Archives of Our Lives

{a narrow and broad look into the lives of people I love}

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

{Totally Lost in Translation}

Trying to communicate with a 2 year-old is like trying get a kamikaze insect out of your ear by slamming your fist into your skull as hard as you possibly can--both are fruitless, and cause nothing but headaches.

A few months ago I babysat for my neighbors who were in a pinch. I was there for five hours, during which I only had to tend one little two year-old kid named Stupor*. I had never met little Stupor before, but I arrived bearing my famous [by "famous" I mean "just-try-to-choke-'em-down"] chocolate/white chocolate chip cookies, and told him if he didn't talk to me the entire day, he could have the whole tray of cookies when I left. We became fast buddies.

Unfortunately, he did talk to me. Or rather, he made some sort of strange noises that sounded like words. And, if we're being specific, I am almost positive he was speaking French. I speak French on a toddler level, too, so one would think I could have understood him... Au contraire, au contraire.

Me: Hi, Stupor! My name is Camille.
Him: Ooh ay? Ooh ay? Ooh ay?
Me: Oh, do you mean "Òu est," the French term for "where is...?" I had no idea you were bilingual! Tell me, who taught you French?
Him: Weeeeee! Weeeeee! Weeeeee!
Me: Did you just say, "oui?" Oh, oui!! Moi, aussi, petite Stupor! C'est fantastique, ta français!
Him: Cat. Cat. Cat.
[By the way: why do two year-olds say every phrase twice? Don't they understand that no matter how much they try, I will not decipher what they are trying to tell me?]
Me: Hmmm...Stupor, it sounds like you're saying, "Cat," the English word for "Cat." Is that what you're saying?
Him:... (Blank stare.) ...Poopies. Poopies. POOPIES!

It was so embarrassing, and we weren't even out in public. Finally, after he vigorously brandished his John Deere tractor in my face for a solid 60 seconds, I figured out that he was trying to get me to play trucks with him. I don't know why he didn't say so. As a matter of fact, he didn't say anything that even sounded like "tractor"--he was speaking French!

It finally got to the point that I just told him flat out, "I can't understand you. Either say what you mean, or just stop talking to me."

He didn't pay any heed to me, of course, because I'm not a very nurturing person. And evidently, kids can only hear voices at a certain Teletubby™ sort of nurturing decibel. So unless I squeaked out my words to little Stupor, there was going to be no communication.

They say, "It's different with your own kids," but unless my kids pop out of me quoting the Declaration of Independence and the Canadian Magna Carta (did Canada have its own Magna Carta? So much for being a history major...), I figure there's pretty much no hope.

Some people find toddler babble adorable. I find it maddening, and I hope I'm not the only one; otherwise I really am going straight to Hell for this.

*Names have been changed so I don't get sued and bite the dust like Jean from Tastespotting.*

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Blogger Joel said...

Here's my take (remember: I currently possess a two year old): Unless you are around the kid pretty much CONSTANTLY, you won't understand much of what they say. When we visited AZ, I got to the point I could understand the vast majority of what he said. Since After returning to work, I have to call the wife to translate for me when Leo starts talking. She understands him WAY better than I do, only because she's with him all day long. I usually give up and tell him "I don't understand" and/or "We speak English; that isn't English. Sorry".

Bottom line, no hell for you.

June 18, 2008 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger Lindsey said...

I hate to say this (well not really actually...) but you VERY MUCH DO use a babby babble voice for your little Preston...

June 18, 2008 at 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i know what you mean. i never even bother trying to talk back. why waste the time?

June 18, 2008 at 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because your parents did it for you.

June 18, 2008 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger The Lowry's said...

Wow, 5 hours is a long time to babysit.
Anyways, just hope you are lucky and have a good talker right from the start. When Jaycie started talking she never used babble words. She always used proper words and seemed to catch on quickly. Not to brag or anything (because clearly I am) but like I said, just hope you get a child like her and you won't have to worry about it. People who were privileged enough to actually hear her talk around them when she was younger couldn't believe how well she talked for her age.

June 19, 2008 at 8:04 PM  

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