Back in early 1997 I was working as an English teacher in Quito, Ecuador. My family were over there with me and my daughter – Aliz – would have been 5½ at the time. I don’t think I’m any different from other English language teachers in being fascinated by the way our children pick up languages. I would spend ages listening to my daughter amazed at the words and expressions she used, thinking about the grammar and the order she was acquiring things.
At the time her favourite video was Pocahontas and whenever we were walking down to the shopping centre or the park she would retell the story. It always made me laugh as she would start by saying “So John Smith went into the forest and then Pocahontas went into the forest. And then they met under the talking tree. And then …” it seemed as though the only conjunction she knew was ‘and then’ so I’d always butt in by saying ‘and then’ at the wrong points 🙂
And then (you see it’s catching) one day we were walking across Parque La Carolina, the big park just down the road from our apartment. I guess from one end to the other was easily 3 kilometres, so quite a long walk for a young child. Aliz had her head down, trudging along recounting Pocahontas for the millionth time when suddenly she paused, looked up at me and said, “Dad. My feet are killing me!” I was stunned. Here was a five-and-a-half-year-old using an idiom perfectly – at this time she still made mistakes with syntax, irregular past verbs (making them regular), past perfect etc and yet she could use an idiom in exactly the right way. I laughed so loud that my sides were killing me!
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About Adrian Tennant
Adrian works as a freelance teacher trainer, writer and consultant. He’s worked on a wide range of courses including Global, Straightforward, New Inspiration and Attitude as well as lots of materials for onestopenglish.com. In his free time he loves reading, swimming and cooking, but usually not at the same time! You can find out more about him at his blog.