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A message to anyone who is homeschooling

I have a short message for all the parents and kids who are homeschooling. In fact, anyone teaching or studying English anywhere, this message is for you.


To be specific, don't be afraid of the metalanguage.

Metalanguage is the terminology we use to describe and analyse things within language studies.

Metalanguage is just the names we give things. Everything needs a name so that we can talk about it, doesn't it? So, whether it be a fronted adverbial, split digraph, or homophone... don't worry! In maths we accept the names given to the topics of 'algebra', 'geometry' or even the label 'sums', so why sweat it with English?

Three reasons why you shouldn't be afraid:

Firstly, for the purposes of homeschooling, it doesn't matter. If you can do the task, that's fine. Focus on that for now and you can go back later and pick up the terminology.

Secondly, if you really think about it, the name probably does make sense. A fronted adverbial is an adverb or adverb phase that goes at the front of the sentence. Don't know what an adverb is?...

That brings me on to my third reason. Luckily, we have Google. (Incidentally, 'luckily' was a fronted adverbial... and so was 'incidentally'). Is it really so terrifying to type it into Google and get a few simple examples? You could get a comprehensive explanation but you don't necessarily need to.

... and that's it!

Still not convinced? Do we really need these silly names? Well, yes. If we didn't use one name then we'd have to think of another. Learning new terminology when new 'topics' come along is natural - think about the terms 'furlough', 'pandemic', 'asymptomatic', 'PPE' and 'WFH' which have all become part of the 'new normal' in recent months. Learning metalanguage for English is no different.

Knowing metalanguage helps you understand your teacher and your subject better, and makes your learning more efficient.

Furthermore, for exam purposes, we have to be able to prove we have a good command of the subject in order to pass. It's not sufficient to tell the examiner that, "Well, I know it but I don't know the name for it." Unfortunately, we just have to jump through some hoops sometimes - such is life!

By the way...

A digraph is two letters (di meaning two, graph meaning written) which produces one sound. An example of a digraph is 'ue' in 'blue'.
A split digraph is a diagraph which is split by a consonant. An example of a split digraph is 'a' and 'e' in 'cane'. Without 'e' the 'a' vowel in 'can' is a different sound. Other examples are Jane (Jan), note (not), pine (pin), Pete (pet), tube (tub).
A homophone (homo meaning same, phone meaning sound) is a word which is pronounced the same as another but has a different spelling, meaning, or both. The words 'to', 'two' and 'too' are examples of homophones.

So, what do you think a homograph is? I bet you can work it out if you don't already know. (Hint - everything you need to know is in the text above).


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