Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Language Development a la Gordon Ramsay

I should first warn you, this is going to be incredibly dull to anyone who isn't my mother, or who isn't as fascinated by language development as I am. If you're just after a quick laugh, scroll through all the brainy stuff and skip right to the bottom.

I studied linguistics for a little while at college and learned all about fricatives and the difference between a dialect and a creole... but nothing prepared me for watching a toddler pick up 50 new words a day and use them perfectly in context. Ever since Mads spoke her first word, I've been making a note of some of the words and phrases she's used, and Danger Boy's growing vocabulary is being added to the records too, though quite a bit more sporadically I must confess.

Mads

Mads was always great with language, with about 90 clearly recogniseable English and French words by the time she was 16 months old. At the start of 2010, around 2.5 years old, she was coming out with brilliant little phrases like -
"Oh my goodness"
"He is a gentleman and she is a lady. Gentleman. Elli, say Gentleman."
"I'm just a bit busy, mummy, give me a second."

By mid 2010 she was using language to entertain us, to express her anger, and to try her hand at parenting her parents:

"I went and peeked at Elli while he was sleeping and i thought it was a little angel sleeping there!"
"You're not my friend!" (to me)
"If you say that to me I will not give you a sticker." (also to me - d'oh!)

At the end of 2010, her use of language hadn't changed much, but the nuance made her seem more like a 10 year old than a 3.5 year old to me. I am biased of course.
"Elli, you're my sweet little boy, aren't you? What a handsome fellow you are, my little guy!"

Danger Boy

He said "mummy" for the very first time on January 27th 2010, instead of "mama". His other words at that age (about 17 months) included car, bubble, duck, dragon (daga), turtle (toh-tol), tiger, animal (ammol), kitten (titten), mouse, house, apple (appol), banana (nana), milk (malk), cake, biscuit (bisk), chair, purple (popol), down, and he pronounce Dog like he grew up in the east end.  he made loads of hilarious animal noises, including fish, pig, lion, and rabbit. His favourite word was NO!

At 17 months he had also just started putting words together, like "cheese pasta" (chee-asta) and "get down".

His best party trick by far was a perfect impression of Snoop Dogg in Drop It Like It's Hot, after which he would shout "NEIGH!!!" as loud as he could.

He was starting to be able to sing the alphabet, but in a rather limited form - "A B B B B B B, A B B B B B B".

By mid-2010, Danger Boy was quickly picking up new words, though much more slowly than the girls around him, I suspect because Mads just couldn't help speaking on his behalf. He was most commonly heard shouting:
"Shoo mummy! Go way mummy! Only daddy!" much to my dismay. Although on Saturday mornings I certainly didn't complain!

At the end of 2010, his language was starting to develop at an incredible pace. In the space of about a month, he went from saying a few words joined together, and singing songs learned by rote, to constructing full sentences.
"Mummy, I want to make my dinosaur puzzles. I need some help. Can you come help me please mummy?"
"I don't like it tomatoes. I give my tomatoes to Mads, okay mummy?"
and the classic:
"I don't want anyone to help me. I do it all by myself."

And now, a year after he first said mummy in his sweet little voice, he's made the biggest transition of all, pronouncing most of his letters carefully and enunciating beautifully (when he's up to it).

So what does he choose to say, with his silly little grin and fluffy chick hair?

"F*cking sh*t".

Oh bugger.

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