Lost In TranslationPosted: August 3, 2012
As a Supernanny, I pride myself on my ability to understand my young charges, an unspoken bond existing between us. However, when it comes to toddlers, it is in the realm of the verbal that a vast divide in understanding may occur. Toddler Speak, also known as gibberish, poppycock, and “huh?” is both endearing and confounding at the same time. Hearing a child formulate his/her first words is so adorable, it’s the chance to hear his/her speaking voice, which in and of itself is heart-melting. That combined with his/ her earnest efforts to communicate? So awesome, though not a little bit puzzling.
When a child is first learning how to speak, the endeavor is both exciting and frustrating. Exciting because they are being given much attention, lots of face time, while folks and nannies sound out words with them, enunciating, helping put emphasis on the correct syllables, showing the written word or a picture and then saying its oral counterpart-all this new information is thrilling. At the same time I’m sure it’s frustrating for a child who understands the meaning of words, comprehends the idea of language, to not yet be able to articulate masterfully. I have had my share of toddler charges who get very irate when they cannot convey what they need, want, feel, or think. Heck, I get frustrated when I can’t get a text out quickly enough.
The experiences I have with Toddle Speak situations are countless but the most memorable to me are the ones when a child’s pronunciation sounds remarkably like profanity, or something of an inappropriate nature. Perfect example, on a day spent with Big Cat and Mr. Man, when Big Cat was just entering Toddlerdom and had begun his foray into speech, we were sitting at the kitchen table and Big Cat kept saying, what I could only reason was the curse word, “F$*#”, over and over again. I froze, hoping I had misheard, Mr. Man across the table didn’t bat an eyelash, but looked at me expectantly. Finally I bit the fishing line of my curiosity, “Mr. Man, what is Big Cat saying?” Mr. Man, always eager to lend his knowledge replied, “Fork. He needs a fork, Miss Cheryl.” FORK! Of course, FORK. Whew! “Oh, ok. Sure! I’d love to grab him a fork!” I exclaimed, unable to hide my relief at not having a child who swore like a cab driver as my charge. It would not be my last time confusing pronunciation with profanity. Recently Rebel repeated what I assumed was the same “F” word over and over again, in his case meaning “Frog”.
It’s not always the kiddos who confuse me, at times they misunderstand things Miss Cheryl says. Doc, admiring my earrings, asked what they were made of. I told him “They are made of yellow gold and purple amethyst, Doc.” Rebel, playing near by ran over and held his little hand up to my ear to see the earrings. Upon inspecting them he looked quizzically at me and asked, “Where ambulance?” Realizing he misheard, I explained that they were made of yellow gold and amethyst not ambulance. Now whenever I wear them, Rebel points and says, “Gold, no ambulance!” And he’s right!
Another Rebel word jumble, this time concocted by him, came on a morning walk with him and Doc. Rebel kept pointing at the lawn then me, saying what sounded suspiciously like the “B” word. Now in my head I of course thought, “Who are you calling a b*$#&, baby?” But before I could get too offended, Doc clued me into the word’s intended pronunciation- “branch.” Rebel was pointing to a fallen branch on the lawn. Haha!
Once I get into the groove of the Toddler Speak, I can roll with the punches, and make light of even the most dumbfounding exchanges. Rebel, repeating the unintelligible phrase “Yo low” was replied to by my saying, without looking up from coloring, “True that, Rebel. YOLO. You Only Live Once!” before understanding through gesticulation and common sense that he meant he wanted me to pass him the “yellow” crayon.
For an entire morning, Boss Lady kept intermittently orating about what I could only surmise was “Grapes and feces.” Her parents informed me later that the latter word was “fishes” not “feces” to which I breathed a sigh of relief, and we all had a good laugh. It is important, as it is with many aspects of upbringing, to keep a sense of humor with a child’s endeavors into the world of the spoken word. Giving him/her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to them misspeaking encourages them to keep trying, never fearing not pronouncing correctly. I make sure they know they can say anything to me, swearing my understanding…even if they’re swearing.