There are a thousand things I could write about related to my trip to Switzerland, but time is short and people at least want to hear something, so to appease both them and L'il Writer Guy, I'll mention one thing that has struck me while observing Joseph's and Vivienne's speech patterns.

Joseph, who is less now than a month from his fourth birthday, was clearly delayed in his speech when I was last here, nine months ago.  Maybe, as I wrote then, "different" is a better descriptor, but in any case he was not as verbal as the majority of children his age.

Today is a different story.  Where he is in terms of "average" I don't know, but his speaking ability has clearly exploded, from understanding pronouns (saying "it is mine" rather than "it is Joseph's," for example) to being able to answer questions about the past and the future.  It reminds me again of how tricky it is to decide when a problem is best solved by intervention (and the earlier, the better) and when it is best simply to let the child develop in his own way, at his own pace.  We'd heard a variety of advice, from simple exercises to a radical diet; no doubt each would be appropriate for some situations, but in this case, trusting and waiting were the best medicine.

There's no doubt that Vivienne is developing differently.  At 29 months she is nearly as verbally competent as Joseph.  She has a good grasp of pronouns, speaks fluently, and works with determination and persistence to correct her own vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.

All this is hardly news; even within a single family, children develop differently.  What makes it especially fascinating for me is that all this development is taking place in two (or more) different languages, and that, too, differs from one child to another.  Joseph was slow to speak each language (though he clearly understood both English and Swiss German extremely well), but now is fluent in both and never mixes them up.  He can translate from one to another (a very different skill from just speaking) and to some extent from French and High German as well.  Vivienne, on the other hand, mixes the languages freely and with enthusiasm, chattering one moment in Swiss German and the next in English, pulling words from the other language as the spirit moves her, a happy experimenter.

I'm reminded of the two types of computer programmers I've observed:  one who meticulously plans every detail, "measures twice, cuts once," and whose programs often work the first time; and the other, who works iteratively, putting forth one version after another and converging on the solution.  Both approaches work, though each kind of programmer frustrates the other kind no end.  Not that Vivienne and Joseph experience any of that sort of frustration in their speaking.  But it's a good analogy of how it seems to be working for them.

Enough.  It's past bedtime again—but L'il Writer Guy is happier.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 10:23 am | Edit
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