Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cheese and Chicken

We've been working on the gestures for cheese and chicken. For some reason it's easier for me to teach two things at a time than it is just one--something about the way my mind works it just makes more sense to me and fortunately Ranger doesn't seem to have a problem with it. Something that I hadn't really thought about when we embarked on this enterprise is how many different kinds of cheese and chicken there are. I was startled when Ranger who had seemed to master cheese already was offering only food for the special cheese treats I bought him. Then I realized that Ranger had learned one thing, Cheetos, was cheese but he hadn't acquired a general category of "cheese-ness." The same is true for chicken. That word means chicken jerky, chicken nuggets, chicken treats, rotisserie chicken, etc. Since I don't know of any other way to teach Ranger categories than to expose him to lots of items in the category labeling them all the same, much the way he learned the noun book as described in a previous post, Ranger will be very well treated for awhile with lots of types of cheese and multiple incarnations of chicken. By exposing him to all these different incarnations of the same thing I hope he'll form his own categories for "cheese-ness" and "chicken-ness." Somehow I doubt he'll find experiencing a wide variety of his favorite treats much of a burden.

Still and all, it's fascinating to look at the mechanics of language acquisition. I never really thought about it when the children were learning to talk but children are expected to learn language as we know it so the fact that they did wasn't amazing. And that they could do it was something that they came preprogrammed with so the mechanics didn't especially interest me. Now, however, I'm engaged in teaching another species language use akin to my own something that isn't expected and if language acquisition is preprogrammed the programming isn't readily apparent so the whole experience is new and wondrous.

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