Teaching English grammar in school doesn’t improve children’s writing. Really?

At the beginning of March, the British press was full of stories about a new academic study. According to those stories, the study shows that teaching children in school doesn’t make them write better. It turns out that the study didn’t exactly show that. I discuss below:  what the press releases saidthe study and the…… Continue reading Teaching English grammar in school doesn’t improve children’s writing. Really?

Fronted adverbials

Periodically, a debate breaks out in the British press about whether schools in England teach too much English grammar or too little English grammar. The trigger for the latest outpouring was an academic study suggesting that teaching grammar does not improve children’s writing. For some commentators, the phrase ‘fronted adverbials’ now exemplifies excessive focus on…… Continue reading Fronted adverbials

Learning that ‘look like’ is 2 words, not 1 word

Several times recently, I’ve heard my grandson (4 years 3 months) say that a thing ‘look likes’ something else. He says that with no hesitation or stumbling and without any obvious indication of having meant to say ‘looks like’. And he says it consistently. So I am sure he is saying it intentionally. It seems…… Continue reading Learning that ‘look like’ is 2 words, not 1 word

Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds

My granddaughter has just turned 4 and has recently become very keen on a cartoon character called cat noir. She pronounces noir as a two-syllable word, with a vowel [ə] inserted after the [n]: [nə.waː]. In contrast, many speakers of British English—including her 6-year-old sister—pronounce this word as a single syllable: either [nwa] or with…… Continue reading Cat Noir: how children learn non-native sounds

I want a brink

Small children take time learning how to produce the consonants in their native language. Often, they replace one consonant with another. It seems this is often about their system for producing sounds, not about their system for perceiving and distinguishing sounds. Here is a good recent illustration from my grandson (aged 4 years, 1 month).…… Continue reading I want a brink

Dogs learn to spot word boundaries like babies do

If you hear a language you do not speak, it is hard to work out where one word ends and the next one begins. So finding the boundaries between words in continuous speech is a pre-requisite for acquiring your native language and for learning another language. A recent experiment found, for the first time, that…… Continue reading Dogs learn to spot word boundaries like babies do

Learning some English Consonants (2)

I’ve posted before about my grandson’s journey in learning English consonants. My earlier post is at https://languagemiscellany.com/2021/07/learning-some-english-consonants/ It comments on how he was pronouncing some consonants at the age of 3 years, 6 months. He is now 3 years, 11 months and is still doing what I recorded in that post. He regularly, especially at…… Continue reading Learning some English Consonants (2)

Acquiring English past tense

My grandson (aged 3 years 9 months) has recently started producing the past tense in a surprising way. I first noticed it with the form liked. He is now pronouncing this as likèd [laɪkɛd] , rather than [laɪkt]. I soon discovered he was using this form consistently not only in all weak verbs but even…… Continue reading Acquiring English past tense