Saturday, 10 December 2011

Understanding Johnish


These days, from the moment he wakes 'til the moment he sleeps this boy of mine wants to communicate. He names the objects in his world, he talks endlessly of the tractors and trains that drive through his imagination, and he expresses his desires and dislikes by shouting them at me until he's satisfied that I understand.

And so every day from the moment he wakes until the moment he sleeps I listen to the jumbled sounds that pour out so purposefully from his lips and try to decipher his language.

My progress is slow and tortuous, but day by day I'm becoming ever more fluent in Johnish.  

I now know that "Da-dar" is tractor or possibly breakfast whilst "da-dow" is definitely water. I know that "dee" is cake or grapes or bike. I know that "bee-a" is dried apple, "di di" is bread stick, "ewy" is berry or telly or wellies, "bum" is down, "ah" is hat, and I know very well that "choo-coo-dac-dar" is 'please may I watch videos of tractors and steam trains on YouTube?' (although I mostly pretend not to understand.)

But I still have no idea what "m-ba" is or why he screams "dya" at me several times a day. And even though I cheer and clap every time I hear a sound that vaguely resembles a word, and even though I experience the most intense gush of elation when I finally guess the meaning of a noise and for a second we understand one another, I can't pretend that the road to mutual understanding is easy, that being shouted at incessantly in gibberish doesn't sometimes feel like a slow form of torture, or that there aren't times when my frustration builds to such an unbearable intensity that I have to leave the room for a second - because if he shouts nonsense at me one more time I'm afraid that I might just shout it back.

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