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Sunday, June 10, 2007


Although I speak English, went to English speaking schools and fulfilled their curriculum requirements, I don’t recall ever being taught English grammar formally. [translation = this is probably why I have such trouble with foreign languages] As luck would have it, I am expanding my knowledge of English grammar at my current advanced age of 46. I can manage noun, verb and adjective on a good day, but anything more than that is a bit hit and miss. I have read "Eats Shoots and Leaves," in recent years, but that was more for the purpose of entertainment rather than education. 'Between You and I' gives me a "ghost" of a chance, but on the whole I have other more pressing matters to tie up my brain with.

Strangely American schools teach English Grammar. [translation = as does "TEACCH"] This is proving more than a challenge to someone with such a tiny brain as myself. [translation = can’t teach an old dog new tricks] I struggle with third grade homework. [translation = and second and first grades too] More often than not, I am completely flummoxed by the old Kindergarten worksheets too. The sheet of paper has twelve little pictures for you to identify, but because it is in American English rather than English English, I am a hindrance rather than a help.

We sit at the dining room table fighting with homework. [translation = times three, although my maths skills are similarly challenged] They are simple line drawings, not that I think that coloured pictures would necessarily help. Even after all this time, whereby each of my children progresses through the school system, I still have a 33% failure rate in identifying these little pictures. I know that he can complete the whole thing in under a minute, but instead he prefers to paw the paper and drag out the whole exercise for the best part of an hour.

“It is a compound word?”
“Is what a compound word?”
“Chocolate pudding.”
“Er, no that’s two words, not a compound word. Seashell, sea and shell stuck together would be a compound word, or rather, is a compound word.”
“Anyway, stop messing around, lets get this work sheet done.”
“I can have a not compound word now?”
“How do you mean?”
“Can I have my chocolate pudding now which is not a compound word?”
“You can have your chocolate pudding after you’ve finished your worksheet.” He sighs and drapes himself over the table.

“Look at the sheet lovey. Ooops you’re drooling. Come along. Look at the picture.”
He looks and wipes and sighs. I nudge. “It’s a bed dear. B E D, bed. Can you write it on the little line underneath?”
“It not bed.”
“It is. Look! Look at the picture dear.”
“No bed.”
“Just three letters. You can do it.”
My daughter leans over, “he’s right.”
“What do you mean he’s right?”
“He’s correct then. He’s right and you’re wrong.”
“How else are you supposed to spell bed may I ask?”
“C O T.”
Well really!
“O.k. lets move onto the next one then.”
We trudge through the worksheet. [translation = amid much parental pain]
“What is this a picture of dear?” Now I really know the answer, but he has to find it for himself.
“Come on luvvy, it begins with a ‘c’”
“I know dat.”
“Good, so why don’t you just write it down here, on this little line.”
“Only three little letters?”
“Not three, four.”
“It’s three dear, you’re already written it once.”
“NOT THREE, FOUR!” he bellows.
“Cot dear, just three letters.”
“NOT COT!” His sister leans over, “he’s right.”
“What do you mean he’s right?”
“He’s correct then. He’s right and you’re wrong.”
“How else are you supposed to spell cot may I ask?”
“C R I B.”
Well really!

He finishes up writing out the four letter word. [translation = I swallow all of my own four letter words]
“Now I can be having my chocolate pudding that is not a compound word?”
“Yes dear, of course. Well done for finishing.”
“You are sure?”
“Er…yes, of course I’m sure. I mean, what am I sure of?”
“You are sure that chocolate pudding is not dah compound word?”
“Yes, I’m sure. It’s two separate words and they’re not stuck together.”
He sighs with an air of melancholia. The English language, American or English is curse to one and all.
“O.k……… how about.......chocpud, it is a compound word?”
“It is now.”

I am beginning to appreciate that this isn't just a pond issue. [translation = US v. UK] but also a Canadian v US division. [translation = aren't they more or less the same?] If you like to cook, enjoy a challenge and are not following a gluten free diet, then you might enjoy this "recipe." I might enjoy it too when I can work out which continent I am cooking on?


kristina said...

I am very fond of grammar, but you probably guessed that because of me being a language teacher-----the Romans and Greeks did not write with spaces between words, so why can't


be a compound word?

I believe your girl has already started the student teaching phase of her teacher training.

Ellen said...

I was just talking to my husband about the word The. How it should be pronounced the(e) after a vowel. The(e) armchair. The(e) onion. He never heard of that.

You're daughter is right. It sounds better!!

Anonymous said...

You mean words like sofa and couch or that American's don't put u's in flavour and colour etc?? :)We're half British/half American some days.

Grammar isn't taught here enough. I'm buying a homeschooling classical education Gr 3 text for the eldest to take to the tutor next year.

I rec'd LOTS of instruction on French grammar in school... I took French immersion from gr 7 to 10 but no English grammar.


Domestic Goddess said...

I love that you are learning "American English" and you are FROM ENGLAND. Does anyone see the irony in that? EGADS!
Yup. American English is a foreign language. They must be doing something correctly, because people manage to learn it...
Funny, funny, stuff.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

In our house, Spanglish, toddler talk, and pre-teen speak gets thrown into the mix which jumbles and confuses the English language and us even more.

Milehimama @ Mama Says said...

I learned grammar in my Spanish class. In my English class, I learned that J.D. Salinger is really boring, even if he riles up the parents.

My pet peeve with those worksheets are the anachronistic pictures. Invariably, there is a picture of an ink bottle for "i" or a quill pen for "q", causing much consternation as my children insist it's either medicine, or a feather.

BTW, the Etch-a-Sketch picture, I got from a website that lets you type in words and makes them look like the toy... I'm not that talented!

Mama Says

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