It’s like learning a language. But if you take a language apart and put it back together, you will notice that the parts that didn’t make the original sound different, are actually very similar. The parts that make the original sound different are not the differences that make it a new language.
M: It’s the same here. Every language has its idiosyncrasies with how it sounds. I’d compare how the Japanese language has two different kinds of vowels, like “n” vs. “o”. They might use it differently in different situations and the difference is, it’s the same thing. As a parent my kids hear the word “hello” and I tell them to say it “hello”, but actually it’s a totally different word. When their first words are learned it will be obvious that they sound different.
L: What about languages with consonants that differ only in sounds?
M: Every vowel sounds exactly the same to a native English speaker. I’m not saying some people will learn a different English word for each vowel, because it might end up being easier for them to say, but if you can learn any English word using a specific vowel, a certain way of saying it…that’s an English word.
L: This brings us to grammar. You have already taught me that grammar is important and that it’s not about words, but a way of using words.
M: Yes. In English grammar words are just labels. Just think about the same word as three different different people. Some people, when they look at that same word, you know that you have heard it before and you know its meaning. You can’t really tell. For the most part, you have to use your own brain to figure out the meaning. Not only do you need to use your own brain, you need to find some way to look at the meaning and see how that matches with each person’s context.
L: That’s great if you can’t just sit there and just remember the meaning of every line.
M: Exactly! Yes people are so terrible at using their brain, so they forget. When people get the grammar book they usually take all of the words and just skip all the rest to use them in the context of that sentence. This just creates a huge hole. You have to know just one context where the word works. You have to figure out all the ways that it can be put together, the different ways that it can say it’s
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