Hard Habits to Break

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Word Order. One of the things students have a hard time with is word order. Well, I used to have the same mistake simply because I had gotten used to speaking where the verb comes first, and the subject comes second.

Luckily, schools teach us the core patterns that make up English sentences. As a BEGINNER, I decided to stick first to only three:

SUBJECT / VERB (SV) - Birds fly. I agree.
SUBJECT / VERB / OBJECT (SVO) - He studies English. I love you.
SUBJECT / VERB / COMPLEMENT (SVC) - English is interesting. She looks German.

I carefully monitored myself not to talk or think unless every word was in the right order. I had refused to lay eyes on the rest of the sentence patterns until I was ready enough to manipulate these three simple ones. 

What gives me a bad headache sometimes is that some students tend to make difficult sentences and yet do not observe even the most basic of these patterns!

I built my first sentence using the SV pattern. I had focused on the simple. Without thinking much about verb tenses, I kept chanting:

I study. I watch. I play. I work. I jump. I phone.

The last one is a joke. I never got a mobile phone until four years later. It was a second-hand Nokia 3310 running on a dying battery.

Kidding aside, the message is clear. If you're used to talking where a verb starts a sentence, shifting from your language to English is no easy task.

That's why I had drugged myself with the SV pattern. I was determined to put an end, once and for all, to VS (Verb Subject) dominion over my English speech and thought patterns.

Gender Confusion. In our language, these gender pronouns he, she, his, her, and him have no counterparts. Each time a situation calls for using them, it's like a close encounter of the third kind.

Switching code had been a pain in the neck. One of the most common mistakes I did was to default to the masculine gender even when referring to women.

Teacher: "Do you know Jane?"
Kenjie: "Who is he? No, I don't know him."

Bummer! I could remember I was also crazy about one cartoon film: He-Man. Whether it influenced me, who cares? All that mattered was to address women with the right gender pronoun.

Fortunately, my mother helped me out with the job. With my signature self-talk, I would say the following sentence repeatedly emphasizing she and her.

"She is my mother. I love her. Her son is Kenjie."

Subject-Verb Agreement. Singular verbs didn't exist in my own world until I had studied English. In the present tense we add S to the end of the verb in the 3rd person. Most of my students make the same mistake I did.

Student: "He like candy. "(wrong) 

Kenjie: "He likes candy."(correct)"

One tiny "s" makes a big wrong. To solve this dilemma, I created a simple equation for myself which I call the Suarez Method. It looks like this.

3S + S = S

It stands for 3rd person Singular Subjects take S. Armed with triple S, I thought to myself, "Let's see if I still forget."  We know repetition is the mother of learning. So, here's what I had done.

I do. You do. He does. She does.

I study. You study. He studies. She studies.

I don't want to sound exactly like a corrupted CD, but saying it again, again, and again reinforces learning. 

"Kenjie, how many times do I have to do this?" 

Do it as many times as you like and as many verbs as you like. 

"When is the best time to do it?"

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