Language, it is said, brings the world together. Being a mum, I now also believe the lack of it, rather, the lack of any coherent language, also brings people together. Little people. Like Babies and Toddlers. Who speak a language known and understood only by them. Like a secret clan.
Despite there being no actual words, it’s amazing how these sounds/ gurgles/ aaabaaabaaaa incantations translate into a full-blown conversation! You’re in a supermarket queue with your baby. She starts babbling. Just different letters of the alphabet randomly put together. Like dabaaapaaa or teeepeeeteee. Or the most popular aaabaaabaaaa. And almost instantly, another baby in another pram three steps behind you will respond. Or imitate. (However you choose to look at it). And the two babies are having a conversation without ever having known or seen each other before. Fantastic!
Like the other day we were in the lift at John Lewis. We had just bought Little Man (another) fire engine, which he was holding in his hand (complete with unopened box et al). Now my son can and does talk (a lot!!!) and does know that what he has in his hands is called a fire engine. But he still prefers to call it a ‘Nino’ (based on the sound it makes – Nino Nino Nino). So while the lift was taking us down, Little Man suddenly decided to shout out ‘Nino Nino Nino’. And almost instantly, another toddler a little bit older than Little Man, sat upright in his stroller and responded: ‘Nino Nino’ and pointed to Little Man’s unopened fire engine. Both toddlers smiled at each other, then at their respective parents and all everyone in the lift heard after that was the two of them saying ‘Nino Nino Nino’. There, another conversation started.
The conversation starter
Give a phone (toy or real) to a toddler and he will instantly hold it up to his ear and say ‘hello’ (or ‘hado’ in Little Man’s case). And as fast as lightning he will get a ‘hello’ back from another toddler who is now holding an imaginary phone to his ear.
It’s the same with nursery rhymes. If one toddler is singing (or watching on the I-pad) ‘Wheels on the Bus’, it is understood that if there is another toddler nearby, he or she will too join in uninvited. ‘Wipers on the bus go swish swish swish…’ and both kids will do the swish action together. One would think they are part of a two-man band, seeing their synchronised act, but no, they are two little strangers who have just bonded over their favourite nursery rhyme.
It would be so awesome if we grown-ups too could just sing along free-spiritedly to our favourite song when the person next to us in the train is hearing it on his I-pod. Or join in a stranger’s conversation in a lift if they are discussing a topic that we love… even if it’s just by saying Nino Nino Nino!
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