Reporter's Notebook: 'Conversating' with our athletes
Call me a snob – an intellectual snob, if you please- but there’s nothing I enjoy better than hearing a young person, be it student, athlete, or otherwise speaking in what in my day was called “The Queen’s English.”
I had the pleasure of speaking in an interview to national 400m champion Javon Francis recently, and while there were phrases in which he used the vernacular, for the most part, he spoke in complete sentences, using the English language.
It was evident that this was a young man who wished to represent himself well, and the way to do that, for him, was to speak in standard English.
Admittedly there are some things that are just easier to say in patois, and I use it often. However, it is grating to the ears to listen to some of our young students speak, and it is clear that they speak that way, not because they find it easier to express themselves in patois, but because they can do no better.
And I’m not talking about speaking with a faux-accent either.
Children as young as three and four, at a time when language is just being formed and it is imperative to speak to them in grammatical sentences, churning out words which I don’t even use in my living room.
Is it then any wonder that when we hear them as 14, 15, or 16-year-olds doing interviews with the media that they can barely conduct themselves?
The formative years when they should have been getting the practice needed by holding developmentally-appropriate conversations with their parents and other caregivers, their speech was being totally neglected.
I have had this discussion many times with friends of mine. It’s just not something you would hear from say an American athlete at the same age.
I spoke with World Youth 100m and 200m champion, Candace Hill, in Cali, Colombia last year, and although she was only 17, the young lady was able to express herself perfectly. She was leaps and bounds ahead of many of her Jamaican counterparts.
I know many of us came from a generation when “children should be seen and not heard”, and self-expression is a practical skill. It is through the holding of conversations that one learns to converse.
Some would say reading is important because it helps also to build a vocabulary, but I’ve heard many an adult use words which it was clear they had only ever encountered on a page.