Quirky toddler language – a few fun things I’d like to remember

'I got tired of webbed feet.'

Pato con patos

I thought it would be fun to capture a few of S’s quirky language traits which I am sure will soon be corrected and before long forgotten.  His speaking is really gaining momentum now at 28 months. We are no longer able to keep track of all his words and phrases which have steadily replaced the sign language he’s been using since about 18 months old.  Even when he does use a sign it’s now almost always accompanied by a word; today for example he said chicha (salchicha) and did the sign for sausage.

Tu? Who?
S refers to himself as tu (you). He points at himself and say tu if he wants a biscuit, or says tu when looking at photos of himself.  He’s pretty sure that ‘tu’ is only him, although we’ve tried to explain it to him and and call each other tu as well. Interestingly he does say ‘mine’ in English, but not ‘me’, ‘I’, mi or yo.

Similarily he uses the tu form of the verb when referring to himself, so he’ll say caes (you fall), instead of me caigo when balancing on something precariously. He’s obviously copying us when we tell him, ‘cuidado, te caes!‘ – what’s interesting is the comparison with English here where the form of the verb ‘fall’ in ‘you”ll fall’ and ‘I’ll fall’ are the same.  In fact (at least at this level) English seems a lot simpler, with nouns and verbs such as ‘rain’ often using the same word, compared with the Spanish llover (to rain), and lluvia (the rain).

Silent H
Another little quirk is his silent h’s for English words such as (h)ouse, (h)at and (h)ot. Funnily, despite not pronouncing it he seems to like the letter H and it’s one of the few he can recognise, along with S and A.  He loves to say ‘Mama Abbi, Mama Abbi‘ whenever he sees an A printed on a cereal box, a road sign or in a book, and Sep for Seb when seeing an S.

Inventing his own abbreviations
Interestingly a significant proportion of his new Spanish vocabulary is just the last part of the word, such as tines – calcetines (socks), patos – zapatos (shoes), nicas – canicas (marbles), quilla – mantequilla (butter), quillas – cosquillas (tickles).  He hasn’t done this at all with English words, perhaps because the words are shorter he doesn’t feel the need to abbreviate.  He often combines these Spanish half-words with an English preposition, a couple of favourites are ‘patos off’ (shoes off) and ‘nicas inder’ (marbles in there – he had a marble run for Christmas).  I’m growing quite fond of his little abbreviations and often find myself saying ‘no, tines on’ in response to his constant sock removal, which is invariably accompanied by him saying ‘tines off’ with a cheeky grin.

Mixing it up
At this stage, he seems to use both Spanish and English in no particular contexts.  If he knows the word in both languages he might say both, such as ‘agua más, más, more’ or just swap words from sentence to sentence.  He combines words from both languages into little phrases such as ‘eating aqui’ and ‘oscuro sleeping night-time’. There has also been a bit of Spanglish he’s invented including moona, and buggycita.

English is definitely dominant now, as to be expected, I guess, living in an English speaking environment.  Although we are still speaking Spanish at home, he is now at nursery two days a week, and nearly all of the activities and people we see outside the home are English.  He does however still use a lot of Spanish words and he understands well.  His favourite phrases at the moment are ‘up top’, ‘up Sky’.

I’d love to hear any quirky words or phrases from you bilingual toddlers.  It’s a really fun stage and great to be able to communicate with S so much better and get a real idea of his thoughts, feelings, wants and desires.  It has also given me a new way at looking at both languages.


3 thoughts on “Quirky toddler language – a few fun things I’d like to remember

  1. Mi niño es mayor que el tuyo (tiene 39 meses). Una de las últimas situaciones graciosas que tuvimos fue cuando le pregunté si sabía quién era Papá Noel y me dijo que Papá era Serguey (así se llama el padre).

  2. I find you observations and comments fascinating, Abbi. Great that you have them down in print, as otherwise you’d certainly forget the details.

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