3 languages. 1 baby.
My son, ¼ Korean, ¼ American Caucasian, and ½ Turkish, was for the first time exposed to three languages in one setting. With my parents in town to visit and my mother-in-law still staying with us, he had his two grandmothers and his mommy, all looking over him and talking our sweet baby talk in English, Korean and Turkish.
He responds with his gurgles and coos – spoken in the universal language of uber-cute.
I can’t help but wonder what is going through his mind. It is said that newborns can distinguish speech from non-speech, and consonant sounds like /t/ vs. /d/, or /t/ vs. /k/. Most interestingly – infants can distinguish speech in their native languages from those of other languages.
So…what must he be thinking? Could he detect the different sounds, tones and inflections?
His first month of life he heard English and Korean. His second and third month, Turkish and English. English has extended throughout his entire life (all three and a half months of it), but he gets eight straight hours of Turkish, five days a week.
With the culmination of all three being used at once, I wonder if his language acquisition device was going into overdrive.
I only hope that I can continue to provide him with opportunities to learn Korean. The main requirements for learning languages are that the parents speak only their mother tongue to the baby (we’ve got that down); the child has some reason to learn the language (he lives in the U.S., he will be traveling to Turkey regularly and will communicate with his father in this way); and there is reinforcement of some kind for the languages outside of the home. My mother’s visits won’t be enough for him to learn Korean, so I’ll have to visit other opportunities later in his life.
In the meantime, I can give him exposure to playful songs and send him to a Korean class when he gets a little older. Perhaps when he’s a young man, he’ll want to stay in Korea for a few months on his own.
I wonder what my grown son will think when he reads this blog years from now, seeing the linguistic hopes his mother had for him.