Monday, June 21, 2010

Language Explosion--by Jamie

The other night, Jayda and I were lying in my bed reading books. She was snuggled up next to me with her head comfortably resting in the crook of my arm, and at one point I moved my shoulder and accidentally shook her. “What happened, mommy?” she asked. I told her that my arm had been in a bad position and I’d needed to move it. “Position?” she queried. “That’s like at my dance class!” and she abruptly stood up on the bed and put her feet into first position to show me.

I thought the verbal connection she’d made was absolutely marvelous. Just as endearing was an encounter we had with my sister, Jodi, last week. We were all in the car, and Jodi turned around in the driver’s seat to get Jayda’s attention, and said “Hey!” Jayda responded, “Hay is for horses!” and we all cracked up. I’m not sure Jayda completely understood the meaning of her words, but her mimicry of something an adult had obviously said to her before, was a clear sign of how much language Jayda is soaking up these days. I notice it every day when a new phrase pops out of her mouth, and people who don’t see Jayda often always remark to me that she’s speaking so well now—and so often! My little drama-queen now uses language to make a statement—she describes big things as “huge,” knows the difference between flip-flops and sandals (and gets mad at me when I misidentify her flip-flops as “sandals”), and even says “Oy!” and “Geez, Louise!” like I do (It’s a good thing I don’t curse in front of her).

In my Child Development class, I’ve been learning that Jayda is in the midst of her Preoperational Stage of cognitive development, where language growth is paramount; however, this stage is also marked by egocentrism and imagination. It’s a magical age—literally and figuratively—and I need to constantly remind myself that while Jayda “sounds” very mature, she’s not; she’s still only three years old. She still expects to get everything she asks for (and will throw a tantrum if she doesn’t), and she doesn’t always “get” the rules I make, or even understand everything we discuss in our now-verbose conversations. She has a lot of words under her belt, and she’s growing up…but she’s not a grown up. She still tells me, “I want Max and Ruby to come to our house,” and talks about Disney princesses like they’re her best friends (She’s even tried to get one of her “princely” male friends to marry her so they could “live happily ever after”). But Jayda’s behavior is just fine; she’s simply a “normal” three year old—with a vastly growing vocabulary.

In preparation for my application to grad school, I’ve recently started studying for my GREs. When I studied for my SATs, I was more than twenty years younger than I am now—and thus had twenty fewer years of vocabulary-acquisition under my belt. Thus, when I first looked at the GRE vocabulary lists, I was amazed by how many words I know. However, I’m also amazed by how many words I still don’t know. It’s time for me to create a stack of flash cards—and begin integrating new, “big” words into my vocabulary. Clearly, language acquisition is a never-ending process…but sometimes it’s more of a chore to develop your vocabulary than at other times. Jayda loves mimicking my favorite phrases—and enjoys the squeals of delight I make when I hear her say something new and intelligent. I wish my studying was just as fulfilling. But I also wish I could find a prince with whom I could live happily ever after. If I have to be so grown up, it’s a good thing I have Jayda and her fantastic imagination around to make life more enjoyable.


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