I can’t think of specifically when it happened, but more and more often, when my daughter speaks? Whenever she says anything? She’s adopted? A sense of upspeak? And it’s making me bananas. I mean, it is rampant.
Me: Yes, my peach.
She: The other day? At school? This girl? In my class? Well, I wanted to use the chalk? But she? Pushed the box? Closer to the…
Me: *holds a hand up* Ava Scarlett, my darling, this upspeak? Is a problem. Are you asking me something, or are you telling me something?
She: I’m telling you something.
Me: Well, everything you say sounds like a question. When we ask? Our inflection rises at the end of a sentence. If you’re telling me something, then just say it. Otherwise, you sound as if you don’t know your own mind, or that you’re not sure about what you have to say.
She: I do know what I want to say.
Me: Oh, good… so you’re not an idiot, then?
She: *furrows brow*
Me: Then sound as if you know what you’re talking about. It’s important. And look at a person when you’re speaking to them, so they know what you have to say is important to you.
She: *calmly and slowly* Okay. So at school. This girl. She’s in my class…
I’m making a special effort to get down on her level and face her squarely when she’s telling me things. I know, in part, it’s because she’s trying to get my full attention. Upspeak has a way of peaking a person’s interest, because of it’s question-like lilt – it engages another person, because it sounds as if participation is required. If you ask me something, I will respond. It’s a way of capturing another’s attention. But, it’s also a manner of speaking that becomes habit-forming. And these things don’t curb themselves.
For the past few weeks, at almost every turn, I have to interject her verbal-spillage with, “Are you asking me something?” to which she almost always answers, “No, I’m telling you something.” Mmm-hmm.
Oliver formed similar verbal habits around this same age, I remember. I was relentless about quashing that, as much as I still am about reminding them not to interject the word “like” as a pause, every time they open their mouths.
Language is a living, breathing thing, and the ways in which we speak, the rise and fall of our voices, and our cadences, are colloquial and often geographical. There are ways to punch up your conversation, by using humour, or inflection, or swear words, or whatever. But I hate to see a child’s manner of speaking become lazy or spoiled, before they’ve even learned all the words. I wish for them to sound mindful.
So I’m all over them about it. And they kind of hate me for it… but they’ll thank me one day, I hope.