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.....