Monday, July 08, 2013

hooray for metalinguistic awareness!

a not-uncommon sight when driving around east Boulder County
Griffin: Des chevals!  Je vois des chevals, Maman! [I see horseses!]

Maman: Moi aussi--qu'ils sont beaux!  Mais on dit "un cheval, des chevaux."  [Me too--aren't they beautiful?  But we say "one horse, two horses."]

Griffin: Je sais, je sais.  Un cheval, des chevals.  [I know, I know, one horse, two horseses.]

Maman: Un cheval, des chevaux.  Il n'y a pas de L au pluriel.  Tu sais, comme "un oeil, deux yeux." [One horse, two horses.  You know, like "one eye, two eyes."]

Griffin: Oh yeah, like "one goose, two geese." Oh look, des moutons!  [sheep]

Okay, so reading back over this exchange, I see that it loses a lot in translation.

But what I wanted to share is the fact that Griffin made a mistake when he pluralized the word for horse in French, because it's irregular.  When I reminded him of how to say it correctly, and provided him with another similar example, he caught on right away and gave me another exception to the rule--but in English this time!

Metalinguistic awareness.  Would a typical five-year-old monolingual kid be able to analyze, compare, and exemplify irregular morphology?  I kinda think not!


  1. Thanks for sharing! It's amazing how the mind works. Also, even though sometimes we think children have it so easy when learning a language, this story also serves as a nice reminder that children have to be corrected, too!

    1. Yes, but kids' linguistic mistakes are just so darn cute! Us grown-ups, we just sound ridiculous.

      So nice to "meet" you, Cassie, especially since it seems like we share a lot of similarities--I was born in Oshkosh (my parents live in Green Bay), I used to teach ESL, and I work in a library now. And, oh yeah, the whole French learner thing.

      Thank you for visiting my blog! I look forward to perusing yours at greater length. Someday I will travel to Quebec with my family.....

  2. Hi!
    On your page I saw a link to Livemocha.
    As you may have heard, Livemocha is no longer in business and that link no longer works.
    Also, site,, is an web and mobile language learning tool for learning languages in context. This is a good analog of Livemocha!