When each of my kids has started to talk, my wife and I have almost immediately tried to get them to do so correctly.
Correct pronunciations. Correct grammar. Correct usage. Complete sentences.
It’s not that we put pressure on them, telling them to “Do it right!” but we try to pattern the correct way to speak. Soothing tones, but no baby talk.
It seems to have worked well. As a six-year-old, Miles speaks like a little adult, with a vocabulary beyond his years and an interesting knack for language.
But as Hannah, nearly 18 months old, begins to finally (at least in our minds) take off in her speech, I realize that I love those little errors that come with learning to speak.
In the case of Miles, my favorite mispronunciations came at the dinner table, where the utinsils he used were his “fock” and “poon.” Still makes me smile to think about it.
Alas, those days are long gone, and while that’s a good thing, I can’t help but get a little sentimental thinking about it.
For Hannah, the current favorite mispronunciation is about one of the very things that helps kids develop proper speech skills — books.
Like her big brother, Hannah loves to read. She has a number of board books she loves, the absolute favorite being “Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.” (It was “Llama Llama Red Pajama” for Miles.)
When Hannah wants to read one of her favorites, she’ll pick it up and come running toward you saying, “Gook. Gook!”
(Writing that down now, I realize it reads as a racial slur, which is neither her pronunciation nor my intention. I assure you it’s the short double-o sound — rhymes with “book” — not the long double-o sound — rhymes with “spook.”)
It has us a bit perplexed. She can say the “b” sound, with the evidence being two of her favorite words — “baby” and “bye bye.”
We’re trying to take a balanced approach. There’s no use in constantly correcting her in part because this child in particular will dig in her heels just because. We’re also trying to avoid repeating it. Keep saying “book” and she’ll follow suit.
Inevitably, she’ll figure it out and that’s a good thing. I just rest assured that I can hold on to the memories and that some of the little usage errors don’t go away so quickly. Even at six, Miles still says the not necessarily wrong but certainly redundant “next beside” as in, “Come sit next beside me.”
It makes us giggle every time and I know that when it goes away for good we’re going to be sad.