Before we moved to Perú, I was given some advice that would help me in learning this new language.  It was this: I must remember that I am a child.  Even though I have preached in hundreds of churches, when I arrived here to begin language school, I, just like a toddler, could barely ask where the bathroom was.  So, armed with this knowledge, I have studied my toddler to see how she learns to speak.

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Madelyn or “nutsy” as her mama calls her.

  1. Madelyn doesn’t care if people laugh at her funny sounds, words, or phrases.  Okay, so she doesn’t understand that people are laughing at her and she isn’t old enough to have arrived at a total sel-consciousness, but still it is a good lesson.  We laugh at her a lot.  She says the cutest things!  She says sentences backwards sometimes, or places a vowel in the wrong place.  She is quite the comic act.  In learning a language you will be laughed at.  Oh, how the people here have laughed at me!  Why?  Cause I say funny things, or I say things in a funny way.  You just have to forget about yourself.
  2. Madelyn listens a lot.  As a matter of fact she is listening all the time.  If you think about it, what percentage of a child’s first two years is spent talking?  Very little.  They spend much of their time listening.  I can tell you that Madelyn understands much more than she is able to communicate because she has been listening.  Her communication will come as her understanding grows.  Her understanding grows as she listens.  I have been told that I need to listen.  So I do.  I watch the news everyday, for 15-30 minutes.  One friend gave me the great idea of watching children’s programs.  They use simple words and easy phrases.  So I have been watching a lot of “Clifford the Big Red Dog” in Spanish.  I listen at church, writing down all the new words I hear, and look up their meanings after the service.
  3. Madelyn practices.  The other day we got in our car and Bethany said something, and Madelyn repeated her word for word.  She had no idea what it meant, but by repeating her sister she was practicing those sounds and placing those words in her mind.  She will hear a phrase and use it the next day, or right then.  She hears a word, repeats it, and then she uses it.  Its funny to watch, she will say the same word or sound over and over again.  She will practice while she is playing with her “peoples.”  One time Emily walked past her room and heard her say, “Hey! Wha you name?”  Emily looked in her room and Madelyn was holding a princess in one hand and a Fisher Price Little People in the other hand.  They were having a conversation.  That’s all Madelyn could say at the time, but she was practicing this phrase.

It’s always fun to watch your children learn and grow, but it has been helpful for me to watch Madelyn.  It has also been fun to watch her grow in two languages at the same time.  She can count to 19 in Spanish now; she can’t do that in English yet.