Thursday, April 30, 2015

Amazing Language Development

Ivelina's language development has been the most amazing thing to witness. I imagine her whole world has been transformed by this language acquisition that has taken place so rapidly over the past 10 months. I am so proud of her and so happy to finally be speaking all English around here. If you have or are getting ready to bring home a child from another country, here's a little timeline of how some of this development took place + a few pics just for fun.

June 2014 -
  • Ivelina knew zero English. In fact, her Bulgarian communication was not really that strong either. We didn't know any better, but our translators said she spoke a very garbled Bulgarian.  Tone was very sharp and loud.
  • After being home one week, I counted ten English words she was already using. She was only using one English word at a time. "Snack," "Bye-bye," "pool," "block," and "chicken" were among some of her first words.
  • She watched and still watches the old show "Emergency," which helped teach her about emergency workers and helped her learn some new words too.

July 2014 -
  •  She began putting together small 2-3 word phrases. "Clean up," "Little bit," and " five minutes" were some of her first 2-word phrases. "Close your eyes" was the first 3 word phrase she used.
  • She began to sing along with just a few letters of the alphabet song. "Q, R, S" was the first series of letters she would say during the song. 
  • We began library visits and while she mostly checked out board books featuring babies, that was okay. The library has proved to be one of the best things we have done for Ivie's language development. 

August 2014 -
  • I wrote in my journal that she was saying too many words and phrases to count. Around this time, she began sleeping more. 10+ hours at night plus sleeping during afternoon nap time. This lasted for a few weeks before easing off. This coincided with a language explosion!  I'm sure her little brain was worn out and needed more rest during this time. Literally everything she had heard, smelled, seen, and tasted was new, and I'm sure that amazing brain of hers was on complete overload.

 September 2014 -
  • Ivelina began home school.  Everything was struggle. It took about two months to just get her in the routine of doing school each day. It was like teaching a toddler in an 8 year old body. SO demanding and tiring for us all. However, her vocabulary continued to grow and develop nicely. She was using all sorts of medical terminology and started to learn parts of the body as well. 
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood became the only kids show she would really watch. Boy has that show been great for vocabulary, life lessons, songs. I still reference some lesson or some jingle from that show every day

October  2014 -
  • Ivelina gained an interest in the human body. She picked up all sorts of new anatomy terms like patella, skull, vein, artery, brain, ribs, skeleton, etc. She was also learning all about different kinds of animals and retaining tons of new vocabulary from non-fiction animal books like predator, prey, hunt, tusks, claws, stripes, fur coat, etc. She loved and still loves songs, but she could only really chime in on the last word of a phrase. She was listening and enjoying the beats though.
  • Ivie knew 7 letter sounds! She could form 3 letters (H, T, E) without help. She could recognize 12 lower case and 18 upper case letters!
  • Ivelina learned a little prayer she could say before meals.
  • By this time, I would say she genuinely loved read aloud time before bed each night. We started this habit very early on even while we were still in Bulgaria with her, but it took her quite a while to gain interest.
  • Probably speaking about 50/50 Bulgarian and English at home. Reverts back to using more Bulgarian when around new people or places though. 

November 2014 -
  • She seemed to go through another one of those tired phases again as we moved from October to November. I'm sure her brain was going through another swell of language learning. 
  • Vocabulary continued to swell at an amazing rate as Ivelina became more interested in space. She was learning all sorts of new information from non-fiction space books. She was saying the names of planets and knew all about Neil Armstrong, Tim Collins, and Buzz Aldrin. She also learned a new set of vocabulary words like orbit, planet, moon, gravity, gas, satellite, etc. 
  • We also started working with her on phrases like "May I have a ____?" and "Thank you for ___" and "Please help me ____"  She was already stringing together long phrases by this point, but her requests tended to be bossy and her speaking manners were lacking. She picked up on these pretty quickly.
  • She also started asking us randomly what letter different objects started with. At meals she would just name thing after thing wanting us to tell her what it started with.  

December 2014 -
  • We started reading Bible stories during Advent season which sparked a whole new vocabulary set as she learned about the birth of Jesus. She also began watching a few more movies, and it seemed like she could actually follow along with the plot. Many movies lost her interest, but Dolphin Tale was a winner! That was the first movie she would sit all the way through without moving. This sparked a huge interest in dolphins and marine life. Right before Christmas, she became really interested in scuba divers, probably because the suit is irresistible to her. Of course, for every new interest, we check out every book from the library that we can find on the topic. She knows all the parts of a scuba diver's suit as well as all the parts of a dolphin.  
  • She began using some practical phrases when we were out and about like "Hi, how are you today?" and she learned to answer simple questions about herself like the answer to "What's your name" and "How old are you?"
  • For LOTS of words, she would say the word consecutively in Bulgarian and English like this phrase looking for her shoes: "Kade shoe obuvki?"  Also this phrase stating that she is thirsty: "As jhadna thirsty."
January 2015-
  • Ivie knew 12 letter sounds. She could form 15 letters independently, some upper and some lower case. She recognized 23 upper case letters and 16 lower case letters. 
  • We started reading a family Bible story in the morning and asking her comprehension questions. She also started a short independent reading time each day.  She began memorizing parts of books that she liked, and had become quite comfortable with our library visits. By this time, our Saturday morning library visits had become a tradition and she had become very comfortable with where all her favorite sections were. I used to have to drag her away from the stuffed animals to help me choose books, but by this time, she was mostly just sitting on the floor with a pile of books around her flipping through the pages the entire time. 
February/March 2015-
  • Using about 80% English by this point. She would still tend to use a bit more Bulgarian when around new people or places. Using very long phrases. Can sing along with some songs now and parts of songs. Knows the whole abc song. Can watch 30 minute cartoons and understand the plot. Has many favorite books and topics to read about. 

April 2015-
  • I would say Ivelina is using about 95% English at home. She still has some phrases and words she is holding onto from her first language like "Iska" for I want, "tuk" for here, and "chi-cho" for man. Occasionally I hear her say an old Bulgarian word or phrase, and I can tell she has almost forgotten how to say it. Her English pronunciation needs lots of improvement, but it is better than her Bulgarian pronunciation at this point. She can speak in long sentences now. Her vocabulary is out of this world in my opinion, and she has such a readiness to read!  That'll be our big project next year in school-- get this girl reading!  
  • She knows 25 letter sounds and can write 29 letters independently. She knows 100% of her upper case letters and can recognize all the lower case letters accept p, b, d, and q.  Boy, those 4 are tricky!
  • She can sing some songs all the way through, and she has memorized 3 Bible verses that she can recite verbally.
  • She also has some English words that really tickle her funny bone for some reason. Beautiful, bushel, bully, and old woman are among some of the words that are silly to her.  lol
  • Ivelina just had another evaluation for speech services today in our home. Even though we plan to home school again next year, we hope to use speech services this summer and during the year at our local public school. She continues to need help with articulation.

The progress she has gone through language-wise never ceases to amaze me! What a resilient and powerful thing this child's brain must be to be able to complete such a huge transition in such a short period of time. The speech teacher today had not seen her since October and seconded the amazing progress she has made in her language.  Language is just one of many facets of Ivelina that has transformed over the past 10 months. We are so proud of Ivelina for how brave, quirky, unique, and smart she is!

Thanks for reading,



  1. What an amazing post! I LOVE reading about Miss Ivelina and her progress since being home. What a blessing to have tracked all of this and see so clearly how she is adjusting and growing! God Bless!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! Gleaning some advice since we are bringing out 2 kiddos home next month!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing! Gleaning some advice since we are bringing out 2 kiddos home next month!

  4. Wonderful news! Everyone's hard work is paying off. And Ivelina is just lovely.

    1. Thanks, Viviane! I have always appreciated your thoughtful comments here.

  5. Wow! You guys are all amazing! She is adorable and such a smart girl. Your patience and persistence is so impressive and admirable.

  6. Wow, amazing! Thanks so much for sharing about this. Lots of good ideas for those of us who plan to adopt! You guys are doing awesome!

    1. (This is Diana Meredith, by the way. Tried signing in under my name, but it's showing Andrew)


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