Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The English Language is Crazy

Another very late post. If it makes you feel better, this one is from only 2 weeks ago.


Nothing terribly out of the ordinary happened today, but I would like to relate to all my readers something that still happens relatively frequently. Whenever I complain too much about how difficult Japanese is, I am always reminded by my students and the lessons I teach that English is just as nutty, if not crazier than my mother tongue.

This morning at Katahira Junior High, I was teaching my class of 1st year students (equivalent to American 7th graders) and I had written up a worksheet for them. Our primary objective was to teach students the past tense for simple verbs. We required the students to turn walk into walked, play into played, and perform the same task with other easy verbs they know. Irregular verbs are planned for next week.

My previous lessons on subject/verb agreement apparently proved to be a little too effective, as all the students were filling in the sentences on their worksheets with the likes of this:

He walks to the store everyday. > He walksed to the store yesterday.

Misaki plays tennis after school >> Misaki playsed tennis yesterday.

Careful readers should immediately recognize the problem, as subject verb agreement in the present tense requires one to write or say: I play; He plays; They play. But in the past tense, the subject makes no difference and the verb is the same.

I was a little embarrassed at my failure to anticipate this outcome, as I have taught this lesson the previous two years. To my own credit though, I have never seen this particular anomaly such a pervasive mistake among all the students in one class. The co-operating teacher I was working with is going through a difficult pregnancy. So she was sitting down and leaving me with a much bigger role in explaining grammatical points to the kids than I am typically accustomed to. As a native speaker to whom such nuances come quite naturally, I simply don’t anticipate all these little asinine snafus. Next week they throw irregular verbs into the mix. Oh boy, what fun!!

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