Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Vocabulary

As Jada's peers begin to master one-word commands and even string
together simple sentences, she's a little behind, although hot on
their tail. She knows "more" and "done" and "up," which is a far
superior way to communicate at the dinner table than her previous
piercing shrieks and wild waving. She's able to connect people to the
names she's supposed to call them: "Mommy" and "Daddy," of course, but
also "Ama" and "Agong" ("Grandma" and "Granddad" in Taiwanese) and
"Nina" (her best attempt at "Nana") -- with "Granddad" still not quite
in her repertoire. When you ask her what her name is, she'll proudly
say, "Jada," and when you ask her what time it is, she'll look at her
wrist. She'll even bark like a dog and roar like a lion when you ask
her what sounds those two animals make.

Even better, she's picking up some phrases in Taiwanese and Mandarin.
She can say "g'why g'why" (well-behaved) and "gao" (good), and knows
to put things away when I say "shoo shoo" and to sit down when I say
"ching zwhoa."

So, as I've shared in this space before, I'm fine with her not being
as verbal as her peers, since it's to be expected, given her
exclusively Mandarin newborn phase and her somewhat multilingual
environment since then. From a brain development standpoint, zero to
five is the best window not only to learn languages but to gain the
perspective that there are multiple languages, an unfortunately
uncommon perspective in many parts of America.

I won't go so far as to say that that will definitely make Jada more
respectful of and appreciative of other peoples and cultures, but it
certainly will help her in that direction, a not insignificant
positive in a society as racially charged and ethnically mixed as ours
is becoming. In the meantime, we'll just have to gently steer her
away from the piercing shrieks and wild waving if she doesn't know how
to express herself.

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