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11 September 2014 @ 04:45 pm
three and a half months later  
Reading that previous post back, it seems like an awfully long time ago. Since then, plenty has happened: Alex has a acquired a brother and we've had a long break in Slovenia and Croatia.

Alex also no longer has time for makes of cars or planes. He's gone on to much more sophisticated things like mechanical diggers and bulldozers. Happily this appears to be a time of huge building works here in Luxembourg so there's never any shortage of heavy machinery to pick out.

While we were in Croatia some friends came to join us for a few days. Their little boy is a year or so older than Alex and he showed that the next stage is not just to point things out but also to ask what they are, what they do and why they're there. It was a vision of the future. But for now it's just 'daddy digger!' or simply 'daddy man!' Yes, his desire to point everything out includes telling us that there's a bloke over there. It's very endearing.

Mateja pointed out the other day how simple it is in English to pile up nouns and make utterances. For example, there's a lorry that's often parked near us delivering cheese and other dairy products. Alex and I have got into habit of seeing it and shouting "cheese lorry!" - something that's doable in Slovene but with some inflections required. Another nice example we've come to use a lot recently is putting the word man or lady after a noun to make, say, 'donut man', 'trampoline man' or 'pizza lady'.

Alex's first proper complex sentence was when we told him his grandparents had gone back to London by plane. Since then he's said, usually when he sees a plane, 'Papu Nana back London by plane'. He developed similar sentences when we were in Slovenia to say, in Slovene, that daddy had gone to Ljubljana by train and dedi (his grandpa) worked in the town of Dobava.

His Slovene came on incredibly well while we were away. Not just the vocabulary, which he takes in so easily, and which he wants to repeat and get used to, but also the little particle words that, as a learner of Slovene, I find so tricky. The word 'pa' for example is extremely common and is just dropped into everyday speech 'to add colour', as my first Slovene teacher put it. Not that this helped us to grasp why it was used, but I digress. Alex is learning chunks of language at a time, and not just individual words. Take the difference between knowing that home is 'doma' and being able to say (with a perfectly executed 'pa') "pa smo doma"! It's impressive. Another thing about learning in chunks is that the grammar just flows and makes me - a decent language learner - quite envious. I'll give you an example: on holiday, when the tide was out there was no more water in the little rockpool he'd come to like. "Ni vec bazena" said Alex (= there's no more pool). I can assure you that this sentence contains quite a lot of grammatical knowledge.

Thinking back to that post in May, not only can Alex now say 'big'/'velik' he can also say 'THIS big' and even 'THIIIISSS big'! In other words, he's able to add intensity and expressiveness that wasn't there before. Sometimes this just means shouting louder but he's also capable of speaking quietly to say what's on his mind in a more subtle manner. Where we were staying on holiday there was a church nearby, and whenever we heard the bells Alex would stop, look at me, nod, point upwards and say 'bells', sometimes in such an undertone it was inaudible. I found this charming.

Alex's pronunciation in both languages is very good, and he's capable of aping our intonation very accurately. There are of course plenty of things he can't say correctly yet, and it's up to us to work out what he means. For example, he has difficulty with consonant clusters, so the s is dropped if it's followed by another consonant: spiderman becomes 'piderman' and, amusingly, in Slovene skakat (= to jump) is pronounced kakat (= to poo).

We're entertained by the fact that he's memorised the names of musical instruments in both languages. Not only that, he can more or less identify them whenever he hears them. On holiday we were walking through a nearby holiday camp when we saw a chap playing the accordion. We watched him play for a while. Several times after that he would repeat 'accordion man' at seemingly random moments. A week or so later, Alex called me and his mum a few minutes after we put him to bed. Our first reaction was 'it's night time, go to sleep' but he was calling very insistently so I went to see what was up. 'Daddy, accordion!' He was right, there was accordion music drifting over from the holiday camp. So I took him onto the balcony and we listened together for a few minutes.

Alex sings now, too. He's memorised the alphabet song (to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle) and knows most of Baa baa black sheep well enough to recite. He's starting to become aware of what a birthday is, now he's had his second, and he spent much of the summer singing 'Happy Doo Day'. I caught him singing Three Little Birds by Bob Marley and the Wailers along with me the other day (my baby-calming song of choice) so it isn't just children's songs.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Alex's language acquisition is that he comes up to his mum and her family and speaks Slovene and when he's with me words pop out in English. The first time this became apparent was when we were having fish for dinner. Alex said 'daddy fish, mami riba'. I know this is how it is supposed to happen but it really is amazing to observe this at close quarters.

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random useful expressions picked up recently:
- 'one': this one, that's a good one, daddy Alex have one? etc
- 'it' - found it, daddy do it, can do it [and just today] done it!
- a bunch of adjectives: big [no more ggggg], good, wet, dry, hot, cold, sharp, heavy
- a smattering of verbs: cry, drive, have, go, play, pay
- a couple of question words: what and where. He doesn't know how to say 'I don't know' but he's great at shrugging!
- one particularly delightful sentence: bakery buy some bread mummy happy