Complicated grammar

In my beginning class today, we did the Anne Matava story about a girl who doesn’t do whatever she is asked, questioning what will happen if she doesn’t.

I forgot to use the third structure, which was “You won’t be allowed to…” but it was okay. We had a story going about Sponge Bob and Mr. Crabs and Patrick (of course) that ended up using subjunctive and two irregular present-tense forms of three irregular verbs. Not one of the kids was upset that the verbs didn’t follow normal patterns. I had to stop for a moment and tell them that it is highly unusual that first-year kids can understand these forms, let alone try to use them in a story.

Then a second-year kid came in after school to make up a quiz. He was reading along and kept stumbling over the past-tense forms of verbs, but then slowly started getting them, saying the correct present-tense form of the verb each time he would hit a past-tense form. I thought it was pretty awesome that a weak reader (in English) could switch tenses on the fly in Russian as he read the Russian and translated it into English.

These are the reasons I love using TPRS. Kids actually acquire language. In the meantime, we’re doing our version of March Madness (Tournament of Awesomeness), and we’re cooking along there too.

Over on Yahoo, Bryce is talking about PAT activities, and just in case you need some fun, here’s the link to all the posts he’s done on PAT games. Evidently he’s going to be doing a piece on PAT activities at NTPRS. I hope that it’s at a time I can attend, but if not, maybe one of you can take notes for me.

4 responses to “Complicated grammar

  1. Ok, Michele. Russian native speaker who rocked grammar in school is apparently blissfully unaware of the existence of subjunctive in Russian:) Or may be we just called it something else? Something untranslatable, especially because it really doesn’t exist in my head. Can you give me an example? Or I won’t be able to sleep. Really!


    • Hate to have you not sleep…subjunctive is really “easy,” according to me and my kids, because it’s just the past tense (perfective more often) after бы. What my Russian OPI tester explained to me is that whether the formation is easy or not, use of the subjunctive demonstrates higher-order thinking skills, and people typically don’t use it fluently until they hit the advanced level of proficiency. It’s really interesting, because I do find that while my lower-level kids can understand it just fine, only the way upper-level kids ever use it.


      • Well, I think I get it. Я хочу, чтобы ты купила мне шоколадное мороженое, да побольше! or Пошел бы ты погулял, на улице так хорошо!

        About your last comment… Here’s from my personal experience in English (mind you, I started it at age 8). When I came to the US, I could understand, “Had you called me, I would have helped you” kind of thing, but it took me about 6 months or so to be able to use it myself. Obviously, complicated system of tenses in English compared to Russian is to blame as well as enough CI in meaningful situations that helped my brain process it to the point that I felt comfortable using it.


  2. What our OPI guy said was that it’s not just the complicated system (for instance, I gather it’s really complex in French and Spanish), but the cognition that goes with it. Putting the cognitive level together with the language is what makes a person a more advanced speaker. I can think of lots of people that never use subjunctive in English. I’m tempted to draw conclusions about their ability to think…


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