14 Jun

In April my daughter and I went to Greece to visit family and friends. I spoke to them in Greek but I continued to talk to my daughter in French, switching between the two. It was the first time she was exposed to this language as much. I have tried to speak to her in Greek but as I wrote in my post, Only French, I’ve never managed to do it properly. French had taken over for good.

On the third day at my father’s house, she repeated a few simple words like nai (yes), pame (let’s go), and papaki (duck). She showed interest in the language, and by time we left she was saying another 5-6 words clearly.As we were leaving Greece I promised myself I would introduce more Greek to her, read Greek books more often, and listen to more Greek music. I was highly motivated.

Only a few days after we arrived in China I took out one of the Greek books I used to read to her before our trip and I asked her, “Do you want to read this one?” She looked at the book and answered distinctly:


 I wasn’t expecting this. At first, I thought it was a coincidence, but after reading that book, I picked a French one and asked her the same question, “Do you want to read this one now?” She simply nodded her head,  her usual way of saying yes. I took the Greek book once again, and asked the same question.

Again, she said, “nai”.

I was amazed. She clearly associated this particular book with Greek.

A couple of days ago, I needed to call a friend in Greece.
I usually wait until my daughter is asleep before I call him. Like most people in Greece right now, he’s going through a lot, and I want to really listen and focus on the conversation.

 I had to call him early for the update on his situation. I talked to him for less than a minute when I tensed up. Things are looking bad for him. When our conversation was over, I finally turned toward my daughter to try to understand what she wanted from me. Although I was focused on the conversation I could feel her following me around, repeating, “ek, ek, ek.”

She was holding the Greek book in her hands.

It had been almost a month since I read it to her or even since I spoke Greek in front of her. She wanted me to read it to her right then.

Ek for Grec; for Greek.

My daughter is associating the sounds of the Greek language to a book I read to her. It’s a sentimental association.
That’s how she has “organized” and labeled Greek in her mind.

How do your bilingual / multilingual children organize their languages and thoughts?
Is it only according to the person they are talking to, or are there other associations?


Born in Greece, I grew up in a bilingual French / Greek environment. I lived between Greece, Africa and France. My husband, “I”, French of Lebanese and Syrian origin is also multilingual: French/English/Arabic, and has lived in France, Africa and Canada. Our little girl “N” was born in China in 2011.

5 Responses to “Ek-ek-ek”

  1. RENUKA June 14, 2012 at 10:40 pm #

    It pays off most often, your perseverance towards wanting her to learn the language and her perception of how badly you want her to do it.Kudos to you! Kids are so much more sensitive than we give them credit for.
    But to answer your question I have not consciously tried to introduce bilingualism to either of my children but I see my one yr old and my almost four year old very curiously picking up words in Tamil my mother tongue, and chinese now. My daughter repeats actions that my ayi has taught her in chinese and she repeats words that use frequently in my mother tongue of course English is picked up by sheer accidental overuse.
    So I think it is by association and feedback. Language has strong foundations on feedback when trying to communicate in any form feedback is key.I don’t know if this answers your question,I will have to dig up some of my old textbooks on how communication is developed in bilingual learners for some solid research based evidence.

    • pascalinap June 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Thank you for your comment Renuka 🙂
      Is in it wonderful to see them discover new words? Talking joy in repeating them around and test the effect on us?
      I was really surprised my daugter was able to understand that I was talking in a different language and managed to show me witch one.
      If you find any interesting research please share I would love to read it!

  2. W.S. June 16, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    Children are really amazing! My daughter is too young to speak yet, but we are eagerly awaiting to hear what language her first words will be in. I speak to her in English, her father in Japanese. I have heard friends say that making associations with certain activities in certain languages is common with children.

    • pascalinap June 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

      Thank you for your comment W.S!
      I read in a study that when tested in the first few months of their lives babies show a preference for their mother’s voice and language over other languages, so usually their first few words are in the mother’s language.

      There is a very good blog about One Parent One Language families : http://onraisingbilingualchildren.com/


  1. Transform Your Day With a Few Words | Parenting Coach For Parents Of Special Needs Children - June 15, 2012

    […] Action – LightLove LanguagesLove And LightSmall words bring BIG rewardsWays to make work funEk-ek-ek var _gaq = [['_setAccount','UA-16336519-7'],['_trackPageview']];(function() { var ga = […]

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