It’s a split digraph at school and a magic E at home

As I’ve mentioned before, watching my son learn to read is an endlessly fascinating process.

I have absolutely no intention of getting into the merits or otherwise of phonics or any other system for teaching reading on here, but I was highly amused by the following exchange in the car between fils aîné and his little brother:

No, lane is actually spelled l-a-n-e ‘cos it’s a split digraph. A digraph is when you have two letters that make one sound and it’s a split one ‘cos there’s a “n” that comes in between them and splitting them up. So the “n” is like a knife that drops in and splits the “a” and the “e”.

Split digraph
Mon mari was unwise enough to mention that in his day, it had just been called a magic E and got a slightly wearied, “at home we call it a magic E, Daddy, but at school it’s a split digraph”.

I’ve no idea whether or not he’ll retain any of this linguistic terminology later in life, or whether all this detail is more useful than “magic E makes the letter say its name”, but it’s impressive in a slightly scary way.

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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3 Responses to It’s a split digraph at school and a magic E at home

  1. V. impressive! So far (Y1) we only have ‘magic e’ at school.

  2. Lucym808 says:

    I love my son’s awareness of word structure (he’s also in Reception learning to read). ‘Digraphs’ was good enough, but when he started telling me about ‘trigraphs’ I had to bow down in awe! And they say standards are falling…

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