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Esther's bilingual child recordings speaking English.

This child is Spanish by nationality and lives in Spain. The child's parents are both Spanish but her mother, Esther, who is following the conversations on this bilingual child forum, speaks English to her child continuously at home. Except for TV programmes that her child watches in English when possible, there is no other regular English input. Follow the child's progress over the next months.

27 September 2016

Mike says: Here, we are obviously talking about a competent user of the language. The language is delivered with fluency and with a large range of accurate and relevant vocabulary with very little evidence of L1 transfer. Caroline must be about 4 years and five months.


Caroline: Today we have a bag full of toys that I found up there so we are going to open it we have another box here so with lots of pieces so we are going to open this we are going to open first this. This is a puzzle when you find the two .... (something) two .... they are the same thing (It's a puzzle game where the pieces fit in pairs.) So we have, we can, we are going to open it. Wow! Look at this! ... There's lots of pieces and there's un puzzle and there's lots of pieces so we just need them to put them here and then we are going to do this puzzle ..... Another one! Where's the other one, mummy? And another one mummy?

Esther: I don't know, missing...

29th April 2016

Esther says: Just before her fourth birthday, Carolina was telling a story to her dollies. In fact, although she has a book in front of her, she's making up the story as she goes along. I was delighted with her!

Mike says: stories bring out the richest vocabulary from children - they're an invaluable resource and so attractive to children.


Caroline: "Once upon a time, there was one, one little piggy, doing her house, and the .... to house to the little piggies, with straw, the firs little piggie was doing a straw house, and the first little piggie, he was doing a straw house, and the first little piggie is making a very house house, and the next one, he was making a big big straw house.

And suddenly, the wolf come(s) out, and he was he was running and blow the house down (huff and puff) and the wolf running away, running away, and the wolf running.

And the third little piggie building the block (brick) house, he was, the wolf come(s) out, he was blowing so fast (huff and puff) and running away, and running away, and reach to the next house little pig, running away, running away, and blow, and blow (huff and puff). and then running away, running away, and the wolf (the pig) putting water, and the wolf had the bum very hot, and the story the end."


22nd March 2015
Age: Three years and ten months.

Esther says: Tell me whatever you want I said to Caroline... (and I switched on the tape recorder and she told me this lovely story about friendship...)


Caroline: The pencil is always sad because it's not good to play with her friends and he says (said) you, you, you, you can! You always have your friends and Milly and Yoshi is of the friends of Sisi (Silly)! The end.

(Just to add that I prompted her in no way at all and she just told me the first idea that came to her head - the names being totally invented - I have no idea where she got them from...)


10th June 2015.
Age: Three years and one month.

Self-directed speech in children.

The psycholinguist Laura Berk claimed that 20 to 60 percent of utterances made by children under ten are self-directed - talking to themselves. Why do children do this? Vygotsky claimed that this has cognitive benefits for the child; helping them to organize thoughts and language, which in later years will be internalised in silent thought. In fact, Berk took the importance of "private speech" further identifying several types and reasons for its use. One of these is "fantasy play" where the child role-plays stories and situations with toys and even creates sound effects for them. We can hear this happening here with Esther's daughter. However, what is fascinating is that the self-directed speech is being expressed in English! Her daughter has internalised English to such an extent, it surfaces in her vocalised thoughts. This must be a major battle won in encouraging a child's bilingualism.

Esther says: I recorded this while she was telling her teddy bears a story. She's not reading anything or following any prompts just turning the pages of an alphabet book. It's difficult to understand what she is saying but you can pick out some things; they're disjointed phrases with little meaning for anyone else except herself.

Story (listen)...

... and once upon a time there was a little rabbit 'cause' [called] Jorge! and says happa happa happy.....
... and says the kid 'I'm going to put on the (???)'  says the girl (turning the page) laallalallaalala
... says the man hahahhhha and we say we go to bed!!! says that girl mummy, go to bed now (???)
... no for [by] the hair of my chinny chin chin
off we go!

Here, the story continues...

Story 2...

... happy adventure... I'm going to the farm
...and says that girl You know it the frog is going to bed said the girl.
Nananana said the girl.

This Old Man (song)

This Old Man - listen...

This old man, he [played] two

he [played] knick knack on my foot [shoe]


this old man came rolling home

This old man, he [played] two

he [played] knick knack on my shoe


this old man came rolling home


14th March 2015.
Age: Two years and ten months.

"This was the first time we opened this book, as I've said before, Caroline doesn't like reading neither does she like being read to but I continue trying because I feel it's very important and it's useful input for her. However, there's no way; she won't let me read to her. The best I can do is talk about the pictures, and she tires almost immediately. What she likes is opening books, turning the pages and then closing them."

Listening 1...

Me: What? Let's see What's that? Yes? We have that?
Carolina: Yes.
Me: And that?
Carolina: Yes.
Me: Open it.
Carolina: Open it. Three little pigs, and the wolf!
Me: Where?
Carolina: Three little pigs. The wolf is there!
Me: Uy yes! what are they doing?
Carolina: [He] is playing a recorder.
Me: A recorder?
Carolina: Ohhh, it's finished, is finished, is finished.

Listening 2...

Me: What?
Carolina: That is a farmer.
Me: Farmer? And what's that? What is she wearing? What is she wearing?
Carolina: Is wearing, is wearing a hat.
Me: A hat, with what?
Carolina: With flowers.
Me: Yes, and here? What's that?
Carolina: Is a doggy.
Me: What's the doggy doing?
Carolina: Is, is, is playing with the ball.
Me: Yes, very good, and here? Ahhh what's that?
Carolina: Is a fish!
Me: A fish, yes. What is the fish doing?
Carolina: Is, is "swimming" on the water.
Me: Yes, splash, splash, splash. Yes!


10th December 2014.
Age: Two years and seven months.

For me, this is the most rewarding stage in our child's bilingual learning; when authentic communication takes place at a sentence level. This is indeed a milestone when this happens and a strong indication that the learning curve is ascending constantly upwards.

Carolina, where is yaya?

- Audio...

-Carolina, where is yaya?
-And and is coming for you
-Is yaya coming for you? oh great! and yayo?
-And ya and yayo and yayo coming
-Is yayo coming too?

Where are you going to go tomorrow?

Here, the mother helps her daughter switch to L2 by translating Carolina's Spanish utterance. A useful technique.

- Audio...

-Tell me Carolina, where are you going to go tomorrow?
-Al cole
-To school? No! tomorrow you are not going to school, tomorrow is Saturday
-Is Saturday!!
-Yes so where are you going to go?
-Yayo's house
-Yes, and what are you going to do there?
-To play with the toys and the cars
-And the cars? and whose cars are these?
-Andres cars? yes?


28th October 2014.
Age: 2 years and five months.

Esther's child increases her repertoire of English songs.

Personally speaking, I detect an advance in clarity of pronunciation compared to her previous songs.

Fingers song.

Fingers song - audio...

Father finger, father finger, where are you? here I am, here I am, How do you do?

The weather song.

Weather song - audio...

Before we started, the mother said "Can you sing 'head shoulder knees and toes?" but when she pushed the record button, her daughter replied:

"No, I want the cloud."

How's the weather? How's the weather? It's sunny! How's the weather? It's sunny! How's the weather? It's sunny! How's the weather today?


12th September 2014.
Age: 2 years and four months. 

More songs in English from this little diva.

Little monkeys song.

Little monkeys song - audio...

Two little monkeys jumping on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
(Mummy?) called the doctor and the doctor said,
No (more?) monkeys jumping on the bed.

Bingo song!

Bingo song! - audio...

There was a farmer had a dog and Bingo was his name-O
And Bingo was his name-O


28th July 2014.
Age: 2 years and two months.

ABC song.

ABC song - audio...

A, B C, D, E, F, G,
H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P
Q, R, S, T, U, V,
W, X, Y and Z.
Now I know my ABC.
Next time won't you sing with me.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star song.

Twinkle, twinkle song - audio...

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above (???) so high;
like a diamond in the sky,
like a diamond in the sky,
like a...


If you would like to comment on this or talk about your own experiences, upload your child's recordings speaking in English (or Spanish in the reverse situation), you can through our bilingual child forum in English or Spanish...


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