the wonder of language

Eddie was a late-ish talker.

His daycare mom taught him a few signs when he was small so he wouldn’t just point and grunt.

Somewhere around age two he finally started saying those words.

At his 2-year Well Child appointment, his pediatrician was slightly concerned that he wasn’t putting more than two words together at any given time.  She wanted me to call her if he wasn’t doing it by the fall.

He wasn’t, but I didn’t call.

By Christmas, he was.

Now at 3 years he talks up a storm.


I sort of love it.

I know it’s easy to tune out a chatty child.  To just answer with “mm hmm” and “oh huh” and “yup” every now and then.

I make loads of mistakes in this mom gig, but one thing I pride myself in is listening…really listening…to Eddie.

Everyone told me when I was fretting about his language and speech that soon enough he would be talking my ear off and I would long for the days when he would just make little noises and point.

They were totally wrong.

I love listening to his chatter.  LOVE it.

As in I will stop what I am doing and just sit and listen to him play because oh-my-word-he-is-pretending-and-repeating-big-vocabulary!

His pronunciation is FAR from correct.  He doesn’t say “r’s” at all and all his “L’s” are replaced with the “y” sound.

(side note: this makes him sound like he is from Boston.  It is awesome.)

But oh my.  The things he says.

He retains everything he has heard anyone ever say.

This makes him smart as a whip, but funny as all heck when he all of a sudden repeats something like…

“That is DESPICABLE!” (thank you, Daffy Duck)

“I have a FRICKIN’ HEADACHE!” (oops…my fault)

“Mom, you should wear a tiara and be a princess.” (TRUTH!)

“It’s dangerous to work on a roof.” (yes it is, bud. yes, it is.)

“These books have too many words. I can’t read them.”

“I don’t like fireworks or those shooting guns outside.”

“Oh my goodness sakes.” (clearly we are raising an octogenarian)

“my favorite song is Pearl Jam” (which one? “all of them.”)

He even knows that not everyone can understand what he is saying all of the time.  Proof in this conversation in the car this weekend:

E: Yook mom!  A big Beh-ah.

Me: A big bear?  What? Where?

E: No, mom. DING DONG  a beh-ah. DING DONG!

Me: Oh!  A Big Bell!  Yup, I saw that.

Seriously.  The kid is smart.

If I say something the way he said it to me?  He will correct me…but still not say it right because he can’t.  But he knows if it’s being said wrong.

Because I listen so carefully, I understand his words better than anyone.  I’m looked at with confusion a lot when people want to understand what he is so intently telling them.  I translate often.

Also because I listen so carefully, I am continually intrigued byhow he is learning the English language.

I think this is the language teacher in me. Because I teach both English and Spanish, I am amazed at how people learning a language from scratch as a child starts to use the rules of a language…both correctly and incorrectly.

As Eddie learns to use English, he is not afraid of making mistakes.  He listens as we talk to him and read to him and he tries to use the words he retains.

Nouns are generally easy, as they are for my Spanish students.

Verb tense can get tricky.  He is learning regular verbs easily, but irregulars he will mess up.  For instance he will say, “I falled down.” or “I taked that to daddy.”  The difference between his immersion learning and that of a high schooler in my Spanish class is that he learns by what we say, not by rules that he has to memorize.

I never “correct” him; I only model back the correct use.

So if he tells me, “I taked the book to daddy,” I tell him, “oh, you took that book to daddy?”

Three years old is too young to know about “rules” with words.

The verbs I expected to be incorrect for a while; the thing that amazes me to watch is how he is navigating pronouns.

He will say things like, “no mom. Only I.  Only I will do it.”

It sounds weird, but grammatically?  It is correct.

(side note:  I have pondered starting a grammar blog where I would answer grammar questions weekly.  who’s in?
that’s what I thought.)

Or he will say, “Does baby Charlie have he’s blanket?”

He rarely uses the possessive form other than “mine” (but sometimes he will use I’s).  “his” and “hers” and “ours” and “theirs” are not really part of his vocabulary yet.

He also rarely says “me”.

It’s almost always “I” or occasionally “mine” or “my”.

Ok I realize all of this may be boring to you, but it fascinates me.

I even notice that maybe it is not interesting to Cort who does a far better job of “tuning out” Eddie than I do.  And I don’t blame him for it.  I know Eddie talks a lot. He gets that from his momma.

But language development and learning is amazing to me.

I can still remember lying on the floor with him as an infant and watching with wonder how he just suddenly learned he had hands and that he could control them.

That is how I feel when he talks.  Absolute wonder.

He is learning to make his meaning known to the world.

And he is not afraid to try to use the words he has.


Can you feel the excitement around here?

It’s because this whole week is SLuiTeRPaLooZa on the blog!

My blog turns FIVE on Saturday!

This week I will be treating you with some fun stories of how I got started ’round these parts, and then how I actually found an audience.  They are good stories.  At least to me.

And even though it’s my BLOG’S birthday, I am the one giving away gifts.  Because i LOVE to give stuff when I can.

That’s right, I have some Booty for you (no, not THAT kind of booty, silly.  Like free stuff kind of booty!)

Five giveaways have already been posted on my giveaway page…did you see them?  Go on!  Enter!

BooTY the FiRST is a Thirty-One Utility Bag. (open to US only)

BooTY the SeCoND is a Blog Makeover. (open to the whole world)

BooTY the THiRD is something pretty for your hair. (open to the whole world)

BooTY the FouRTH is a dozen yummy cookies. (0pen to US only)

BooTY the FiFTH is a book of  good reads. (open to US and Canada)

Five more are kicking off today at 9am est…so watch the fanpage for when the go live (that means you should “like” Sluiter Nation, of course).

Party on, Garth.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I’m totally fascinated with this too – mostly because the toddler isn’t really talking yet. He’s 2 1/2 and he says words (and doesn’t pronounce all of them correctly) and occasionally, strings a couple of words together. But he doesn’t understand context yet, which is why he’s not reached that ‘language explosion’ I’ve heard so much about. He’s learning English AND Arabic, so I wonder if that’s had any bearing on the delay.

    The thing is, he’s been jabbering away since he was 11 months old, so I’m a little surprised he’s going to be a late talker. I CAN’T WAIT until he starts talking like Eddie, because I know I will definitely listen and we can finally have conversations. I’m dying to know what’s in his head.

    • The explosion? It comes out of nowhere. Really. I was looking at pictures from a year ago and remembering how he would only say one word (maybe two sometimes) together. And now? Sheesh!

      Also? I feel like a teacher fail for not teaching Spanish alongside his English, but when there is no one else for me to speak Spanish to (no one…NO ONE in my world speaks Spanish), it sort of fell away. When he was a baby I would sing to him in Spanish or give him little commands, but it became easier just to use English like everyone else in his world.

      I’m bummed because I had visions of creating little people to talk to in “our own” language that was sort of a secret to the rest of the family. Is that weird?

  2. I agree that it’s so interesting to just listen!! The other day Anna and I were out for a walk and she said, “Mommy’s walking.” and I was just amazed at the conjugation! Perhaps part of it is being a teacher, like you said.. But these little brains are SO fantastic.

    • I taught for seven years before having a child. After Eddie I think I became a better teacher just because I was re-fascinated with learning. When you have a little kid, you have to be very conscious about modeling and you get to see them go from nothing to something with words and understanding. It’s totally changed the way I give my students content.

  3. I absolutly loved this! We’ve all been really working with Lil Niecie with her words, and this was very enlightening!! 🙂

    • Oh good, I’m glad! We do a lot of “repeat after me” with some bigger words. He wants so badly to convey his meaning and I just want to do everything I can to open that door for him.

  4. “Something pretty for my hair”? That does sound interesting. Wait, I think I need “hair” first!
    Anyway, you had me thinking just now about all the worrying I did over the children when they were babies and toddlers. And everyone telling me not to worry. But they were right and all that did eventually pass. Now, I’m on to bigger worries. No Kate, it Doesn’t get better.

    • well it IS a head wrap OR a headband, so technically you don’t need hair to wear it. I mean, I think you would look FAB…or you could try to win it for Claire 🙂

      Ah yes, the unfortunate side effect of teaching high school is that I know the worries never go away…they just change.

      let’s keep fighting the good fight together, m!

  5. I’m amazed what the pick up. Greatful Josh heard Oh Crab instead of what I really said. They learn languages so quick at that age, which is why we are doing Hebrew emerrsion for them at preschool.

    • I so SO wish I kept up with speaking Spanish to Eddie. I think the preschool we are looking at does some Spanish immersion. I hope so.

  6. But does he talk with his hands as much as you do? 🙂 Kim Roetman

  7. You are so correct about the language explosion. My 3-year-old was the same way. At age 2, I was a little worried and then sometime three months later I realized he was talking up a storm. I was an English major, and it is so fascinating to see how children know some grammar rules inherently and also to realize how complicated English can be. We’re in the middle of pronoun confusion and trying to explain why he uses “me” when referring to himself seems impossible. But it’s awesome to watch their little brains whir.

    • right? I noticed this morning that E hardly says “him” either. He will say things like, “Mom, did you pick he up?” Or “Mom, give Charlie he blankie.” It’s so interesting!

  8. “I never “correct” him; I only model back the correct use.” Being a teacher, I know that you know this is the best thing to do! It drives me up the wall when I hear someone adamantly correcting their toddler/preschooler OR using the version that the child uses because it’s just so cute. I know it is, but still. I never wanted my girls to stop calling blueberries “blowies,” and I admit I started calling lollipops “ladypops.”

    Just wait a little longer when he starts holding more conversational speech with you. It’s hilarious the things that come out of their mouths.

  9. louise can talk, she talks all the time actually, it’s just that most of the time i’m not really sure what she’s saying. i’m not worried about it, she’s 2 1/2, she’ll get there and i can’t WAIT until she does. i can’t wait to hear what’s churning around in that big ol’ brain of hers. people always tall me the same thing, that once i can understand her she’ll be talking all the time and i’ll long for the days before she could talk, but i know this isn’t true because a) as i said, she already talks all the time, i’m just not 100% sure what she’s saying, b) when she can communicate a little better it will be easier for us to fulfill her needs since we’ll know exactly what it is that she’s asking for, and c) i WANT to know what she’s trying to say.

  10. I am into grammar – I’d probably read that blog 🙂
    Thanks for this post. It made me feel better about my boy’s slow speech development. I swear I remember my oldest not really talking until she turned 2, but it was 9 years ago, so it’s hard to remember. My boy is 18 months old and not talking. Like, at all. I really think he’s getting close to at least saying a couple words, and I’m glad that our doctor’s not too concerned, but I do worry about it sometimes.

    • I’m really thinking about starting a grammar blog…also for my students to use to study on the go for stuff. that way they can’t complain about not having their notes/book. It’s all on the web…which is in their hand most of the time 🙂

  11. How sweet! I love watching little ones learn-no matter what it is, it’s so amazing to watch!

    Also, I’d totally be down for a grammar blog. I = grammar nerd.

  12. that is wonderful. Really.
    PS. Chase said that he had to take a shit the other day. Nice parenting.

  13. Maybe you should have been a speech pathologist! It is interesting. This is one thing I miss about teaching little kids. Just not enough to go back to little kids.

    • This is not a bad idea for my Plus 30 credits. I have been wondering what I should peruse. Maybe this will be my next degree!

  14. Jake used to be tongue tied so he couldn’t talk for a while but once we fixed his problem… wow! Language explosion.

    Honestly, I think that some people get too worked up about speech development. I know that there are issues for concern but most kids will talk when they are good and ready and then they will NEVER stop.

  15. My sister was a late talker. And it didn’t help that I could translate her grunts and points. I think she was almost four when she officially started talking. And she also hasn’t let up since.

    Also, my nephew was the same as Eddie with the getting upset if people don’t understand what he’s saying. In their minds, they are pronouncing the words just as they have heard them. Gus would get so aggravated when people didn’t understand him that he’d just wind up yelling what he was trying to say. As if saying it louder made it clearer.

  16. I could sit and listen to my boys talk all day long. Not many people understand their words, but I do. I’m with them all day, listening, and I love it. It amazes me how they pick up the language too.

  17. My personal favorite is when the Girl gets going and she’s talking so fast that she forgets where she’s headed. Then she has stop and say “um” a few times until she remembers.

    We also constantly joke that she’s 3 going on 80. She hangs out with my mom a lot and talks just. like. her. It’s awesomely hilarious!

    DG is the opposite of Eddie. She almost never says “he” or “she.” Its always “him” or “her.” She’s constantly saying, “How is her?” or “What him doing?” (She’s also not so fabulous at plurals.)

    I love listening to her and her language! It’s absolutely fascinating to hear her and how she puts things together! 🙂

  18. Lucas and Eddie would get a long SO well, from sun up until forced bedtime, he talks, asks questions, sings, jabbers, recites anything and everything all day long. I kinda love it too, but I also end almost every day with a “freakin headache” myself. Oy vey.