Have you ever listened to the gobbledygook gushing from your toddler’s mouth and felt like you’ve moved to a foreign land?
And we’re not talking about a familiar Latin tongue like Spanish or a distant relative such as Hindi. No, this is like stumbling upon one of the lost tribes of the Amazon; a language whose syntax, inflections, and semantics are utterly alien to our ears.
We all spoke this language once but unfortunately we’ve since forgotten how to speak baby. Much to our own baby’s annoyance.
So when should babies start talking? According to the internet, babies start to acquire their first language (or multiple first languages in a multi-lingual family) from birth. Newborns respond more readily to human speech than to other sounds. And from around one month old, babies can spot different speech sounds. Actual words start to appear between the ages of 12 to 18 months and the average vocabulary of an eighteen-month-old is around 50 words.
So babies can understand us before we understand them. They probably pick up the meaning of important words like milk, book, bath, bed (if you’re lucky). It must be very frustrating to grasp what someone is saying to you but not be able to tell them what you want.
I’ve seen Baby B become very cross in the past couple of months as his idiot staff fail to respond to his commands and whims, his logical request for a mid-morning paintbrush which we interpret as wanting a snack or a beaker of water – what fools we are!
At fourteen months we’ve really only heard ‘Dadda’ and something that we think means Panda – his favourite toy, which we do say a lot to him. We are yet to have a ‘m’ or any ‘b’ words, which are the next easiest to pronounce. Of course there are always going to be people who claim their baby was reciting Keats at 6 months but I think there is a lot of parental exaggeration about so I prefer to let my own ears be the judge of that!
Some people say ‘Oh well, boys do take longer to talk than girls’, but although this may be true I think there is a lot of communication going on that can be missed or worse, ignored, because babies aren’t saying recognisable words.
I am not remotely worried about the lack of words at this stage as Baby B seems to have developed his own little language. He will babble at length, using a variety of long and short sounds, rising and falling pitch, and pauses for effect.
He combines all of this with lots of gestures; pointing, waving his hands, waving his whole arm for added drama sometimes, as if he’s conducting an orchestra.
I find this whole process fascinating and I honestly can’t wait for him to say words; I really want to know what his speaking voice sounds like. That’s such a hard thing to imagine, much harder than imagining what it would be like seeing him walk.
For now we will continue to try our best to interpret.
So here is my take on the top ten things our toddler is trying to say:
1. The cat whisperer
“Wondrous Pusscat. Come down from your perch.
I long to climb upon your mighty back and ride like the wind!”
2. Into the matrix
I’m just off to see Abney and Teal, Sarah and Duck, and Iggle Piggle. I’ll be back in time for dinner…
3. The daily grind
No! The plates go on the left and the dishes go on the right.
The forks are all mixed up with the spoons.
Now I’ve got to re-stack everything!
4. Got the X Factor?
Am I through to the live finals?
Judge’s houses? Boot camp?
Surely I’ve got four big fat yeses?
I want this soooooooooo much!
5. Secret agent
You ain’t seen me.
6. The magical door
Shhh. There is a bear in this secret cupboard.
I only borrowed him.
He doesn’t bite.
Sorry mum and dad – this job is going to cost you a bit more than I quoted.
8. Too sweet?
Ice cream? THIS is ice cream?! WHY have I not tasted this before?
I want ice cream every breakfast, lunch and dinner!!!!
I’m never sleeping agaaaaaain!!!
9. The mountaineer
What do you mean what am I doing? Going to have a bath and go to bed.
That’s what you want isn’t it?
Some people are never happy.
It wasn’t me.
It was panda who made that smell.
Too much bamboo gives him wind. Honest.
What was your little one’s first word?
Bye for now 🙂