Snap King? Skip Fling?

By: Wendy Rhein

I think that foreign language instruction should be mandatory. I think that every one of us should be at least bi if not tri lingual. Languages have been known to expand your primary language vocabulary, enhance your connection to music and math. Not to mention the cultural implications and travel possibilities.

I speak a little French, enough to get by at a film noir or to read a haughty menu. But the language I wish I had learned years ago is toddlerese.

You may not find an Adult English to Toddler dictionary at the library but it’s a real language. Ask any parent.

If I spoke toddlerese fluently my day to day frustrations trying to understand my two-year-old would vanish. I’d be able to stop saying: What is it? WHAT DO YOU WANT? You want oatmeal? You want an obtuse triangle? Did he just say ‘you talk too much’ or was that ‘you touch the tissue box?’ Sam, slow down and try again. You want to carry your backpack? Marry a hunchback?

These days I find I fall back on my old language tricks: I say yes a lot. And OK. And we have mutually come to an unspoken agreement that after several attempts at understanding Sam’s jumbled speech I hold out my hand and he guides me to whatever it is that he wants and needs. I can’t begin to comprehend the level of frustration he must feel not being able to communicate with those who love and provide for him. And I know just enough to translate, not always successfully, which seems to lead to a greater expectation on his part that I actually have any idea what the hell is going on in his head. Poor kid.

One would ┬áthink I’d have this one down in my round two of parenting but I think I blocked out this stage, like so many other things, in the five years’ difference between my two sons. Nathan, closer to his native tongue of todderese than either me or my mother, often can translate for his brother. Though sometimes I think he is making it up just to see what I will do.


  1. says

    I remember those days. My older son would translate for the younger one. “He wants such and such” and he was always right. So cute.

  2. says

    Sign language. Kenny could sign the basics early on, and it was a miracle. “Change”, “milk”, “want”, “no”, “more”, “hurt”, etc. and we could address the major issues in the life of a toddler. I’m not sure it helped him learn to speak any, though, since he wasn’t really talking until >2 years old, but we got rid of a lot of frustration that way.

  3. Wendy says

    Lisa that would be very helpful! I can understand many of the single words but now that he strings them together in 3, 4 and 5 word sentences I struggle.

  4. says

    When C was about Sam’s age, I remember my brother saying, “Well, I know she thinks she’s speaking English, but I sorta think it’s Esperanto!”

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