Ill Communication

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I was just dying to use a Beastie Boys’ album for a post title and I finally made it work! I don’t know which dates me better – the band or the fact that I actually used the word “album” rather than “CD.” Either way, I’m feeling old. But that’s besides the point. This post is about communication and I’m here to talk (or, er, write) about it.

Don’t get me wrong, we have a TON of talking going on in our house. There’s almost never a quiet moment, actually. We have sudden statements, pronouncements and talking through problems. We have long, drawn-out conversations and monologues. We have near constant object identification going on. And so many questions. It’s just that none of this appears to be in English. Twin talk is a very real phenomenon in our house, and I hate to admit it, but it’s workin’ my nerves. Occasionally there are real words peppered in, mainly when we prod them to use our native language. We can get hi, cracker and tractor, dog and duck, and a resemblance of truck and train out of Oskar. Abel will say hi (constantly), up and down, dog, uh-oh, baby (sometimes) and ball, and just like his brother, a resemblance of truck and train. And of course, mama and dada are staples, used and abused, in both repertoires. In fact, I think that J is the founding father of our boys’ language, as it’s core consists of the consonant-vowel combo “da-da.” a-dah-a-dah-a-bizul-bizel-dip-a-dah-yup. Please don’t ask me to translate.

We have moments of brilliance where the boys’ will say an English word perfectly. Today it was lion for Oz. Clear as a bell and when looking at the awesome roaring animal in Little Gorilla. Unmistakable. And never to be heard again. Their imitation of sentences in English is pretty amazing, too. Abel regularly says, “Yep, I do!” It catches people off guard it sounds so accurate and in perfect context. The intonation is spot-on. But da-da speak is 95 percent of what comes out of their mouths.

I worry they are behind in their speech development. At 17 months, shouldn’t they have more words?! I can’t help but compare them to other children their age who have mind-blowing vocabs of 50 and 60 words. I’m not looking for a miracle here, but a consistent ten words would be fabulous. Will they continue to refine their own language and just leave English for the rest of us chumps? Will they need some crazy therapy intervention so people can understand them before they enter kindergarten? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night and make me consider enrolling them in Montessori come August, just so they can have regular exposure to peers who speak our common language.

And then there’s the side of me that says “get a grip!” They are clearly smart, interactive and communicative lil’ guys that are up-to-snuff in all other areas of their development. And it’s not that they don’t understand English. I can tell them to do virtually anything and they do it. I even test them with more sophisticated directions – “put the brown sandals in the drawer.” I look down to see the grey sneakers and green sandals still on the floor and the brown gems tucked neatly in the dresser. Check. I google, “how many words should a 17 month old have?” and I read about the extremes. I check my Brazelton bible and read how you should get things checked out if your child is two with no intelligible words. I hear stories of friends whose kids were two before they uttered a word, and then out poured complete sentences. I reassure myself that we are still more than within the range of normal. I still worry.

Maybe I just feel left out. These boys are so wonderfully expressive and clearly have so much to say, it drives me nuts that I’m the odd-mom-out. Should I be working harder to understand their language? Is this normal for twins?

Clearly I’m at a loss for words. Dear readers, please help me decipher this code.

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9 thoughts on “Ill Communication”

  1. At the moment, my kids’ twin speak consists of raspberries back and forth, but I suspect this is all pretty normal for your guys. Especially since their receptive language is so good. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before things suddenly come into sharper focus.

  2. I am in awe of anyone parenting multiples. In your honor, I’d love to share a contest I am running on my blog ( This month I’m giving away a new Trevi Twin stroller from Chicco. Value $219. Visit the blog for details and good luck!

    Plus this month is all about travel–I’d love to share more tips from parents of multiples. Please leave a comment or two with your nuggets of travel wisdom.

  3. At 18 months, our ped wanted 10 words other than mom and dad. At 2 years, he wanted 30 words other than mom and dad. True to form, Alex would hit those milestones within a week of going to the ped, stressing us out every time! Because we worried about speech delays, our ped had us write down every word they said every day. It really helped us see a trend in our house.

    Once kids hit 50 words, they tend to start using two word combos. We saw a huge difference when that happened in our house. By 2, Nate had a couple hundred words in his vocabulary and would talk in complete sentence. Alex had a little more than 30 words.

  4. My little girl has well over a 60 word vocabulary, she is saying at least 2-3 new words a day and honestly I can’t keep up now with journaling all of the new ones. This morning she strung 3 words together for the first time.

    My little boy speaks 9 words really well – mum, dad, thank (thank you and he uses it appropriately), map, Dora, hi, bye, jump and yum yum. He also knows 4 letters of the alphabet and can point them out in a book.

    Now, mind you my twins are 21 months old. I’m not concerned because I know he’s smart in his own way and I know he can do a lot of things that his sister can’t. I also know that I shouldn’t compare them to each other or to anybody else’s children but of course it’s hard not to and of course secretly in the back of your mind you do it. I know that eventually my little man will catch up and if not then when he turns 2 we’ll speak to the pediatrician about it.

  5. Since my girls are a year behind, I have nothing constructive to say except that maybe you should play the Beastie Boys for them! It would get them from twin-speak to Beasties Boy-speak to English!

  6. Hi Tracy. We’ve got kids almost the exact same age (they will be 18 months on the 21st) and my boys are WAY behind yours! Its really hard not to compare, and in a way I think it’s not a bad thing to have a gauge of what other twins the same age are doing. Yours and Carrie’s blogs are the only twin blogs I read (have been since we were all preganant together!) and its fun to see what all the differences have been watching our kids grow up. Right now Finlay says “Ba” all the time, and he wonders around the house until he finds a ball. Anything round, he points at it and says “Ba”. He also says “a-na-a”, for banana. Oliver still has not assigned an english-sounding word to anything yet, but he is talking ALL the time in gibber gabber. Lots of da-da-da, and says “Ohh!” to everything in a matter than sounds like he had his most pressing questions answered for him. I can’t say I’m not concerned… I’m concerned enough to want to talk to a specialist next month if they don’t have a few more words. But only because I want to do everything I can to try to give them a leg up on the foundations of language and I don’t feel like I’ve learned how to do that. So I guess it would be more for me than for them.

  7. T,

    Up until 2 weeks ago, the boys would say these words with regularity (besides ‘mama’ and ‘dada’):


    They said these words, but only a few times:


    It seems like the jibber-jabber going back and forth between the kids is totally understandable…but only to THEM, they have no need to add to their speech repetoire.

    I was initially concerned with their ‘lack’ of real words. I have two friends with kids about our boys’ ages and they are both WAY more verbal (we’re talking full-on sentences here). I first thought it was because my kids are in group childcare and they don’t get a lot of one-on-one attention during the day. But after doing some reading in a few different books, I found that boys tend to develop their speech later on than girls (both of my friends’ kids’ are girls) and twins tend to develop much later than singletons (both of my friends’ kids’ are singletons) because they communicate with eachother.

    But then the ‘explosion’ or their word repetoire happened…seriously overnight. Now they seem to add a new word every day. But like I said, this wasn’t until two weeks ago that this happened.

    They transferred into the toddler room about a month ago and I truly believe that having older kids around (they are the youngest right now) has helped them. Not saying that you should rush out and enroll them in Montessori, but I do think the older-kid factor plays a big part in the learning curve of several different things.

    Like Dana said, I’ve been reading both of your blogs for almost
    exactly two years now. It’s been fun to see the differences in both our pregnancies and our kids, even though we were all pregnant at the same time and delivered within the same week in January. However, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t read each of your blogs and wonder “when are F & R going to do this/that?”…the first time was when they were barely two months old and F & O and A & O started to smile, but it was yet another two weeks before F & R showed us their gummy smile. Giggling, standing, crawling, eating, etc…all things that I’ve asked our ped about because “some other twins I read about are doing XYZ…”.

  8. So, I’m going to throw out a suggestion that goes against the general consensus—I hope you’re not offended by it!

    While I’m sure that your kids are probably fine speech-wise, perhaps it’s time to ask about getting them evaluated by Early Intervention? At least in MA, it’s free. They could either 1) Tell you your kids are perfectly normal and why did you bother them (yay!) or 2) Tell you that they could use some services to help them catch up (also yay, because early services help reduce any gaps). I freely admit that I’m biased about the importance of EI. I did get my kids evaluated at 12 months for speech (Danny) and speech & gross motor (Abigail). Although I thought that they were about equal speech-wise (no words), Danny qualified for services (with a 5 month delay) and Abigail didn’t (with a two month delay). They were looking at a lot of very subtle signs that I never would have known to look for. Now, he has someone come in each week to work with him (and Abigail, because she refuses to be left out of anything) around speech and I feel better having gotten him services (even though I wish he was perfect speech-wise and had 10 words).

    That said, I know nothing about speech issues and your kids are probably fine, but it is certainly an option if you’re worried. And the evaluation is really interesting to watch. Ok, so I’m a clinical social worker and that might be why I was fascinated, but it was really interesting to watch them test cognitive abilities in a 12 month old (they scored at 15 months on that—-go kiddos!).

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