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Buzz Wid It

Should pronunciation be taken more seriously in school?

When I was a kid, there were a lot of "ain'ts," double-negatives, dangling participles and people who "seen you." Yet somehow, I speak fairly well. I am thankful I was taught to speak correctly by a combination of parents and teachers.

I pronounce entire words and expect my children to do the same. I wouldn't expect people to take me seriously if I didn't.

I recently visited a prospective school for my child. The faculty and PTA had set up a room with charts, baby chicks and fresh fruit to impress the parents. I must say, the school is very impressive. It is free of the . It was new and clean and the halls were lined with the accomplishments of the children.

As we waited to walk the halls, a group of Pre-K kids shuffled into the room. The school houses a lottery-funded Pre-K, run by Bright From The Start.

They seem to be well behaved, smart, respectful kids. They sang on cue: "Buzz Wid It…"

What?!? These little people who are just learning a language were being directed by their teachers to say "wid" in place of with. I prefer my child say the "th" sound.

I understand it's just a song. But kids learn a lot through song at four years old. My child will come home and be corrected, some of those kids won't have that opportunity. It just seems irresponsible.

The Child and Language Research Lab performed a research project to study children’s early language ability and how it changes from age 3 to age 8. They thought children who have a good awareness of the sounds in the language may learn to read more easily than those who don’t. They wanted to know whether the way young children pronounce words affects their awareness of sounds in the language. They were looking at how early pronunciation, sound recognition, and sound awareness were linked to their ability to learn to read those words once they were in school.

At 3 years of age, not many children pronounced all words correctly. At this young age, many children were aware of at least some of the sounds that make up words. They found a link between being able to say a sound on the one hand and recognizing and being aware of that sound in words on the other hand.
They discovered difficulty saying a sound at age 3 was linked to lower recognition and awareness of that sound at most of the later ages in the study, even if the child could say the sound by then.

They also found that difficulty saying a sound at age 3 was linked to lower awareness of that sound at age 8, and difficulty “reading”, or sounding out, non-words containing that sound at 8.

Teachers and researchers have found that children who have a good knowledge of the sounds in their language may learn to read more easily than those who don’t.

The research found that how children speak when they are very young affects what they learn about the sounds in their language. They also show that their early speech patterns are linked to learning to sound out words that contain  those specific sound patterns once children start school.

The developmental scale for standard American speech production would lead me to believe those for year old should be pronouncing the "th" sound. It may still be difficult for some of them. By age four they should have— k, t, th, f, v, ng, j, ch- sounds.

So. . .Bright From the Start, Georgia, State Funded Pre-K teachers: Teach them to pronounce words correctly. Maybe even you pronounce them correctly. It's kinda your job, if not your responsibility.

"Buzz with it."

Tank April 25, 2012 at 12:11 PM
If you plan on living in the south, you're going to be fighting a long, grueling, and most-likely fruitless battle. I, like you, enjoyed growing up using grammatically incorrect witticisms and structurally abhorrent turns-of-phrase, but I, also like you, am able to communicate efficiently with nearly everyone I come into contact with (even non-English speakers). I wouldn't put too much stock into one song (though I do understand that you are speaking to a larger issue). Kid's have a lot of growing up to do and their language skills, tone, pitch, words-of-choice, verbal humor, etc. will change much over the next 15 or so years. And hopefully the only constant they will have during that time is you teaching them to speak clearly, concisely, and with gusto. Because come on....it's just more fun to sing without worrying about silly things like pronunciation and grammar. :D
Sydney Barker April 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Did you AKS the teacher about this?
Space Ship April 25, 2012 at 01:52 PM
You definitely hit a sore spot with this one. Growing up with an enjoyment for "grammatically incorrect witticisms" speaks to a casual acceptance of an issue that is a serious problem, and acceptance of it is nothing more than laziness and complacency. It is an easy gift to provide a child with the tools of success and is such a worthwhile investment. My child will learn to speak correctly and will be able to conduct business with anyone in our country, but only through the diligence of parenting. Jessica speaks to a larger problem that is the scourge of the South - and it's shameful. Sadly, Georgia is continually ranked on the mediocre level of the national list of scholastic achievement. Look it up. Our neighbors in Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina are worse - but we're not that much better. I hear bad grammar everywhere - in our government, on TV, in the newspaper, and most dangerously in our educational system. I cringe at every PTA meeting when I hear the "professionals" speak that are teaching our children.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 25, 2012 at 02:28 PM
I don't think it's a "South" thing, necessarily. I grew up in Brooklyn and later on in northern NJ and I heard plenty of "yous" instead of "you," "yutes" instead of "youths," "you is" instead of "you are'' and Anthony pronounced something closer to "Ant-knee." All in all, I don't mind the occasional grammatical witticism. English is a fluid and ever-changing language with great idiomatic expressions. Still, I know that in more professional settings speaking clearly and properly is one of the first things upon which people are judged. When Jessica told me what happened, I was floored. Teachers shouldn't be encouraging lower communication standards; they should be pushing the little kids to their highest and best selves. If you want respect and to be taken seriously you have to communicate in a manner that shows you deserve it.

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