Monday, 6 May 2013

Laugh of the Week

We were stood in the checkout queue at our local supermarket, our groceries edging forward on the conveyor as the till lady began scanning our items. My wife walked to the end of the till to start bagging up, while I waited in the queue with Lydia in my arms; not necessarily by choice but more out of necessity, as Lydia would never wait patiently in line without either grabbing at whatever she can reach or wandering off in search of adventure.

Lydia has, for some time now, shown a willingness to be polite to those around her, and regularly says a cheery "Bonjour!" to strangers walking by. This is not a social faux-pas in Switzerland, where politeness has long been part of the Swiss way of life, nor is it a worrying lack of awareness of "stranger-danger" in a world where this seems to be such a prevalent theme. Instead, it is simply Lydia's way of interacting with others as she continues her voyage of discovery in life.

So, as we inched our way forwards at the checkout and said "Bonjour" to the till lady, I fully expected Lydia to give the same greeting, given that children of her age are so inclined to copy those around them. What I did not expect, however, was that "bonjour" was not the only word she would say...

She followed her cheery greeting with the very English question, "How are you today?". Both Chris and I looked at each other and at Lydia in surprise, as we had never heard her ask this to anyone before that moment. The till lady, not being an English-speaker, simply replied "bonjour" and went back to scanning our groceries.

We laughed, Lydia laughed, and then carried on with our day. We are so used to hearing direct repetition of words and phrases that we say often, but I honestly don't remember asking the same question to Lydia. I will often ask, after returning home from work, questions along the lines of "how are you?" or "how was your day?", but it seems that in this case Lydia has managed to repeat my question and combine it with a reference to today.

To me, this is a clear sign that Lydia is really beginning to understand language a little better; she is almost constantly talking these days, and although she still has her own language - I call it "Lydian" - most of what she says is now composed of real words. Unfortunately for my English family, the majority of the real words are French, and I would estimate that only about 25% of what she says involves English words.

That's perhaps one of the reasons why we were so surprised to hear this little, unprompted English phrase coming out of the mouth of our little monkey, and why we found it so funny.

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