This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.



Thursday, 21 May 2020

The first words: a rant.

The first thing I learned to say in a foreign language was je m'appelle Colette: I'm called Colette. (No, I know I'm not actually called Colette, but we were allowed to choose new names especially for French classes, which was cool.)

When I started German we began in the same way, with ich heisse Sally. (We didn't get to choose special German names, boo! and we very soon got on to (I think) Straßenverkehrsknotenpunkt, road traffic interchange, at the sight of which, I'm afraid, a lot of enthusiasm fled).

And then there was Latin. The first noun I learned was domina, which means mistress. Even at the time it seemed a word of limited utility in a twentieth century English New Town (and our Latin teacher, by the way, was a man).

Around this time there was quite a bit of Italian floating about, too. For a butter-fingered piano player like me, adagio was quite useful - and presto wasn't.

Ancient Greek came later. I've just come across my first Greek exercises hiding inside the manuscript of an old novel. It has my first ever attempt at a Greek sentence written down:   ή θεά 'έχει τιμήν: the goddess has honour.

I'm really pleased for her: but not round here, she doesn't.

So here's a plea to all teachers of languages. The first sentence of any language that anyone should speak should surely be I can't speak much [of the xx language] yet.

It's a sentence that's probably going to be useful to us for the rest of our lives, after all.

Word To Use Today: yet. This is such an important and overlooked word. The Old English form the gēta.


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