Tuesday, July 28, 2015


The other day, Grandson took a toy that his sister was holding out and gave her a different one. Then he said to her, "This is a quid pro quo."
Daughter 1, startled, said to him, "Do you know what that means?"
And he said, "Yes, it's when someone gives something to you and you find something for them."
I recount this not to suggest that he's a genius but partly because it made us laugh and partly to marvel at the way children - all children - learn language. None of us can remember using this phrase in his presence, but someone must have, and he remembered it just like any other phrase that comes his way. Children have this amazing capacity to learn words, whether it be a little snatch of Latin or a bit of equally difficult English: it's all language to them.
I often thought, when teaching, how impressive it was that even students with moderate learning difficulties could chat away to each other with fluency - and yet it's so difficult to learn a foreign language when you're older and have only an hour or two a week to spend on it. Sit on a bus and listen to a language with which you're unfamiliar - Finnish or Mandarin - and you can't even make out where one word ends and the next begins. And yet, within a couple of years, children are saying everything they need to.

Son visited today. Granddaughter wouldn't come to him for a cuddle at first. "Who is this bearded stranger?" she enquired. Well, she didn't. But you could see her thinking it.

We had just had a plumber to the house, who, in the manner of all plumbers, disapproved of the way the previous chap had tried to fix the blockage in the pipe to a bedroom radiator. Son listened to our tale of their conflicting diagnoses and remedies and nodded. "Much like GPs," he said.


  1. The phrase "monkey see, monkey do" (or in some cases, "monkey hear/ say") is used here, children are great mimics. Yes, I agree with your bearded son about plumbing, be it human or house!

  2. Children learn languages so easily because they have no inhibitions, as adult we filter everything because we don't want to make a mistake.

  3. Parents talk to babies all the time explaining and informing as well as comforting and feeding, and the whole learning process is endlessly fascinating. What a bright little button your grandson is.

  4. Your grandson did make me smile - they know so much more than we realise! Missy is similar - still on course to be the Speaker in the H of C one day. What would we do without them. The plumber - I had 2 of them working on heating and bathroom at the same time, and they spent the entire time telling me how the other one was a disaster. Thank heavens for common sense. And somehow we averted WW3.

  5. Wow Pam -- grandson is amazing. I still tell anyone who will listen about his traffic lanes all through the house -- I think he's brilliant! I'm actually worried for the rest of you -- you're going to have to work really hard to keep up with him! ;-D

  6. What a clever little chap, imagine being able to retain the phrase and its meaning.

    The little climber looks so sweet in her sweater.

  7. Grandson is raising the stakes , I see . Quite a few of his classmates will be bilingual , so he's just going to make his other language Latin .
    And his sister will need no words at all , with that smile !