DARE TO ASK: Did we hear you say teens mumble?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do teenagers mumble all the time?
Renea, 45, Orange Park
Because being articulate went the way of being neatly dressed. Many teenagers
think it isn't cool to speak clearly and intelligently, the same way they do not
think it is cool to wear pants that fit them properly.
Johanna, 45, Stroudsburg, Penn.
Teen years are awkward, with all the pressure to "find yourself" and manage
puberty. Mumbling teenagers probably have under-developed social skills. And of
course many try to deal with themselves and the world by "disengaging." In that
case the mumblers probably don't know or care that they're mumbling because it
all doesn't matter. The "disengaged" image is cool to some of them.
Teresa, 20, Macomb, Ill.
I never mumble. If I have something to say, I say it loud and proud! Mumbling
is a way to say something out loud without it being understood. It's a way of
saying something you wish you could really say.
Luke, a teen, Denver
Some do it because they're unsure whether they want others to hear what
they're saying, possibly out of fear that the listener's response might be
negative. It also might be a sneaky way of bothering whoever's listening.
Teens who mumble might not realize they do it. I have a tendency to do so,
and I'm 24. The misconception that if you can hear it yourself, everyone can,
could be a cause.
Andy, Fenton, Mich.
Turns out all this burbling by adolescents might actually be a rite of
passage - a product of our natural development.
"Researchers say Mother Nature may have worked this out well," says Doris
Bucher, a speech pathologist with Speakeasy communication consultants in
"The mumbling comes along right about the time a teen's voice becomes rather
fragile. You might notice that sometimes teens with a lot of talent, who sing or
talk too much, develop a peculiar voice from the strain. It can be a result of
damage to the vocal chords."
In addition, psychologically, teens are trying to pull away from the adult
world that controls them and identify with their peers, and swallowing one's
words is a way to detach, Bucher said.
"A good test to see if there's a problem is to watch how they talk with their
friends," because chances are they enunciate just fine with their peers.
Kids start pulling away as teens because they get second-guessed a lot, she
added. Parents would do well to turn up the positive reinforcement.
"There's a lot of power in articulation. If you want your ideas taken
seriously, you form words clearly . . . but what if you don't have final power
in the situation?"
The good news, experts say: Mumbling often stops with entrance into college
or the "real world," whichever comes first.
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers, or mail to
Phillip Milano, c/o The Florida Times-Union, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL
32231. Include contact information. For Dare to Ask podcasts, go to
Jacksonville.com keyword: milano.