Mother tongue and ABC’s


I teach English as a second language. It can be good fun and downright frustrating all rolled into one. When my sister in law proclaimed that she had the flu and that her nose was constipated I couldn’t help but burst into a fit of giggles to the point where my tea was coming through my nose at the breakfast table. This, of course, was one of the funnier moments I’ve experienced along my language learning and teaching curves.

I’ve also discovered that grammar has become the bane of my existence and that the Italians have way too many verb tenses. But, learning a new language can always be a challenge for most so I plod along.

On the other hand, teaching a language is altogether a different kettle of “fish”. I am North American, so my “mother tongue” is well, Canadian. But, I am paid to teach British English and therefore must refer to my “pants” as “trousers” and the “oven” as a “cooker”. I can’t wait to go back to Canada and use my new English skills!

So my main challenge thus far has been this:
Why is ‘fishes’ in the dictionary???

I have been speaking English since I was old enough to talk. Okay, I will admit that my Nanny was French Canadian and so my first words were actually French, but I would hardly consider myself anything but an Anglophone! I use the term ‘Nanny’, but really she was just a babysitter…what’s the difference anyways? Do you have to have a six-figure income before you are miraculously changed into a ‘Nanny’ or is that just another one of those British things?

Recently, while teaching an English lesson, we all had a good giggle over one of my student’s use of ‘fishes’. I told him that it was a common error but that the correct plural of fish is ‘fish’. So, you can imagine my shock when I was reading a book by Paulo Cohelo (a famous Brazilian author) and on the page I see ‘fishes’!

I jumped out of my chair and ran for the dictionary and there it was again “Fishes”! Not yet convinced, I Googled it and there it was, a full-fledged discussion about the plural form of fish! Luckily, only 6% agreed that you can use ‘fishes’, which means that I remain in the 94% that say no way! But, fair is fair and I went back to class with my tail between my legs and begged for my student’s forgiveness. Then told him to do it my way : )

I even recalled the well known 70’s tune, “Joy to the World”, all the boys and girls, joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me…but since when did song lyrics become great grammar examples? In fact, they are anything but.

So, if anyone thinks that teaching English is a breeze, well I beg to differ! But for now, I will happily go on my merry way and maybe for dinner tonight I’ll have fish!

Cinque Terre 043Cinque Terre 047Cinque Terre 042

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About lmarmstrong66

I'm a blogger, painter, writer, singer. For the love of all things in nature and creativity.
This entry was posted in Italian Culture, Teaching English and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mother tongue and ABC’s

  1. Elora says:

    Ahahaha! Fishes! I remember trying to explain that one too 🙂 Well in theory we should be seeing plenty of “fishes” on Wednesday!

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