For those of you who are keeping track, my youngest son is just a little more than two years old now. And far all ages have been good ages with my sons (so far) this is a particularly special age for me. It’s the age of language acquisition.
He’s a good talker, and has been using full sentences for a couple months now. But listening to him is still a bit of an acquired skill, because…. well… he’s still a baby, so all of his words don’t quite sound right.
By the way (Pat said, managing to tangent away from his primary purpose in the blog in a record-breaking two paragraphs) did you know that the reason it takes kids so long to talk isn’t primarily mental? A huge portion of it is actually physical. They lack the physical control required to make the proper sounds with their mouths.
It makes sense when you think about it. Learning how to pick up a pencil is hard, but learning to whistle is *way* harder. Learning how to accurately and consistently recreate the 42-46 phonemes that comprise American English…. well… it’s easy to forget how hard it is until you see a kid struggling with the process.
Think about it, your lips, tongue, jaw, and vocal cords all have to orchestrate things together *very* precisely just to make just *one* phoneme. Like an “Mmmmm” sound. And each phoneme has many variations.
Then realize that even a simple word like “more” has *three* of those phonemes. And all of those need to be pulled off correctly, together, in about a tenth of a second.
And that’s just for one word.
This is why a lot of parents do sign language with their young kids. Kids can understand you much younger than they can talk (Most folks who have studied a foreign language know the same feeling: being able to understand a question in your new language, but not answer it.) Babies can think in words much earlier than they can *say* most words, which means they can communicate with you much sooner than you think if you teach them a few gestures.
(Don’t look so smug, little man. That’s a pretty sloppy “more.”)
The reason parents understand their kids better than anyone else is because we’re more experienced with our own children’s particular accent and dialect. And even then, *we’re* clueless some times as to what the kids are saying.
This is why parents constantly repeat what kids say back to them. Partially we do this so children can hear a clearer version of what they’re saying, which helps them improve their pronunciation. But it’s also because we’re double checking what we think they’re saying. (And honestly, I’m guessing there’s some straight-up biological imperative mixed in there, too.)
Anyway, all of this is preamble and context so I can share a conversation I had with Cutie the other day.
Cutie: Daddy Faat es laou!
Me: Daddy’s fart is loud?
Cutie nods: Es yike ayafat.
I’m clueless here, so I look to Sarah.
Sarah: It’s like an elephant?
Cutie nods again: Daddy’s faat es yike a yion wohr!
Me: Daddy’s fart is like a lion?
Me: It’s like a lion’s roar?
Cutie nods again.
So… yeah. Now you know. Even if you didn’t want to know, you still know. And you can’t unknow it.
Sorry about that.
P.S. In case you were wondering, having kids is pretty great.