So I just had my first conversation with my friend's 4 year old: not a "Where are you?", "I'm coming to find you!", "I found you!" game-type interaction where his contribution is mostly Si, No or giggling but an actual 2-way exchange of information and ideas. It ended like this (in Italian of course!):
4 yo: You know, I fully understood everything you said.
RR: So you think my Italian is getting a bit better?
4 yo: Yes.
RR: But I'm a still a bit of an idiot in Italian! (usually renders him in giggles!)
4 yo: No! You're not an idiot!
I've been lucky enough to witness my friends' children's development over the years in terms of understanding that I speak another language and how to best communicate with me. The 4 kids now range from 4-7 years old and over time I have seen the older ones go from babbling in Italian and giggling when I say I don't understand before babbling again, to repeating themselves slowly, to sounding out words for me. All this in stark contrast to my visit to another family with kids the same age who were baffled by the concept of someone who didn't understand Italian - so much so that the younger one at around 5 years old was terrified of me and wouldn't come near me the whole day!
Now, my friends' two older kids at 7 years old tend to slow down and simplify the language they use, but the latest development is speaking grammatically ugly sentences in order to be on my level! A few days ago, the 7 year old girl wanted to show me the ice cream maker she had received for her birthday and said while pointing indoors Io... macchina... mia (literally "I machine my") much to her parents' amusement! But in fact, she has always been the most advanced when it's come to finding a way to get her message across to me, and in reality, who among us hasn't ever found ourselves in conversation with a foreign tourist uttering lines such as "He my husband" or "Me no like football"!
Today, just now, the 4 year old baby of the gang, the only one I've known since birth, has started on that path of communication development and, truthfully, it's a real treat to behold!