We’ve been having a lot of posts that make poor Andreas’s blood pressure go up lately and I’m worried I might kill my Science Fellow.
Listen, how would I live with myself? Andreas is one of my favorite people in all the land. In ANY land. He always makes me laugh, and he checks in with me to see how my day is going, and he has a lovely family, and he’s so smart and sciency. My life is such a better place with Andreas in it. What would I do if I killed him off because I made him so angry his whole head exploded because of women’s rights issues or ill-informed American politicians thinking we have a uterine defense system to stop rapist-sperm? Oh, wait, sorry, LEGITIMATE rapist-sperm, not the other kind. Let’s make sure we’re clear.
Anyway, as an apology for upsetting Andreas lately, I promised him I would write him a sciency post. One that DOESN’T make his head explode. An ACTUAL sciency post. Andreas totally deserves this, because even though these posts have upset him? He totally still reads them. And comments. That’s a true friend, right there. You all deserve an Andreas.
Today, we’re going to talk about something for TWO people I love: both Andreas AND me! We’re talking about both science AND language. Science for Andreas and language for me. (Bonus: Andreas is also keen on language, and I’m also keen on science, so really, this is a win all around for everyone. WINNING FOR ALL!!!!1!)
Lots to discuss today, my little Footballians. And also Andreas! Thank you for not dying, Andreas. If you do die, please be kind and wait until after I’m dead. I’d much rather not live in a world without you in it. Thank you in advance!
First: children and language and books and school.
I think at this point, everyone’s aware of the benefits of reading to children at a very young age, right? They even say that reading to your pregnant belly (or your lady-friend’s pregnant belly, I don’t want to be sexist) before your baby is born is beneficial – I mean, the kid doesn’t come out knowing the plot of the story, but he or she is more bonded with you, knows the sound of your voice, possibly has a little better-developed brain area. But science totally PROVES we need to be reading to our kiddos! And also that it sets them up to be lifetime readers! So you need to get those books out. If you don’t have kids, find a kid! Read to a kid! Recently, a friend who will remain nameless because I don’t know that it’s public information totally let me long-distance borrow her kiddos and read to them via webcam. IT WAS THE BEST. I read them a book I loved when I was a wee Amy and I had the BEST TIME. (And they seemed to enjoy themselves, as well.) Thank you, top-secret friend who let me borrow your amazing kiddos that I love to pieces and want to give the biggest hugs to! Man, I wish The Nephew was closer. I would read to him every DAY.
Anyway, per these two articles from one of my FAVORITE sciency websites, Science Daily (who doesn’t want science DAILY? I totally do!) what kiddos learn in preschool influences them for their whole lives. Interesting, right? Apparently, kids that were not only with peers who communicate better but in classrooms where the teachers encourage communication are better prepared for life; and kids that are in preschool classrooms where books and literacy are encouraged, as well as homes where the same thing is happening, learn to appreciate and love books. But we already kind of knew these things, I think. It’s nice that science backs them up.
I would just like to say, to my kindergarten teacher (I want to say her name was Miss Sears, but it’s been 33 years since I started kindergarten, ZOMG I AM SO OLD) who was CONSTANTLY squelching my tendencies to chatter away to classmates: BOO ON YOU. Science has proven you should have ENCOURAGED my verbosity. INSTEAD, you made me feel EMBARRASSED.
A regular day in kindergarten would go thusly:
I would chatter away to one of the kids at my long table at a time I was not supposed to chatter away. I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT LIFE AND BEING AROUND PEOPLE.
My name would be put in a punishment box on the blackboard. I would be very embarrassed. I would attempt to stay silent because I hated to be in trouble.
About ten minutes later, I couldn’t control myself anymore, so I’d start talking again. I would get a check after my name. Strike two! Ooh, TWICE as embarrassing. I’d get all red-faced and try VERY VERY hard to be quiet.
About ten minutes later, what’s this? Wee Amy’s chattering away again. ANOTHER CHECK! Strike three. Three strikes meant you had to sit out during playtime and didn’t get to play in the big crawl-through tunnel, or with the dress-up clothing. UGH WORST.
What was I doing ten minutes later? If you guessed chattering, you’d be right. Listen, I couldn’t control myself. That meant I got my name CIRCLED, and the punishment for that was I had to sleep next to the smelly kid during naptime. That was, apparently, the worst punishment my kindergarten teacher could think of back in the late 70s. Can you even imagine such a thing now? That poor kid. His family didn’t have much money. It wasn’t his fault he smelled weird. He had to have known he was being used as a punishment. That’s really terrible.
Anyway, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I totally never did, and never have. I’m still just as loud and irrepressible. Mostly I think what I learned is that I don’t like being told what to do. Sorry, Miss Sears which may or may not have been your name because I don’t remember it at all because THIRTY-THREE YEARS SIGH.
Anyway, the second article also tells us that not ONLY does reading and discussing literature with kids from a young age, both in a home and school setting, set them up for future success, but speaking to children using adult vocabulary is also extremely beneficial. I am here to attest to this, not only on a personal level, but on a vicarious level. I will tell you stories! To illustrate! When I was little, my parents did not (still don’t) believe in baby-talk. They thought it was annoying. I don’t know that they knew that there was SCIENCE behind it, but they didn’t do it. I was brought up on adult vocabulary from a very young age. I remember when I was young – four, maybe? five? – seeing the word “Arkansas” on a box of my father’s, and telling him, “Ar-kansas? Why is Kansas spelled like this?” and he laughed, but very nicely, and explained that although it had the word “Kansas” in it, and was a state, it had nothing to do with Kansas and was actually pronounced differently. He was always so proud when I figured something out on my own. You don’t do kids any favors when you talk to them all “boo boo wubby bubby” because who the hell’s brain are you helping develop then? They’re not CARTOON characters. They’re CHILDREN. You need to give them every advantage in the whole world. Stop talking to them like they’re Teletubbies.
Second, vicariously: I refuse to talk to The Nephew like he’s a baby. Even when he WAS a baby. I mean, I don’t use a total serious grownup VOICE with him, because my grownup voice is low for a lady and can be a little scary for a kiddo, so I try to use a nicer, lighter voice. But I use my real vocabulary. (I leave out the cusses. I’m not a complete dummy.) The Nephew REVELS in big words. The last time I was home, he did something wacky – I don’t remember what it was – and looked at me with his little happy face to see what I thought of that and I said, “Well! Isn’t THAT a confusing development!” and he LAUGHED. He was SO DELIGHTED. “A confusing development!” he said. The kiddo loves grownup words. They just tickle him. I like to imagine that there’s a little of Aunt Amy in there, and that’s what’s driving his complete and total love of language. (His mom also loves to read, so I SUPPOSE I could credit it to her…but it makes me happy to grab onto it for myself. I’m a little greedy, please forgive.)
On a related note, this article says that households where multiple languages are spoken provide children with better emotional development. Again, nice that there’s science, but I’m pretty sure we’ve always known that it benefits kids to learn multiple languages from a young age. I learned MANY words in other languages from a young age. Ready? I will totally share them with you. “Scheiße!” “Danke schön, Fräulein!” “Biergarten!” “Marteau!” “Peligro!” (The first three are, I’m fairly sure, all the German my dad learned while stationed there in the Army (please apologize if any of those are spelled incorrectly), the next is the French word for “hammer” which, for some reason, is the only word my dad remembers his almost-wholly-French-speaking grandfather saying to him. I’m pretty sure my great-grandfather knew more words than the word for “hammer” but that’s all my dad remembers him saying, and the last is a word I remember from Sesame Street.) I’m being sarcastic, of course, about all my foreign-language learning as a kiddo. I knew very little foreign language as a kid. I learned a little in school (Oui, oui! J’ai étudié le français pendant sept ans à l’école!) and I’ve forgotten more French than I learned in all those years of work. But I can still muddle my way through it, if I need to and it’s pretty basic. The Nephew watches a lot of Dora and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan so I think he’s going to be super-prepared to meet the global economy. Even though when he watches Ni Hao, Kai-Lan my dad and brother say, “PROPAGANDA! THE TEEVEE IS TRYING TO TURN HIM INTO A COMMIE!” and The Nephew looks at me with a barely-constrained eye-rolly look and I think, oh, kid, you’re learning that look really early, aren’t you?
By the way, that article says the following: “For example, a native Finnish speaker may be more likely to use English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.” Andreas! Is that a true thing about Finland? Oh, shit. I would never fit in there! I express my emotions ALL THE DAMN TIME. In words, in actions, in type, in LOUD SPEAKING WAYS. Are Finns not overly emotive? Aw! Finns! You should talk more about your emotions. It’s good to get that stuff out. It makes people feel good and makes YOU feel good!
This is getting crazy long and I have MORE things to discuss. SO MUCH SCIENCE. And language! Science and language! (I feel sad these articles are light on science. Bad job, Science Daily.)
This article tells us that the language we use can affect our mood. I kind of love that. First: talking about a situation, even if it’s scary or bad, can make you feel better about it. That seems kind of self-explanatory – I think everyone knows that talking about something is better than keeping it all bottled up. I think science has backed that up for a while now. (My problem is, I talk about the silly little shit all the livelong day, but the serious shit, which I suppose is the stuff that I could BENEFIT talking about, I refuse to discuss. Don’t even ask. I won’t do it. I don’t feel it’s anyone’s business but my own. Aren’t most people like that, though? We all have some serious shit we aren’t comfortable blabbing about, even us chatty-chat bloggers. Or do you all talk about every single thing in your lives? I’m honestly curious.)
The article also says if you want to be less of a gloomy Gus, talk about bad things (even if they’re ongoing) in the past tense, and good things (even if they haven’t happened yet) in the present tense. It’s apparently supposed to do something positive to your brain and make you less grumpy. I think it would make me more grumpy to be less precise with my language. I don’t want to say something’s ended if it’s still ongoing, because that would be wrong, and also a lie. I hate saying things that aren’t true if I have any control over it. It might be sciency but I think it wouldn’t work on me.
And finally, here, we have an article about how scientists are trying to learn animal languages, because they finally realized that if gorillas and parrots can learn English, we should be able to learn animal-languages. I WANT TO LEARN ANIMAL-LANGUAGE. Sometimes I meow at Dumbcat. If I hit just the right tone, he totally responds. I have no idea what I’m saying to him, or if I’m insulting him or what kind of conversation we’re having, but it’s a fun little game we play. YES YES I know I spend a lot of time with my cat. Shush, you. You would too, if your cat was this awesome. As I write this, he has curled up as small and tight as possible, and he is SNORING LIKE A CHAINSAW. All superglued to my leg. He loves unemployment, this cat. Oh, Dumbcat, eventually I need to go back to work, buddy.
Anyway, the article says they’re learning to talk prairie dog. That’s all well and good, but I want to learn to talk Dumbcat. Let me know when you’ve cracked the code of how to talk Dumbcat, science-types. I’ll be pleased to get that news. I think he has a lot to tell me.
Andreas! Happy sciency news with many tangents. Nothing that will get your blood pressure up or your head exploding. How’d I do? HAVE A LOVELY SUNDAY ANDREAS! And also, don’t die! Ever! Thank you!