We are now midway into our fourth month of Chinese classes with my beginners (probably around 42 hours of class time, since we meet 42 minutes a day in theory). I have never presented the word “because” 因为 as an item, but I have used it in speaking to the kids, and since they don’t know it, I gloss it when it occurs.
The first kid spontaneously produced a complex sentence two weeks ago. Now, one after another, they’re falling in line using “because A, then B” structures. Of course they have been asked “why?” questions ever since they were able to string together enough vocabulary to answer one (not worrying about having it be a complete sentence and not harping on their using “because”), but even though you know it’s going to happen, it’s thrilling to hear it actually go on.
I’m also continually amazed at how many of the “throwaway” words the kids have picked up on. While they are responsible for fewer and fewer words (I am often guilty of wanting to stuff too many items into a lesson or sequence, even though I know perfectly well that less is more!) we do have Word of the Day and those words often find their way into the stories (our classrooms are frequently visited by hedgehogs, woodchucks and monkeys in particular). In addition to that, though, their ears are just much better than mine ever was. I suspect that it is starting out from the beginning with a heavily aural method like TPRS for the language acquisition portion that is giving them this advantage.