People sometimes ask whether Shoshana's first language will be Greek or English. The more sophisticated inquire, "Will she call you πατήρ or אבא?" There has to be a good comeback line. For now, the best I can offer is "I wish."
In his contribution to When Dead Tongues Speak, Kenneth Scott Morrell explains that normal infants start producing words "around the time they turn one...and by eighteen months they have begun to develop syntax. Most three-year-olds are grammatically correct 90 percent of the time. For this process to occur, children must perceive and comprehend examples of language in use, which usually, but not always, take the form of spoken discourse....[A]ny average four-year old can be fluent in one or more languages without coaching or training of any type and without any conscious understanding of grammar" (134-5).
Morrell's point, not surprisingly, is that teachers of ancient Greek should learn from the way children naturally learn to speak: "[T]he 'teaching' of language ultimately represents the process of creating an environment that will allow students to encounter as much input as possible in a way that will engage and facilitate their innate ability to acquire language" (135).
My point, of course, is to sing the praises of my daughter who at just three and a half months had her first word. The word was not the expected πατήρ or אמה but "ivy." That's right: "ivy." Random letters tapped on a computer keyboard count, don't they?