15 Months In and Not a Word Too Soon

mothernbabyFifteen months is an exciting time for parents and their little ones. In our house, we watch as our son has started to understand simple commands: “Can you throw this in the garbage?” “Can you put your toy back in here?” – and still debate over whether he has actually repeated words back to us in each respective language. This month, there’s three languages at play: English, Turkish, and Korean.

While for the past six months, his predominant language heard at home as been Turkish, this has changed for the last three weeks. Normally, he gets English only when I am home in the morning, evening and weekends, while his caretaker speaks only Turkish and his multimedia viewing is also only in Turkish. My mother has stepped in to watch him for one month, and thus, he has been inundated with more English and some sprinkling of Korean.

This is coming at a critical time when he has started imitating speech. He has been saying “mama” regularly for some time now, and “baba” is used intermittently. Our boy has never been early to reach his developmental milestones, always-arriving right on time or just after.

This throws people off sometimes, because where he does exceed average children—his size. He’s consistently been at or above the 99 percentile for height, so people often think he is a two-year-old with almost no words. During our last doctor’s visit, he said babies at 15 months typically speak about five words. Does he have five words? Nope.

When he spots an interesting object out of reach, he inquisitively would ask, “aaah, bu?” and expect you to explain what said object was. We weren’t sure if he was using as an utterance or actually asking “this?” in Turkish. Since he was using it exclusively when pointing at objects, we decided he really was using the word to ask, “this?” But in the last couple of weeks, that question has stopped. We even think it’s starting to sound like he’s saying, “dis?”

Because he is hearing Turkish so little now, we wonder if what he has learned so far has started to slip away. Or perhaps he is just stuck and can’t learn any more without the proper repetition. If he is speaking any Turkish words, it is unlikely that I will catch on to it. His comprehension seems to be strong still for some phrases: he will occasionally respond to “kiss” and “öp” with a peck on the cheek for said requester, but that may be from our hand gestures and not the word.

We aren’t too worried at this point, because his other, Turkish grandmother will be returning to watch him next month, followed by his normal Turkish-speaking caretaker.

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