Barry Bateman Family Portraits Dec 2012by Sholain Govender-Bateman – MIP (Mum in progress), editor, lecturer, wife and me!

About a month back I noticed that my 4.5 year old, Isobel, had suddenly taken to answering questions with ‘Jaaa’. I was a bit taken aback with the almost lazy, drawn-out pronunciation of the word which wasn’t even followed by ‘mum/dad’. I just didn’t like my daughter using slang.

Thinking back to my childhood, I recalled how my mum, dad and teachers raised us to speak ‘proper’ English where no slang was allowed and all remarks to elders were followed with a ‘mam/mum/dad/aunty/uncle’ depending on who was being addressed. I believe it was a culture of respect being instilled in children of my generation which then overflowed into other aspects of our lives.

I wasn’t angry at Isobel’s use of ‘Ja’ but I was worried that my child would start picking up all kinds of other slang and instead of being a prim and proper little child and then young adult her misuse of language would result in her being a lay-about and disrespectful. I know, a bit of an overreaction but I tend to do that where my children are concerned and I think that there are many other parents who do too.

My overactive imagination envisioned a 16-year-old Isobel going through teen angst and answering every question asked with a blasé ‘Jaaa’ or ‘Naah’. I was really concerned and knew I had to do something about it.

I just couldn’t figure out where she had picked up this slang from and despite my best efforts to gently get her to rather say, ‘Yes, mum/dad/teacher’, she persisted. Do we know the kind of people who would say ‘Ja’ in response to a question? Would I need to start vetting her playmates or giving them mini-speech quizzes before they were allowed to associate with my precious child??

Then, during a phone conversation with her teacher at her new school, I mentioned the issue in passing.

Me: “By the way, have you noticed that Isobel responds to questions with ‘ja’? Please could you help me reinforce that she must not use slang and rather say ‘Yes teacher/mum’?”

Teacher: “I haven’t really noticed but she does have a lot of Afrikaans speaking friends at school so she might have learned it from them…?”

Me: “Oh, jaaaa. That could be it!” Oops! BIG note to self: mind your language mum!

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4 Responses to “Mind your language mum!”

  • I am horrid with this myself. I will often say "Blah Blah Blah" for just about anything, if I cant remember the name of a person, thing or place "remember we need to go to Blah Blah this weekend" or if I'm retelling a story "we were at the shops, and I was buying stuff, and this woman pushed in, I told her she was rude and Blah Blah Blah, I left the shop without my goods". Now my 16 year old daughter understands me, as does my husband and 6 year old, but my 5 year old doesn't always follow me. I have also picked up that my 16 and 6 year old's also copy me and I've caught them saying "Blah Blah Blah" its rather annoying so I'm trying very hard to curb my Blah Blah :)

    • Sholain Govender-Bateman says:

      lol I think by writing this piece I've put things in perspective and although I will be aware of what I say, I guess it's also kind of cute to hear our children sound a bit like us… :) My new aim will be: for every 'bad' word she picks up from me, I'll try to teach her a new 'good' word. Today's was 'stethoscope' except she kept saying 'telescope'. hahaha

  • Lovely article, Sholain! And then, of course, there's the other favourite teenager word, "Whatever…".

  • Tandi Assad says:

    And do not foget 'like' as in 'and like…'. But we are all guilty of our own slanisms. You have riased an exellent point. Children don't do as you say, rather as you do. Best I start watching my own language :-)

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