On the evils of the English language

Ok, so everyone knows English is a hard language to learn. But that was brought back to me in a major way last night during a lesson with my ESOL student. I’ve been putting off broaching the past tense, as just getting the basics of communication is still the priority for her, but the story we were reading together last night had a lot of past tense in it, and so there were of course a lot of unfamiliar words (e.g. she knows “go”, but didn’t recognise “went”). We didn’t have time to go into it in depth, so I just explained they were the past tense, and that some words in English have an irregular past tense.

Which is all very good. But then I tried to think of some examples of words that have a *regular* past tense (because the general principle with language teaching is that you teach the regular grammar first, then the exceptions to it). And I realised that the vast majority of the most commonly used verbs in English (which are of course the ones you teach first) are irregular. I was really struggling to come up with examples of regular verbs that she’d know – “talk”, “walk”, “look”, “listen”, and “cook” were about all I could think of on the spot. All the other verbs she’s using regularly, like “go”, “be”, “have”, “come”, “read”, “say”, “sit”, “stand”, “eat”, “sleep”, “buy”… are all horribly irregular.

Of course, as a linguist I know there’s good historical reasons why it’s exactly these common verbs that are the irregular ones, but that isn’t much consolation when you’re learning the language.

I think I’ll be spending some time before the next lesson racking my brain for some more common regular verbs!


Apart from putting together the ESOL lesson, and playing excessive amounts of playstation (I finally found Kingdom Hearts in the Warehouse’s bargain bin – it had been recommended to me a couple of years ago by a Dark Tower denizen, but I didn’t feel like paying $100 for it at the time, and I haven’t seen it since), I spent most of yesterday making bookstrings, bringing the total up to 48 before I ran out of the waxed string. I think I’ve finally got the hang of the knots, so they’re getting a bit quicker to make now. If I go and get some more string today (and maybe check out the $2 Shop for some more cheap beads), I should be able to get another 50 or so done before I go back to work, which will be a good start for what we need for London and Crete. I’ve put out a call on Yahoo too for volunteers to make more goodies, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to achieve our aim of getting enough goodies for every convention this year.


Currently reading: Politics 101 by Anna Smith
Currently listening to: The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe

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