (garçon) and “girl” (fille), while also doing his own version of the AIM gestures for the two words. Before starting the video camera, Geo had started saying and gesturing the words “fille” and “garçon” over and over again in his silly Geo-style. It took a little questioning to get him to reenact it…and that’s what you see in the video.

We recently went on a vacation to DC. While waiting to cross a street, there were several busses and cars. Out of the blue, after much whole-family English conversation, Geo blurted out “Ça pue!” (It reeks/stinks!)…and yes, it did indeed stink! I think this may be Geo’s first spontaneous complete sentence in French…short, not sweet due to its stinkyness, but ever so sweet to our ears! Go, Geo, go!!!!!

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Video

Geo’s Speech Touch Cues

Geo is now 3 ½ years old and has had speech therapy for about five months. I have not stopped speaking to the children in French; however, I have adjusted how I respond to Geo. Usually, I am careful to help him learn his English sounds when he is producing speech. I may ask him a question in French and he answers me in English and I use the touch cue system to help him pronounce the words properly. From time to time he will throw in some French words or phrases. Once in a while, we will spend some time working on French words. We are focusing on Geo’s English articulation because in two years, he will need to be understood in English when he starts Kindergarten. We have continued to provide Geo with tons of French input, but we are not stressing that he speak in French. In this video, you will hear and see one of the rare times when I use the touch cues to help Geo speak French. The touch cues are something that I have learned from Geo’s therapist to better assist him to speak. The cues really work! He has some trouble with a couple of the numbers, but I didn’t dwell on them. If we were working on English, I would have spent more time having him repeat the words independently several times. The key for his learning is repetition. Practice makes perfect! It is amazing to see how the touch cues help him. I do them as I say the word for him to see, and as you can see he chooses to use the cues himself. They really help him articulate better!

At the end of the video, you can hear him say: “Ready or not, I’m coming!”

We have found that the absolute best time to encourage Geo to work on his speaking is through play. Who doesn’t love to learn while having fun?

Geo’s French Words

We have recently had to rethink our strategies for language learning with Geo. Although we don’t have an official diagnosis yet, his speech therapist believes that he is apraxic. We will be getting an official diagnosis as soon as possible, but it likely will tell us he has “apraxia of speech.”

We held off on getting Geo’s speech evaluated because his older sister Soleil had her own “language” for quite some time. She called herself “Ya-yes” forever and had a bunch of other words that were her own creations. For the most part we were and are able to understand Geo. We kept thinking he’d come out of it just like Soleil did. Hindsight’s always 20/20 and obviously now we wish we had acted sooner. He has created speech habits that now will have to be unlearned. We have a long road ahead of us, but we say: Bring it on!

When we had his IEP meeting, we were instructed to allow Geo to speak English. I can continue to speak to him in French, but he needs to respond in English and we need to repeat back to him what he said in English. So, that is what we’re doing for now, however, there are certain words that Geo simply prefers to say in French. They may not be pronounced perfectly, but he just naturally says them in French first. Here’s some of them:

Du lait, de l’eau (“Milk” & “Water” because of a silly song we have song for years)

Jolies lumières (“Pretty lights” because during the holiday season, and year round, whenever we are out driving and spot some pretty lights, we always mention them in French…even Daddy has picked up this one!

Poire (“Pear” because it’s one of Geo’s favorite fruits)

Do-do (“Night-night” because of the lullaby: “Dodo m’amour” that I sing every night)

Arrête (“Stop” because the tickle monster speaks French and stops tickling only when spoken to in French.)

Our multiliteracy adventure has taken a turn, but we still envision the same multiliterate goal for both of our children…we may just have more detours along the way.

The Birth of Two Very Important Words

We were lucky to catch the birth of two very important words for Geo:
“Big truck!”

A Son’s Love

We are starting this blog to document our son Geo’s language development. We are raising two bilingual children, Soleil (4) and Geo (2). My husband, Kevin and I are both native English speakers. I teach/speak French and Spanish; Kevin teaches/speaks Math. We decided that I’d speak only French to our children, and that Kevin would try to learn French over time. We are inspired by MIT researcher, Deb Roy, to blog about Geo’s language development. You can check out his TED talk entitled “The Birth of a Word” on TED.com or YouTube.

Geo went to the doctor for a check up today. He wasn’t speaking as much as other 2 years olds at his check up in February so the doctor asked to see him again. He was 36 pounds and in the 97 percentile in weight! Wow! Dr. Talev also said he isn’t really concerned about Geo’s speech especially with the progress he’s recently made. So we are going to chalk it up to the fact that he’s learning two languages and even more so because his sister speaks for him. She literally knows what he wants and tells us…she reads him like an open book!

This is last night’s story of Geo’s first 4 word sentence:

When Daddy went in to check Geo for the night, Geo said in Geo-ese: “I love you, Daddy” and when Daddy said he loved him back, Geo smiled hugely….both knowing the understanding was there.

He is hard to understand but we are starting to catch more and more of his words…and now phrases, too! We recently understood him say: “That one, Daddy” and “Have some, Mommy.” They may not have sounded perfect, but that’s definitely what he said!