Bilingual Baby at 18 months

I have honestly been trying to write this for ages.  I can't explain why I find this kind of post so hard to write when one of the main reasons I started this blog in the first place was to keep a record of Emma as she grows up; a place to store our memories.  Now that Emma is beginning to speak a little, I think it's important to write down her first words and early speech.  I know it's something I will want to remember in as much detail as possible.

Bilingual baby at 18 months

Although the actual words Emma uses are quite limited still, she's becoming so communicative.  She uses more noises and gestures than words at the moment, but always responds appropriately to what we say in both English and Spanish.  Sometimes it feels - to me - like a competition between the two languages.  I know it's not, of course, but you know, which does she understand more? Can she say more things in Spanish or English?

Right now I don't know if the answer is either or neither, and I'm sure it's pointless and irrelevant.  However, I do feel like I'm at a slight disadvantage, being completely outnumbered by Spanish-speakers!  When I say I there, I actually mean my language. Not the same thing, I must remember; although my language is in a minority, I will always be her mum and no language acquisition or lack of it will ever change that.

This is a whole new expression.  It means "all gone" and can be used with varying intonation depending on the context.  It started out as a triumphal "tada!" sort of expression, with a hands-turned-up gesture.  These days, it's usually more matter-of-fact - when she's finished her milk, the bowl is empty, etc.   The alternative (maybe original) and somewhat overlapping meaning is "more" ("más" in Spanish).

Daddy and potatoes
Daddy has two names: Papá and Dada.  He truly is daddy to Bilingual Baby!  Emma uses the word Dada when she's talking to me.  I first remember her saying it when we were still living in the old house, it must have been April or May.  She would pick up the phone and put it up to her ear, or at least the side of her head, and I would ask her "Who are you talking to?"  She answers in her little high-pitched voice: "Dada".  So cute.  When we're waiting for him to come home in the evening and we hear the car pull into the drive, she turns to me and says "Dada".
She has also been known to point at a potato and say "papa" - Mexican Spanish for potato.

No means no?
No started some months ago in the form of going up to the plug socket, waving her index finger at it and saying "nenenenene" (This was reassuring!).  Then "ne-ne" somehow morphed into "ma-ma", Still with the finger waggle.  These days, it's often just a defiant "ma", with a shake of the head or sometimes a wag of the finger.  She's reached the stage now of saying no to everything first and being rather pleased with her little rebellion!

Always accompanied by a strong nod of the head.  It's often hard to tell whether Emma's saying yes or si, or an amalgam of the two, other times it's quite clearly one or the other.  Over the summer she was beginning to say a quite distinct "yes", but now after spending so much time with her Mexican grandmother again, the Spanish affirmative is more dominant.  She pronounces it "shee", and nods at the same time.  I think she also interpretes its meaning as "I want"... Last night, somewhat overtired, she got out a packet of bread from the cupboard and walked towards me looking really happy, holding the bread, saying "shee, shee" and nodding her head!  I had to give in and let her have a piece.

She has recently started saying "ba-ba" when she sees me preparing her banana at breakfast time.
Papaya - another breakfast favourite - is "pa-pa" (not to be confused with daddy or potato!).  The other day she was copying me saying the word "fruit"; she managed the first sound "fff".

Other food
Cheese (one of her favourite foods) is pronounced "chz" or "chiz".  After pointing out the chicken on her plate and naming it, she copies me by saying "chi-chi".  One of her earliest words several months ago was the Spanish for bread, "pan", pronounced by Emma as "pa".

"Ba" excitedly pointing to a ball left on the grass.

Sometimes she lets me know when she's done a poo, saying very daintily "poo-poo".  However, it doesn't always turn out to be true!

One of her favourite things.  She calls them something like "tiss".

This is Spanish for "little girl" and is used to refer to all girls, dolls and even to refer to her grandmother - when prompted with the question "quien soy yo?" (Who am I?), she answers "nena" in her sweet little voice.

This is a new acquisition, from having heard this expression so much.  In Spanish it means "now" or "enough" ... "Ya ya ya!"

"Where? hands"
Emma lifts her hands palms-up to ask where something is, or even where she is (her head covered by a blanket but her hands asking the question!).  This gesture is always accompanied by a little interrogative noise.

bilingual baby at 18 months

Sound effects
  • Noise-words like "pop!", "bom!", "bam!" and "pow!" when popping bubbles, bashing and dropping things.  
  • Blowing raspberries - always funny.  
  • Kisses - very cute. 
  • Instead of saying "shsh" to hush, she puts a finger to her lips and whispers "hah", usually to tell us her toys are asleep, or as soon as I start singing The Wheels on the Bus.
  • Making the noise of the water coming out of the shower, complete with hand movements; pshsh.  
  • Animal sounds; dog, duck, cat, cow, monkey... I especially love her exceedingly quiet lion and tiger: a whispered "aaarh"!
  • Cars, buses and motorbikes all go "mmmmmm".  Buses are pointed out with great excitement!
I guess this list is probably not that interesting for anyone else, so I'm writing it mostly for me.  I just want to make sure I don't forget any of these little things.

Seychelles Mama
The List


  1. My three sons are bilingual with Dutch and English. They have been through so many different phases when it comes to the dominant language. Whilst they were home with me, before school, their English was dominant. Once school started their Dutch leapt to the fore and now it's a battle to get them speaking and watching things in English because it's of course easier in Dutch....however they do well! It's a real gift for our kids to speak different languages.

    1. I suppose the dominant language is the one that surrounds them most of the time - this is going to be the case with Spanish for my little one. I think I'll need to work harder to keep her practising English once she starts school and get her as much exposure to the language as possible . Thanks for visiting!

  2. This is so sweet & really interesting! I'm confused about the daddies, potatoes, and papaya, but I'm sure context helps! My littles like to report non existent poos too! Weird. Interesting to consider whether, and why, bilingual little ones might favour one language they are learning over another. I always remember that I had a French teacher who was actually French in Y9. She was married to an English man, and had a young toddler they were raising bilingual. There was one day she had to bring the little girl to a class after some kind of childcare issue. Depressingly that 2 year old spoke much better French than we did after 3 years! #TheList

    1. With daddy, potato and papaya, the context usually makes it pretty clear what she means! The problem is when she uses the same word for something completely different - that's when it gets a little confusing! Is she just using the words she already knows to refer to things she doesn't know how to say? Emma is surrounded by much more Spanish than English, so she'll probably grow up speaking more Spanish in her everyday life. Just hope I can convince her to speak in English at least with me and her English-speaking relatives. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Oh I love this list!! posts like this are the reason I write my blog, the posts I look back on the most :)
    Sounds like she's doing so well with her speech, I think raising a bilingual baby must be a big challenge and at times frustrating but what an amazing gift to be giving her!!
    Thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily

    1. Thanks so much! I want to write down every little detail as I know I tend to forget things if I don't, which is very frustrating! I guess we're only just starting with the bilingual journey - we still have the biggest challenges ahead! Thanks for hosting!

  4. She is so clever! I think it is wonderful for kids to grow up bilingual. Thanks for linking up to #TheList x

    1. It's a challenge but I think it's worth it. Thanks for hosting!