Language development in children has always intrigued me. When my two children were young and learning to talk, they each had distinctive words for milk. One would ask for “muck” and the other would ask for “moke” rhyming with poke. Either way, I knew what they wanted. My husband and I enjoyed listening to new words and their pronunciations. Our son once told him that Mom’s “backy cleaner” was too loud so he couldn’t hear too well. When I use the vacuum cleaner now, I smile as I recall its former name. When a police helicopter flew overhead, our son commented about the “helichopter” which made us chuckle. Young children sometimes have difficulty pronouncing the letter “l” and instead of I love you, one generally hears something like I “w’uv you.” Our daughter Emily answered “Em-oo-we” when someone asked her what her name was. Annoyed if someone imitated her pronunciation, she would respond with great consternation that she was just a “yittle” kid and not to make fun of her.
In elementary school, the kindergarten and first grade teachers encouraged writing, and probably most families have gems hanging on the refrigerator of those first attempts. Once when our daughter was angry at me for something, she decided to write me a note which I have hanging in the computer room to remind me of that occasion. She wrote: “After carful exapination, I hearby conclude that you are stupid.” I still smile when I consider her sophisticated language and unique spelling. She was well on her way to being an English major writing beautiful poetry. We all have to begin somewhere. We made a concerted effort not to use “baby talk” with our children or to any children for that matter. We spoke to them as we would speak to any other adult or person regardless of their age.
During the first Fulbright experience in Germany, our daughter turned three and was just acquiring language so for all practical purposes, her first language was German. I delighted in listening to our two children engrossed in imaginative play with one another. First it was mainly in English, then a combination of English and German and then all German as they progressed. We had the reverse happen back at home in the United States. Our daughter invited all her neighborhood friends to come over and watch one of her Disney videos which was all in German. She had trouble understanding why everyone left after 15 minutes. Both children heard and understood Swabian German dialect in the village of Schweindorf but easily used High German in school. Language acquisition is at its best when started in the early years.
Perhaps one of my favorite moments from kindergarten in the US was when our daughter wrote me a card with the help of her teacher for Mother’s Day. As she filled in the blanks for some sentences, the teacher wrote them down. I felt very much adored by my loving daughter’s words. The card began with “My mother is 1000 feet tall. My mother weighs 1000 pounds.”
I suppose it was safe to assume that both height and weight were proportionate!