Quentin has grown a lot, he is the tallest and strongest in his kindergarten group. Physically he is a prodigy. When he zooms down the street on his running bike or his scooter, people turn around in surprise. Quentin is a clever and curious little boy, he has become quite social and plays beautifully with his sister.

On the language level, however, he is far behind his peers. His vocabulary is smaller, his syntax much simpler. While many of the kids in his kindergarten group are already talking in whole sentences, Quentin generally communicates by using single words, sounds and gestures.

Despite his limited language skills Quentin has become very keen on telling us what is happening around him. He often says: “Papa, guck” (German for: Daddy, look) or “Papa, da” (German for: Daddy, there) or he just points at things or pulls us by the hand to show something.

Often little Quentin finds beautiful ways of telling us things, such as: “Papa, down grrr” which meant that his wolf hand puppet (grrr) had fallen down. Another time he said: “Me giu, me dai Mama, me dai waaah, Mama away” I admit it might not be intelligible for an outsider straight away, but I understood immediately that Quentin went downstairs (me giu) said mom (me dai Mama; ‘dai’ being his own creation for ‘say’) and started crying (me dai wahh) because mom was away (mama away). Once when Quentin was sent to the naughty chair for misbehaving he said: “no nau(ghty) chair”.

Even though Quentin is linguistically behind his peers, I suppose there is nothing to worry about. First of all his passive understanding is good, which is the most important indicator for language progress. And then he is definitely making progress in his active speaking, only that it is rather a “slowly, slowly catchee monkey”-way and not a “language explosion”.

In German his new words are “mi” for “Milch” (German for: milk), “bo” for “Brot” (German for: bread) and “loller” for “Roller” (German for: scooter). He says “Tuer” (German for: door), “Zug” (German for: train), “Mu(e)ll” (German for: rubbish), “Hut” (German for: hat), “Tiger” (German for: tiger), “Kuh” (German for: cow)  “Eier” (German for: eggs), “Schuhe” (German for: shoes), “Hammer” (German for: hammer), “Helm” (German for: helmet), “hoch” (German for: up) and “Bauer” (German for: farmer) which he uses for farmer, tractor, farmhouse and so on.

In English, which is still Quentin’s preferred language, among his new words are “help”, “chair”, “bee”, “pig”, “apple”, “cow” “tome” (come) and “wheel”.

Italian is still Quentin’s weakest language, at least what concerns the active use. His first proper Italian word was “tappo” (Italian for: bottle top) at 2 years 2 months. Since then he has added “pane” (Italian for: bread), “ciccia” (Italian “salsiccia” for: sausage) and “atte”  (Italian “latte” for: milk).

Considering that Quentin’s vocabulary is still rather limited it is not surprising that also his syntax is simple. Children need to reach a critical mass of words before they can put them together to form longer phrases or sentences. Quentin usually says single words, but he comes up more often with more complex structures like “mio big car” (German-English for: my big car) or “more cheese”.

Quentin also used his first verbs: “Papa, tomm (komm) hoch” (German for: Daddy, come up) or “Papa Zug bau(e)n giù” (German, Italian for: daddy train build down; meaning that he wanted me to bring down his wooden train set and to build it up with him)

Finally I would like to come back to the topic of delayed language acquisition. Literature stresses that bilingual children usually start speaking later, so trilingual kids should be even more delayed. The only problem is that Quentin’s sister Scarlett was hardly delayed in her language acquisition. The simple explanation might be that all children are different, they all have their times and rhythms. It is said that Einstein started talking when he was three and then he had linguistically less on his plate than little Quentin.

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