How to Turn Babble into Sentences

She loves to talk and in her mind is completely fluent. Even when she doesn’t have the word for something, she fills it in so that a sentence like, “Vamos a buscar los zapatos de Jojo (Let’s go find Jojo’s shoes),” comes out “¡Calactelacatecala zapatos a Jojo!” And she says it with total confidence. When she does this, I confirm that I understood her by saying “Si!” and then I say the full sentence back to her “Vamos a buscar los zapatos de Jojo”, so she can slowly work towards being able to say the words that she’s leaving out.

I try to be really patient and good about repeating things to her over and over (and over and over). When she was tiny, for example, if Lyon left the room and she wanted to know where he’d gone she would turn to me and say “Dadda?” I would answer by saying something like “Dadda fue a cepillar los dientes; va a regresar.” And she would inevitably again say “Dadda?” and I would answer again with the same sentence, “Dada fue a cepillar los dientes; va a regresar.” Sometimes we would do this four or five times in a row until a few weeks later she started trying to repeat what I said to her even if it just sounded like nonsense. I could tell from her inflection and rhythm that she was repeating what I had said, telling herself where Dadda had gone and that he would be back.

This is how we have conversations. I understand her because I know her, so I model how to say what she’s trying to say. In the beginning I had to create the entire sentence for her. Now I’m just filling in words. It is a slow, patient, delectable process.


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