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I before E except too often to make this a useful rule

They really shouldn’t teach “I before E except after C”, because there are far too many counter-examples.   Off the top of my head:

Their, weird, weigh, eight, height, either, neighbour, protein, apartheid, Reid, vein, science, and best of all, fallacies.

The time would be far better spent explaining “you’re” vs “your”.


Learning French

As any Canadian, I took French in school for 10 or 11 years. I remember it being really tough to learn all the verb tenses. They talked about past participle, future progressive, past perfect, etc. What probably made this tough is that I didn’t know those terms for English verbs. I obviously knew the meanings of “flown”, “will be flying” and “had flown”, but until I taught ESL, I couldn’t have matched the terms to the tenses. I think I might have been a bad English student… maybe a bad French student too.

It was even hard to explain the general meaning of tenses. Explaining “will fly” vs. “will be flying” vs. “will have flown” vs. “will have been flying” was a huge challenge. I had to give it serious thought to generalize what time a tense refers to. Try it yourself, I dare you.

Let’s go for a fly!

What I Love About English

Admittedly, English is a language rife with problems, but it has distinct advantages. The typewriting/computing era has got to love a language with no accents on any letters, meaning keyboards are free to have more commonly-used symbols.

But one element we take for granted is the absence of gendered nouns. How irritating is it that in many languages, words like tree and pen and milk have genders? Does this make sense to anyone? Paper is masculine and streets are feminine; of course, how could I not have known!? It’s probably easy enough if you’re used to it; just one more thing to memorize (as if it was included in things we need to know anyway, like definition and spelling). If I go to France and say “le piscine”, which is the wrong gender for “pool”, is that a big deal?

Maybe English speakers can get away with ignorance on this one, but we’d certainly be mocked if it was done en masse. East Asians have been mocked for their muddling the letters L and R, which are not 2 distinct sounds in some East Asian languages. As I write this, I’m believing more strongly that we English speakers get some flak for our misuse of other languages.

What’s interesting, too, is that some languages have genders that vary by the speaker, rather than the subject. Portuguese and Japanese both do, at least.

Anyway, I wonder if people who speak non-English languages have an easy time remembering the genders of nouns. All I can say is, I’m glad we don’t have to.