There’s Bilingual And There’s Dahl-isms

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“She might have a language delay,” our pediatrician told me during Sophia’s one-year-old check up after I informed the doctor we were speaking two languages in our home. I nodded. “Ok.”

Boy was our doctor wrong.

Once Sophia learned imitate the sounds that emanated from mine and my husband’s lips, she only stopped talking when she slept.  Or nursed at my breast. After solid food became a mainstay of her diet, she talked as she ate.

In her early years, she spoke mostly Vietnamese. Both she and I delighted in teaching my husband basic Vietnamese words such as milk, eat, and his favorite, Dad. Once she and I made friends, she transitioned to speaking mostly English in order to communicate with better with her father and her newfound friends.

Jaxson’s speaking skills went through the same evolution as his sister’s, except that his Vietnamese-only speech didn’t last as long. Now at the ripe ages of 8 and 4, both kids speak mostly English with a smattering of Vietnamese.

Both Sophia and Jaxson also love making up their own words. They’re not words like the secret language between siblings, but fun words that roll off their tongues as they dance and sing their way through life. Many strangers and friends might respond to their inventive words with, “How creative” in a tone that is not meant to compliment.

With resumes filled with acting and costume design gigs, my husband and I encourage and nourish our children’s natural creativity. Not surprisingly, both of our kids put on shows and performances of their creative, never been heard songs and never been seen dance routines.

After revisiting my favorite childhood author Roald Dahl a few weeks ago at Imagination Stage’s The BFG, I reread Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for this month’s From Left to Write book club selection. I forgot how delightful Dahl’s writing is. Both books are filled to the brim with words not found in the English language, British or America.

Now our family speaks a third language: Dahl.  We throw around words like whizzpop (to pass gas) and snozzberries frequently. All of us, not just the kids.

Speaking our own semi-secret language is almost as fun as imagining ourselves swimming in a molten chocolate river.

Charlie & Chocolate Factory From Left to Write Banner

This post was inspired by the classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, Penguin Young Readers Group, in partnership with Dylan’s Candy Bar, the world-famous candy emporium, and First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that provides books for children from low-income families, is launching a year-long international celebration.

Head over to From Left to Write to learn how you and your child can have a chance to win the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes where the grand prize is a magical trip to New York City plus much more! For every entry submitted, Penguin Young Readers Group will make a donation to First Book. Then, join From Left to Write on July 24 as we discuss Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. As a book club member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.



  1. Alicia S July 23, 2014
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  3. @mamawolfeto2 July 24, 2014
  4. The Poet Herself July 25, 2014