Friday, March 14, 2014

My Bilingual Son

Sunday and I had been having an on-going discussion about whether Jonah had reached the cusp of his linguistic potential.   We disagreed on whether he was actually saying words, and if he understood those words that he may or may not be saying.   Sunday, the ever-hopeful one, had not only heard words emanating from his mouth, she understood them.  I, on the other hand, was much more technical about such things, although I do consider the sections of the New Testament that discuss “interpretation of tongues” whenever I attempted to determine whether he was speaking a heavenly utterance or not.

I remembered when my nephew Tyler started “talking.”  My younger brother, Luke, told us that Tyler was talking up a storm.  When we visited them a week or so later, I discovered that Tyler’s “talking” only included his mother, Faith.  It didn’t include smiling, friendly uncles, nice Nanas, or even Dad.  It took a full year after Tyler started “talking up a storm” before I heard a word other than please, thank you, and school bus. 

I hoped Jonah progressed as quickly as Tyler.  At this rate, Jonah isn’t even talking well enough for his own mother to understand him.

Here are a couple times when Sunday or I have heard him “say” something.

Situation #1:  We were in church, with a small group gathered around Jonah, making faces and funny noises, in the hopes of getting him to smile.  Since Jonah smiles in order to exist, they didn’t have to try very hard.  (He’s kind of like The Joker, who has a perpetual-smile).  Anyway, as they mercifully began leaving the area, they all screwed up their faces in grotesque smiles—all of them looked like they had been getting a contact high from all that cheery goodwill—and they waved too enthusiastically yelling, “Good bye! Good bye! Good bye!”  They were having so much fun, I wanted to vomit. 

So Jonah did something I had been wanting to do all night:  He laughed at them.  Then, Jonah said, “Buh, Bye”

By the reaction he got, you would have thought Jonah had fired a shotgun after them.  They arrested their excited salutations and came screaming back to us, yelling, “He talked!  He talked!”

In response, Jonah said, “WaAAAHHHH!!!!  WAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!”

His yelling made them go away, much to my good pleasure.

Situation #2: Jonah and I spend most mornings together as we interrupt each other’s work.  I work by reading or writing.  Jonah works by rolling trucks across the living room floor or throwing small teething rings at my head.  Either way, we converge on the floor about once an hour, to play or check on one another’s progress in the day’s work. 

One morning, Sunday came home to find us not working at all, but crawling around on the floor playing.  She joined in our games, talking to Jonah and getting the information on our day. 

She asked, “Jonah, what did you do today.”

“Heehee.  OoOHH.  Bababababa,” was his response.

“OH! That sounds very fun.  What else did you do?”

“ahhadiosajkdfd” was his reply.

There, in our apartment, we stopped cold.  He had just said “adios”.  He said adios!  While we would have loved to have a child who speaks English, a child who knows multiple languages is even better—provided that he eventually learns English.  We translated Adios, which means “see you later” in Spanish, but it also means “we crawled around on the floor vomiting and eating bits of dust” in Croatian.  Since the Croatian came closest to making sense, we have come to the conclusion that Jonah has decided to speak Croatian before he speaks Spanish.  We really don’t know when he’ll fit in English, but with this progress, I don’t think it’ll matter much.

Either way, he’s been “adiosing” all day long.

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