Immersion with Your 5-12 Month Old

In the last post of this series, way back in November, I talked about how to get ready for your newborn, and the first four months. Those are some rough months, which may seem to continue until their first year. A lot of babies do not gain independence easily during their first year, but don’t worry, soon enough you’ll start having moments where your child will happily preoccupy themselves with their own toys.

During these months your child will be going through some major milestones. You can read more about them on plenty of sites out there for babies. Such things like eating purees and sitting, crawling, perhaps some walking, talking, and the more rare poddy training will go down. However don’t be fooled: Once your baby starts walking, they’ll get into a lot of trouble.

To Cage or Not to Cage!

That actually is a major issue at this point. Once your child starts the crawling stage it will sometimes be hard to study on anything in particular since you’ll be running after your kid and saying ‘No!’ a million times, or wait, saying ‘やめて!”. A lot of parents find it very comforting to simply put their children in a play pen and study. You certainly have this option available to you, and some kids really don’t seem to care.

My kid wouldn’t stand it, but I did have the fortune to not really have to start chasing after her until more around her 10th month. She was very well behaved and laid back and didn’t even start crawling until about 9 months. It took her one month of that before she realized that crawling sucked and started walking. I pretty much got the idea of

Large Scale Cageing!

What is this you ask? I simply rearrange my living room (and the placement of a few baby gates) so that she couldn’t touch anything she wasn’t suppose to. I could then easily sit at my computer and have no worries as she crawled and walked about the living room in happiness right next to me. If you have the ability to do this, I’d recommend it over the play pen. Honestly, I found around 5 months and on that I would get really nice 30+ min stints a few times a day as my daughter began developing her sleeping habits. These became power study sessions where I poured over material fast as possible while listening out for the tall tell sign of her waking up. Really take advantage of their naps. Since cleaning, or cooking, or eating happen with your kid awake already, they don’t require non-stop attention like studying does, so save that stuff for when they’re awake.

Instructions in Japanese

A few people have asked me when my daughter actually started responding to commands, whether they were English or Japanese, and I’d have to say that it probably began around 11 months. Even though she didn’t necessarily understand what I was saying, both English and Japanese commands were given throughout the day from about 5 months on (though she was read to and listened to Japanese media in the background since birth). She didn’t seem interested in a lot of things at this stage either. She would flip through her board books (which she wouldn’t allow me to touch without protests), roll around some, play with some toys, and that was pretty much it. It was still eat, sleep, poop, and pee.

Babies Growing up with Multiple Languages

There are two important things to consider at this point however. The first being is that every baby is different. While my daughter didn’t start crawling till she was 9 months, she starting walking only one month later. Lots of babies begin crawling much sooner and walking much later. There is no magical day that will pass and cause your baby to instantly begin doing something. Don’t buy into the pressure of doctors telling you your child is to slow or to genius because time changes everything, and every baby as does every person, grow and develop differently.

You will find that if you expose your child to multiple spoken languages, it is very common for them to not speak until much later than babies who are only exposed to one. My darling has not spoken any other words than ‘mama’, ‘dada’ even now at 14 months. She does make a lot of sounds, ones that are both Japanese and English, however no distinction can be made at this point. I know a lot of worry warts out there would take this as a sign that their child was developing to slowly, as a good handful of kids can say a handful of things at 14 months, so I have to remain patient as she tries to figure out that she’s really hearing two separate languages.

Secondly, I’d like to also talk about a subject that is very near and dear to me. Will simply showing Japanese things, and speaking in Japanese to your kid teach them Japanese? After a great amount of research, I’m here to tell you the answer is usually a well documented No! Children are just smaller adults, in the end, we’re all really lazy. Kids just want to play, and take some easy routes. While learning and aquireing things that get them claps and cheering are fun too, they wont speak in Japanese down the road unless you force them to.

I was sitting in the old Burger Sling the other day when I noticed that a Spanish speaking father was talking to his son. The son on the other hand only replied in English. When the child answered wrong, the father would say in both Spanish and English why he was responding incorrectly. The kid just shrugged like ‘Whatever!’ I’m sure this kid grew up hearing both Spanish and English from his parents, but it was obvious that the kid was never forced to respond in Spanish, or simply the English route became much easier to use and the parents indulged in it. Usually only when the child is forced to communicate in both languages to survive, do they remain bilingual.

Sadly there are lots of really bad rumors out there saying that children will never develop language abilities at all, or it will cause stuttering, but this is complete heresay with no back-able studies or evidence to support it. If anything, most research claims that bilingual households simply allow the child to develop their cognitive abilities better, hence why a lot of toys now has the bare minimum of English and Spanish settings on it in America. Be raised in a bilingual home is not a free pass to absolute intelligence or god like language abilities for later in life either.

If you want your kid to be bilingual with you, it is very important at this point in their development to encourage responses in both languages, or even still, just the one they wont get as much exposure too in their surroundings as they get older. I encourage each of you as parents to research more on this route, as it is important decision to make, and a lot of your preparation from this point on would most likely change. My articles will continue in the spirit that you are not choosing to force your child into a bilingual status, but merely tips on how to study around the average developing child as if it were anything else like math or science.

As a side note, its late, i’m tired, and i’m sure the grammatical errors will be great and plenty. If my editor doesn’t get around to it, sorry for any hard understandings 😀




8 Responses to “Immersion with Your 5-12 Month Old”
  1. Ken says:

    Thanks for the great advice. My daughter will soon be 9 months old, and we are currently speaking 3 languages with her: Cantonese, Japanese, and English.

    • mikotoneko says:

      That is awesome! I would love it if you could keep me posted on how she begins to respond to the multiple languages. I’ve never done research on a trilingual household, so it sounds like fun. I’ll be coving 12-14 months soon (since i really can’t talk past 14 months as my daughter only reached that point now hehe), so come check it out then.

  2. Melissa says:

    I don’t have any kids yet, but I think I’d like my kid(s) to grow up in a bilingual (maybe trilingual) environment if possible when the time comes. (I grew up speaking Mandarin with my parents, and my husband, Cantonese with his parents, and we live in the U.S.)

    From what I’ve read, it’s easier for kids initially if they can separate the languages based on some sort of context. For example, person A interacts with them in language X, person B interacts with them in language Y, and the community interacts with them in language Z.

    I think the challenging part will be when your child discovers that you’re fluent in English. Unfortunately, English will then become their de facto language to use with you. In a bilingual household where the parents speak language A well but C not well (where C is the language of the community), it’s much easier to ensure the child will stick to A when speaking to the parents. If the parents are equally adept at both languages, then the child will probably still choose C eventually, but the parent should enforce sticking to A if he/she wants the child to speak A. If the parent is better at C than A (your case), I think it’ll be very hard to keep A going without some sort of outside immersion influence. I’m interested in how you handle this “rebellion” when/if you come up against it, so please do keep blogging =)

    The other thing I want to mention (but please don’t take it as any sort of discouragement on my part!)… I don’t know if it’s a good idea to speak to a child in a language that you yourself are not fluent in. This thought is entirely based my personal experience (well, actually, my two brothers’ experiences). My dad switched to speaking English with my brothers around 1st/2nd grade (at the “advice” of teachers who thought the bilingual household was hindering their English!). His English is imperfect and usually littered with grammatical mistakes. Unfortunately for my brothers, this exposure has had lingering effects even though they grew up in an English-speaking country. The question is why wasn’t I affected? I think it might be because I was already in my teens and had had plenty of “correct” exposure by that point in time. This is all speculation, of course. The sample size here is one (or two), and I don’t know if there is any related research or experiences by others, but I did want to mention my experience.

    Like I said, I hope you keep blogging about language learning and trying to raise a bilingual child. Sorry for writing a novel in your comments.

    • mikotoneko says:

      I actually do not speak Japanese that isn’t already confirmed by native sources to my daughter, (including pronunciation help). I did have the concern that I would teach her bad grammar and what not, so I sought help from my friends in Japan. Because of that, she only really hears limited things from me for now. While I am hoping to improve my speaking abilities more so this year, I’ll still keep myself in check with her.

      I plan to blog more about how she is responding to Japanese now soon.

      As for your brothers and you, I’m not sure if that is more of a case by case thing. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing a handful of friends who’ve raised kids bilingual, forcing themselves to speak English even though they themselves were really bad at it. It didn’t seem to effect any of their kids speech or pronunciation (some being older and some being really really young). But there might be ones out there who are affected by that like your brothers too. I’m not sure, since it isn’t something that I have researched. Most data out there on bilingual homes is assuming the two languages are both native to the parents.

      I love comments though, even if they’re novels, so keep em coming!

  3. Melissa says:

    My brothers actually sound just like any other native English speaker if you talk to them (no accents nor any “non-native quirks”). It was when I was reviewing their college application essays that I noticed they were making grammatical errors that they shouldn’t have been making. (There’s a 6+-year gap between us.) At the time, I found it odd but didn’t think much into it. Then, recently, the older one mentioned that he sometimes has a hard time articulating his thoughts, and has started wondering why that is. It’s through our discussions that we’ve deduced part of the cause being my father. But, this is all in retrospect and it’s not something we can confirm or disprove now. Of course, there are many other factors at work, too.

    And on second thought, it doesn’t really matter much in regards to raising your daughter, so sorry for bringing it up ^^;

    I did want to mention that reading your posts is inspiring — I hope I’ll be able to keep my language studies going as you have when we get to the babies stage ^^

    • mikotoneko says:

      That sounds really interesting, about your brothers. I wonder how they compare to other English speakers though in their ability to create grammatically correct English too. I’m sure you’re well aware of my little mess ups all the time! I know when graduating HS a few of my friends could not write or understand the difference between complete and run on sentences. I wonder if it is a problem with our school’s teaching methods, or if some just have a harder time with grammar than others.I think it is a little sad that we don’t have more data on those types of situations, but I do hope that your brother’s are able to get past what might be holding them back.
      I enjoyed your input concerning my daughter, and I always like to hear to hear tips and ideas about things concerning this subject as well, so please don’t feel bad or anything of the like!
      Also thank you for reading and your support! I know that sometimes it has felt rough to me, and I’ve been disappointed at myself for being unable to improve faster from time to time, but I think I’ve learned a lot more about how we learn watching her too.

  4. Daniel says:

    I’m a native English and Acadian French speaker, and I hope that our son will be too. Luckily there’s an Acadian school just up the road, and daycare there starts at 18 months 😮

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  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
    Placement: 20/41
    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
    blew my goal outta the water!

    March 2-Week:
    Goal: 125

    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

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