Question of the day.

What did your school teach you that turned out to be a complete lie?

My answer:

That you absolutely HAVE to pronounce the -ing endings in English with the standard English ng sound, or the velar nasal consonant linguistically speaking, as opposed to the way most Polish people with little practice in English pronunciation/accents tend to do.

When I was in my later years of primary and then early secondary, we had an English teacher who was generally quite demanding and also nitpicky in some respects and seemed to genuinely like creating the sort of image of a very stern and not particularly connected to her students teacher. Understandably, a lot of people who didn’t do very well at English were very stressed of having lessons with her, and even many who did well at English were still stressed. I did well at English for my class’ standards and didn’t like neither her nor English as a subject at all and found it extremely boring most of the time, yet I didn’t find it very stressful for some reason, guess because I generally didn’t overly care about grades. She had a habit of choosing a few people at the beginning of the lesson whom she would question from the previous material, and people usually dreaded it very much. One of the things she was particularly nitpicky for some reason were the -ings. Which would be absolutely okay with me as an accent freak (although I definitely didn’t have a normal English accent back then yet) if not the fact that it was very hypocritical, because she herself said them wrong half the time and lots of people noticed it and were annoyed about it, and generally looking back from my current perspective she didn’t seem to have the best accent. Neither did most of her students, thanks to this method, including, like I mentioned, myself. It was frustrating because, as is always the case in schools, there were children who learned slower than others, and still lacked some vocabulary or didn’t understand some grammar and she would also overwhelm them with such tiny details. Or on the other hand there were quite a lot of people who were good at English, especially in writing, but were shy when speaking because of stuff like this.

Years later I was learning English by myself, having a lot of fun with it, and immersing myself in a lot of different accents, discovering a lot of dialects, especially British ones, and their weird vocab etc. and trying to imitate all these accents and dialects and stuff and learn to tell one from another. And I grew quite fond of northern England accents, though frankly I love all of the British accents, when people ask me which one I love most I always say the one I’m currently hearing, because I can never decide. Yet I do prefer the northern ones slightly because they’re less ever-present and I like the rusticality I guess. πŸ˜€ And I started to notice that people from like York or Sheffield, I guess also some people in Manchester and Liverpool areas, would say their -ings “wrong”. The first couple times I figured I must have misheard it or something, you don’t say -ing like that, after all, but then I found it stated somewhere explicitly that people in the north of England do pronounce ing with the g. It IS different than the way Polish people typically do, because it’s still softer and more nasal, but still, it reminded me of that teacher and it made me laugh. I’m too used to saying my -ings “right” at this point, but I sometimes say it the northern way when I feel like it.

I personally pay A LOT of attention to things like accent in a language, because it’s freakishly interesting for me as someone whose native language has developed to be very universal across the country, and because at this point I can’t not pay the attention. But generally I agree with most of language teachers and mentors and learners and what not that accent isn’t the primary thing to be paid attention to when teaching/learning a language. Pronunciation and language melody and being understandable to natives as much as possible – yes – but purely accent not necessarily. I guess it seriously can affect the self-esteem and create a lot of mental blocks for people, who not only have to focus on a load of grammar rules (usually dryly memorised by heart because some people just like tormenting others and/or themselves like that), but also on the mini details like the -ings, and then when they actually get to talk to someone in their target language they can’t because they’re scared that the other person will laugh at them or kill them because they said one word wrong. Not to mention when we’re talking children. And especially when the teacher herself can’t show how to say something properly, so that people maybe don’t even realise how it should sound actually. From what I know, a lot of people, not just me, are a bit puzzled why foreign language classes aren’t taught in the target language altogether. I think that would make it way easier for students to learn to pronounce these -ings. As it is, a single individual hardly gets to say more than a handful of example sentences they’ve learnt from the textbook, and the majority of the lesson, all the real teacher-students interaction, happens in Polish, in most schools anyway. When people don’t talk or listen, but instead fill in the gaps in the book and memorise useless crap, how can they learn the fun stuff like accents, or whatever really? And, most of all, I wonder why it’s not solely native speakers who teach their native languages. They do have a different perspective than someone who’s just learning this language, for sure, and may not understand some mistakes they make due to their first language’s structure, but overall I think the upsides outweigh the downsides here. And then there are also some people who just don’t hear mini differences like that in a foreign language, like our Sofi.

How about your school? πŸ™‚

6 thoughts on “Question of the day.”

  1. That’s really weird, because when I learned phonics and phonological awareness so I could teach at the local reading center, they insisted that the “g” is NOT pronounced in “ing”. I beg to differ! Say “singing” and you’ll hear yourself say that first g, if not the second one! I have spoken!!

    Hmm…. something I was taught that was untrue… hmm… if I think of something, I’ll report back! Interesting question!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t think of a particular example.

    I was just looking up differences between American and Canadian pronunciation, and I came across one site that said “Americans would say these words with an /u/ (think β€œooh”) sound and Canadians would use a /ju/ (think β€œyou”) sound instead so that Americans would say news student Tuesday, all with an β€œoo” pronunciation /u/ while Canadians would say it more like nyews styudent Tyuesday/.” It also said that younger people tend to use the American pronunciation, which is what I do. My mom says it closer to the supposedly Canadian way. Schedule, on the other hand, a lot of Canadians throw in a “y” sound before the “u.” Some people use the British-sounding shed-yool, but to my ear, that sounds pretentious, unless you actually have a British accent. I say sked-yoo-uhl.

    My grandma would sometimes says the -g in -ing for emphasis. As for singing, I don’t say either as a hard -g. I say it like the person in this video, although I does sometimes hear it said with the first g pronounced.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s very interesting, as I have very little idea about Canadian English and how it differs from US. I say schedule with sk- as well rather than sh- even though I’ve been learning mostly British English and am used to it the most. Schedule with sh- kind of makes less sense phonetically.
      Yeah, I usually say singing like this too, unless I feel like doing it the north English way.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am sure I could add something, but my memory of my time in school has faded so much, I can’t readily think of one. The closest I can come is to when I ran cross country and it was first pointed out to me that girls and guys train different because guys have more stamina. We never did the same course during camp as the boys. Then our school was scheduled to race a neighboring school that did not have a girls’ team. The varsity boys raced the varsity boys and the girls raced the junior varsity boys. We won. I remember (ever so vaguely) pointing out to my coach that we ran the same course as the boys AND won. The next year at camp, we were expected to run the same training course and same distance as the boys (but to my knowledge nothing changed in actual competition). I think my popularity on the team suffered a bit after that. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

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