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

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:

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.

A plot showing the number of words my third son could speak as a function of age.

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’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.

The Words

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.

A plot showing the third words my son could speak as a function of age.

Here is a selection of fun words Ash learned:

Other Writings on Language Development

If you enjoyed this article, here are all the other articles I wrote about language development!

Comparison of My Three Sons' 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.
Comparison of My Two Sons' Language Development
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's Language Development
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's Language Development
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!