Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Just when I thought I was beyond the challenges of the American/English divide

This was the first week that Julia has not come home with a Super Speller sticker affixed to her school jumper on a Monday afternoon.

The Super Speller stickers are a great example of the English practice of expecting serious academic work from seriously young kids. Julia comes home from school every Tuesday with her list of spelling words for the week. She and her classmates copy down the week's 10 words (often made up of suggestions from the class or taken from a book they are currently reading) and after the teacher has checked their lists for accuracy, they have just under a week to learn the words before their regular Monday spelling test. And then, because they're 6, they get a pretty sticker if they get all of the words right on their tests.

In typical "it's hard to believe we share any genes at all" fashion, Julia adores the very concept of spelling tests and works hard to master her words. Up until this past week, she was one of only two children in the class who had never gotten a word wrong. Trust me to ruin her perfect streak.

There were a couple of particularly hard words on last week's list and a few of them looked to have been fixed when Julia's teacher had checked her list before sending it home. One word still looked wrong, however, and the proliferation of eraser marks and odd letters in and around the word led me to wonder how closely her teacher had looked at Julia's corrections. "In America, this word is spelled with an O that you don't have here," I told her the first time that she showed me her words for the week. "I suppose it's possible that the British spelling of marvelous doesn't have an O in it, but I'd be awfully surprised. You should really check with your teacher."

Julia being Julia, she didn't want to approach her teacher with the question, but she did assure me that she'd checked with her friends and there was definitely an O in marvelous here, too. And so she altered the spelling accordingly, I quizzed her on her words as always, and she went into school on Monday confident in her spelling skills. She did a marvelous job of spelling her words exactly as I had taught her. And that turned out to be her crucial error.

Marvelous, I am now fully aware, does have an O on both sides of the pond. It also (who knew?) has an extra L over here. (Remember all those odd letters in and around the word? Perhaps they were meant to be there after all...) Marvellous. Julia's American spelling did not pass muster in her English classroom this week and I have just officially flunked Year One Spelling. I think I owe my daughter a sticker.


Blogger Iota said...

I HATE helping my kids learn their American spellings. They're going to have to relearn them all in a few years time...

1:35 PM  
Blogger Suburban Hippie said...

I did not know this! I think Julia deserves a sticker anyway. I hadn't really thought about the problem with UK/American spelling differences, but it IS going to be a pain in everyone's fanny.

Sam's school has exactly the same deal with the spelling words, except the list comes out on Monday and the test is every Friday. Surprisingly, my little underachiever does very well (although of course not as well as Julia).

6:39 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Gretchen, your comment is about 1000x funnier because of the English meaning of the word "fanny"... ;)

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A british friend moved to New York and worked as a photographer's assistant. On one of the first shoots he kept asking her to keep supplies (markers, tape, pins, etc...) her "fanny pack". She was shocked -- not realizing that was the US name for the satchel they provided her to wear around her waist!!!!! She spent the day thinking the American photographer was quite rude!

When I moved to London I quickly switched to using the word 'trouser' after getting funny looks from my male and female colleagues when I commented on my 'pants'.

Now back in the States, the word 'pants' makes me giggle to myself. Some things will stick with you when you get back!!!

4:17 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

Yes, I think she definitely does deserve a sticker. Spelling will also most definitely be another hurdle to deal with when you get back to the States.

12:07 AM  
Blogger E said...

Go out for ice cream. This kid is a winner nonetheless....
I love your posts. We are trying to think how to do a year in Italy and you inspire me....

Pining away in VT as an expat wannabe....

2:12 PM  

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