As languages go, English is a pretty quirky one. You may have received one of those emails jesting about the inconsistencies of our plurals (e.g., mouse = mice, but house = houses), or the double and sometimes triple meanings of some words (e.g., “Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.”). But one thing that really sets English apart from other languages is the rarest phoneme in the world. The “r” sound we make every day with words like “road”, and “farmer”, and others is far rarer in language than even the clicking sounds found in some southern and eastern African languages. While many languages have the letter “r” in their lexicon, the English “r” makes a different sound than the Spanish or German “r”, for example, and is the rarest vocalization as far as its prevalence in languages.
The unfortunate result of this linguistic oddity is that those who attempt to learn the language have to master the subtle muscle movements of the mouth and throat that produce that sound on demand. That’s quite a bit of pressure to put on the little ones who are already attempting to master a thousand other things. The “r” is one thing that our Avey has put on the back burner so far while working on items such as planning her career (princess), organizing her inventory of toys (anywhere on the floor), and conning her father into telling her stories off the top of his head.
Just in the last couple of weeks we’ve tried to draw her attention to the tiny detail of the English “r”. She didn’t seem to hear the difference at first, but then she could get it if she tried really hard. In the last couple of days she’s caught her misuse of the letter “w” in places it doesn’t go. She’s getting better at correcting herself, and slowly words like “real” are beginning to sound less like “wheel”.
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Avey’s Nana made her a beautiful quilt for her birthday and had the brilliant idea of making a “magic” pocket in one of the squares. In this square will appear a prize of some sort on mornings after Avey has been particularly obedient. Her biggest prize thus far was a magnifying glass! She’s been running around the house checking everything out with it. Yesterday, while she and I were waiting to go on a drive, she wanted to inspect things outside. She asked how the magnifying glass works, and I tried to explain that it bends the light. Then I noticed a discarded Popsicle stick in the rocks. I showed her how the sunlight, when bent to one small point on the Popsicle stick, can make it so hot that it burns. She was awestruck at this magic, so at every stop on our outing she requested to burn another little spot onto the stick. Luckily she hasn’t got the hang of it yet to do on her own, but I’m beginning to worry I’ve lit a spark (pun completely intended) in her for pyromania. We’ll just have to keep an eye on her to make sure she’s not setting fires in her car seat while we drive.