Plurals are scary!

Coal

There are no books or classes to help a person learn
mmm-BELLY-may.  So, the very first day I pulled out about 12 different
things from around the house and put them on the floor on my front porch.

My language helper said "point to the machete," and she and I both pointed to it
as she repeated until I started to recognize the word and could understand without her
prompting.  We added one object at a time, and things were going
well.  I didn’t have all the words completely down, but I had a general
idea.  For instance, coal was a long word that started with
"d."  It was cool-I was learning using only mmm-BELLY-may, no
French.

But then, halfway through the lesson a new word showed up.  It was short
and started with "a" and seemed to mean "coal."  The
long "d" word was completely gone.  I got more and more confused
until I finally switched into French and asked my language helper what was
going on.  She said that the word for one piece of coal was
"ditakahondi."  But, my coal broke in half partway through the
lesson, and the plural for coal is not "ditakahondis," as one would
hope, but rather "awane."  Which sounds a lot like
ditakahondi-NOT!  I was completely freaked out and promptly decided to
only learn the singular form of words for at least the next oh, ten
years. 

Chatting (whining) about this with someone who’d learned a related language, I
was reassured that it was only the most common words that were that irregular,
and that most of them followed nice rules. 

She was right, but plurals still make me a little nervous.

Published by Nora McNamara

Lover of languages and linguistics. Besotted Auntie. Jesus follower. Sacred Harp singer.

One thought on “Plurals are scary!

  1. I love this. Not, you know, the fact that you had a frustrating time. What I love is how you are completely into this. Language is so fulfilling for you. As a writer, I can relate to a bit of what a linguist enjoys. What I really love is knowing that you are gifted not just with the skills but with the love of what you are doing, to be completely into translation and to be getting a kick out of it. Even in your frustration, your joy is palpable.
    By the way, I love how the machete keeps reappearing in all your stories. I think it’s foreshadowing, and later on in The Saga of Nora, there will be a really dramatic scene involving awesome ninja use of the machete to save the day.

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