Our little son is growing up fast! He’s already fifteen months old. This is my second time around with a young child. And time has sped up; the impatient anticipation for my baby to begin doing things I experienced the first time around just didn’t happen.
It’s clear that in many areas his development is accelerated because he observes his older sisters keenly. This already seems to be true in many areas, not least of which is language.
So far his vocabulary includes “déanta” (done), “all done”, “hi”, “no”, “out”, “uh-oh” and of course “mama” and “da” (more often he says “hi da” together as one word). His latest addition is the essential word for milk in Irish, “bainne”. He has also been pointing and saying something that sounds quite close to “ba mhaith”. He still has baby words of his own invention: “iya” is his word for “I want”, roughly. This word initially arose from his approximation of his oldest sister’s name, Saoirse.
Naturally our son’s understanding of Irish is more developed than his speaking ability. The first phrase he seemed to understand in any language was the Irish for come here: “tar anseo”. Many others he knows from daily use: “ná bain leis”, “ar mhaith leat bia?”, “clúidín nua”, “seo duit”, “cén chaoi a bhfuil tú?”, “an bhfuil tú réidh?” and so on. All of us, my wife Linda, and our daughters Saoirse and Róisín use Irish with him and each other.
Róisín continues to grow in her ability to speak Irish. She’s still happy mixing Irish and English freely, but getting better at continuing ongoing conversations in Irish. Her attention span has grown to the point that I can read her several pages from one of the Fionn Mac Cumhaill books in one go.
Occasionally we get different answers from Róisín in different languages. One day Róisín was struggling to move something. Linda asked, “Want some help?”
Linda: “Ar mhaith leat cabhair?”
Róisín: “Ba mhaith!”
Sometimes she speaks English in an Irish way. Today she was pretending to be a kangaroo, and while hopping along she said to me “let’s be in our kangaroo!”
I have observed the wonderful sight of Joe Fionn and his sister Róisín playing with each other in Irish. Often she attempts a storyline or dialogue between toys; sometimes it’s spontaneous songs in Irish. I’ve also seen her admonish him in Irish. I hope this shared language will be their special bond.