Short or long

C gets homework every day, which I usually help him with. Most days doing second grade level school work is no problem for either him or me, but lately it has been a struggle.  His class is now working on identifying long and short vowel sounds, and I have been no help to him at all.

Assignments include such things as circling the words with a ‘short A’ sound in a sentence, making a list of ‘long a’ words, or correcting words that have been marked as being either ‘long’ or ‘short’.   Here’s a sample of how his teacher corrected one of his lists of ‘short a’ words.

I have trouble with this partly because I don’t remember what the difference is between long and short vowel sounds, but I think that main reason is that being a native of Boston, I don’t really say words the way they’re supposed to be said. Typical of the accent is that I tend to drop the letter “r” and replace it with an “h”. Car” comes out more like “Cahhh”, the word “corn”, sounds like “cawn”, “horse” sounds like “hoarse”, “park” sounds like “pahk”, “picture” sounds like “pictyahh”.    Some of us will also drop the “g” at the end of words, so  “walking” becomes “walkin”.  Combine dropping the r and g  and “learning” sounds like “lahnin”.

Also, words that would not sound alike, do in fact sound the same when said by a speaker from Boston, such as “caught” and “cot”,  “four” and “for”, “father” and “bother”.

We will sometimes also add in letter to words, of all things we will sometimes add in an “r” into words where there is no “r” at all.  As though we’re saving up all those ‘r’s  from ‘car’ and putting them somewhere else.  Ms J (who is not from Boston) likes to make fun of the way I say “banana”, which I will add an “r” to at the end,  saying:  “ba-nan-err”.    And all of us Boston natives speak in a nasally drone. Think of the character ‘Cliff Claven’ from the old TV show “Cheers”, or more recently the actors Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg.

So, C and I will sit at the kitchen table and I will try to help him decipher which words have a short vowel sound and which have a long vowel sounds.  I will attempt to say these short second grade level  words the way they are supposed to be said, like “far”, “park”, “course”, “there”, “where” and I’ll usually end up getting the both of us confused.

I’ll be glad when this unit is finished in his class.

Here’s a pretty good example of what we talk like here from Seth Meyers.  It’s a parody of all the recent crime films set in Boston so there’s some violent scenes toward the end, just a warning.  Or as we say here “a wahnin”.


7 thoughts on “Short or long

  1. When I was entering grade school, we moved out of state for a few years. My first grade teacher had me say certain words for the class to illustrate the vowel sound. It gained me more notoriety than teasing. Wicked video…I really enjoyed it.

    • That must have made you embarrassed, or maybe you were the star of class instead!

      There’s a lot of videos on the subject on YouTube, it was hard to pick one. A few years ago there was a clip of Matt Damon on the BBC’s Graham Norton show demonstrating the accent but I couldn’t find it.

  2. English is such a difficult language, never mind having an accent. Learnt American English and found that big difference here in Canada. This is the long and short of what I know
    ‘about’ the language. That word is a BIG difference between these two countries. Thanks for the lesson.

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