As any good second language learner knows, sometimes you either don’t know or can’t find the word you need in order to communicate what you want. In this case you have to find an alternative way of getting your message across.
Before T was born I was of course aware that babies and infants could do exactly the same thing, only I was under the mistaken impression that their communication strategy was based on crying. When T was very young we quickly learned to interpret the different types of cry that he had; one for a dirty nappy, one for being hungry, one for being scared and so on.
He has also learned different types of communication strategy that I was never aware of. If he wants to watch TV he opens the palm of his left hand draws a circle on it with the index finger of his right hand. If we are going outside he reminds me that he needs a hat by pointing at his head. This is not to be mistaken for telling me has hit his head when he uses the palm of his hand and gently pats the area that he has hit.
He has learnt to point at the thing he is interested in, and even pull me or his mother by the hand towards the thing that he wants. This was recently illustrated when he was hungry and pulled me off the sofa, directed me to the kitchen and pointed at his high chair.
He can nod or shake his head when we ask him questions. He also uses different intonation patterns to show that he is thinking about something, is frustrated or just happy.
When he wants acknowledgement that he has done a good thing, he claps his hands an waits for us to join in or tell him what a clever boy he is.
These different ways of getting the message across are invaluable for him. I think they are even more useful for a kid learning two languages at the same time. I can envisage a context whereby he is in England in the not too distant future trying to ask for something from my parents, but he only knows the Portuguese word. He is going to have to find a way around the communication block if he is to get what hewants.
I would like to know if anybody else hs noticed any other communication strategies that babies and infants use that perhaps I have missed. Please leave a comment if you have.