Demanding – Language Development

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December 31, 2014 by Dadinator

She points earnestly at something off in the distance and repeats the same syllable over and over in her soft and slightly husky voice. “At. AT!” she says again and again as she stares and keeps thrusting and waving her pudgy little fingers. Her look is one of concentration and determination. Sometimes she raises a single eyebrow (a skill she has inherited from me) as she tries to think of new ways to convey her meaning. She will be heard. She will be understood. Eventually.

As for us, well we just smile and giggle and cluck over the girl because she’s just so damn cute. Then comes the ceremony of handing her things. First it’s a spoonful of whatever she’s eating “Naaaa” she says, shaking her head. The it’s a fork “Naaaa” again, two for two. She keeps on pointing. I point to the tub of yoghurt on the table and look at her inquisitively and  she nods. However once it’s sitting in her reach,  I hear the familiar “Naaaa”. Unbowed I keep on trying, and after a few more goes I get a nod and a smile. Turns out she wanted the bottle top. If only she could tell me why.

Our girl has started to ask for things directly. Not just the things she knows, we already knew what “wa bot” means (water bottle), as well as “mama” and “daddy”. Her doll is called “Lo lo” and she’s been asking for “up” for a long time. She also asks for “baboo” a lot – which is her way of asking for a breast feed. But now it’s different, now she’s asking by pointing, without knowing what things are called, and trying so hard to make us understand what she’s saying.

It’s interesting to observe not just because it’s a fascinating process, but because her way of learning language and learning to communicate are so different to her brother’s. Our little boy wasn’t so bold with his words, he wouldn’t say something till he knew how to say it; and it had to be right. He was all about “Light” and “Cat” then “Daddy” and “Mamma” followed soon after. He was fascinated with fans too. At some stage we blinked and suddenly he was speaking in sentences. I’ve mentioned before that he didn’t have much of a “toddler-ese” going on, he seemed to be a kind of speaking perfectionist. His words were either properly formed, or he simply didn’t use them.

The Lass has taken a different approach. She babbles, mimicking closely the intonation of conversation. She’ll start low, then get louder and higher pitched before dropping back again.  She uses rhythm and intonation, and sometimes nods to herself as if she is concluding a carefully crafted rhetorical point she has made in an speech. She’s actually just says “ba” over and over again, but you get a sense that whatever this particular “ba” was, it was important.

She knows the cats names, calls for her brother and says “night night” or “nigh niiiiigh” each night before both of her parents suffer a cute overdose and collapse.

For her language is much more plastic, something to be toyed with, played with and practised. For The Lad language is something to be mastered. He cares about saying things the right way, likes to be corrected and thinks hard about how to say something complicated before he says it. Just goes to show, there’s more than one way to grow up, and more than one way to learn a skill.

I have no idea what the overall implications of all this are, I’m sure I’ll find out. The Mamanator once remarked on their approach to music and musical toys – which is similar to how they treat language. The Lad is more of a composer. Someone who was able to think through and put together something. He sings songs, but only once he’s learnt them properly, and he sings them accurately. When he asks for a song he asks by title, and always has. Our girl is more of a performer – or maybe a dancer. She asks for songs by waving her arms and performing her favourite actions. She sings little bits of them in her own special way, and when music is on, she does has a boogie all of her own.

I’m also not sure where the differences come from (no one is). Are they just born different? Is it birth order (which is code for have we gotten lazy with number 2 by the way)? Is it that a boy/girl thing? Is it to do with when they were born? The zodiac? Who knows? (It’s not the zodiac, I just put that in there for fun).

More importantly: who cares. The lesson for us in having a second child is that all children are different. And they are all the same. It’s enjoyable in that it keeps you guessing, keeps you on your toes. It’s also frustrating because you find yourself thinking “But this worked on your brother” over and over again. Parenting, like childhood, is a learning experience.

How did your kids do it? I’ve heard of babblers, of children who started talking late but also started talking in perfectly formed sentences and of children who can only be understood by their parents. Were your children different or the same in how they got talking?


They learn from each other too


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