Thursday, July 16, 2015

Learning A Language

I have two granddaughters, the older, “G,” is two-and-a-half years old, and the other, “A” is one-and-a-half. While babies’ coos and babbles are cute, observing how they acquire real and recognizable words is simply amazing.

The older one has learned to string together words to form intelligible (and I can proudly proclaim) intelligent sentences; the younger one is repeating every word that she is hearing.

Names, including nicknames and terms of endearment (papa, mama, nanay, tatay, wowo, lola, opie, omie, each other’s names, John – which can be confusing since both their father and one grandfather, and incidentally, some titos and kuyas are also named John), tenses (“did you,” “will you…”), time concepts (today, yesterday, last night, this morning), relationships (sisters, mother, daughters, aunts), similar and opposites (high, low, old, young), sizes (big, small, tall, short, thin, fat), colors (oh, all kinds of colors, including purple and fuchsia), things in the heavens (clouds, sun, moon, stars), food and drinks, household items, cooking terms, machines, parts of a car, names of animals, safety terms, and many others are being explored and imitated.

(Note: If I were a full-time grandmother, I would count/measure their vocabulary levels at different ages. Sadly, I am not).

The other week, as we were coming into the city from a trip to Subic Bay, both children were exhausted, and crying. While the younger one could only cry and cry out “mama,” “mommy” and even “nanay,” my older granddaughter was articulating her frustration. She was insisting that she wanted to go home. We told her that we were indeed on our way home, but that she had to be patient if we could not get home right away, as traffic was bad. She said, with the irritation obvious in her tone of voice, “I don’t like traffic.” (She has not learned the word “hate,” thanks to her parents who try hard not to introduce her to such words). We laughed (which may not have been appropriate), and chorused, “We don’t like traffic, either.” “Those who don’t like traffic, raise your hand,” someone in the car piped in, and we all raised our hands. I tried to amuse her by saying, “Let’s say “good-bye” to traffic.” “Good-bye, traffic.” She repeated, “Good-bye, traffic.” I said, “Good-bye, bus,” and she echoed, “Good-bye, bus.” Good-bye, jeep.” “Good-bye, jeep.” Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, car.” “Good-bye, building,” I continued with the litany of things we were seeing.  “Good-bye, post.” “Good-bye, traffic light.” “Good-bye, pedestrians,” and she asked, “Lola, what’s ‘pedestrians,’” and I pointed to the people crossing the street. “Good-bye, man in yellow.” “Good-bye, Toyota car.” And soon, we were out of the traffic jam, and rolling along.

Everyday, I am awed by the many words that they are learning, and the confidence they are gaining in saying them. The 1-1/2 year old is emphatic when she says “No!” and for emphasis, repeats “No, no, no, no!” She also expects us to understand that to her anything to drink is “juice,” even when she would say “water.” But the older one? When asked by her papa if she wanted water, she nonchalantly said, “Sparkling, please.” Whoa!

The other day, we were eating at a place where food attendants accepted orders at the counter. We placed our orders, chose a table and waited.  “G” left the table, walked to the counter and talked to the attendants. We could not quite hear what she was saying. After two or three minutes, she went back to the counter, talked again to the attendants, and then walked to the side of the counter. We saw her pointing to a high chair. One attendant dutifully brought the high chair to our table, and “G” said to “A,” “A_____, sit on the high chair!”

Her younger sister would not sit on the high chair, so “G”, stared at the empty high chair. Even though she didn’t like being strapped to a high chair herself, she climbed into it. We figured that she realized that since she asked for the high chair, she should make sure that someone used it.

She was not just learning language, but the responsibility that goes with using it.

Pardon me if I am rambling. I’m just a proud grandmother!

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