Archive for the 'language' Category

01
Oct
11

chatty cathy vs. chatty johnny

As I was researching language acquisition for the last post I did, I found a lot of research on language usage and the subsequent amount of it. Blah. Blah. Blah. Numbers, numbers, numbers. Except. Except… in every single one of the studies I skimmed the scientists were showing that females talked more than males. Girls talked more than boys. Pretty much all the scientific studies showed the same thing: girls spoke earlier, more and had a bigger vocabulary. Except…

Um. No. Clearly these scientists and researchers have never met my children. My male children. All three of them talked early, often and with huge vocabularies, including words like “appeared” and “actually” (pronounced oxually). When big was not so big he never stopped talking, his entire life was a running dialouge. I say dialogue becuase no matter what came out of his mouth I was expected to respond and if I didn’t the conversation took on an urgent tone that I was forced to notice.

Big at 3: Vrooom. Vroom. The car is driving up into the parking garage to park on the top floor. [driving car around as described]

Mom: [silence because honestly I don’t know what kind of response is called for.]

Big: MOM! THE CAR IS DRIVING UP INTO THE PARKING GARAGE TO PARK ON THE TOP FLOOR!!!!!!!

Mom: OKAY! SUPER!

Every single waking moment of every single day I was expected to participate in conversationally; the boy performed no monologues. My brain was over-stimulated and it was the sort of thing that would make a mommy a little cranky. I perfected the least interested response I could. When I was pregnant with Middle and laying on the couch in the clutches of mid-afternoon sickness and Big was desperately trying to include me in a conversation about trains; I came up with this cheat sheet for the direst of times.

first response: Hmmm.

second: hMMmmm.

third: hmmmmMMM.

fourth: hmmmmm?

fifth: hmmmmm!!!

Repeat.

speak no evil, speak a little evil and speak much evil and by evil I mean mostly potty talk.

So of course I would go on to bear two more children who would grace the good earth with their voices that tinkle like bells ALL THE TIME. I was feeling guilty; like shouldn’t I want to be constantly engaged in unstimulating conversation with little people? I asked my therapist if I was secretly totally evil. She said, no. We had a nice dialogue about it. She said the human brain isn’t meant to be stimulated ALL THE TIME. I should tell him that for five minutes I was going to turn my brain off and he could talk, but I wasn’t going to listen. If he wanted someone to listen he should find someone else to talk to, like say his baby brother or his teddy bear. It took him about a week to stop talking to me and expecting a response, but it was damn nice not to be expected to remember where I was in the “hmmm” cycle.

So all these studies are saying that boys talk less than girls and they have evidence and shit and I say, “whatever” because I don’t see it. So I want to know what they think the reasons are, so I know if my boys are freaks of nature and possibly huge moneymakers some day. In The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre she talks about how two separate studies found evidence that pointed in two opposite directions. Super, science, just super.

In the first study researchers decided after following around 22 educated, middle-class mothers of toddlers, both boys and girls about the same age for a few hours every month and tape every word they said, that the moms used the same amount of words with boys and girls, but boys spoke less and used fewer words. They believed that there was something intrinsic that made the boys less verbal (pp. 65-66). However, in a completely different study across more diverse racial and socioeconomic lines showed that the number of words a parent speaks to a child is directly related to the size of the child’s vocabulary regardless of gender. So that means that if you have a very active boy who wants to be outside running around, throwing balls and stuff, you might not choose to take them to the story hour at the library or sit down and read books to them. If you’re doing what they are interested in, or what is easier to do with them, then maybe there’s less language involved.

Now that makes sense. They spend a hell of a lot of time with me and I am a world champion talker. The kind of person that loves to talk. The person that volunteers to get up in front of people and talk. I can’t get enough of it. “Listen to me world!” Maybe because no one listens to me at home. Naw, I’ve always been that way; in theater, forensics (not the CSI kind). LOOOOOVE the stage. My childhood report cards always said, quarter after quarter and year after year, “Becki’s a great student, but she needs to spend less time talking.”

I talked so much that my fourth grade teacher tied me into my desk with crepe paper so I wouldn’t walk around the room and talk to people. If we would have known then what we know now about suing for pain and suffering…

So the boys have a great role model, if they’d let me get a word in edgewise. Also, I’m not so much into the running around outside and the ball-throwing. I was always reading to Big and dragging him to story hours and anything else that involved me sitting on my ass. It’s gotten harder with Middle and Little because they seem to be more active types. And don’t go around thinking I’ve ruined Big and he’s like a big blob on the couch; he’s a white belt in Tai Kwon Do, but he’s going places.

I know that someday I’m going to miss all these little voices around me. They may be surly teenagers and I’ll have to beg them to talk to me. I videotaped Little yesterday telling me the names of all the Star Wars guys that he knew because it’s just too precious to hear your three-year old recite the members of the Dark Side. That’s not all he says, he says I love you mommy about twenty times a day, but I never have the camera ready for that. That, I’ll never forget.

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18
Sep
11

the problem with other

Below is a post that I wrote at my old blog a couple of years ago when I had become particularly annoyed with the lack of understanding on the part of big and middle in the area of language, specifically one single word. Now that I’m all like scientific and shit, I thought I’d revisit this annoyance and see if maybe, just maybe they weren’t really trying to drive me crazy, but were just using their male brains (you know, the only ones they have).

[side note: old blog called The Wiener Mom so all sons were called wieners… you’ll put it together, I know you will]

so glad I'm your mOTHER Big; you've grown so much!

Dear wieners (specifically mine, but all are welcome),

I have come before you today to address a crucial issue in the success of Wiener Mom/little wiener relationships. The future of my goodwill and your continued survival depend upon it.
My dear wieners, we must discuss the meaning of the word “other”. What it means is not that one, i.e. not that hand, the OTHER one or not that foot, the OTHER ONE. When a person has two of something (hands or feet primarily) and the Wiener Mom says “not that one, the other one” she does not mean the SAME ONE, she means the OTHER ONE.

What confuses the otherwise intelligent and capable mind of the Wiener Mom, is how a relatively small wiener can correctly use words like, ACTUALLY, and USUALLY, and even REAPPEARING, but he can not give the Wiener Mom THE OTHER FOOT, even after repeated pointing and wild gesturing, as well as overly clear annunciation, “No, the OTH-ER one.”

Perhaps this is a phenomenon witnessed only in Wiener World, and both wieners and non-wieners in the outside world have a strong grasp of the OTHER one. If so, please give the Wiener Mom your apparently successful strategies before she pulls her hair out. No, the other one.

Love and kisses, The Wiener Mom

Back when I wrote that OTHER blog

So I go through all my boy books and can’t find anything on language processing; a lot on talking (which is a whole OTHER blog post altogether). So I have to turn to the World Wide Webs, which I really hate to do because, really who can you trust, there’s so many so-called experts out there blogging about who knows what. I google it and find a lot of scientific articles and papers and abstracts and there are a lot of numbers and %s and #s and &s and other symbols that start to look kind of math-like so I turn to

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080303120346.htm

Science Daily: My source for the latest in Research News to find the answer to this brain buster:

Seems like just the OTHER day

Do boys process language differently than girls?

short answer: yup.

long answer: Boys’ language processing tends to be more sensory and girls’ processing more abstract. So I guess if you think about it, the word OTHER is pretty abstract. It’s not a car or a light saber or a brother or even a wiener. It’s other.

But why, you ask? The researcher from Northwestern thinks that boys may have “some kind of bottleneck in their sensory processes that can hold up visual or auditory information and keep it from being fed into the language areas of the brain.” Which he says may be a result of girls developing faster than boys and may be gone by adulthood, which explains why when I put the Mister’s shoes on, he totally understands the word OTHER. This would also explain why all my pointing and mad gesturing isn’t helping anything; it’s just all getting trapped in  like a traffic jam of sensory information, which for some reason I imagine actually taking place in his neck.

The researcher says that another explanation for why the study showed that boys aren’t as adept at processing abstract language is that they may create visual and auditory associations with a word and it would be kind of hard to create a visual or auditory association with the word OTHER unless it’s your mother pulling her hair out and gesturing to your shoe or screaming “OTH-ER”.

Two years after I wrote that post Big has figured out the meaning of the word OTHER about 94.6% of the time, but now I’ve got Middle and Little to gesture wildly to. Maybe now that I know that they’re not trying to annoy me or ignore me, I could tone down the gesturing and the exasperated sighing. Only for “OTHER” though.

I hold no promises when it comes to “COME HERE. NO I SAID COME HERE. HERE. NO HERE. NEXT TO ME. NO HERE.”




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