Monday, 4 July 2011

Baby Talk

'Tat! Tat!'

'It's a 'cat,' I say to Kayleigh, 'not a 'tat.' But 'tat' will do as you're only 15 months old.'

Kayleigh looks at me as if to say, 'You're still calling them 'cats?' That is soooooo last year.' She gallops off to the kitchen (Kayleigh does a lot of galloping these days, unless she is wearing her new wellies that I bought her, in which case she gallumphs.)

'Biggle-ooo-ee-shash-inna-wanna-go barbo?' she says, lifting up her arms. I pick her up and she gives me a big grin and stares towards the back door. She wants to go and see the chickens.

Out we go, then.

'Ababa goog abba we-ag,' says Kayleigh.
'Aren't they just,' I say, as the hens dash over to us.
'Dadoo, dada, bee-oop?' says Kayleigh.
'Sunflower seeds,' I say. 'And apples. But grapes are their favourite.'
'Mimm oo,' says Kayleigh.
'I know,' I say. 'So,' I continue, 'what have you been up to recently?'
'Ummpo,' says Kayleigh, 'igo atta imbo er burblool tatta dada yappa.'
'Oh really?' I say. 'That sounds fascinating.'
'Ess,' says Kayleigh.
'Why are you pretending you understand every word she is saying?' says Mrs Slocombe.
'Why not?' I say. 'I understand everything that you say. Well, mostly. I'm multi-lingual, me. Chicken, cat, bee, toddler - speak 'em all fluently.'
'I think it's nice,' says Mrs Pumphrey. 'One should encourage clear use of language in the young.'
'I agree,' I say. And I do, because I am becoming concerned that the quality of the spoken word seems to be declining. I'd like to say that I blame social networking sites, personal music players, mobile phones and the chronic state of TV these I shall.

It breaks my heart to see toddlers being bustled through town in their pushchairs, trying to communicate with their mums who are too busy talking on their mobile phones to talk back. 'Listen to your child!' I want to shout. 'They are trying to tell you something. Unclamp that phone from your ear and talk to your child.'

The number of students at school who've never been read to; the number of students who've never been told nursery rhymes or fairy tales; the number of students who are afraid of their own voices because they are always being told to 'Shut up' at home. The number of students who shout and interrupt and argue because it's the only way they know how to make themselves heard.

The human voice can be such a beautiful thing. It's the purest form of communication. I've been reading a book called 'The Warmth of Your Heart Prevents Your Body from Rusting.' Part of it talks about elderly people going into care homes. A study has shown that if the carers have neither the time nor the inclination to talk to the elderly people, then they tend to go into silent decline. But when carers look into the eyes of those they are caring for, and talk to them, even if they do not understand because of dementia maybe, then those elderly people tend to retain an air of youth and vibrancy for longer.

Communication, you see.

So whilst my blog-before-last bemoaned an excess of noise, I should like today to champion the sound of the human voice. Reading out loud, sharing chats over meals, telling jokes, telling stories, singing, humming, buzzing with the bees, clucking with the hens, prrrping with the cats and chatting in baby talk to your grand-child.

'What do you think, Kayleigh?'

'Ik inkafing,' says Kayleigh, 'etts um gooby idabababa!'

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