When you’re not sure what a word means, should you give up?

Kids are amazing! The way they play with language, you can almost feel their excitement, their sense of discovery. I have a French friend who moved to Australia with her four-year-old son. On a visit back to France, they were in our kitchen and Nino, who knew the house well, said, in English, that he was thirsty. (That somehow he knew to speak to us in English I already found amazing, but that’s not the story!).

I said that he knew where the glasses were and to go ahead and get one. He went to the cupboard, reached up, and said, “I can’t actually reach it.” That word “actually” was like a ray of sunshine on a dreary afternoon. How amazing! The word was superfluous to requirements. It added nothing, except perhaps a level of sophistication, indicating a love of language, of communications, of expression (I expect great things from this child!)

When I show my books to adults, and say that the books are NOT translated, they nod, then flip through the book. Nine times out of ten, they exclaim, “But they’re not translated! – (ie. Oh, the horror!). These adults are demonstrating their own insecurities, and not those of the target audience!

screen-shot-2016-09-04-at-20-53-22The first time I had this reaction, I crumbled, assuming I’d goofed with my lovely new book. However, I went back to CS Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which I found in the library when I was nine. It was and always has been, a favourite book. But look at the language! I’m quite sure I had no idea what even a wardrobe was at that point, but dove in anyway. And there must have been tons of words I didn’t know (not to mention all the allegorical stuff!). The point is, I coped, I loved, I learned, I grew.


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