Any parent with school-going kids will agree that kids ask the most interesting doubts. They question everything and ask the weirdest, most mind-hampering doubts. I sometimes get this over-whelming respect for teachers for the sheer patience that they have in answering their questions (I imagine them like angels with wings, but who do not fly away when confronted by kids! I know I definitely will).
I have never been good at teaching kids; adults, I can do fine. If they do not understand what I teach, its their responsibility. But kids, they ask questions (I tell my son, he will be allowed a questions hour, like I do with English training sessions; but noooooo… he has to interfere with the most innovative doubts).
When my son was in 1st standard, he had a doubt about 3 letter words, namely cut, but, gut, and put. He wanted to know why “put” had a different pronunciation (because it does kiddo!). I researched and found the right answer (Ok fine!! I googled), and I told him the right explanation. “English is not a phonetic language. You do not pronounce the word the way you write.”. He was studying phonetics then, and he had a clear idea what I meant. But he was confused why we don’t write spellings in phonetics. I told him its because they are just used to identify the sounds of the words. He was more confused (Well! Duh…. Told you I don’t teach well).
“So why does cut, gut, but pronounced similarly and not put?”
“Because, that’s the way it is”
“Do you know the answer or not mom!”
“Of course, I do! That’s the rule! Follow it”
“You don’t know do you?”
“Grrrrrrr…..ask your English teacher. She will know”
“Look! Some things are that way in English. They are rules. That’s all!”
“Its not that way in Tamil… in Hindi…”
“yeah! Because they are phonetic languages”
“Hmmmm…….What other Language has rules like this?”
“…………………………..” (panicked! Googled! Apparently, there are other languages that are as bad as English; French, Spanish…. That will be a talk for another time.)
“English is so weird” he declared, and I’ve been trying to develop fondness for English in his heart ever since (But, seriously, English is not helping. Why are there so many anomalies in this language? Whyyyyyyy???).
The other day, he wrote a short story for his English project and I was checking it for grammar and spelling. He’d written “you are a truther!”. I asked him if he meant to write something else but wrote the spelling wrong (I was hoping it was so, so I do not have to deal with another innovative doubt). He said “No mom! I meant to write truther. It means the guy is telling the truth”. Trust me! I wanted to move on and tell him “kid, this usage is absolutely right”, but I can’t can I. So, like a good mom, I explained why he was wrong. That there is no word like truther with the meaning he was implying.
Then he asked the question I most dreaded “Why not? When there is liar and lying, why can’t there be a truther and truthing” (I really wanted to tell him because English is crazy, nothing makes sense, but we have to follow the weird rules because it is an international mode of communication).
He is right! There should be a truther and truthing. Why is it not there? First, it will be such wonderful words to be introduced to the absorbent English language. Second, moms do not have to deal with doubts like this. Maybe if we keep using it like “preponed,” it will be included in the dictionary. All we have to do is use it in India. Use it widely and save moms and teachers from this question.
With a lot of mom-xplaining and google research, I convinced my child not to use words that are not in the language. It’s the rule and it has to be followed. And he agreed like a good boy that he is (fine! I told him, just follow rules or no cabbage for a month…Yup he loves cabbage… Go figure!).
English has always amazed me because of its sheer survival in the world. It is like a mixture of all of world’s languages. The medical terms are Greek and Latin, alphabets are from French, and it has absorbed a lot of words from a lot of languages. (there are Tamil words too! Coir is from “kayiru”, Catamaran is from “kattumaram”). And let’s not forget, all the computer programming languages are in English. So if you want to be a coder, learn English.
Although my son respects Tamil and Hindi more than he respects English, his games, curriculum, books, and sports channels are in English. I hope he will soon understand that English is the standardized SI unit when it comes to languages. There is no escaping it. It will find you and make you learn it.