Lately, we’ve noticed that Little Bean has started to express herself more vocally, sometimes in a way that we adults seem to understand. I guess after being immersed in one or two languages for a little over a year, she can start to communicate, even though she has already understood us much sooner and much more than what her parents make of her babbling (though, parents tend to figure out their babies types of cries early on, such as I’m hungry, I’m sleepy, don’t-abandon-me).
When people ask what her first word was, I always think – do they mean her first syllable that sounds like a word that we know, or a word that she actually means? She often seems to say words that we recognize as words, sometimes identifying them correctly, but other times they seem nonsensical. I do wonder if Chinese babies have an easier time learning to speak their first words because baby words tend to be in syllables of two (of the same words), and if they miss the inflection, the parents often have other contextual cues to figure out what they mean.
In addition to the “oooh” and the “woooah”s she’s had early on, her “vocabulary” seems to encompass the following:
- Lifts both hands to show she wants you to pick her up
- Ma-ma: meaning mama, mommy…though I wonder if she distinguishes the inflections or gets confused sometimes about why a horsey doesn’t look like her mother
- Mum-mum: food
- Nai-nai (and the ASL sign for it – like milking a cow, yes): milk
- Bye-bye, often accompanied with an up and down wave with some wrist-movement
- Finishing a gulp of water or milk with ahhh, a sign of tastiness
- A side-to-side wave to signal hi
- Waves two hands to signal all-done (with her meal usually)
- Vigorously shakes her head sideways: no, she doesn’t want whatever you’re trying to give her
- Points or lifts her hands up to direct your attention to whatever she’s pointing out
- And lately, almost everything is woah-woah but her inflections change slightly when she refers to an actual woh-woh, a doggie
- Knowing that she can blow bubbles and smack her lips, I tried to show her how to blow a kiss with her own hand, and surprisingly, she was also quick to pick up on it!
I’m sure the list will expand even more quite soon – maybe I’ll keep it updated as we start to figure out more of her baby language.