Have a Marlis Day!

The Gift of Language

Posted on: October 10, 2011

 We moved to the farm for the summer following my first birthday in March. I have no memories of my first pet, this little blind chicken, but I clearly remember what happened soon after this picture was taken:  the day I understood language. It was there during that summer, so I must have been 14-16 months old. My brother, Johnny, and I were playing in the  yard and came to a fence. I couldn’t climb it and he said, “I’ll help you, sissy.” My heart soared. I understood what he said for the first time. I still remember the thrill I felt the day I understood language. I know some of you won’t believe this, but from that day on, I recorded memories. I haven’t researched what linguists declare to be true, but I know from my own experience that language is a gift and comes to young children all at once – not one word at a time. None of us could be placed in Russia or China and 18 months later suddenly understand everything people around us were saying, but it happens to toddlers. Ask parents of any eighteen-month-old child and they will affirm, “He/she can’t talk yet, but understands everything we say.” They will go on to explain how when discussing a ride in the car, the child will pick up her jacket, or find his shoes. Or run to the window if you  mention a squirrel at the bird feeder. Speech comes later, maybe at two or two and a half, but memories begin when we understand what those around us say.

In the fall we moved back to town. I still couldn’t talk but have many memories of those early days. I clearly remember the day this second picture was taken. Mom had taken Johnny and me to a photographer’s studio. He was three and I was seventeen months old. (Mom dated the picture on the back.) The photographer instructed Johnny to put his arm around me and he protested. “No, I don’t want to,” he wailed. There was a scene and I recall feeling hurt that he didn’t want to put his arm around me and wondered why. As the picture shows, he finally succumbed either to dire threats or bribes. No one considered my tiny self-esteem being injured by his rejection and I couldn’t articulate it yet. Mom said my first speech was very “Dutchy” and I stamped my foot in frustration when she couldn’t understand me. Everyone agrees I’ve  made up for my early lack of speech, but when I think about it  I’m still overwhelmed by the gift of language. It’s nothing short of a miracle and it happened to all of us.

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2 Responses to "The Gift of Language"

Great story and I love the pictures!

Cute photos! Thanks for sharing. I wish I could pick up a second language as easily as a child.

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Hi! I'm Marlis.

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