Language learning is a fascinating process. I might be a bit biased seeing as language learning is what I do all day long but I think that most people find it at least somewhat intriguing.
It has been amazing to watch our little girls’ coos turn into words and then words turn into phrases and phrases express ideas and desires. Now more than ever it has become evident just how much the girls are watching and learning from us. Hearing my exact phrasing and word choice coming from a tiny little mouth has made me consider my words very carefully.
Seeing as I labor all day to teach grammar to students, it has been amazing to me how effortlessly the girls just suddenly figure out a grammar rule and then start applying it. Their knowledge of a rule is generally made most evident through mistakes. They learn that –ed makes a verb past tense and so they say, “I runned yesterday,” or they learn that an –s makes a plural and so they say, “I want to see the fishes.” I know that these errors will work themselves out and mostly I am just excited that they have internalized grammar just through listening. How amazing is that?
However, something terrible happened the other day, something that is unnatural and could only have been repeated and not a manifestation of an incorrectly applied rule.
“Mama, where is Dada at?”
*Cue look of shock and horror.* What did my child just say? Did she seriously just end her question with a preposition?
“What, sweetheart? What did you say?” I asked, hoping that my ringing ears had betrayed me.
“Where is Dada at?”
She did. Not only did she end her sentence with a preposition, it was an inexplicably superfluous one. One of the most heinous grammatical crimes had just been committed by my own flesh and blood.
Like I said, I don’t correct their grammar. These things just work themselves out. But this, this had to be addressed. I’m sorry if it makes me a grammar snob but ending a sentence with “at” is like nails on a chalkboard to me. It takes a perfectly sophisticated conversation and tosses it in the toilet. Don’t end your sentences with prepositions, people. Just don’t.
“Do you mean, ‘Where is Dada?’”
“Yeah, where is Dada?”
“Good! He is in Hong Kong.”
I would be lying if I said this appalling offense was a singular event but, sadly, it wasn’t. You will be relieved to know that I have corrected it consistently and earnestly each time it has reared its ugly head. Go ahead and judge me. Yes, I correct my children’s grammar. My children will know the difference between good and well, how to use an adverb correctly, and when to use I versus me. They will learn to express themselves intelligently. They will also probably need therapy. But, just think of how eloquently they will be able to share their feelings about their obsessive mother to their therapist!
I might need to seek help…