Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Language Acquisition

Lately, Valerie has been watching Sonic the Hedgehog on Netflix. (Yeah, yeah, I'm a terrible mom, I know.)

Which means we've been roleplaying a lot of Sonic the Hedgehog. The first few times she asked to play, she told me, "Mom, you be the blue head." Which was a logical way of referring to Sonic, since, well, he has a blue head. Sometimes, she would call him "the blue super bear," so I think she didn't know what a hedgehog was. She knows porcupines (and pygmy marmosets and naked mole rats - Thank you Philadelphia Zoo!) but I don't think she's ever seen a hedgehog before. And, to be fair, even if she had, Sonic doesn't look much like an actual hedgehog.

Then she started calling him "Yonic", which was amusing to me in a nerdy, "Ha ha, my daughter is using inappropriate words that are way beyond her realm of understanding" kind of way. Then she started calling him "Onyx", which is a simple shuffle of the "s" sound from the beginning of the word to the end of the word ("onics"). "Onyx" is also the name of a horse on another show that Valerie likes to watch. I have noticed that, when faced with a new word, Valerie will often replace it with the closest word she already knows. When I offered her a poncho the other day, for example, she called it her "pom pom".

Then, a few days later, Valerie asked me to be "the blue head jog". That's when I realized that Valerie may have known what a hedgehog was after all, but Sonic wasn't a "hedgehog" to her, he was a "jog" with a blue head. A "blue head jog". Say it out loud.

But these adorable Valerie-isms don't last long. Because after she hears it the "right" way a few more times, she usually stops doing it. Sometimes, it takes a lot of self-restraint on my part not to reinforce her adorable misconstructions, but I know it does her no good in the long run to sacrifice accuracy for adorableness. I don't correct her, but I do say it the right way myself, and eventually, she abandons the cute alternative. (Although sometimes she spends a lot of energy beforehand arguing that her way is right. She just finished watching a new show called 64 Zoo Lane, and as the credits ended, she said, "Mom, it's called Zixy Call!" I said, "Oh? Sixty Four?" and she said, "No, Zixy Call, listen to the song!" and then she started the show again so I could hear them singing the Zixy Call theme song.) Her pom pom became a poncho within a few days, and I know Onyx will suffer the same fate sooner or later. Yesterday, Valerie said to me, "Mom, you be the blue super bear... er... hedgehog."

Watching her learn is pretty adorable, too, though.

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