One of the things I have noticed with Elijah over the last few weeks is that he says some words almost perfectly and then other words are so far from the real thing that it is really difficult for me to understand.
For example, I remember talking to him about the word "empty" one day and hearing him repeat something that sounded like "got-be." The next day when he said "got-be" and kept saying "got-be, got-be, got-be" I finally realized that he was saying "empty." And the pronunciation hasn't changed in the past week, so I'm so glad I figured this out!
Elijah tends to get frustrated in communicating with me if I don't understand what he is saying. If he says "got-be" it's very clear that he likes and expects me to say, "That's right Elijah, the cup is empty," and continues to say it until I recognize his word.
This being said, I've tried to remind myself to have Elijah practice saying any new word that I teach him right then. That way, just like the word "empty," I will (hopefully) know exactly what he is saying the next time he tries to explain something to me.
So, if you're having trouble understanding your toddler, be intentional with listening for how he interprets the sounds!