Yesterday a friend commented on how verbal Nathanael is for his age. I hadn't thought about it (all my kids are verbal). But I looked around and she's right--most under-2s don't speak full sentences or say that many different words. Or practice their pronunciation deliberately until it's just right.
We got home and Nathanael climbed up on a chair and woke the computer from its sleep and said, "I want to watch Thomas." Then he turned on Hulu. All by himself. Unfortunately, Hulu doesn't work very smoothly on the 10-year-old iMacs, so I came over and turned on Starfall.com for him (his favorite site). He said, "I want the ABCs song." So I loaded that and sat down in my rocking chair and started working on stuff.
He looked at it for a minute and then said, "I don't want the ABCs song."
Without hesitating, I glanced over and said, "Then don't watch it. Turn it off and choose something else. Click the X to go back or click the sparkles to play the song."
He said, "Okay," thought for a minute, watched the song and then went back to the main menu and chose a different activity, telling me what letter he had chosen before he clicked on it. All of that all by himself.
Only then did I glance back over and realize I had just told my less-than-2-year-old to use the internet with out help--and he did it! I guess he's verbally talented in both expressing himself AND in understanding.
This week, I also read a snippet from "What to expect from the Toddler Years." It explained clearly and unequivocally that ALL children learn language at different paces, but going through the exact same steps in the exact same order. And they listed the order, which I don't remember all of but that emphasized that kids learn words first and then sentences.
And it finally dawned on me why Benji had so much trouble learning to talk. He didn't learn words first. He learned sentences first. And it's taken him a couple of years to learn words to plug into the sentences he's been speaking since he was 7 months old. (His first English utterance was the complete sentence, "I do," which he said, often and always correctly and in the right context, starting at 7 months. After that, though, he didn't have words to make other sentences, but he didn't let that stop him. He just spoke complete, LONG sentences and paragraphs, with perfect inflection patterns and facial expressions to match, made up entirely of nonsense words and gibberish.)
I guess not ALL children learn language the same way. I think, rather, we adults understand it the same way--until the kids plug in words, we don't get what they're saying.