Language lesson for the new year

rogersgeorge on January 2nd, 2014

This comic reminds me of some early lessons in my early language training (as in learning to speak, not classes in German or Greek). It’s a new year, so I recommend you resolve to follow these rules when you interact with new users of language.

The first rule: Don’t refer to yourself in the third person. Use the normal pronouns when you speak. So don’t say, “Mommy doesn’t like that.” Instead, say something like “AAK! Don’t do that!!!”  Much more realistic—the child won’t have to relearn how to speak. In the comic, (Leigh Rubin’s December 22, 2013 effort), Polly breaks the rule while she complains about it, you’ll notice.


While I’m on the subject of teaching new speakers how to talk, here’s rule two: Don’t talk baby-talk. This includes both vocabulary and pronunciation. Children can learn the real words for things just fine, thank you, and by using the normal term and correct pronunciation, you make language learning easier for them. They don’t have to unlearn anything. Children constantly experiment with pronunciation. So don’t say “twain,” say “train.” The English “R” sound is hard to say, but if children hear it only correctly, they’ll work on it until they get it right.

Rule three: Speak at your normal pitch. Ever hear people speak an octave higher when they’re talking to small children? Don’t.

I can remember the first time I heard “choo-choo train.” I thought it sounded stupid. I knew it was a locomotive. I was three.

Postscript: The day after I posted this, I ran into this related comic from Strange Brew. It’s another parrot talking about using the third person.

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