Thursday, March 5, 2009

Say What?

You realize how funny the English language actually is when you're watching someone learn it. As an adult, you take all the rules and nuances and dual-meanings of words for granted. But, when you're watching your child learn the language, you realize that it's not always so simple to explain. The only thing I can compare it to, as an adult, is learning another language altogether.

Right now, my 3-year old daughter has quite the expanding vocabulary, but she's still in the stage where she absorbing all these new words and simply using them. Not questioning them ... just spitting them right back out ... amazingly in the correct context most of the time! Like last night, when she announced to me and my hubby, "At school, we're gonna put the eggs in the in-coo-bator (incubator) to keep them warm!"

My 6-year old son, however, is at the point of analyzing words and sentences. Something as simple as listening to songs in the car has morphed into complicated lessons in the English language! Take, for example, the following lines to the oh-so-awesome song "Free To Be Me" by Francesca Battistelli:

Oh, I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
And on my own I'm so clumsy
But on Your shoulders I can see
I'm free to be me

So ... when I first listened to the song, I thought, "Wow ... what a great song; what amazing words ... and what a fantastic way to describe imperfection."

My son, however, heard the song and - with a look of confusion, sprinkled with a hint of concern - asked, "Why does she have dents in her car?"; and "Why does she say she has rips in her jeans?"

So ... I launched into trying to explain metaphors and literal vs. figurative speech and descriptive words using the phrases he had just heard in the song as an example.

Oh my!

When I hear lyrics or read a sentence, I automatically and immediately decide whether it's meant to be literal or figurative. I take for granted that I need to figure that out, and then determine the meaning. My 6-year old isn't at that "automatic" point yet ... he's now realizing there is a difference, and is trying to learn how to determine meaning based on how something is phrased and in what context it's used.

So very fascinating, and important to remember as we help our children become good readers, listeners, and writers!

14 comments:

lotusgirl said...

Very true. Literal and figurative can even be tough for grown-ups sometimes.

CC said...

And for some of my students, that is hard to figure out for many, many years. Even with direct instruction. And as Lotusgirl pointed out, hard for some adults too!

beth said...

Oh! That's so cute...

I'm so glad you're teaching your children a love of the language. As a HS teacher, I often can tell the kids who've been raised with books and words versus those who haven't.

Kelly H-Y said...

LotusGirl and CC - Such great points you make!

Beth - Wow, what an impact it can make!

Kelly said...

I love watching my children learn and grow. I was prepping my 9 yr old for his spelling bee so we had to peruse all kinds of word origins. He couldn't believe all the different countries English has borrowed from!

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love how the mind of a child works!

PJ Hoover said...

Kids are too funny! Mine would have then followed up with a "well, what if she did have dents in her fenders. How do you think she would have gotten them."
Unlimited fun!

Kiersten said...

What a cute family picture on the sidebar, btw.

Also, so true. My oldest is nearly five, my youngest two-and-a-half, and watching them absorb and learn and use language is amazing.

And frequently hilarious.

Kelly H-Y said...

Kelly! So true about the word origins ... that is always fun to learn!

Sherrie! Me too!

PJ - That is hilarious!

Kiersten! Thank you! And, you are so right ... frequently hilarious! Makes for good material! :-)

Shelli said...

i get those same questions from my 5 year old. Mommy why does she want a sexy back and what does sexy mean? Oi!

Kelly H-Y said...

That's hilarious, Shelli! Yep, I've started steering away from stations playing Justin Timberlake when the kids are in the car ... thus avoiding those questions! :-)

The Things We Carried said...

Children have such magic in there thinking! How fortunate the child who has a parent to give them the ability of expression and a world filled with words. Your kids are lucky indeed.

Jeff B said...

They are walking breathing sponges aren't they? So fun to see them wrestle with all the language puzzles that come to them through the years.

Kelly H-Y said...

Meredith! They really do ... it continually amazes me!

Jeff! They certainly are, and it is amazing to watch (and learn along with them sometimes!).