Raafi’s First Languages:
A Study of Raafi’s Language Acquisition
Written by: Herri Mulyono
Raafi is a 29 month-baby that is (within a process of) acquiring his first languages; Bahasa Indonesia, Padang language and English. Bahasa is mainly mother tongue of both Raafi’s parents whereas Padang language is temporally spoken by his mother and English is used as mean of communication between Raafi and his father. Both Raafi’s parents occasionally use English to interact each other and in many situations his mother says English and Padang language sentences to create meaning on particular things to Raafi. Raafi’s language acquisition is determinately a part of acquiring languages in bilingual atmosphere rather than second language acquisition for Raafi acquires both languages of Bahasa and English in natural exposure. Raafi does not acquire Bahasa for his first language and English afterwards but both Bahasa and English at the same time.
This article would describe particular stage Raafi has already achieved in his language acquisition. The article firstly would principally explain environments created by both of Raafi’s parents to sustain Raafi’s three language acquisition. The article then reports Raafi’s language mastery after 29 month-observation. The report shows general mastery of Raafi’s sound system, syntax, morphology and lexicon, and semantic competence.
During his language acquisition for about 29 months, Raafi is considered late of uttering his first word compared to other babies around his environment that they are mostly about 5 or 6 months to utter their first word. This lateness is because Raafi has to acquire three languages at a time although his Padang language develops very low that Raafi hardly pronounces any Padang language. Instead, Raafi seems to be clever as he selects particular words he is going to use by considering his communication partners. Raafi uses Bahasa when he interacts with his mother and at other time uses English to refer things with his father. What the amazing thing is Raafi sometimes translates either from Bahasa to English or English to Bahasa when he feels his communication partner hard to understand his intention. The language mastery on phonetic, syntax, morphology and semantic seems to be common to achieve by baby like Raafi. This means the language acquisition for baby within bilingual atmosphere does not show significant lateness that the efforts of acquiring those two languages provide fundamental basis of his further language acquisition and stimulate his cognitive developments.
See the following video of Raafi (aged 5):