My Third Son's Language Development
My Third son, Ash, was born in the fall of 2019. Like my first and second sons, we tracked Ash’s language development to monitor how quickly he was picking up the different languages we speak.
The data was collected in the same manner as last two times. One difference was that Ash learned to speak during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we were much more isolated from family and the rest of the world, but also I was working from home so it was easier to enter my own data rather than have my wife text me when Ash said a new word.
The main difficulties in data collection were the same though:
- Deciding when Ash had associated a sound with a concept as opposed to just babbling.
- Deciding if Ash “knew” a word or was just repeating a sound he had just heard.
You can find the Jupyter notebook used to perform this analysis here (rendered on Github). The data can be found here.
Ash’s first word was “milk” in Cantonese, spoken at 13 months old. Milk was something he loved back then and the word is still in frequent use. He often demands “milk milk milk” while shoving his empty cup towards us. His second word was “mom” in Cantonese and his third word was “dad” in English. Unlike my other children, Ash didn’t start using the Cantonese word for “dad” until very late. He preferred his own pidgin where he would simply use the English word “dad” in an otherwise Cantonese phrase.
Ash learned a few words of baby sign language, but unlike his other brothers was not too interested in learning much.
Ash’s language development is plotted below, showing the number of words he could speak in each “language” as a function of how old he was.
Ash picked up English and Cantonese at roughly the same rate, with Cantonese leading in the number of words spoken until he was 23 months old when he started speaking more English. I suspect the reason his English learning outpaced his Cantonese is because I was working from home during the pandemic. This had two effects:
- Ash got a lot more exposure to my wife and other sons speaking to me in English, and more time listening to me talk to him.
- I was able to record new English words he was speaking, but since my Cantonese is bad (really bad) I could not do the same for it and so relied on my wife. This made it more likely that I would write down a new English word while missing more Cantonese words.
Ash’s language development really took off at 17 or 18 months of age and went nearly vertical at 23 months. During his 23rd month he doubled the number of English words he knew to about 100 and overtook the number of Cantonese words, which climbed more slowly.
Ash’s Spanish development has been slow. He has had plenty of time with my parents (who both speak Spanish) but not much alone time with them. He normally visits with his older brothers who speak mostly English to my parents now, which has reduced Ash’s exposure to Spanish. Ash also did not love Spanish cartoons, which is older brothers did at his age.
I plotted a selection of some of ash’s first words in each language below. Notice that I have switched to a log plot for the y-axis to better show the beginnings of each language.
Here is a selection of fun words Ash learned:
- Google (English): Like all my sons, Ash was fascinated by the Google Homes we have everywhere. It will be interesting to see how their concept of Google evolves over time. To me it is the search engine company, to them it is the little black speaker that sits on the shelf and has a personality.
- Gondola (English): All three boys love the gondolas at the Oakland Zoo. Ash learned to say “ganda” very quickly to indicate that he wanted to ride.
- Cookie (Spanish): All three boys learned to say cookie in Spanish very quickly because my parents give them cookies when they visit. Ash actually tells us that “cookie” in English is wrong and still only calls them “gagas”.
- Hulk (Animal Sounds): Cory loves Hulk and has a large action figure he plays with. Ash learned from Cory that Hulk makes a roaring sound while smashing things and would mimic it while playing with the toy.
- Little Brother and Big Brother (Chinese): Ash learned how to identify his brothers very quickly, mainly to complain to us when they took his toys!
Other Writings on Language Development
If you enjoyed this article, here are all the other articles I wrote about language development!
I recorded the words my sons spoke as they learned our various languages and now I compare how each developed! Read on to find out how each son learned.
Being a nerd dad, I recorded all the words my first two sons spoke as they learned them. Now, I compare their language development rate!
My second son is a little over two years old. We tracked every word he's spoken to watch his language development, and now you can observe it too!
My son is a little over two and unfortunately he has two huge nerds for parents. We tracked every word he's spoken to watch his language development, and now you can join us!