Learning a language is hard. Teaching a language is hard. I spent a couple of weeks at the beginning of this school year in an ESL position and it got me thinking again about how difficult languages are for the student and teacher. Every language has its own foibles and idiosyncrasies that native speakers don’t normally think about. As a teacher of languages, it is important to always remember that the subject matter is often completely foreign without logic or consistency.
Take the sound ‘er’ in English. It appears in words like ‘mother’, ‘better’, and ‘can opener’. Native speakers may not realize how ubiquitous (and confusing) that simple syllable can be.
Perhaps the least grammatical of places we find the sound is at the end of nouns from which they are inseparable. A short list may include her, ever, other, flower, conquer, leftover, willpower, and radiometer. In these words, the…
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