Yesterday I was lamenting to Dhurata that Illyria is still confused by aspects of language and grammar that I think she should have grasped by now, and Dhurata responded by pointing out how far she has come in a year. And it’s true. When we moved here, she wasn’t even making sentences – she finally started putting together subjects and predicates at 30 months. But now, closing in on four years of age in just a few months, she’s still confusing pronouns – referring to herself as “you,” and she thinks “me” means quite literally “mama” – and she doesn’t seem to understand some kinds of questions. She will answer “why” and either/or questions appropriately, but doesn’t seem to understand “what” questions. For example, she might say “Want Eeyore [Mama] tell Pooh [Illyria] a story” but when I ask “what story do you want?” She’ll answer “yes.” If I rephrase and ask “do you want Three Little Pigs, or Three Bears?” then she can answer that by choosing one, or suggesting yet another option, but it’s very consistent that she will fail to understand an open-ended “what?” or “which?”

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, or how to help her grasp these grammatical structures. I really want to have her evaluated by speech and developmental specialists when we get back to the States – another factor to put into the what-should-we-do-with-our-lives mix – so I can get a better idea of where she actually is, developmentally, and what I can do to help her more effectively.

She is finally starting to use articles, at last. Her speech and pronunciation are becoming clearer. Her grandparents report that even since September, they can understand her much better now than they could then. And in other ways she’s very quick to grasp concepts – she can read two-digit numbers and also count up to 100, and she’s very good at memory-matching games. She gets very involved in pretend play (as evidenced by her alter ego, Winnie the Pooh). She calls Dhurata “pretend Owl” (Dad is the real Owl). She has started drawing with markers, making happy faces with long arms and legs and flying hair. She adds big mouse ears to make them into cats. She knows the colors of the rainbow in order, knows upper case and lower case letters, can spell (both produce and recognize) Pooh, cat, Val, mama, sun, Dada, Babi (“dad” in Albanian), and others. She knows all the basic shapes, including the pentagon. It all seems amazing to me but at the same time I don’t know what kinds of things she is supposed to know at almost-four.

The bottom line is that I don’t know whether or how much I should be worried. What I should be researching. What I should be doing to help her get on track, so she won’t be behind when she starts school. And of course the social aspects are also a concern to me – particularly empathy. I don’t know how much of her selfishness is typical toddler ego and how much is indicative of potential problems down the road.


3 Responses to “Illyria”

  1. Rachel Says:

    Isn’t Illyria learning 3 languages plus doing some signing? If that is the case I can see why she may be having trouble grasping the pronouns or other parts of speech. It may be hard for her to figure out which rules apply to which language so she just says things the way she wants. I have heard that multi-lingual children often are delayed in speech but then catch up just fine.

    She is certainly more advanced in some areas than my son who is a few months older. He can only spell his own name and stop, but that is it. He is very confused about which letters make which sound. He can count to 29, but then he says 2010, 2011, etc.

    I don’t think you should worry since there isn’t much you can do about it anyway. Do what you can to make the best of the situation. Make sure you model good grammar to her, I often find that I refer to myself in the 3rd person to my kids. I also use the word “like” inappropriately and then get irritated when they do the same. Also, make sure that the books you read to her use good grammar, a lot of children’s books don’t.

    I can’t find a link at the moment, but you could do a google search for pre-kindergarten skills to see what your child is expected to know before entering kindergarten. The list for each state varies slightly, but are similar. My son is still 2 years away from beginning school and he already knows how to do much of the list. Of course there are some skills on the list that I think he may never know.

  2. Not on Fire Says:

    This may sound pompous, but research shows that children struggle with grammar in an environment where languages are mixed, particularly in the same conversation. They need to be exposed to a complete pattern. Could this be what is happening?

    • Elizabeth Says:

      I think it does have something to do with it; I guess I have the bad habit of comparing her to other kids I know who are being raised bilingually and seeing how much better they seem to do in both languages. I know I mix languages so I’ve ended up just going to English more often than not. It’s hard to know what to do sometimes, and harder to muster up the self-discipline to follow through consistently.

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