Wednesday, May 11, 2011


We have new neighbours. A German couple with two young children. They live on a farm outside Cape Town but are here for 6 weeks fixing up the place to rent it out.
They're clearing gutters and painting and gardening and what have you. This morning, over the wall, I heard a conversation which has played out many a time in our house.

KID: 'What's this? Can I help you?'
DAD: 'Don't touch that!'
KID: 'But I want to help.'
DAD: '%!#@!'
KID: 'Waaaaaaa...'
MUM: 'What happened?'
DAD: 'Just get him/her away from here.'
MUM: 'But s/he was just trying to help.'
KID: 'Waaaaaa...'

The whole dialogue was in German. I don't speak German but that's absolutely what was said.

Frieda had a play date this afternoon with two little girls down the road. Their Dad is Angolan and speaks to them in Portuguese. Their Mum is from Holland and speaks to them in Dutch. 
Frieda and the girls spent the afternoon in their garden 'talking Chicken' and clucking Away in a Manger.

Bull terriers are known for being very vocal. There's lots of vids online of them 'talking'. Ours doesn't really do that, but backchat? Oh, she's a queen.
Shut her out, reprimand her or neglect to put the pot you just finished using down on the floor for her to lick and she'll give you a snort that's so full of disdain, so cutting, so ... bitchy that you can't help but laugh.
Then she snorts at you again.

It's a known fact that second-borns often take longer to start talking. Various theories abound, the most popular being that often their elder sibling will start talking for them, thereby relieving the need for the younger sib to express him/herself.
My theory is that parents get better at interpreting non-verbal communication the second time round.
True or not, Stella, while at 14 months is under no pressure to be talking yet, is becoming alarmingly good at relaying her needs, and wants. Or am I becoming alarmingly good at interpreting them?

'Gnh gnh gnh' - points at shampoo bottle. I hand it to her. She holds it upside down over her head. 
'Gnh gnh gnh' -hands bottle back. I put shampoo on her hair. She grins and starts lathering.

She's watching me chop potatoes. Crawls off towards the veggie rack.
'Gnh gnh gnh' - she's holding up the one potato I'd left in the rack, rejected for being too green. I smile, take it and put it to one side.
I retrieve green potato and pretend to chop it to.
She grins, but with faint suspiscion.

She crawls towards me with one sock on, the other in her hand.
'Oh did your sock come off? Give me your foot and I'll put it back.'
'Gnh gnh gnh' - she holds out the foot which is still socked.
'You've got a sock on that one, give me the other foot.'
'GNG GNH GNH' - she sticks the same foot out at me more pointedly. I acquiesce and put the second sock on over the first.
She grins and crawls away.

Language hey? It's over-rated. There's a myriad ways of expressing oneself, as many ways of understanding others. 
Maybe sometimes it just requires listening in a different way.


solisti nunti said...

From what you say here i think they are not a very happy family. But how do you understand with them?

Murr Brewster said...

There's always that story about the kid who never said word one until he was ten and he abruptly handed his plate back and said "the potatoes have gotten cold." His parents were thrilled--had to know why he'd never spoken before. "Up till now," the child replied, "everything has been satisfactory."

julochka said...

are you aure she didn't want that other sock off?

nunta formatii said...

You speak with your neighbors? How they behave with other people?