I have a feeling that my baby girl, Jai, is going to talk a lot when she gets older. She hasn’t given specific indication that her language development is any more advanced than other toddlers her age. Jai doesn’t even show any distinctive higher level of expression or verbal application. Yet.
But she has a peculiar physical demonstration of learned phrases, which is displayed after she has stared at the person’s mouth, focused, for what is being uttered.
Namely, her primary proof of communication is substituting the word “apple” to indicate needs outside of when she is reciting the numbers 1-10. As an instance, we purchased a couple of pumpkins as fall décor last week. We pointed to a pumpkin to correspond the word to the object for her erudition. “Apple?” Jai answered upon our first “lesson.” “No, baby, ‘pumpkin,'” I repeated. “Pumpkin.” Jai then struggled to lift the medium-weight pumpkin to her waist-level, then threw it to the carpeted floor…like the basketball daddy had been playing with hours earlier. “Apple!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands.
I couldn’t help but laugh at that moment. I knew that she knew that the pumpkin was orange…like a basketball…which bounces when connected with the floor. And that is an amazing link to make at her age after one example of illustration.
On any given day, Jai’s small Paddington Bear’s name is “Apple.” If we lead a statement with “A is for…” Jai fills in the blank with an emphatic “apple!” Potato chips tastes like an “apple.” Jrue’s name is “Apple.” Daddy is “Apple,” too. This highlighted fandom of the fruit is, luckily, translatable in her chosen recreation.
My enthusiasm is not to designate that, comparably, Jrue was slower in his language proficiency at 18 months, but I am continuously delighted by how quickly Jai is picking up clear speaking competence. Speech is becoming a concentrated effort for her, a sport of sorts, something to try out through practices and tournaments of strength and valor. We are rewarded with her constant barrage of babbles, of grunts and grumbles, of giggles and screams. I’m glad that she is finding being the baby of a family of orators an advantageous exercise.
Jai is learning and copying, day in and day out. That is cool.
I want to expand on the idea that watching Jai learn how to speak is much like watching her undergo athletic drills. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic wrote a narrative that described a relationship between his learning the language of French and pursuing a physical activity. What he said made sense if we think of learning to speak any language for the first time (the essential definition of “foreign” language) a multisport experience. Of note, he wrote, “One of the things I’ve noticed in my studies of French is how much it resembles my studies of athletics. In that vein, it is the physicality, the theatricality of foreign language study that shocks me. To speak French you need a different mouth. . .This acquiring of a new mouth is a physical act. It is not enough to memorize the words. You have to train your mouth to say them. It’s like weight-lifting. Your mouth and tongue need ‘reps.'” (Coates, 2012)
My baby’s reps are paying off.
On the surface scale, Jai’s development appears on beat. Within her age group, “toddlers are developing an awareness of the power of words,” according to the PBS Parents article “Toddler Talking Milestones.” “At this age, your toddler is learning that he can use words to get attention, get his needs met, and express his feelings.”
Similarly, the parenting website, What to Expect, discusses what they call a “language explosion” at around age 18 months. “This ‘language explosion’ helps your toddler’s word bank grow from a precious few at age one to 1,000 or 2,000 by his third birthday. It’s around this time, too, that he starts combining words to form simple sentences, like ‘More milk’ or (uh oh) ‘No crib!'” (“Your Toddler’s Language-Development Explosion”)
We look forward to hearing how her being raised as the youngest in our home, and her uninterrupted training workouts with us, will invite graduated discourse. I don’t want to necessarily encourage her to use “big words” for the sake of debate, but, as a degreed writer, I would say that “apple” may be just the start to my baby girl’s rhetorician/basketball small forward career.
Coates, Ta-Nehisi. “Learning a Foreign Language is Like Learning a Sport.” The Atlantic, Nov. 1, 2012, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/11/learning-a-foreign-language-is-like-learning-a-sport/264387/. Accessed Oct. 18, 2017.
“Toddler Talking Milestones.” PBS Parents, n.d., http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/reading-language/reading-milestones/toddler-language-development-milestones/toddler-talking/. Accessed Oct. 18, 2017.
“Your Toddler’s Language-Development Explosion.” What to Expect, n.d., https://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-development/toddler-language.aspx. Accessed Oct. 18, 2017.