Complicated English Plurals

On Thursday night, I took my barber to an intercambio, or language exchange. People who want to learn a second language gather at local cafes and bars and practice with native speakers.

On the way there, I pointed to some trees and asked him how to say the word. “Arrr-bowl,” he said, emphasizing the word árbol for me. “Y muchas?” said I, asking for the plural. He replied with, “Arboles.”

Now it was my turn. He prompted, “In Anglish?” I told him, “Tree.” He practiced with “Twee.” Then the plural “trees,” he said like “tweezs,” with a hiss. And he thought aloud, “Ah, ‘Zzz’ es muchas.” “Si, si.” I assured him.

“Y hombre,” said my friend, wanted to know the English word for man. “Man,” I said. He echoed and then naively applied his new-found principle of English plurals. “Muchas hombre. Manz.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “No, no, no. Muchas es ‘MEN.'” He was confused, so I tried to reassure him with, “Ingles es un lengua muy complicado. Hoy muchas cosas diferente.” Even in my broken Spainish, he got the point.

English doesn’t usually seem weird or illogical to native speakers until we try to explain it to others.


About Brian Phillips

Brian lives in Spain with Kassie and their kids.
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