My son is five, and learning to read English. This is deeply unfair on him.
His school is doing an excellent job teaching him to read. First he learned the alphabet, both phonetically and traditionally, and then he learned to put letter together. He started to patch together words – “cat”, “bird”, that kind of thing – and then increasingly complex ones like “toothpaste” and “pancake”. He reads road signs eagerly and the other day he excitedly called me into the kitchen to show me how he had read “cooking oil” on a bottle in a kitchen cupboard. He sucks in information like a vacuum, desperate to learn.
Now I have to start teaching him how to do it wrong.
The English language is deeply illogical. A few days ago he wrote his mother a letter to say “To mom, luv from sam”. I let the “mom” go with gritted teeth – I’m married to a Canadian so making a fuss about that particular mis-spelling would be politically unwise – but I corrected his spelling of “luv”. He’s learned that the letter “u” makes a sound like the start of “umbrella”, so it’s logical to put it in the middle of “love”. Except it’s wrong. He needs to use an “o” and a totally unnecessary “e” at the end.
It’s the same with “dade”, which he how he writes “daddy”. Naturally he needs to add an unnecessary extra “d” and replace “e” with “y”. Why? I don’t know. Neither does he, and it frustrates him. And this is just the beginning. One day he will encounter words such as “rhythm”. One day I will be forced to inform him that “rough”, “bough”, “cough” and “through” are all pronounced differently for absolutely no logical reason whatsoever, and I can’t begin to imagine how that is going to go down with the little chap.
Still, it can’t be helped. English is the most useful language in the world. He has to learn it. I just wish it was somewhat less illogical, that’s all.