Are we teaching children to be possessive?
Language gives us not only the ability to communicate and understand one another, it gives us a choice. We choose how we engage with our world through language, the choices of words reflect our personality, background and heritage.
Learning a language is hard, whether we are five years old or fifty years old. There is no ifs, buts, or maybes, if you are learning a second language it regularly requires your brain to completely disown all previous knowledge of how language works. In the last year I studied Spanish. Now, as a native English speaker Spanish is hard for me due to one main reason, conjugations. The language is based on Latin and so has a myriad of tenses and conjugations to deal with. But this blog isn’t actually about my attempts of becoming a fully fledged polyglot. Honest. It’s about education and language; particularly possessive pronouns. In English, these would be: my, mine, your(s), his, and her(s) and the effect that these have on our children’s personalities.
Babies are like sponges, they absorb and accept language, then by the time they enter nursery they tend to have an understanding of the vast majority of the rules and sounds. At this age we, as a society, are teaching children the appropriate way to behave. A prime example of this is the great share debate, how to teach our children what to share and when. What role does language take in these situations? Let’s take a scenario:
It's a sunny day you are out with your young son to have a great day in the park. Let’s say that the child is 5 years old and is called Sam. He has brought along his favourite red dumpster truck to play with which you purchased for his last birthday. You can see him in the sun happily playing with his dumpster truck when another little boy, Jimmy, of the same age, approaches him wanting to play with the dumpster.
Now, what would you expect your child to do? What language do we envision the boys will use and how will this relate to their body actions. Many parents might let the scenario play out and intervene if a toddler tantrum broke out, with the climax after a minute or two with Sam shouting "no, it's mine."
Ta da! There we have it, the possessive pronoun usually connected to the action of holding the dumpster truck close to the body and turning the back away at a slight angle. For our Sam, he’s done nothing wrong, he’s simply chosen the language of ownership, which he will have been absorbing since he was born. It’s as simple as “it’s mine so nobody else can have it.”
Essentially, without thinking about it, we are teaching children to be possessive through the language that we, as adults, use everyday. In a world where our youth are facing severe lack of resources, and communities are testing commoning approaches to deal with societal issues is what we really need another person proclaiming “you can’t have this because it’s mine.” I think not.
Changing how we use language is not easy. And so, i set you a simple day challenge to test whilst you are learning English. Try to go one whole day without using any possessive pronouns. You will see just how much in our everyday lives we try to possess things, from: people, places and objects.
Stuck? Here are some helpers to get you started...
These are my shoes -These are the shoes I like to wear
This is my boyfriend- This is insert name we are dating
It's her hairdryer - The hairdryer is insert name's
Give this article if you tried the challenge and let me know how you got on! Good luck : )
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