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Out of the mouths of babes: Gay, lesbian, beer, cider

The speech of today's pre-schoolers reflects their changing environment and shows the extent to which children come face to face with adult life. Pre-school teacher Raija Tuovinen recounts some of the extraordinary terms that have popped up in her young charges’ conversations.

A pre-school teacher reflects on the language used by her precocious charges. Image: Anna Ronkainen / Yle

Kuopio pre-school teacher Raija Tuovinen says she has confronted the most surprising adult expressions as her young students prepare for formal school education.

“Last autumn and even before that, while learning how to write and pronounce the letter S, for example, the kids might say “s niinku siideri” (c as in cider”) or in the case of the letter K, they might say “k niinku kalja” (B as in beer),” Tuovinen explained.

Tuovinen graduated in her profession some 30 years ago.  She said modern children appear to be more aware of adult subjects compared to the 1980s.

“Nowadays we hear other things, and this probably reflects that adult issues and the adult world have encroached on the experiences of small children,” she speculated.

Gays, lesbians and other matters

Tuovinen noted that modern-day issues appear to have become a part of children’s everyday speech and lives. Some of these ideas have not been a part of youngsters’ lives in decades past.

“We see and hear about gays, lesbians and similar matters. Children’s speech reflects the world they live in. Computer games and their content are another matter. We see battles in children’s drawings and games,” the teacher explained.

“Of course children need to act out what’s inside them in play,” she added.

However Tuovinen said she didn’t believe that children necessarily understand the deeper meanings of the words they use. For youngsters these terms are intriguing, to some degree illicit and connected to the world of adults, she added.

Adults need to take responsibility

“Adults should take responsibility for what is appropriate for children and they should explain the things that they sometimes see and hear,” Tuovinen cautioned.

At the same time, she pointed out that for the most part, parents raise their children responsibly.

“Children don’t only talk about these things, but sometimes there has been a kind of tone and in those cases that I’ve had to intervene. I think it’s a cause for concern in some way. We adults should wake up to this. We need to protect our children and preserve their childhood,” she advised.

Tuovinen noted however, that children shouldn’t be sheltered from all kinds of information.

“We simply need to select the right things for them,” she concluded.

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