As I mentioned in a previous post, the twins’ verbal development continues to astound me. I often wonder if they’re gifted. But, as usual, I always remind myself that maybe I’m just biased because I’m their mother.
At 2 years 4 months, they can now talk in full sentences, they can answer questions, they correct you when you’re ‘wrong’ (Twin2: Ini bukan car Abah, ini car Mama – This is not Abah’s car, this is Mama’s car), they even make up their own lyrics to nursery rhyme melodies!
I can listen for hours listening to the two of them chatter endlessly as they play with each other, whether they’re building their own version of the Petronas Twin Towers, or pretending to cook an egg, or indulging in their latest favourite activity: pretending to sing over and cut a birthday cake.
And you know what? Inasmuch as I feel proud of the rapidity of the development of their verbal skills, I sorely miss the special words that they coined themselves when they were just starting to talk. Stuff like beh for ball, zaza for write (even if it usually referred to writing on the walls of my house!), ageg for frog, egg for yellow. Twin2, who had difficulty with the letters L and R, used to say iyu for lorry, sney-yowh for snail and wey-yowh for whale.
Egg. Now that makes for an interesting story. The twins used to say egg whenever they meant ‘yellow’… because they had a plastic toy egg that was yellow. They somehow tied the idea of ‘yellow’ with ‘egg’, thereby confusing the two words with each other. I tried many times to correct them whenever they’d say that something’s ‘egg‘ in colour. But then they’d insist so vehemently that it’s egg, so in the end, I just let them ‘win’ the argument.
I don’t recall the exact time when they stopped saying ‘egg‘ and started pronouncing ‘yellow’ properly. But I do remember the time when I asked Twin2 where the ‘ageg‘ is and he answered me ‘Fwog takde‘ (there is no frog). He looked at me in such a way that I felt almost embarrassed for saying ageg instead of frog. Fancy that! ;)
Right now, the only remaining ‘special’ words that they use are nyam-nyam for eat and yayay for anything that they find dirty or disgusting, such as their soiled nappies (‘Yiih!! Nappy yayay!‘).
Generally, I discourage the use of baby talk with my children. I diligently do what experts recommend — correcting them gently by repeating what they say, but replacing the baby talk with the proper words. However, I couldn’t help but allow them to continue using some of their ‘special’ words because… well, I just find it so adorable!
It also makes for great conversation once they’re older. Take the case of my 3 older kids, who never tire of asking me what they used to say when they were toddlers. MyEldest used to say babu for ball (his first word!), cong-conut for coconut, epa-plane for aeroplane, sfly and sflower for fly and flower, kompinter for computer. OnlyGirl used to say min instead of moon, ibat instead of ubat, bikan instead of bukan. RoundBoy, who started talking in complete sentences when he was 1 year 8 months old, used to say neysh instead of nails, nak nak for tak nak (I don’t want), just like the twins, and ask for yoyo instead of susu (milk), just like his older sister.
Now that they’re bigger, I correct every little grammatical mistake they make. And I don’t hesitate to use ‘big’ words when I talk to them. I think it’s a great way for them to pick up new vocabulary. Furthermore, whenever we watch something on TV, I take the time to explain the meanings of complex words, even if they don’t ask me to. And, of course, I read a lot and encourage them to do the same by setting aside special times for reading (even if it means forcibly turning off the TV, after they’ve spent an entire Saturday morning in front of the boob tube!) and getting them lots of new reading materials from time to time — books, in-flight magazines, print-outs from the internet, newspaper cuttings. The result? An English vocabulary that amazes even native English speakers.
But for now, I revel in whatever little time I have left with the twins’ cute lisps and pronunciation slips!