Thursday, November 5, 2009

Words of Wisdom

N is a late talker. That is, at nearly 20 months old, he doesn't talk. He started off on the right foot, saying "mama" at a precocious 6 months old, and quickly moved on to "cat" and "car". But soon after that he dropped all but mama, and only used that in the most distressing of circumstances. T and I have been patiently holding our breath, examining each sound that comes from N's mouth (few and far between though they are) for possible linguistic meaning. But after all this time, we have given up and decided to just let nature take its course. My main concern for N is not his lack of speech, but the communication difficulties caused by a lack of speech. With me, every slight sound and gesture is quickly understood, because are very tuned in to each other. With strangers - or rotating daycare workers - it's not that easy.

So imagine my surprise today when the little guy came out with not one, not two, but three brand new words all in the span of a few minutes. "What wonderful news!" must be your thought right now. But hold that thought, because the new words? They were in Chinese. No, I don't have any problem with N learning Chinese. In fact, I'd be thrilled in he showed an aptitude for foreign language, and Chinese would certainly be a useful one. But couldn't he learn his native language first? You know, the one his mother and all his caregivers speak? It might make things a bit easier on all of us. Then again, when has my beautiful little roughneck ever worried about what's easiest.

I'm thinking soon I'll want to make some decisions. Do I want to encourage this, or cut it off until he learns English? He's not going to learn very much Chinese just from watching Ni Hao Kai-Lan, so further instruction will require stepping away from the TV and into a classroom, or at least some workbooks and DVDs. And at 20 months old, is he too young for this, however informal the education might be? If he truly has a flair for languages, or even just for the one language, I hate to cut him off and let a crucial window pass. Tell me mamas, if any of you are out there reading, what would you do?