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    Childrearing #8

    August 23, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    Correct bad pronunciation once the child begins talking.

    I want to clarify and say that I don’t consider saying a handful of words to be actually “talking,” and I would only correct once a child really gets going. A. calls me “Ah-mee” half the time, and I don’t say, “Now, A., please call me ‘Mommy'” because she isn’t capable of that yet. But somehow they all transition from saying mere words to actually talking.

    Sloppy pronunciation is often considered “cute.” I, for one, think it is adorable. But I do my son a favor, especially now that he is four, and work with him at home {never in public!} on pronouncing his words correctly. I have also worked on my own pronunciation, being sure, especially when reading aloud to the children, that I say the words thoroughly and correctly each time. I have actually learned to appreciate the beauty of spoken language through this activity.

    Besides the common-sense fact that baby-talk is cute at the age of two, but not so much at six, there is a very important area that is eased or hindered by how a family treats pronunciation: reading. I was blessed about a year ago to have a woman share with me that reading and pronunciation were tied, and so I thought I would pass on this tip.

    Yesterday, during reading lessons, E. and I were discussing the word “were.” E. decided to try and use it in a sentence, and immediately he said, “As in, ‘Were are you?’ Were.” I cringed. I hadn’t realized that he was pronouncing “were” and “where” the same way. And since he hasn’t been introduced to “where” yet, I had to be very deliberate about differentiating the two words in a number of sentences until he got the idea.

    Another example is the color “yellow,” which E. often calls, “lellow.” The first time I had him read “yellow,” he had no clue what the word meant. He was completely shocked that “yellow” had “y” at the beginning. Sometimes, poor pronunciation is actually a result of inattentive listening. Even though I pronounce “yellow” correctly, he was hearing it only the way he said it.

    When a child begins to learn to read, he is {ideally} at the point that he understands {though he couldn’t articulate the fact} that the words that are written are symbolic representations of the words that are said, and so expects the written words to accurately depict his spoken words. It is a huge favor to the child to make sure that the majority of the words he speaks are words that he will recognize when it comes time for reading.

    As a final note, I will mention that the way parenting magazines often encourage a parent to deal with this sort of problem is very passive. For instance, instead of telling E. that “yellow” has the “y” sound at the beginning and prompting him to repeat it after me for practice, I would simply be instructed to repeat the word back to him using the proper pronunciation. Perhaps there are some children that would respond to such subtlety. E. is not one of those children. Subtle goes right over his head. I have had to learn how to gently, but directly correct him. For the most part, he seems to feel very triumphant when he finally gets it right.

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  • Reply Brandy August 24, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    So true about men and women! One of the things I had to learn after marrying Si was to be direct in what I was saying–the little hints just didn’t work. Conversely, I also had to learn that Si usually meant exactly what he said and no more–there weren’t any alternate shades of meaning the way there were sometimes when I was talking. I don’t know if our situation was extreme, but I know this was a big lesson for me in our early days.

  • Reply Rahime August 24, 2006 at 11:02 pm

    It’s certainly true (generally) of men and women, so it seems it would be true of boy and girls…at least to some extent.


  • Reply Brandy August 23, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    I read that book while I was pregnant with E. (which means I hardly remember it). So far, I can say that the part about boys is true. I’ll let you know in two years if girls “get it” or not! 🙂

  • Reply rebecca August 23, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    I just finsished reading “Bringing Up Boys” and one of the points Dr. Dobson made was that boys often do not get “subtle hints” while girls do. I wonder if you will notice a difference in this area when A. is speaking/reading.

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