Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Where we are at with language

I just thought I might post an update on MKs language advances because I went on and on about it a few months ago and, if I were reading this, I'd be curious to know if it was flash in the pan or if it panned out. Also, I was reading about sudden leaps forward on Estee, Kevin and Susan's blogs, which put me in mind of it.

Basically the speed at which MK is advancing in terms of vocabulary acquisition has slowed down, so I am noticing a couple of new words or expressions a day, rather than dozens. On the other hand, the sudden ability to pick up and retain new words that he is specifically taught seems to be sticking and strengthening. There are still a lot of gaps. Tonight, in a sentence beginning "It depends on the circumstances," and including the words "graffiti" and "arrested" he was at a loss for the word "wall," and tried "that wallpaper place" before pointing to a wall and asking, "what's this thing called?"

This business of wanting to know what things are called is actually quite new. Today also he asked me (referring to a peer who had a particularly spectacular melt-down), "Why do we say, 'flip out'?" That idiom "why do we" and particularly the "we" in "why do we say" was particularly encouraging to hear. For one thing, it's metalinguistic exploration of the most useful sort, and for another, it implies a level of self-inclusion that I don't usually see from MK when it comes to language.

The ability to recount events in the recent past has stayed and is getting better. A noticeable change is that he has started cluing people in on the background of things that he says. For example, when describing a some particularly awesome victory, he said "Mario was on red (that means he had one HP left) and I..." Likewise, we got "There is this video I was watching, and when you play it backwards it is really funny because it sounds like ..." We never used to get explanatory parenthetical asides or scene-setting introductions.

It's interesting because, if I looked at this latest development in isolation, I would be tempted to say it represents an advance in theory of mind. But somehow I don't buy that. Theory of mind does not develop in a matter of weeks. I think it's just down to language. He's got enough spare processing power while recounting something to be able to think about what other people know in real time, and he's got the linguistic facility to be able to bring up the phrases that add the extra information without loosing track of his narrative.

So in any case, the update is: slowing down, strengthening, morphing into different things but by no means ephemeral. As evidence of this, today we on a bus engrossed in a long, wide ranging conversation and, when we came to a pause, I had to ask, "What were we talking about?"

"Changing the laws in Japan after the war," prompted MK.

"Yes, but what were we talking about before that," I wanted to know. "How did we get here?"

In fact, we got there from talking about the destruction of infrastructure in Japan in WWII, which we got to from talking about atom bombs, which we got to through talking about war as a downward pressure on population, which we got to through discussing world population growth, which we got to through talking about which was the biggest city in the world.

When you can get lost in conversation like that, you know you are doing OK.

1 comment:

Joeymom said...

Wow, coming right along! Must be in the air- and that's good! :)