Proto-Language

It isn’t easy to get back to writing after the break I’ve taken to start of the New Year. But it’s nothing compared to learning how to talk and write for the first time. Roman has come to the age where he clearly has things to say, and he likely thinks that he has the skills to say those things, but in reality while he’s mastered some of the sounds and intonations of our language, it will still be quite some time before he’s able to understandably express himself. He gets frustrated when we don’t understand him, and more than once he’s subjected us to angry toddler tirades–not crying, just yelling and (apparently) cursing, although we have no idea where he would learn that kind of language.

He is learning to say words for real, but the number of words we can actually understand is still not large. It’s still limited to yes, no, mom, dad, banana, Jewel, Please, Elena, snack, that, and a few more. During our tooth-brushing routine, we usually sing the alphabet song as a way of making sure that we’ve been brushing teeth for long enough. Roman doesn’t want to be left out of this, so he always asks for his own toothbrush and sings along. He does a pretty cute rendition of the first few bars, even with a toothbrush in his mouth. It’s probably evidence that some of his learning will be influenced by wanting to be like Elena, and by trying to do the things that we approve of in her.

Elena has been working on the written form of communication. Jenny prints out letter worksheets that have the wide, dotted lines I remember from kindergarten, although printer paper is much smoother and easier to write than the rough yellow stuff in the notebooks back then. Each worksheet has a letter written out completely a few times, then a line or two where Elena can trace the dotted lines to write the letter, then a few more blank lines where she can try to write it on her own. Elena likes working on them, although there is a limit to how long she can maintain her focus. We saw a tangible benefit when she was able to write her own name on thank-you notes for Christmas gifts she received.

I have an idea for a fictional short story that falls in the Stuart Little sub-genre of Magic Realism. The story is about an normal family, ordinary in every way except that their toddler inexplicably is acquiring a foreign language instead of their own–Instead of “yes” and “no”, he learns to say “да” and “нет”. There are some great themes to explore: the mysteries of learning, the challenges of communication between parents and children, the fine line between ability and disability, and so forth. I am afraid that I would not be able to do justice to the characters or plot that might accompany this initial idea, but maybe someday I’ll try.

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