Talking gibberish to imaginary people

When Hannah was around Maddi’s age (4), she had a whole imaginary family who were called her “Christmas” family for some odd reason. She would rabbit on about her Christmas dad and mom, and there was also a Christmas dog in the story every now and again. I did some research at the time and was content that there was nothing wrong in playing along with this Christmas family who was seemingly usurping my significance albeit ever so imaginatively.

Apparently the concept of kids having imaginary friends has evolved from being diagnosed as ‘children with personality difficulties, with timidity being most common’ in 1934, to new, current evidence that having an imaginary friend could be beneficial, tending to go hand in hand with superior narrative skills. 

There are various “research-findings” posted on the net and the common theme is that kids create these imaginary buddies to cope with whatever issues they may have. The imaginary friend becomes a sort-of middleman for the kid and children will often express their wishes via this conduit. Also it’s generally accepted that these imaginary friends assist with the kid’s creative vocabulary development.

Truth be told, now that I understand how creative Hannah actually is, it makes sense that she would conjure up something of this nature at that age.

Maddison language

But of course Maddison had to go to the other extreme of the evolutionary scale and up the ante to a new kind of inexplicable behaviour. I’ve trolled the net without much luck in finding out more about this phenomenon. The other day she started talking to me in a strange language.

First I thought she had been sneaking through my Czech books and had somehow learnt to speak fluent Czech over night. Then I realised that it wasn’t quite Czech that was spewing forth from her mouth, but some magical concoction that sounded like Russian or something of Slavic origin. The amusing thing about it is she insisted on speaking it, and included hand movements a la Italia, to emphasize a point.

I’m looking at this kid thinking ‘what in the hell is going on between those ears?’ But instead I quickly learn a few words of this new language and I pretend to understand and respond by randomly uttering a few crazy-sounding sentences. She smiles with joy, as if to say ‘you actually understand me dad.’

 It lasted for about 5 minutes before she switched back to English to indicate that she’d like some juice. I’m curious to see if this trend is going to continue, and not a little alarmed at the possible implications. I mean does this mean she’s super intelligent? Or that she’s possessed by tiny Slavic creatures just visiting this planet?

Or that the caffeine in the hundreds of chocolate bars she’s consumed in her short life has finally done irreparable damage? The only reference I could find about the phenomenon is in relation to autistic kids inventing their own language. I know that teens sometimes develop a kind of code-language to keep adults and other cretins in the dark, but a 4-year-old speaking in tongues in a decidedly non-biblical sense is complete Greek to me.

Do you know anything about it? Have your kids spoken gibberish to you lately?

Read more by Marlon Abrahams

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