Over Memorial Day weekend, we visited our friends Jason and Amy in St. Paul, Minnesota. They have two adorable little girls - Dina, who's almost five, and Mira, who'll be three in November. They are absolute joys to be around.
One of the best parts of the weekend (for me, anyway) was trying to decipher what Mira was saying. Since she's only two and a half she's at that wonderful age where language is coming much easier, but there are still some stumbling blocks. When I'd say, "What, honey?" to her statement, she would very nicely repeat what she said, without a trace of frustration. Even better, Dina would sometimes act as her translator, which was really sweet and cute.
It's been a while since I've had to decipher language! I have a lot of friends with kids at the "deciphering" age, but I usually just see them for an hour or two at a time. By the time we left St. Paul on Sunday, I was really starting to get the gist of Mira's speech patterns!
In my family, vocabulary and language were always talked about. Growing up, my mom and dad would regale us with stories of cute slip-ups we'd have when learning to speak or read. For example, my sister Jen had the hardest time with the word "yellow"; she would call it "lellow". So my mom and dad would tell her, "Say 'yell'." And Jen would say it (correctly). Then they'd tell her, "Say, 'ow'." And she'd say it. But when mom and dad would respond, "Okay, now say 'yellow'.", she would go right back to saying "lellow". I love that story. Jen would also call Campbell's Chunky Soup "sunky poops". Of course, we STILL call it that - and I think everyone should. :D
When my nieces (who are now 13 and almost 11!) were small, there were a plethora of cute things they said that have survived to this day. Indeed, my own Etsy shop, Snizzers & Gwoo, is based on the way the girls said "scissors and glue" when they were about three. We in my family now say, "actchowee" instead of "actually" because of my oldest niece, Natalie. Try using it to start a sentence sometime - it's great when you really want to get your point across ("Well, actchowee.....").
Maybe we should learn foreign languages this way, slip-ups and all! I think learning from our mistakes is as much a part of the process as saying words the right way. In fact, sometimes it can even help with spelling. When I was about 9 or 10, we were at the grocery store and I asked my mom and dad if they preferred Russet potatoes over other varieties. Except that I pronounced it "russay". I don't know why my brain went all Frenchy, but I never forgot how to spell the word after that! (Incidentally, I did go on to take six years of French in high school and college. I have potatoes to thank for that).
The next time you're in the presence of a toddler, really pay attention to the way they form sentences and use tense. It's not only adorable (and hysterical), you might just learn a new word that you'll be able to use the rest of your life. Actchowee, you might learn a lot. :D