I’m Okay, Thanks: Developing Language

I'm Okay ThanksThe other day, as The Toddler carefully (& oh so inexplicably) arranged her tea set in front of the stair gate in the hallway, Silly Mummy called to her from the living room, ‘How’re you doing, The Toddler?’ Her little voice replied, ‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy.’ This may be the most grown up thing Silly Mummy has heard her say, and highlights just how far her language has developed in a few short months.

The Toddler is now 25 months old. Though she said a few words before, the vast majority of her spoken vocabulary has been acquired since she was around 18 months old. In just 7 months she has learnt hundreds of words, sentence structure, questions, answers, names, sounds, time frames, contrasting words, pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions, negatives. The list goes on. This just goes to show the difference between acquiring a language as a toddler and acquiring one at a later stage. After 7 months of learning to speak English, The Toddler knows a multitude of words, she can discuss her activities, ask questions, answer questions, give descriptions and be funny. By contrast, after 5 years of being a straight A French student, Silly Mummy can probably find out where the bank is. Silly Mummy’s best chance of being funny in French would be walking in the wrong direction having misunderstood where the bank is. (It is now clear that Silly Mummy is utterly pathetic, and The Toddler should be writing this blog about Silly Mummy’s attempts to communicate!)

Not so long ago, we would show The Toddler animals, tell her their names, ask her if she knew what they were. She knew a few. ‘Duck’, mostly. Ducks are very important. The other day, she held up a Lego sheep: ‘Ooh, baa! Sheep. Baa. Look, Mummy: baa. Sheep. Like in farm. Where farm?’ She looked for her toy farm, ‘There it is!’

The Toddler has learnt possession. ‘Mine’, obviously. They ALL know ‘mine’. But ‘socks’, ‘din din’, ‘tea’, ‘play toy’ have become ‘The Toddler’s socks’, ‘Daddy’s din din’, ‘Mummy’s tea’, ‘The Baby’s play toy.’ In fact, ‘The Toddler’s socks’ are now often ‘my socks’.

The Toddler’s first question word was ‘where’. She remains a big fan of ‘where’, due to its close connections to hide and seek and peekaboo. ‘Who’ (‘Who is THIS?’) is vital to conducting any Toddler Inquisition, and The Toddler, as we know, enjoys a good inquisition. (http://risforhoppit.uk/who-is-this/) The Toddler’s current firm favourite question is: ‘What’s that?’. The vague pointing in a general direction that usually accompanies this question can cause the conversation to go on for some time, whilst every object in the area is pointed out and named, only to be met with, ‘No. What’s THAT?’ Silly Mummy’s favourite question is the inimitable: ‘What noisy is that sound?’ We have yet to get to the infamous ‘why’, but we see it on the horizon, marching ever nearer with undeserved confidence.

Silly Mummy is interested to see that The Toddler is not learning by repetition alone. This is clear from the evolution of her ‘where’ questions. Initially, if anything was missing or hidden, she would say, ‘Where gone?’ Now, she usually says, ‘Where is it gone?’ This is not repetition. We know from the error in it. We say, ‘Where has it gone?’ The Toddler is not parroting our words, or she would also say, ‘Where has it gone?’ Rather, she has learnt that more goes into the structure of the sentence than ‘where gone’. She is not yet clear about how to choose or conjugate a verb. She makes the assumption that, because you would say ‘where is it’, the appropriate word for her sentence should be ‘is’. Clearly, The Toddler learns individual words by copying and repetition, but she is working out how to use them by more than mere parroting of our language. She is collecting information, drawing conclusions, making her own decisions. It is amazing to Silly Mummy that, faced with what must be an overwhelming volume of new data, The Toddler is able to process and use it so competently. Of course, the look of glee on her face when she realises she has used the right words, and communicated successfully, demonstrates what motivates her.

The Toddler likes to use all the words she knows conveying a specific meaning at once. When she wants something to continue, she does not just say ‘more’ or ‘again’, she says ‘more again’. Nappies that don’t need changing are ‘clean dry’. The brilliant ‘what noisy is that sound’ neatly demonstrates both The Toddler’s love of synonyms, and her construction of sentences she has not copied from adults. Again, the sentence is not quite right, but the logic she has used is clear.

A particularly sweet aspect of The Toddler’s developing language has been her emulation of things she hears Silly Mummy say to The Baby. The Toddler has heard Silly Mummy call to the crying baby, ‘Coming, The Baby!’ Whenever The Toddler is in a different room to The Baby and hears her cry she now yells, ‘Coming, The Baby!’ She repeats Silly Mummy’s warnings to The Baby, sometimes days after originally given: ‘No, The Baby. Don’t. The Baby can’t eat.’ In the interest of balance, she is also careful to copy Silly Mummy’s praise of The Baby: ‘Good Girl, The Baby!’ When The Toddler first began using ‘and’, The Baby was her most frequent ‘and’ item. She was very emphatic about it: ‘Mummy, Daddy AND The Baby.’

The Toddler has recently started to use comparisons, qualifications, time frames and relative locations. She tries to fit her cup in a holder that is too small and declares that the cup is ‘bigger’. Silly Mummy tells her it is not lunch time yet, and she responds, ‘No – later.’ She sees cakes in the background on the TV and says, ‘Cakes! Look! Cakes – at the back!’

Still, for all this remarkable progress, what strikes Silly Mummy the most are these new little grown up responses (‘I’m okay, thanks, Mummy.’). This is mostly because these phrases represent The Toddler moving away from using only the words absolutely vital to convey her meaning. It is partly, undeniably, because they are funny. The Toddler asks where The Baby’s toys are. Silly Mummy reminds her we have not got them out yet as we have been out all day. The Toddler replies, ‘Ok. Fine.’ The Toddler drops something and says, ‘Oh dear me.’ The Toddler asks Silly Mummy to get something. Silly Mummy queries, ‘This?’ The Toddler responds, ‘Yes, please. Sure.’ Silly Mummy giggles. The Toddler smiles indulgently: Silly Mummy is easily amused.

Modern Dad PagesOur Little Escapades
Modern Dad PagesOur Little Escapades

19 comments

  1. Wow, it sounds like your daughter’s language is really coming along!! She has really great vocab and adorable sentences 🙂 It’s ironic because I linked up a post about encouraging language this week! #wineandboobs

  2. This is a lovely read! I remember when my children were this age – I loved how their language developed literally from one day to the next. It really is quite incredible. I’m going through it again with my niece now 🙂

  3. All three of my toddlers have been so different with the learning and pronouncing of their words. My 5 year old is eager to learn but has a hard time with the pronunciation of his r’s (which we are working on daily) but he absorbs information like he’s a toddler genius. Whereas my middle daughter is all about art…loves to paint, learning her guitar, and just create. She is 4. And my 3 year old …she is just your typical 3 year old full of wonder and curiosity and following her other siblings everywhere. #wineandboobs

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Lovely that they’re all so different – it’ll be a really multitalented family! Will be interesting to see when The Baby starts to talk how different she is to The Toddler. Then my sister is having a baby boy later this year – I’m sure the differences between boys & girls when it comes to language will be fascinating.

  4. Alice says:

    Love this post. Really enjoyed Becky’s as well, you should check it out.
    My son is three and a third. I love how he absorbs our various linguistic tics, for example he is currently saying “I’m going to have to…” all the time, which I have realised I do. A lot!
    It’s great to hear them working out how it all goes together 🙂
    Alice x
    #thelist

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Thanks for reading. Yes, it is great how they pick up our funny little ways – though it does make you realise phrases you overuse! I did read Becky’s the other day, actually – really interesting and good tips.

  5. What a great blog post. I’m so interested in how speech develops as I’m yet to experience it. My son is on his own path with this and fingers crossed he will get there. I’m keeping everything crossed that I will be able to celebrate my daughters speech with a post like this. It really made me smile x

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Thank you for reading! I think that often (obviously not always) boys are very different to girls in development of speech. It seems to be quite common for boys to take much longer to really get into talking. I don’t think that is surprising, though, considering how men tend to use vastly fewer words each day than women throughout life. Boys, I think, are often very physical in how they interact, but less verbal. I expect your daughter will chat for England like The Toddler, and your little boy won’t be able to get a word in if he wants to!

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Yeah, they do suddenly start picking up words so rapidly. She is certainly a character! Thank you for reading.

  6. Jenny says:

    Love this stage when they are learning and trying to speak. MM is at the same stage and its’ funny what they come out with and sound so old. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. Hope to see you again tomorrow for another great round. #sharewithme

  7. Catie says:

    Wow love this and you are so right. Children are amazing at learning language. I am so lucky to see this all the time in my work. Children make such great progress. I on the other hand after 10 years in NL am still a work in progress! LOL. Thanks for linking up to #fbfriday

  8. Steph says:

    Isn’t thier language development fascinating! I always love a new jump in language after a plateau – it’s so exciting to see their personality come out!

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