Language Observation : Code Switching

Subject of  research : Our  own daughter

Age : By the time I am writing this, she is 2 years and 2 weeks old.

The purpose of the observation : To know whether consistency is the key factor of shaping the language development of a kid in a multilingual family.

The possible obstacles :

1. The environment that will influence her mastering Bahasa.

2.My consistency of using Bahasa when speaking to her.

The main goal :

1. To make her use Bahasa as a tool to communicate with me and her Indonesian family and friends.

2. To introduce the sense of belonging to Indonesia, as she is also an Indonesian. (She has dual citizenship until she is 18. Then she can decide whether she wants to be a German or Indonesian.)


Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have been actually doing a ‘secret’ research on the language development of our own daughter. I have been mostly writing the development on a special book called baby diary, but there are sometime when I forgot to note down the significant development on the book. This time, I am trying a new way: blogging it here. I find it interesting to do the research because my daughter (our daughter) comes from a bilingual family, and hears third language (English) passively. My husband’s family language is Deutsch (German), and mine is Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian).  It is interesting to notice her changing the language at different situations. Plus, it is just so cute, super duper cute to hear new words coming out of her little cute mouth. Every parent, and most especially mom will be amazed at how fantastic his or her children are at  absorbing, memorizing, and saying new words. I am always amazed at how my daughter remembers the words we (my husband and I) only say rarely, or even only once, then say them to our surprise. Yep! that’s why  you have to believe with the saying ;

Be careful with what you say in front of your children. They might come up with those words you think they won’t remember, in an unexpected time.

What happens most of the time is that the parents will say

‘Ha? who told you that? where did you hear the word from?’

I know our children might get the word from the surrounding, and has nothing to do with you. But, just so we all realize the fact that children’s brains are like sponge that can absorb and save data easily.
Alright, I am rather out of topic! In our home, I speak mostly English with my husband, but I sometime speak German and a little bit of Bahasa too with him. During our mealtime, like dinner and breakfast, or lunch at the weekend, we all sit together at the dining table while talking and listening to music. Our 2 year old daughther speaks very well. I mean she speaks both German and Indonesian very clearly. Her clear articulation and pronunciation make us easy to understand what she wants and what she is willing to say. She manages to ask a complete sentence, you know with Subject, Predicate, and Object. In short,she can involve  herself in our conversation during mealtime for example. It is like a tennis ball conversation, you get the ball and you hit the ball back. She listens to us while talking to each other in English, but that’s it. She is a passive listener. I’d say I speak 90% Bahasa, and the other 10 % is for different languages (English, Javanase, German, and Arabic). My husband of course speaks 99% Deutsch with her. If some of you ask why I use ‘many’ languages even only a little? Being someone coming from a country with many tribal languages, my tongue is used to saying the dialect too. It does not mean that my Bahasa is not good. It will be out of topic again, if I discuss the complexity of how Bahasa is formed. And what about English? well, I studied English, and I like this language, so yes it does affect my tongue a bit.

Here are some situations where she manages to switch her code:

1. Everytime she speaks with me, she uses Bahasa. Then, she uses German when she wants to engage a conversation with her dad. She knows a lot of words in Bahasa and German that describe the same things. For example;

– Buku (book), ein Buch  -Minum (to drink), trinken

She sometimes says the two words one after the other.

2. Our daughter has been joining some playgroups too. It goes without saying they speak German. She manages to not use Bahasa at all! She speaks Deutsch with her group. I have to say that my daughter is a super dupper friendly toddler. When we take a walk, she often greets people. In the elevator, she often tries to initiate conversation with the people inside the elevator like what happened the other day:

-Ich möchte nach Spielplatz gehen. ( I want to go to the park). zum spielen mit Mama (to play there with Mommy)

None of them responded! Have I told you that she speaks both languages very clearly? It is  not only I who claim this, but many people who have ever talked to her. She did repeat the saying once again, but still none responded, then the funny and cute part ….she turned to me and switched to bahasa by saying :

Bunda, orangnya tidak dengar! (Mom, the person did not hear me.).

In response to that statement, I laughed out hard.

In conclusion of the observation at this time of age: 2 years, 1 month, 2 weeks.

  1. She manages to distinguish the situation where she needs to use German and Bahasa.
  2. She knows a lot of words in Bahasa and German that describe the same things, and she manages to say those words one after the other.
  3. She often hears English, but she has not been saying any English words that much. Not that I say that she cannot. She can repeat some English words I say, but as I have mentioned before I use 90% Bahasa.
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3 responses to “Language Observation : Code Switching

  1. Pingback: Language Observation: Du musst schlafen, oder? | Lingua Franca·

  2. Pingback: Successful Tips for Bilingual Kids | The Pearl of Java·

  3. Pingback: Tips Menuju Anak Berbasis Bilingual | The Pearl of Java·

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