Something has been developing with our son Nathan lately — he's starting to speak more and more. As I sat this morning thinking, that fact crept up on me. Now, often his pronunciation of words isn't terribly clear, but I can hear his intent.
When I consider what he is doing, I can't imagine what it would feel like to speak words without any previous idea how to use them, except through immersion with us and others. The idea of learning a language completely from scratch, with no prior language experience seems quite amazing.
It was hard enough for me to learn German through a few classes and by immersion on several trips to Germany — but I knew English already — quite different than learning from scratch. I often don't consider the difficult task facing Nathan, until this morning anyway.
It makes me realize that he's an amazing little guy. He's an expert babbler, often jabbering for several minutes at a crack, espousing his views on preferable sippy cup design, or the reasons why he prefers red Matchbox cars to other colors. Well, we have no idea what he's really saying, but it's so humorous to hear him talking, using inflection, facial expressions and hand signals to speak. He's literally a sponge, copying our way of speaking and tone of voice in own his experimental chats with us.
We've been teaching Nathan sign language for a while now (since he was 2-3 months old), which might have some impact on his language skills. If so, that's just a nice side effect. Our idea behind teaching Nate sign language was to give him a way to communicate during the so called terrible twos. Rather seeing his frustration levels rise, we decided having a simple way to share his thoughts could make a difference in his behavior. He's doing very well with sign too — using signs all the time to tell us what he wants or thinks. It's really amazing.
But back to the speaking... I'm just amazed that he is now trying to mimic what we say. So far he can say car and truck, and choo choo among other things. In his attempts to speak, I can see how his mind works a little bit... how he hears and then repeats what he hears. It's right about now that I sincerely wished I knew a second language well enough to teach it to Nathan as he grows. I know enough German to be dangerous, and even less Spanish.
I'm wondering if I could learn a new language with Nathan, once he's at the point of really knowing how to speak. It could be fun to learn new words with him, giving us both a new language. I'd choose to learn Spanish, because my good friend Carlos is a native speaker, it's relatively easy to learn and would be a useful language to know.
Whatever happens, it is very interesting to watch Nathan grow and learn. I can see in his eyes the feeling of pride when he says something well or uses the correct sign and we praise him for it. That's one of the joys of parenthood — having a positive role in my child's learning experiences and being there to see development happening right before my eyes.
Very cool. :-)