Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toddler as a Second Language

Stop and smell the flowers.
In high school I was forced to take a foreign language. You know, the obligatory 2 years of gibberish to fulfill an arbitrary number of credits in order to graduate. In those two years, I did not retained much, and my only fond memories are of the 'International Food Day' we had at the end of the year. We got to gorge ourselves on homemade crepes, tacos, bratwurst and other food from the typical high school language offerings.

Despite my complete lack of mastery of a foreign language it seems that somewhere deep inside I have have the capacity for learning new an interesting forms of communication after all. I can honestly and confidently say that I am almost fluent one of the most complex and interesting languages in our society: Toddler Talk.

Every word out of my daughter's mouth needs some level of translation. It is very important for all involved parties to be quick in that translation as any delay could set off a incident on level of the Bay of Pigs.

Sure, everyone can understand the easy ones like 'No' & 'Mine', but when the conversation gets deeper you have to be quick on your feet. An entire meal can be won or lost based on whether you think she saying she wants to eat the pancakes you made her, she wants you to eat the pancakes you made her, or she doesn't want pancakes at all...If I guess wrong those pancakes are going to be all over the floor, my lap, and (thanks to the consistency of syrup) the wall. Whenever you approach Toddler-Speak your confidence should be extremely high, or you'll end up doing a lot of unnecessary cleaning and head scratching.

Look it's not easy for anyone to learn a new language, and as far as I know Rosetta Stone has yet to offer a Toddler Curriculum in their best selling language software. But practice makes perfect and the more my wife, mother-in-law, or some other innocent bystander asks "What'd she say?" The more confident I become in my response...

There were, of course,some sketchy days in the beginning like when she first saw that Peacock at the zoo. Her Toddler-Speak version of 'Peacock' left out the very important beginning of the word. People would look at her with that 'did she just say that' look that people get and then they'd look at me quizzically hoping that I'd have a reasonable explanation.

Fortunately, with my extensive practice I can easily put most people at ease. However, my powers of translation seem to only work for a very specific dialect known only to my daughter. When at the home of other friends with toddlers I'm often as lost as the rest of the world in translating. They say that English is one of the most difficult languages to master, but I disagree. I believe the most difficult language is Toddler.


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Patty said...

I think toddlers will improve language skills a lot if they have playgroup or friends around the neighborhood to play with.

Logistics Gal said...

My daughter is the interracial child but she can master both languages very quickly.

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