Did you have to learn a foreign language when you were at school? I attended St Edmund’s School in Portsmouth where French and German were taught.
Thinking back, I probably would have preferred to learn French, which could have been useful over the years when boarding a ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg for a day out in France.
Although, like most Brits, in the past I ignorantly just expected every French person I’d meet to speak back to me in English.
Of course I’d still make a small effort by adding in the odd bit of French into the sentence like ‘bonjour, do you speak English?’
If that failed I’d still talk in English but this time speak slower, louder and with a French accent while trying to use sign language to demonstrate what I wanted.
If I took a trip to France tomorrow I would still have to expect the locals to understand me because at school I was put into the group that learned German.
Thing is, I got really good at it and by the time I left school aged 16 I could hold a basic conversation in the language.
Sadly in the years that have passed all those words my brilliant German teacher taught me are forgotten and now the best I can do is count to 10 and say ‘my name is Warren’.
But I’m pleased to inform you that I have learned a second language in which I am now fluent.
This time though it is not German or even French. I am now an expert in toddler language.
My one-year-old daughter Alyssa is going through a language explosion at the moment.
She’s been saying ‘momma’ and ‘dada’ for ages, but now we’re getting a ‘thank you’ and ‘here you go’.
She even calls her sister by her name and each day brings another new word.
Of course sometimes her pronunciation requires a bit of working out. For example ‘ow’ doesn’t mean she’s hurt herself, it means ‘cow’.
It’s not just spoken language that requires understanding, but also working out what her self-designed sign language gestures mean.
Some are easy, like when she drags her high chair to the centre of the room, which means she wants to
be placed in it and for food to be put on it.
Or when she points at the TV which, translated, means: ‘I’d really like it if you turned on the big rectangle thing and put on the channel that shows Peppa Pig.’
It really is lovely trying to understand what she wants through her words and actions.
Well apart from when she threw her plate complete with baked beans at me, which translated means ‘finished’.