After Ari turned 14 months, the language machine was finally put in gear. He said his first word -- papa -- on Zhen'ka's birthday. The day before, Zhen'ka was mowing the lawn, which left a deep impression on Ari. Ari was running around, following the lawn mower, pointing and saying, "pa-pa-pa-pa-pa!" I would tell him, "that's right, papa is mowing the lawn." The next day, which was Zhen'ka's birthday, we were at our friends' house, and our friends asked if Ari says any words yet. I said, "no, but I think he is pretty close to saying "papa." At these words, Ari, who was sitting on my lap, pointed straight at Zhen'ka and said, in his little voice, "Pa-pa!" You can imagine that the owner of this title was left completely unmoved by this event. :)
The next "true" word came about a month later, when Ari was walking around the house saying "ku-ki-ku-ki-ku-ki." I wasn't sure if he heard this word at daycare, or if he was just playing with sounds. In any case, I was so excited that I abandoned my notions of maintaining the purity of Russian language (it will probably be months before he is able to say the word "печенье"), showed him a cookie and let him eat it. That one exposure was enough for this to become his favorite word. Ari now points to the cabinet where I keep the cookies and says, for some reason in a whisper, "ki-ku-ki-ku-ki-ku-ki." Why he starts with the last syllable, I don't know, but it is awfully cute.
Besides those two "true" words, Ari sticks out his tongue and pants to indicate the word "dog." He opens his mouth wide and says "Aah!" (as if you drink something that tastes good) to mean "water." "Br-r-r" is anything that has an engine, such as "truck," "tractor," "lawn-mower" or "car." "Br-r-r" with his finger pointing upwards is an "airplane." A recent addition to his vocabulary is "Too-too!" for a train.
Ari also has a bunch of signs, and he is picking up new ones every day. I have reached a point where I need to expand my sign vocabulary, especially in the area of food items, as I need to learn signs for such things as "cucumber," "rice," and "yogurt." Ari's most widely used sign is "more," which he uses to mean "more," but also over-generalizes it to mean something like "do what I want you to do." He can also sign "milk," "cheese," "cantelope," "song," "caterpillar" and "bear." I have resorted to making up signs, such as those for "cous-cous" and "waffle," because I didn't think I would be able to find them in a dictionary. Overall, Ari tries to imitate any sign now, even though he doesn't always succeed.
Most of this progress, of course, is due to his language development simply unfolding, but partly I think my efforts are finally paying off. Have you noticed something, though? There is no hint of him saying "mama." I don't take it personally. After all, a lawn mower is so much more interesting to talk about.