I’ve written before about the love of language shown by Linda, typical of so many people with Williams Syndrome. Not only does Linda have a wide vocabulary, she loves using unusual words.
So how will she fare in a different country with a new language?
We’re on holiday in France. For the most part our exposure to the French language is limited. We’re staying in a Gite together, we shop in a local supermarket, generally we still speak English.
But we do encounter some spoken French in the shops, in the cafe and especially in the Tourist Information office where Linda likes to top-up her collection of leaflets.
Beth is pretty fluent in French and I can get by with basics so Linda hears us speaking French. Waiters and kind shop assistants also include Linda in the conversation so she’s called on to add the occasional “Bonjour” (Hello), “Merci beaucoup” (thank you) or “Au revoir” (goodbye) to the exchange.
Her most regular exposure to the French language comes when we sit in the late evening sunshine with a selection of Apericube cheese snacks, carefully unpeeling the paper wrapping to reveal the general knowledge quiz questions hidden within… Linda takes her turn reading the question in French, other questions are first read in French before translation.
I won’t pretend that’s she’s suddenly fluent in French but Linda does enjoy being included and seems to take pleasure from the new words and phrases she’s learning.
The joy for me comes when I hear these words being included into her own private self-talk. She will sit quietly, talking to herself and her private world with French phrases included throughout. Magnifique!
As I’m rarely allowed into this world I don’t know the context of her French. It’s never as simple as re-creating recent events or scenarios but it’s a real part of the secret life of this person with Williams Syndrome and seems to be a common symptom among the people I know. For Linda, French is regularly used at the moment.
What is it about Williams Syndrome that facilitates this hunger for extending vocabulary and playing with language in this way?
The effort to climb up a very high step, requiring a significant co-ordination of effort by Linda was spontaneously accompanied by “un, deux, trois, hup!”.
Formidable I’d say.