【陳慧珊】有一種教育,叫學習做決定 (31)學會遣詞用字,逐步邁向成熟

2017-02-14


遣詞用字是非常重要的,我們可以語法不正確,發音不完美,或用詞次序出錯,但不會太影響要表達的意思。然而,明顯地,如果遣詞用字出錯,則會令溝通出現問題,或會引致可怕的後果。

有一個適時例子,可以說明使用正確關鍵詞有多重要:按照農曆新年習俗,我們會互相祝大家身體健康、財源廣進,以及其他有意義的關鍵詞。這些祝福除了是一種習俗或出於禮貌,對某些人而言,這一年是順境逆境,都全賴年初一至初十五能聽到甚麼好說話了。試想一下,如果我們無意中說錯話,或者換著自己聽到別人難聽的說話,那可是一種災難呢。

孩子在學校裏,可以學習數百至數千字。透過模仿和實踐,他們會知道如何在適當時候說適當的話,並配合正確的表情和手勢,加入適量的感情,以成功與人溝通。

新年剛過,我有幸目睹我那九歲女兒在語言(和信心)上的發展。與往年不同的是,她運用創意,彬彬有禮地向我們的親戚朋友問好,甚至早在腦海中盤算好適合對年老長輩說的話。

八至十一歲的兒童在智力、身體和語言發展方面都會有明顯進步,在這一階段,他們已掌握理解和運用不同語域的技巧(語言在不同情境和目的下的變化,例如書面語和口語的分別,以及與朋友和與校長溝通時的語句);亦懂得語用學(即運用語言的方式),例如向別人問好,並適當地回應;以及有能力反思自己和他人的言語。

學會說

明顯地,問候別人是日常社會行為的一部分,但有時大人會認為,孩子懂得模仿大人說好話是理所當然,以為孩子會自行學懂說「你好嗎?」、「我很好。」等語句。

對大多數小朋友而言,說出禮貌的語句不太困難。不過,小學生的說話技巧可以達到這種水準和成熟程度,其實很值得感恩。

要問候別人和回應別人的問好,都需要很多學問──孩子需要自行判斷應該問候哪些人,也要知道問候並不需要認真思考或過多情感,亦要明白對方回答了甚麼,就等如要結束對話。小學生在學習問候和回應別人時,都要掌握技巧和經驗,細微的差別就在於學懂不要與對方糾纏太久、投放過多情感或不作反應。

孩子也知道,不是在特定場合才需要向別人問好。問候只是一個簡單、直接的過程,是出於習慣的禮貌行為。

所以,每一天我接女兒放學時,當我看見她禮貌地與朋友、老師和校長打招呼,我都會抽時間稱讚她的好行為。

需要說

慰問別人通常需要同理心、社會認知、表達意圖和意思的技巧,也需要孩子明白,有時候我們要說一些該說的話,即使那些話並不會令人減輕痛苦。

例如,我最近需要參加一位朋友母親的葬禮,當我通知女兒這個消息時,她明白這時需要用對別人(而非自己)的同理心看待事情。她露出關注的神情,學會站在別人的立場,她問:「Mary姨姨還好嗎?」又指如果我需要她的陪伴,可以和我一起參加葬禮。

即使明白別人經歷喪親之痛,做甚麼也於事無補,但作為一個九歲的孩子,她已盡她所能去說出關心別人的說話,去安慰別人,而非單單坐著,甚麼也不做。

會明白他人感受,並願意主動進入別人的世界,顯示孩子已經更成熟、老練,亦理解人的情感需要。

因此,我的女兒能解讀如何和何時該說甚麼話,對我而言(儘管在悲傷的情況下)相當值得欣喜。

說有意義的話

用字正確可以為美好的一刻錦上添花。父母最想聽到的,是孩子發自內心的說話,而且真心真意說出的話。

最近我與女兒的一次對話充滿了哲學意味,對話結束時,我們仍無法達成共識,唯有尊重彼此的意見,然後各自回到自己的房間。半小時後,我回到自己的房間時經過她的房間,我不經意地探頭看看,發現她正靜靜地坐在桌前,看著窗外。在我繼續向前走之前,她轉過頭來看著我,露出欣賞的神情,誠懇地說:「媽媽,我愛你。」

回想以往的經驗,每次她說著:「啊哈。」的時候,我知道她從我們的對話反思當中,有了新的頓悟。

這一次,我感覺到她那句感情豐富的「媽媽,我愛你」,是因為明白到我的意圖──我們的對話令她知道更多,可以做得更好,即使那並不是她想聽的說話;同時,她設法抓住我們對話中的要點──生命中有些事未能盡如人意,但我們可以改變應對的心態,從而令結果變得不一樣。

沒錯,即使一個九歲的小孩,也有能力理解哲學觀點,也有能力獨自經歷理解的過程。我們的責任,就只是與他們分享一些可以激勵他們的金玉良言。

雖然我從沒想過女兒可能不會明白,但是任何跡象顯示孩子懂得反思、得到提醒,並完全接受我們的教晦,明白那有多重要,對父母來說,已是最滿足的時刻。

簡單一句「我愛你」已經彌足珍貴,若孩子說「我愛你」,是因為感激父母為了培育他們而付出的努力,相信足以令父母感動落淚。這也鼓勵我們繼續努力培育孩子,因為只要付出時間和空間,孩子最終會讓我們看到他們一點一點的進步。

只要我們一直向他們灌輸正確的訊息,孩子也會欣賞我們話語中的豐富意義與深度,他們會衷心誠摯地回應一句:「我愛你。」

 

Decision Making is Educational

“Maturing through Keywords”

The importance of vocabulary cannot be overestimated. We could be grammatically incorrect, be phonetically imperfect, or use words in the wrong order, but the meaning could usually still be deducted. However, for obvious reasons, using the wrong words could result in a communication breakdown and/or have dire consequences.

A timely example to illuminate the importance of using the correct keywords is to refer to our recent Chinese New Year custom of wishing each other good health, prosperity, and various other well-meaning keywords. Not only are well-wishes customary and polite, but for some receivers, the responsibility of a failed or successful year rests on what golden words are bestowed upon them during those pivotal fifteen days. Imagine the devastation of discovering that we had unintentionally offered the wrong words, or being at the receiving end of them!

For children, by the time they enter school, they can understand and use from hundreds to thousands of words. Through imitation and practice, they know when and how to use the correct words and combination of words in the appropriate contexts, with the correct facial and hand gestures, and the right amount of emotion, for successful communication.

For example, I had the pleasure of witnessing a maturing in my 9-year-old daughter’s language development (and confidence) this past Chinese New Year. Unlike previous years, she displayed creativity with offering a variety of courteous greetings towards our relatives and friends, and even managed to mentally sort through which keywords were more appropriate for the elderly.

Children between the ages of 8-11 make significant growth in intellectual, physical, and language development. At this stage they’ve acquired the skills to understand and practice language registers (how language can vary according to context and purpose such as written vs. spoken language, or language use with friends versus with the school principal), pragmatics such as offering greetings and responding appropriately to them, and have the ability to reflect on their own words and the words of others.

Learn to Say

It’s clear that greetings are a daily part of our social conduct. But sometimes adults may take it for granted that the typical child can mimic us and apply the practice of saying “hello-how are you-I’m fine-goodbye”.

For most children being able to offer words of courtesy is not an unusually difficult task, but nevertheless, it’s worth taking the time to be thankful that our primary school children have reached this level of skill and maturity.

To offer and reciprocate a greeting requires a child to assess who is worth stopping a moment for, that a greeting does not require deep thoughts or emotions, as well as what to expect from a receiver as notification of the end of the exchange. Nuances such as lingering for too long, projecting a needless level of emotion, or not reciprocating are skills and experiences that a primary school child has mastered in learning to offer and react to a greeting. 

Children also understand that no special occasion is needed to greet. It is a routine that is simple, direct, with an obvious end that is offered out of courtesy through habit.

So each day, when I pick up my daughter from school and I see her politely greeting her friends, teachers, and principal, I take the moment to appreciate her accomplishment.

Need to Say

Offering condolences usually requires empathy, social perception and the skills to express intentions and meaning. They also require children to understand that some words are said because it’s necessary, even if those words cannot change a person’s suffering.

For example, I recently had to attend the funeral of my friend’s mother, and when I notified my daughter of the news she knew that it was a situation that required empathy for other (rather than self). With a concerned expression she momentarily placed herself in someone’s else’s shoes and asked of my friend, “Is Aunty Mary going to be okay?”, and even offered to join me at the funeral in case I needed her company.

Even if she knew that nothing else could be done for the bereaved, effort was made on the part of someone as young as nine years old, to offer words of concern with the intention to comfort rather than to let the moment pass unacknowledged.

By showing that they feel what others feel, and are willing to actively participate in the world of others, children display a heightened level of maturity, sophistication and comprehension of human emotional needs.

As such, the fact that my daughter could decipher how and when to offer words because it was necessary, was for me (despite the sad circumstances) a moment worth rejoicing.

Saying with Meaning

The right keywords could bring out the full beauty of a moment. And the most magical words for a parent to hear are those that come from the heart of her child — when children really mean what they say.

Recently I had a conversation with my daughter that was philosophical in nature. The conversation ended in our decision to agree to disagree, followed by our going into separate rooms to carry on with our day. Half an hour later as I proceeded to pass by her room on my way to my own room, I inadvertently turned my head to find her sitting serenely at her desk and looking out the window. Just before I passed by she turned around and said to me, with genuine and full appreciation “Mama, I love you.”

Through my past experience with her former “Aha!” moments, I knew that she had experienced another epiphany through reflection of our conversation.

This time, I could sense that the emotional words of “Mama, I love you” arrived from her realization of my intention, i.e. that our talk was to make her a more informed and better person, even if they may not have been words she wanted to hear. Also, she managed to fully appreciate the gist of our conversation, i.e. that certain aspects of life are not pleasant but that we could control outcomes through how we choose to react to them.

Yes, even a nine-year old has the capacity for philosophical understanding. Better yet, they have the capacity to go through their own process of understanding. It is merely our responsibility to share keywords which may inspire them.

Although I have never entertained the idea that my daughter would not “get it”, it is the most rewarding time for a parent to find evidence that confirms that our children can reflect, be awakened by, and fully embrace the importance and strength of our teaching moments.

The simple words “I love you” are already precious, but when our children say it in the context of treasuring the efforts we have made to nurture them, it can move parents to the core. It also encourages us to keep nurturing, because children will eventually show us that when we give them time and space, they will awaken at their own rate.

As long as we keep adding to their resource for self-knowledge, children will keep illuminating the idea that they appreciate the depth and richness of our words, by reciprocating with their heartfelt keywords, “I love you.”

 

作者:陳慧珊

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