The most exciting thing that's been happening over the last few months is Emilia's speech development.
I think one of the reasons why i'm extra excited about this much anticipated milestone is because she was a late talker.
We are raising Emilia bilingually with both the English and German language. We are using the one parent one language method, so I speak to her only in English and Rob speaks to her only in German. She also has regular exposure to the Polish language through her Oma and Opa who we see a few times a week. Rob and I speak to each other in English and Emilia and I spend time during the week with other native English speaking mamas and their children, so she is getting constant exposure to the English language.
We live in Germany which means the minute we step out the door she is surround by the German language and she also hears me speaking German everyday when we are out and about, which I imagine is all a bit confusing for her! She hears her papa speaking Polish with his parents, I communicate with my in-laws in German and they speak to her in a mixture of Polish and German. If I've just totally confused you then imagine how much information she is having to process in her little head!
At 17 months she was saying only a very small handful of recognizable words but could understand almost everything we said to her in both English and German. We did everything possible to encourage her speech development and read to her multiple times a day, but she just didn't seem interested in speaking. We were reassured by our pediatrician at her routine checkup that she was developing normally for a bilingual child and that she would speak when she was ready. This put our minds at ease and we just continued to encourage her speech development in a fun, relaxed, natural way without putting any pressure on her. Just after Emilia turned 18 months she had a language explosion and is now chatting so much. It felt like her language just suddenly developed over night, when in reality she had been observing and collecting all of the information her her brain for a long time, waiting for the time when she felt ready to speak. At first she seemed to be favoring German possibly because she recognized that it was the surrounding language, but now she's saying an equal amount of words in both English and German and is just starting to put words together.
Sometimes Rob and I will accidentally slip up and he will speak to her in English or I will speak to her in German and she doesn't like it it at all. If I slip up she will say to me ''No, papa!'' meaning no that's papa's language not yours! I find it fascinating that she has already distinguished the difference between the two languages and she can quickly tell if we aren't speaking the right language to her. It's so true that toddlers brains are like little sponges and they understand far more than we give them credit for.
I feel very lucky to have an amazing group of friends here in Germany who are also raising their children bilingually, so we get to share stories and exchange all sorts of tips and advice. It fascinates me just how differently each child develops, especially when it comes to reaching milestones. It is commonly known that children who are raised bilingually sometimes experience speech delay and although some of the bilingual children in our English speaking group were late speakers like Emilia, others actually spoke early. When Emilia was hardly saying a single word and I saw other kids her age talking up a storm I must admit I was a little worried, but looking back now I had absolutely nothing to worry about. I think it's so important not to push milestones and put any type of pressure on children, because more often than not they will reach their milestones when they are ready not when you think they should be ready. Small children learn best in stress free relaxed environments so if they feel any type of pressure to perform they often just shut off, which can actually stunt their development.
I am so envious of anyone who was raised bilingually because the process of learning a foreign language from scratch as an adult is a whole different ball game, trust me i'm speaking from experience!
So far my biggest advice to parents raising their children bilingually is to be consistent, patient and don't give up. You're giving your child an extraordinary gift which they will be extremely grateful for later in life.