Monday, May 24, 2010

Language update: 2.5 years

Baby K is 2.5 today. Her speech has been a lot more complex and intelligible to strangers recently. Intelligibility is a double-edged sword as it turns out, like the time she said a clear, loud “Go away!!” to the innocent old lady passing by. “Go away” is her new catch-phrase when she’s annoyed with us. This weekend she said it to me while sitting on my lap, which in my mind just perfectly captures the essence of a two year old. She is also very fond of “No touching” (she says “no chuching”). In the last day or two she's started asking, "What happened?"

Recently, she likes to sit in the stroller (she calls it “biki”) when she’s tired of walking, but only on her terms: not wearing the straps. As she gets in, she says, “K sit a biki, no straps.” Last week she paused just before getting in and looked up at us both, saying,

“No straps, ok? Mama, no straps.”
Me: “OK, no straps.”
K: “Apo, no straps.”
[silence from Apo]
K: “Apo, no straps, ok?”
Apo: “Dobre.” [ok]

When she had successfully secured agreement from both parents, she finished climbing in. This child has negotiating skills.

And then yesterday she was playing barefoot with her friend L, and I made her put her sandals back on. As I helped her get them on, she appealed to me, saying, “L no shoes.” Again: negotiating skills. Before you know it she’ll be appealing to precedent and catching us out in inconsistencies. What fascinates me about this sort of tactic is that she didn’t learn it from anyone – she’s an only child who isn’t as exposed to other children as I would like. Kids are just born knowing this kind of thing.

Her output in Slovak is still increasing, mostly on the single-word level but still with some occasional short sentences. She isn’t on board with word endings yet* and tends to repeat whichever form she’s recently heard:

Apo: “Chceš ísť do parku?” [Do you want to go to the park?]
K: “Parku! Parku!”

With verbs she has been typically using the command form (Sit! Stop!) because that’s what she hears most often (haha). I wonder if other Slovak kids typically do that at first, too. For example, she’ll say “Apo hopaj” (Apo sit) when it should be “Apo hopá” (Apo sits/is sitting). In the last month or two she’s started using infinitives some, too, showing that she knows there are at least those two forms of the verb (she’ll say either “K hopaj” or “K hopať.” On Saturday, she came upstairs to tell me, “Mama, food time. Apo variť ” (lit. “Apo to cook”).

This weekend K announced she needed to use the potty while we were driving.

Apo: K, vydrž! [Hold on! - command]
K: OK, I vydrž! [compare the correct "ja vydržím" - I hold on]

Since starting to use some Slovak verbs (usually in English sentences as above), I’ve noticed the same sort of verb endings as she uses in Slovak-only sentences, i.e. they’re a bit odd. But funny. I was very impressed though when she correctly used two word endings of the same word, without imitating something she’d just heard:

K, looking for her lost hat: “Čiapka? Čiapka? ... I find čiapku!”

The verb was English, but it shows she’s starting to get the idea of a word taking different roles in a sentence and having different endings to match. Warms my heart just thinking about it.

As far as English goes, I think she’s doing pretty well. She isn’t discussing politics with me yet, but she impressed me this weekend (at a farm) with this sentence: “I want to play on a tractor now.” Her vocabulary is growing and she is able to communicate more and more of her ideas. She has a wild imagination and is interested in monsters, pirates, babies, dinosaurs, Tinkerbell and (always) Doctor Who.

* I can sympathize. When I found out pronouns have two forms, depending on placement in the sentence and/or presence of a preposition, I considered boycotting the whole system. I’m just not going to do it! That was one step too far. (I got over it.)

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