I have much more to say about Christmas, but I think I’ll leave it alone for now and talk about something new: Language acquisition.
The entire concept is pretty amazing, really; it’s even more amazing to witness it happening in a real person. I never truly understood the power of imitation, what little parrots we all are as children. It’s no wonder that these are golden years for absorbing words, learning to speak multiple tongues, etc. because pretty much all a hearing child does is mimic the bigger people around him. Sometimes this is cute; sometimes it is obnoxious or even dangerous. Often, it reveals how a human brain moves from generalities to specifics to rule exceptions.
Marcus is beginning to figure out past tenses. He’s applying generalized rules already, and this part is cute:
“Hey Mama, camel comed to see giraffe and he had Christmas present.”
“Hey, that Silent Night—we singed that in big church.”
He doesn’t yet grasp that some verbs are irregular, and can’t be changed into past tense simply by adding a “d,” but hey, he’s 2 ½—I’m impressed that he is applying any rule at all. And he’ll figure it out, as time goes by. He’ll get to know the tenses a little better, will start to understand how to turn all verbs into past tense, even in our unpredictable, unlawful English language. He’s figured out that there’s a yesterday, a now, a tomorrow that is yet to come, and that you refer to them in different ways to signify time of action. It’s awesome.
Not so awesome is his eagerness to repeat what he hears spoken. Yesterday, we made the mistake of turning on the TV, and the movie Bruce Almighty was playing on one of the stations. We left it on, foolishly—and don’t get me wrong, I thought the movie was rather clever and much better than I’d expected it to be—but at one point, Jim Carrey screamed “You suck!” Shortly thereafter we turned the TV off.
Now, Marcus never said a word about this. Never commented, didn’t respond with a facial expression, nothing. And what does he say today to his father? Without prompting? You guessed it: “You suck.” Todd was flabbergasted. I was horrified—but remembered in a flash where the kid had learned such rudeness. Yes, our own fault completely—and a good reminder of how everything a child hears is funneled through his awareness and stashed away somewhere inside. EVERYthing. Especially the stuff you were hoping he didn’t hear.
So, I’ll continue to be rendered speechless by my child’s language development skills—both by the progress therein, and by the disgust I feel when I hear my own words spouting forth from his tiny, clueless mouth.