Saturday, June 5, 2010

You don't say

Watching Abby learn to speak English is both entertaining (as when she manages to come up with completely new pronunciations for words, like bang-bang for band-aid) as well as revealing. If you ever want to know how ridiculous some of the rules of English are, talk to a toddler. They distill out the basic rules of speech: pluralization, verb placement and possessive nouns and then apply them to all situations. Unfortunately they haven't learned yet that English has a tenancy to make very little sense.

Case in point: Abby understands that when you have many of a thing you should place an 's' at the end to signify the plural. This seems easy and straight forward until you encounter such a word as popcorn which to her mind should be 'popcorns' and logically so. Sadly English does not concur. Also a constant plural troublemaker is tracks (as in train tracks). The idea that they are already pluralized does not register with her and therefore she will ask in all earnestness to have you put her train 'trackses' together.

I also get the opportunity to watch her think through a sentence - usually out loud. It's not uncommon for her to stop mid-sentance and start over, the obvious reason being that half way through she realized that she wasn't ever going to get to the end of the sentence the way she ought to. This usually happens when she's trying to use two verbs in a sentence (I want to go outside and blow bubbles) or when she's trying to establish an order of activity appropriately (I want to watch this movie first). It will occasionally begin: "I want to outside" or "I want first." Her face is so expressive at times that I can watch her thoughts play across her face in such situations: first the determination to ask for whatever it is she wants, followed by confusion/consternation when she realizes something is a muck with her sentence structure, then the determination to start over and say it right. She is quite the perfectionist and won't leave off trying to get it right, even if she has to stumble through it 3 times.

Beyond this daily struggle to navigate the spoken word she is also discovering the spoken emotion. There seems to be no real way to explain that emotions are on a grade with hate at one end and love at the other and like somewhere in there, too. To her mind it is all more or less equal. If she doesn't like it, then she must hate it and if she likes it she must therefore love it. An example: yesterday she was standing in the hallway her hand against the newly painted wall when she announced: "I love this wall, Mom!" This was news to me, I wasn't aware that this wall had done anything to merit so strong an opinion from her. (To date she also loves not only the wall but the paint color, various trucks and sundry birds, her diapers, pjs and, of course, her family.) She also freely announces "I hate this rice!" at dinner, which when she eats all of it a moment later makes one wonder what exactly she was trying to convey.

Thought I attempt to help her navigate this strange world of spoken language I know, in the end, it's something that she'll unravel and discover all on her own. I only wish that the few changes she's made would take root; because, really, popcorns does make so much more sense than popcorn!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you're enjoying all the experiences of being a parent, watching your little ones grow. The journey never stops...enjoy the ride!
    Hugs & kisses.