Children Separated By a Common Language

When I was a student at Queen’s University I studied English language and one of the areas that we touched upon was language acquisition among children. I have little recollection of what we were taught other than there is an ideal time for children to pick up languages.

So my two year old daughter Treasa has a little Polish friend by the name of Anna, pronounced ‘Anya’, and the two of them witter on to one another, one in English, one in Polish. They seem perfectly capable of understanding each other. Treasa understand a little Polish, what I don’t know but they are very good friends indeed.

A while back I got my wife three hens for her birthday. The thought of having hens about the place was anathema to me. Just the idea of them pecking and poking about did nothing for me. It’s not as if I am particularly green fingered or good in the garden.

But I have to say, the hens have grown on me. Maybe it’s the wonderful fresh eggs. Or the unexpected sight of one pecking in round your feet in the kitchen when the door has been left open. It could be comical sight of them staccato strutting about the garden stopping here and there to fertilize another part of the grass. Leo and Peter aren’t that impressed when the hens do the business on their football pitch, although it doesn’t have the same capacity for match abandonment as the dog lightening her load.

But, on the subject of language, when they arrived Treasa immediately christened the hens with the delightful name ‘buk buks’ responding instinctively, intuitively and linguistically to the noise they made pecking their way round the garden.

Listening to the children talking is one of the great pleasures although occasionally you realise they are sponges, picking up on every word you have said.

Last Friday night we were all at a camogie match in Swatragh. I returned in one car and the rest of the family were in the other car, a seven seater. I found out when I got home that Sorcha, my second youngest daughter had puked. And so, to get a first hand account of the drama I asked her what had happened. Solemn faced she replied:

“I felt sick in the car Daddy, so mummy stopped the car and I sickeded on the pavement.”

I was delighted with her. Not only did a four year old have the presence of mind to keep it in, she ‘sickeded’ on the pavement, in the process coining a new verb.