It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Enunciation comes Later

Zach calls from the stroller, “Bi-iiiwww!! Bi-iiiwww! Look, Mahwee, bi-biiiwww!”

Hmmm… “Bear, Zach? Do you see a bear?” We’re strolling outdoors; presumably it wouldn’t be of the animate variety, but perhaps he’s seen a teddy in someone’s drive or front window?

“No. Bi-iiiwwww!”

“Bell? Is there a bell somewhere?”

“NO. Look, look, Mahwee. Bi-iiiwwww!”

We’ve progressed a few metres while this conversation was occurring, and now I realize that Zach is pointing to the barricade at the end of the street, beyond which, as we both know, is a

Big Hill!!!


September 12, 2005 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. I can relate to this. Simcha has an aversion to consonants right now. Yesterday she asked,

    “Daddy? Ka-aii pah n ai nah?”

    I had to ask her to repeat herself several times, and each time all I could understand was “Daddy”. Finally I understood her to mean, “Daddy, can I play my game now?” She has some computer games, and that’s what she wanted.

    When her enunciation is bad, I sometimes make her repeat herself even if I know what she wants. Do you know of a way to encourage her in a positive way, or should I just let it go, in your opinion? She has the ability to speak clearly. It seems to me that she’s just too hurried or careless a lot of the time.

    Comment by snaars | September 12, 2005 | Reply

  2. I was thinking, tonight, about how Charlie struggled with his ‘L’ sounds (horrible, really, when your name is CharLie). One day he was talking about his ‘wuggage’ and I had no clue–until he brought me a suitcase. ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘LUGGAGE! Can you say LA LA LA?’ He did. ‘Can you say LA LA LUGgage?’

    And he said, ‘LA LA WUGGAGE!’

    Comment by Susan | September 12, 2005 | Reply

  3. snaars: You deal with it as you appear to be doing: by encouraging. How old is she? I know I should know this, but I forget. What I describe hereafter is the way I deal with it with children two and up, kids who have been verbal for a little while.

    When something comes out mangled, repeat it back to her, carefully enunciated. “Do you mean:…?”

    It’s easiest to start with single words. Using that sentence as an example, I’d probably repeat the whole thing back. When she agreed that yes, that’s what she meant, I’d say, “Well, then. Let’s get that gaMMMe.” Before I gave it to her, I’d say “Here’s your gaMMMe, Simcha. Say “GaMMMe.” And I’d hold it until she said it properly – or at least appeared to be making a solid effort.(The word I’ve chosen is the one most important to her.)

    A tip: hold the item beside your face as you enunciate, so her attention is on your face, not on the game on the table.

    Not every time she opens her mouth, making the poor child is feel harrassed, but consistently, to let her know the expectations are being raised.

    If I feel it’s willfulness, or rebellion, that the child is perfectly capable but is simply choosing not to, I will simply pretend not to understand even when I do. “Try again and say it carefully, and maybe I will understand you.” In a firm but cheerful voice. (What Susan describes below is not willfulness. He genuinely tried, but old patterns prevailed.)

    That’s how I do it round here, anyway. It’s a gradual process.

    Susan: I knew a little girl named Sarah, who at two could say neither an initial “s” or “r”. Poor kid! Her name came out “Tawah” for close to a year.

    And the “LA LA wuggage” happens all the time, and makes me laugh every time. You can see them trying to force their tongues round it, and it just doesn’t happen.

    Comment by Mary P. | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  4. LMB has got terrible diction, mostly through laziness as Mstr A will translate for her most of the time. I have always used the “I can’t understand you unless you say it properly” tactic, so mstr A’s translating can be quite annoying at times:-)

    I had a sister 2 years older than myself, who couldn’t say my name, and called me by an easier to say male name for years!

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  5. My young cousin, who was the youngest of four in his family (all boys) was so slow learning to speak that his mother had him in to a speech therapist. The verdict? “There’s nothing wrong with this child. He doesn’t speak because he doesn’t HAVE to!” Once they got his three helpful older brothers to stop translating, he was speaking fluently within three months!

    So does your family still call you by your older sister’s variant?

    Comment by Mary P. | September 13, 2005 | Reply

  6. Fortunately not. I modified my name when I was 15, & refused point blank to answer anyone who didn’t say it perfectly! It took a few years, but now everyone except my mother uses it naturally.

    Now I’m not so bothered, but as a teenager your name is terribly important and wrapped up with your self image.

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | September 14, 2005 | Reply

  7. I have an unusual name, and so learned early to correct pronounciation. My sister, whose name isn’t unusual, has a name with a couple of variants, and people keep using the wrong one. She doesn’t correct them. That would drive me nuts, but it doesn’t bother her at all. Different strokes…

    Comment by Mary P. | September 14, 2005 | Reply

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