Why I love the STUPID English language…
I’m a bit of a language geek. I studied French and German at uni (a million years ago) and I loved it – but before you ask, no I’m definitely not fluent. In fact, I wasn’t really fluent even at uni as so much of the course was literature or cultural studies – politics or history for example. And even the books that we read in French or German (ahem, if we hadn’t bought the translation for the easier ride…) we would often discuss in English.
Well, reading Baudelaire was incredibly tough going on a hangover, whether in French or English, OK?
Actually, my love for it has been rekindled since M started talking. I’m proud to say he is really interested in language too – he plays around with words, says them in funny ways to provoke a response, and loves it if you read something in a silly way on purpose so he can correct you. He’s not reading of course (he’s only 3), but he’s so keen on words that we’ve started spotting ‘the’s and ‘and’s and ‘ee’ / ‘oo’ noises etc. Which has thrown up all kinds of questions I’m going to have to Google answers for. But I fear most of them will just entail ‘it’s just like that, I’m afraid – you have to learn it!’.
Starting to spell.
Me: “That says tea – t. e. a.”
M: “But ‘eeee’ noise is ‘e. e.’ eeeeee”. So t. e. e.”
Me: “Yes, but drinking tea is different to the golf tee that Grandad uses.”
Me: “It just is.” There we go.
I’ve no idea how I’m going to start with ‘ough’…
He loves a ‘silent’ letter though. Thinks it’s super sneaky and cool. ‘Knock, knock’ – “Mummy, there’s the cheeky ‘k’. It’s secret, so you don’t say it.” But he loves it when I pronounce it on purpose. “Kerr-nock!”. “No Mummy!!” (big grin). I made a game out of it when I was heavily pregnant and reading ‘Knock, Knock, Open the Door’ to him (it’s about a new baby), and he loves it. The silent letter is still a very silly concept if you think about it. When is it going to evolve its way out of our shrt txt spk lngage I wonder? Definitely superfluous to requirements.
All past tenses.
Which ones are regular?! Any? So confusing. Surely we should just stick a ‘d’ on the end of everything like logic dictates and be done with it?
I drived my car up there, Mummy.
I swimmed so well today.
I runned upstairs.
I putted it over there.
Ow! I hurted my arm!
Well, yep. They all make total sense – they’re just not correct. Stoopid English. And don’t get me started with ‘drove/driven’, ‘swam/swum’… imperfect/perfect tense? Argh.
Things that really mean something else.
Alarm going ‘off’.
One I’d not really thought about before – but M was really confused when I said I was waiting for the alarm to go off, and then his tea (t.e.a.) would be ready.
M: “But it’s not on Mummy.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
M: “You said it needs to go off, but it’s not on now.”
Me: “Ohhh. We actually say an alarm goes ‘off’ when it comes on.”
Can you hear it? Ridiculous.
As in, “I just need to save this work, M then you you can watch something on the laptop.” He was very confused as to why it needed rescuing. Fair question.
He was very proud when he first started recognising his name in shops though – like this special moment down the sanitary aisle when he yelled – “MUMMY LOOOOOOK! It says my name on this box of sweets!” (cringe).
I feel like our language adventure is just beginning with school starting next September. Super exciting. Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious in fact! (Yessss – a musical reference in a language post. My work here is done…)
What are your bugbears with the English language? Any funny stories about words your children have said wrong? What campaigns shall we start to make teaching how to spell easier?!