Quote of the Day


Dandy the Linguistic Wonder

Did I ever tell you about the day we met Dandy and he wowed me with his analytical skills?

We met and of course used a translator to communicate. While English was being used, Dandy focused intently on us, tracking the conversation though of course understanding none of it.

During a lull, he presented me with a picture book and was very insistent that I look at the book and he would point to certain pictures.

"He wants you to tell him what the pictures are," the translator relayed.

and so forth.

His eyes were bright and he was very purposeful in his actions. He slyly feigned dropping the book and backed up a few pages. He points at the tree again.
"Tree," I say.
He nods.
He points a few other new ones, then points at the wolf again.
"Wolf," I say.
We do a few more.
He finds a new tree and points to it.
"Tree," I say.
He nods, claps the book shut, and runs off speaking a mile a minute to his friends.

The translator tells me that he is reporting that we are not babbling nonsense (which apparently is what they had believed) but that we merely had different sounds for things.

So think about this. Within ten minutes of being exposed to the first foreign language of his life, he concocted a theory -- that we had different sounds, but that they consistently held meaning , devised a way to test his theory, did so even to include a double measure of testing (wolf and tree) and then reported his findings.

I was in awe, and I still am. This is the boy who uses the word avert. This is a boy who will ask once what a word means and then work it into his vocabulary. I really should not be amazed two years in, but still, he floored me with the syntax of this morning's pronouncement. He was helping his sister fold the laundry.

If you keep that attitude, I'm not going to help you. So if you don't want help, keep that whiny and grouchy attitude. If you do want help, lose it.

  • parallelism! (if you don't, keep . . . and If you do, lose . . .)

  • and that he said whiny and grouchy attitude rather than whining and crying

That is some pretty sophisticated sentence construction for a kid who has only been using English for two years. Some of my native-speaker adult English 101 students struggle to compose sentences like that.

Dandy, the linguistic wonder.

:: one year ago today: free rice
:: two years ago today: oddments: Children's Hospital, Secret Beach, Pizza with sauerkraut, diapers


kate said...

While I do not doubt his genius (That story about the tree is amazing!), I think the way you speak to him, the vocabulary and syntax he is exposed to daily deserves some of the credit for his progress, too.

Shelby said...

That is one sharp kid! I agree with Kate that the language you use on a daily basis, not to mention the reading you do, has contributed greatly to his development, but it really seems that he has a knack for not only picking things up quickly, but contextualizing them as well. I have never heard a child use the word avert, native speaker or not. Hmmmm, maybe you've got a little English major on your hands!

Rachael said...

Two linguistic wonders find each other...