American Football as a Mirror to Understand English Language Derivatives
Why does the English language break all its own rules and have so many words or phrases that simply make no literal sense? How does one learn such a language like this?
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Bridget B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Football in most countries is a game where a ball is kicked around with one’s foot. In American English, this sport is called soccer. The sport of American football has much less to do with the kicking of the foot but yet is still called football. And we still also have soccer and handball.
We have many other words in the English language that can be very confusing to those learning English as a second language. Words like hamburger, where the actual burger typically has no ham but beef. There are a few other foods that can be confusing like French fries, or English muffins where we seem to attribute a country of origin to the food. English likes to also break its own rules as far as spelling and pronunciation. Rules such as ‘i’ before ‘e’-- except after ‘c’. Words like a bough, rough, though, and cough all have the same spelling of ‘ough.’ But none of them are pronounced the same. We also have words that have double but totally different meanings and even different pronunciations but look the same on paper. Words like ‘read’, that can sound like the color red or as the plant reed. When we make words plural, we seem to follow no rules at all. Multiple moose does not become meese, but several geese become geese.
Reasons for Derivation
Why does the English language seem to always want to confuse? The English language is constantly evolving. New words are added to the dictionary all the time. English borrows from other languages often. Many dual language speakers often combine words or phrases that can also become part of the common English language in an area over time. Technology and global information sharing have also advanced the English language. People are no longer bound geographically and therefore are not bound to a single culture, people group, or language for their lifetime. English is the language of multiple first world nations and has become “the global language.”
Ways of Understanding
So how does one begin to understand these things when learning English? Having pictures of the words being used can be very helpful. Seeing a child reading a book for example. Or having both a soccer ball and a football can be great visual aids. Engaging the student with something they already know or have heard is a great way to start.
Connecting English words to the root language or root word that they were derived from can also be helpful. This can be especially helpful if the learner is a native speaker of the language that the English language borrowed from. This can be helpful during the study phase when they are reviewing or drilling words or phrases.
How to Learn
Having fun with language is always best. Make light of any confusion or initial mistakes made because of these irregularities. There are many tongue twisters, idioms, and common colloquial that help even native users remember when certain rules of the language are broken. Sing-song type rhymes can also be used. Being understanding and not rigid when teaching or even just interacting with someone trying to learn the language can go along way. When was the last time you could recall and correctly recite all the measure words in Mandarin? Use the activate stage to allow the learners to work out their own examples of plays or situations where these peculiarities of the English language might occur.
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And lastly, if they are wanting to understand American football, show them that we often throw the ball or run with it. And that we only kick the ball for a field goal, extra point, or punt.
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