It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I’d Probably Make a Good Living as a Translator

…even without a second language.

Zach calls to me from the living room, as I am rinsing the lunch dishes. What with the two rooms between us, the noise of the water in the sink, and the chatter of the other children, and given that at two his diction isn’t all it could and will be, I hear something like this:

“Awiss…mrvigkdl…airp’ane… dkeibgymmble…dkeoppoel…yivvingwomb… mgirlbele…gone.”

To which I respond, “Did Alice take your airplane out of the livingroom?”


One word in ten is all you need, I’m telling you!

May 17, 2006 - Posted by | Alice, random and odd, Zach


  1. HEhe I have to do this with my daughter all the time. she will waite till the dishwasher is just started or you are in another room with the tv going and then try to ask a question. funny how she waites untell you have something going on to ask.

    Comment by Chuck | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  2. It’s a mommy’s job to know what they’re saying. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. Do you have eyes in the back of your head, too?

    Comment by Nicole | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  3. My wife understands, me I just nod ny head and say “yes” no matter what comes out of their garbled little mouth.

    Comment by Peter | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  4. You are so obviously a mommy and so in tune with these kids that it’s COOL!

    My 10 month old daughter has said words that only I understand. To date: Mama, Dada, Ben, Kitty, Tiger, Hi, Hey, Bye Bye.

    There’s some debate on the word “tiger”, but hey, I heard it. Twice.

    Comment by Andie D. | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  5. Its amazing that moms/day care-istas have such a natural ability to not only hear their 2 year old over the dishwasher/washing machine/vacuum/etc, but we can translate it as well!!!

    Comment by So-Called Supermom | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  6. Working with K has turned me into a marvelous translator – I had to be or else there would have been no communication on her part – and I lot of frustration from both of us!

    Comment by Angela | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  7. Peter, you need to be more selective with “yes” as they grow up. I’ve said yes absentmindedly and regretted it.

    Comment by Granny | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  8. Excellent translating, perhaps with a bit of psychic ability, too! 😉
    Granny is right, Peter! They may not understand every word you say sometimes, either but what they will HEAR and REMEMBER is that you said YES!

    Comment by LoryKC | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  9. LOL ! I miss outgrowing those things in my house.

    Moms know everything!

    Comment by kimmyk | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  10. Ha! I love “yivvingwomb” – that’s about what it sounds like around here, too. Every once in a while she still stumps me with one, but mostly, we get used to their funny little voices.

    Comment by kittenpie | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  11. I know exactly what you mean. Ian will be 2 in a few weeks. I can make out most of the nouns and figure out the rest.

    Comment by Mamacita Tina | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  12. You are such a good writer! Your recent posts have been a model of good blogging: interesting, short, and possessing a snappy punchline.

    Comment by Q | May 17, 2006 | Reply

  13. I thought that since I can translate most things my 2 yo son says I’d be able to figure out what his peers are saying but nope, it’s about 50/50. I need to recalibrate my ear or something. Is it just practice that makes perfect?

    Comment by Anne V | May 18, 2006 | Reply

  14. Chuck: Hello, and welcome! They’re all born with the radar. That’s why they fall over when you’re on the phone, or desperately need you when you’re up to your elbows in paint, or… Well, you know.

    Nicole: Hello! Thanks for the comment. It comes of years of practice. Ten years plus experience translating toddlers, and counting…

    Peter: “Yes” is risky. Lord knows what you’re agreeing to! I settle for “Oh, yes?” and “wow!” They seem to satisfy.

    AndieD: Tiger? If you heard it, she said it! Kids understand so much more than they can say at this age, you just never know what word might come out next.

    ScSM: I’m not sure if it’s natural or just constant practice. Constant. Constant. Constant. 🙂

    Angela: Arthur’s done that for me. Although he talks CONSTANTLY, his enunciation, even after almost a year of careful working with him, is still very poor. His family and family friends understand him, but strangers still have a great deal of difficulty – and he’ll turn four this month!

    Granny: Haven’t we all? And then just try saying “I didn’t mean that! And you know it!”

    Lory: Psychic ability and a lot of educated guessing…

    Kimmyk: No arguments here. And my teens only comment when I let them. Nyah, nyah.

    Kittenpie: I love trying to transliterate what they’re saying. It’s fun to get those garbled syllables on paper so someone else can hear what you’ve heard – and often can’t tell what it means until they say it aloud and hear it, too. Kind of an visual/auditory puzzle.

    M.Tina: It’s one of the more frustrating times of life for the child. There’s so much they understand, but what they can express is so limited. I feel for them at this stage. It’s also totally adorable!

    Q: Thank you!

    AnneV: Though I do better than 50/50 with kids I don’t know, I still do much better with children I do. I think it’s safe to say that each toddler speaks their own, personal dialect. The possibilities are endless.

    Comment by Mary P. | May 18, 2006 | Reply

  15. I do think that some people are better at hearing it than others. Even some of my parents smile and nod while their kids are talking and don’t really LISTEN to try to understand what they’re being told. Then they’re amazed when I say their child is talking all the time at my house, because they’re convinced it’s garbage rather than conversation.
    If you can get the one good word, you’re right, it goes a long way.

    Comment by KEP | May 20, 2006 | Reply

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