Monday, March 10, 2014

Conversations with Guy, Volume I: The Early Years

After spending the last 10 days with my adorable, almost-two-year-old nephew, I'm not always sure whether I'm teaching a language or learning one. It can be quite entertaining, though Lacey still has to translate for us a lot.

Guy has standardized the pronunciation of my name to “Tama.” For a brief period of time a couple months ago, it was “TanBbBbBbBbBb,” but that seems to have been too much work. A great many of our conversations now go something like this:







“Tamaaaaaa :-)”

“Guyyyyyy :-)”




“Yes, that was the train going by. Very good!”



And so on. Pure poetry, that. We had similarly scintillating discussions regarding the repeated opening and closing of sliding glass doors, which he was getting very good at operating (given copious amounts of practice).

He does have quite a remarkable number of words at his disposal, though, in spite of what the above may imply. Many of them involve food, including such relatively obscure items as chia seeds, edamame, and quesadillas. Though the first time he used the latter on me, I responded almost automatically with “It’s Saturday.” But then Lacey reminded me that he doesn't speak Spanish, and has trouble with S’s.

We also get to watch him pick up new words even (so to speak) as we speak. We visited Jim in Santa Cruz one day, where he learned the word “ocean” (“otun”). Then as we were trying to get him ready to leave, he wandered into a room where he found a suitcase. As he is inordinately fascinated by suitcases (“too-ca-ca”), Lacey remarked in despair: “Oh no, he found a suitcase. We’re doomed.” Upon which Guy ran from the room waving his arms, crying “Doooooom!” He repeated his trick when we recounted the story for Mom the next day, but we've all been laughing at the word so much that I think it's safe to assume he doesn't know what it means.

Speaking of making us laugh, one of the first things Hugo told me when they all arrived was how Guy has been learning his colors and keeps calling things “yellow” all the time. So naturally we pointed to my shirt and said “Guy! What color is this?”

With a big grin he replied “-ite!”

“No, not white! What color is it?”

More enthusiastic this time: “Boooooo!”

Another try, and now he’s totally laughing at us: “Geeeeen!”

He went through all his colors before finally admitting that it was actually “-ellow.”

Another time, we took a break from the playground to go inside and get a drink of water (“ca-ca” — yes, we’ll need to do something about that particular pronunciation). After we were done at the sink, we made it as far back as the door before he wanted water again. So we went back, got another drink, got back to the door… and then had to go back for yet another drink. By this time he was grinning mischievously, and also rather giving himself away by asking for “door” after water, rather than “playground.” So I eventually escaped that cycle.

So anyway, this has been excellent communication practice for both of us, I think. They're heading home today, but I'll get to see them again in about a month, when I'll probably get to learn a whole new batch of Guy vocabulary.