One way or another I have been involved in teaching (children and adults) for most of my working life. Now, as my business winds down I have volunteered at our local primary school to read with Years 3 and 4.
Having no idea what is expected of children of that age I have trawled the internet to see what their vocabulary is expected to be, what words they should be able to Spell, what Punctuation they should understand and what Grammatical terms they will be familiar with (SPaG is the acronym used).
I was shocked at how ignorant I am!
I consider myself (don’t most people?) well educated, literate and widely read. I have written and published eight novels involving well over a million words, I spell well, I have a wide vocabulary and I understand apostrophes but as I read what was expected of 7, 8 and 9 year olds I realised how little I know because I don’t know the correct terminology.
I use a and an correctly but if anyone had asked me what a determiner was I wouldn’t have been able to tell them.
I’m sure that at some time I must have known examples of conjunctions, adverbs and prepositions. Having forgotten the distinctions, however, hasn’t prohibited me from using them, I trust correctly, tens of thousands of times.
I have (or should say ‘had’ as I have now read up on this) no idea what fronted adverbials, perfect forms of verbs and the distinction between co-ordinate and subordinate words or phrases (or why one is hyphenated and the other isn’t) are, although I undoubtedly use them all the time.
I wonder. Is the romance being squeezed out of reading and of language as construction, rules and jargon worthy of complex industries are instilled in young children?
I ask you. What do you make of the following?
If the last syllable of a word is stressed and ends with one consonant letter which has just one vowel letter before it, the final consonant letter is doubled before any ending beginning with a vowel letter is added. The consonant letter is not doubled if the syllable is unstressed.
Or is it easier to know that BEGIN becomes BEGINNING and BEGINNER and GARDEN becomes GARDENER and GARDENING as BEGINING and BEGINER, GARDENNER and GARDENNING simply look wrong because you’ve read books and seen them spelt correctly so many times?