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Jenn Morgan
Published: Monday, September 27, 2010
Jenn Morgan
Can you say 'frustrated' in baby talk?

Whenever us old folks sit around and reminisce about the good ol' days, I often tell the story of my trip to France and the first time I ordered fast food abroad.

My best friend and I were walking back to our hotel after spending the day at the beach in the warm, sunny French Riviera when we stumbled upon the most beautiful site in all of Europe - McDonald's.

 I am not a food aficionado and as appalling as this may be, I am not fully appreciative of the fine cuisine Europe has to offer. So I was quite happy to get a slice, or shall I say a slurp, of home. I walked up to the cashier and tried to order a milkshake. Of course, the French cashier did not understand my request which was spoken in English. I repeated "milkshake" about 4 times, and she still did not understand. I am not sure why I thought she would understand the second, third, or even fourth request when the first was met with a blank stare, but I persisted in English. I may even have thrown in a syllable at the end of the word (milkshaka? milkshako?), still je ne comprends pas. With my friend bellowing with laughter from the sidelines, I proceeded to try to show what a milkshake was with a hand gesture - one that was innocent - but all the same looked lewd from no matter what angle you saw it. I was red from frustration ... and embarrassment, but mostly frustration.

Now imagine that every day you feel like a tourist in a foreign country and all of your well-intentioned communication efforts get lost in translation. Imagine you ordered the cheese appetizer and instead you were served a fish egg parfait. Or imagine you are parched and asked for a beverage and instead were given a sleeve of crackers. Now imagine you are a year old and every day feels like this. It's like a caveman trying to use hieroglyphics to communicate in a world with modern man's English. No wonder infants cry often - I would cry a lot too if I was frequently misunderstood.

Daily, my daughter will point to objects and grunt. In her head, she is saying, "Mother, please pass me the animal crackers. I would like the elephant-shaped cookie if you would be so kind. Thank you much." In real life, I hear "ugghhnnn. ..uggghnnn...."

They are so close and sound so much the same, but yet I still cannot always comprehend what she is asking of me. I will look around and just start handing her items that are located in the general vicinity that she is pointing and sound like the word "uggghnnnn."

 In response to my clear disregard for her needs and wants, she angrily pushes each wrong item away, or tosses it on the floor in protest. She is frustrated and I don't blame her. It is tough being a little girl in a big girl's world. My husband and I thought that when Isabella turned one, the words would start flowing freely from her mouth. At fourteen months old, my daughter can audibly say mama, dada, dog, and get. She is also fluent in gibberish.

To help my daughter better communicate her needs - and to help us better understand her wants - we have started to incorporate sign language into her daily routine. In about one month, she has learned the signs for eat, more, all done, milk, nap and dada. Since children her age spend the majority of their time either eating, sleeping, playing or pooping, she can let me know what she needs 50 percent of the time and takes away half the guesswork for me. There is less crying on her part, and less frustration all around. Plus I feel like I am on the same page as my daughter, like we are speaking the same language. I am enjoying it now, because I know when Isabella is a teenager we will once again start speaking a different language.



 

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