Help Wanted: Please Teach My Child How to Speak English
|November 3, 2013||Posted by Jennifer under Mommyhooddom|
After 20 plus years earning a living as a wordsmith of one flavor or another, first as a journalist and then as a marketing and public relations consultant, I’m beginning to think the job of teaching my two-year-old how to speak English may turn out to be my toughest gig yet.
For most of my life I’ve considered myself a bit of a syntactician. I have a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. My mother taught high school speech and English and wasn’t afraid to fly across the biscuits at you if you said the word “ain’t.” Needless to say, I’ve done some hard time in The Grammartentiary.
My reputation, be it only in very small circles that include my cat, is that of someone who can write and speak
good well enough. Voters have elected (and not elected) candidates for whom I wrote speeches. A publisher once printed several copies of a book I co-authored. Businesses owners have given me their hard-earned dollars in return for bullet points. A couple of people I know have even been offered jobs for which they were only marginally qualified thanks to my resume-writing prowess and interview coaching je ne sais quoi.
I thought I was qualified to teach my baby how to talk.
Every time Baby B sees his portrait on the fireplace mantle, he yells, “You! You! That’s you!”
Now I know why he refers to himself in the second person. I bet if I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, “There YOU are! There’s YOUR picture. It’s YOU!”
What else could he possible know to say? The only option I’ve ever given him is the second person pronoun, “you.”
But what am I supposed to say… “There me is” just so I can get him to say, “There’s me, there’s me”?
That’s only marginally better. It’s still not, “There I am” which would obviously be the correct way for him to refer to his own face.
I certainly don’t think I should say, “There’s Baby B’s picture, Baby B.”
Ok, so he might come back with, “There’s Baby B!” which is grammatically correct and all, but not standard English to refer to himself in the third person.
I get on to my husband all the time for speaking to Baby B in the third person. He’ll say, “Does Baby B want a cracker?” What’s that going to teach him? He already knows his name.
We are embarrassingly guilty of referring to ourselves in the third person though. It’s so annoying.
“Mama has to go to the bathroom.”
“Daddy can’t play right now. Daddy needs a nap.”
“Let Mama change your diaper.”
“Mama has to cook lunch.”
“Mama has to clean up this juice.”
Mama never gets to put her make-up on in peace anymore. (Sorry, that’s a little off topic.)
The pronoun thing is a mess and I am clearly in over my head. Here’s another example.
Any time Baby B wants me to pick him up, he says, “Hold you?”
At first I thought it was so darn cute, I didn’t want to correct him. Whenever he said it I would automatically reply, “Ok, I’ll hold you” which only served to reinforce the “you” thing.
Poor kid. Grammatically stunted by his own mother.
So recently, I’ve started saying, “Say hold ME, Baby. Hold ME.”
He just looks at me like, “You want me to hold you? You’ve got to be kidding — you’re way too heavy.”
I think he understands more than he lets on. But I’m still losing the war on pronouns; I have no clue even how to fight. The battle with homophones isn’t going much better.
Just yesterday, I was showing Baby B which shoe goes on which foot. I handed him his left shoe and said, “This one goes on your left foot. Which one is your left foot?”
He brought the shoe to his left foot. “Right!” I beamed. “Good job!”
He little brow began to furrow as he slowly moved the shoe to the other foot.
Oh crap! I said the word “right” intending for it to mean “you are correct.”
I tried to rewind the moment by telling him he did it the “proper way.” Not the “right way,” mind you. That would have confused him even more.
Darn homophones. They trip me up all the time when I try to teach him things.
This morning, as he was looking at three blue stickers he began to count them out loud, “One, two, three.”
“Yes,” I said. “Great job!”
He then held up two fingers and said, “One. Two.”
“That’s right, Baby!”
He held up one more finger, “One, two, three.”
“Very good job,” I said. Then, thinking I’d reinforce what he just learned with the stickers, I said, “And, there are three stickers, too!”
He looked down at the stickers then slowly back up at me, his all-knowing, great and wonderful Mama. “Two stickers, Mama?”
Ah, dang!! I did it again!
“Also! Also! As well! I mean– there are three stickers in addition to…”
I give up.
Where’s the number to that pre-school?
Am I the only one having trouble teaching my child to speak English?
photo credit: Marion Doss