Friday, 19 June 2009


Both of the boys are into literacy and numeracy at the moment. Jack has been talking about and trying to write a lot over the last year and Hamish has just started.

Today we had an interesting talk about numbers as we went through some number cards.  Jack can count to 20 and knows by site the numbers 1-10 but after 10 we start to hit some issues.

Not issues for me of course .... Or for Jack but suddenly the english language gets in the way, he knows thirteen, fourteen etc but 11, 12 and 15 are just plain confusing.  One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, oneteen, twoteen ..... ? Why isn't it oneteen? How do we ever learn language when the progression of that language doesn't make any sense?

Its fun and interesting watching both of the kids learn the rules of language when there are no rules, and how that lack of rules keeps us on our toes;

* Do/does or do's as Jack says
* See/saw or see'ed as would make sense seeing the way we change tense with other words
* Buy/Brought or as Jack likes to say buyed

I'm sure there are hundreds of others. I remember a family story about when I was four and was so determined that the correct plural of foot was foot's that when my neighbour tried to teach me that it was feet, I got cranky and stormed home.

No wonder!!!

I'm sure that there are whole books and theories written about this crazy english language but for now Jack and I have finally conquered do/does but I think I will miss do's a little bit, and I'm sure we will conquer oneteen as well, in time.


Catriona said...

Much of the confusion in the English language comes from the fact that it's a language devoted to borrowing words from other sources.

But "eleven" and "thirteen" actually share similar roots.

"Eleven" is from the Old English via the Old Norse "ellifu"--which itself derives from the Goth "ainlib," literally meaning "one left over (after counting ten)".

"Thirteen" is also from the Old Norse, in this case "threttan" (there's supposed to be an accent over that "a," but it's not a conventional one, and I can't find it in Word).

The issue with verbs is a slightly different one: it's not really to do with tenses, but with present and past participles, which in some cases mimic the tense of the verb.

English verbs come in regular and irregular. With regular verbs, the present and past participles always follow the same pattern: the dictionary form of the verb plus "ing" (present) or "ed" (past).

So, for example, "walk" is a regular verb: walk, walking, walked.

But with irregular verbs, either the present or the past participle (or sometimes both) don't follow this pattern.

"Buy" is an irregular verb, because the past participle for of the verb takes a different shape: buy, buying, bought.

It's irregular verbs that cause the problem for new speakers of the language, whether they are children or people from a non-English-speaking background.

Just explain that to Jack. That'll fix it up.


Catriona said...

Wow. Sorry about that. That's what marking first-year writing work does to my brain--it makes me assume everyone is fascinated by grammar.

Wondering Willow said...

Bless your heart Treen, as i was writing this you were obviously in my mind, and i wondered whether there would a be a detailed comment from you ... actually thats not right, i was sure there would be and i looked forward to it xx

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