Same Language, Different Arguments

language_booksEnglish is my second language and I’ve been learning it since I was 10. After Turkish, English was quite different and difficult at first. However, Turkish is a language of “exceptions” so when I began to learn English, I understood that it is quite rule governed. Then French came to the scene 🙂 I have been studying French for 4 years but I just couldn’t manage to reach a level of fluency… Maybe it is because of my cognitive skills or it is because of the difficulty of French itself, it pushes me real hard! Especially compared to English, I find it quite challenging.

The other day I saw an article saying English is very hard. Every language has its challenges but I guess English is rather easy-to-learn when compared to other many languages. I want to share this article with you and I really wonder what do you think about it. Does the difficulty level change from person to person or culture to culture? It is obvious that if your native language is one of the Germanic languages, you find English easier. On the other hand if your native language is one of the Romance/Latin languages, French or Spanish is easy to learn. Since I am Turkish, both Germanic and Latin languages are quite different than my language. So I am neutral! 🙂

Here I just quote the main headlines. You can click the link at the bottom to read the whole article.

THE WORLD’S CRAZIEST SPELLING SYSTEM

English spelling is extremely counter-intuitive! Why is it that words like “through”, “trough”, and “though” sound so different? It seems like for virtually every “rule” a prescriptivist writes down to try and model English spelling, exceptions can be found. The fact is, although it’s possible to make rough guesses at English spellings using phonetics, in order to really know English spelling, you have to memorize the spelling of every word.

THE SOUND SYSTEM IS SO RICH

Generally, more exotic new sounds mean more difficulty learning a language. English has a very rich set of sounds. It has the ability to string consonants and vowels together almost arbitrarily. Take a look at the word, “strengths”. There’s only one vowel out of six or seven consonants, depending how you count! Again look at “squirrel”. A very difficult word for foreigners to learn to pronounce.

SUBTLE ORDERING

In English, there are subtle ordering requirements which even English native speakers aren’t consciously aware of. We get them right every time, because wesubconsciously know about them through practice, but that just makes it all the harder for foreigners, since these rules are so subtle and hidden.

WHICH SYNONYM TO USE??

Because of its diverse, promiscuous etymological origins, English has lots of synonyms which, just from a dictionary definition, seem very similar if not identical in meaning.

STRESS

In English, the entire meaning of a sentence can be changed by placing stress on a word. For example:

  • I entered my room.
  • *I* entered my room.
  • I *entered* my room.
  • I entered *my* room.
  • I entered my *room*.

POETIC, OLDER ENGLISH IS EVERYWHERE

In order to be really fluent in English, you can’t just learn modern English, you must also know a little bit of older, more poetic English. Not actual “Old English”, since that’s a whole other language entirely, but “older” English.

WHAT’S UP WITH THESE QUESTIONS??

In English, it’s very strange how the whole grammar of a sentence changes when the sentence is put in question form. “It is warm” becomes “Is it warm?” Notice how the “it” and the “is” are switched.

IRREGULAR CONJUGATIONS OF VERBS, AND SIMILAR PHENOMENA

Some people who study Spanish think the verbs there are bad. English is stuffed full of irregular verbs! How come the past tense of “buy” is “bought”, and the past tense of “sell” is “sold”, and neither “buyed” nor “selled” are real words?

THE CASE OF THE LEFTOVER CASES

As I said, English is mostly case-free. But, there are leftovers from the old case system. That’s why we have “I”, “me”, “mine” and “my”. And why we have “you”, “yours” and “your”. And why we have “he”, “him”, and “his”, and “we”, “us”, “ours” and “our”. In each of these groups, it’s really the same word, just in different forms- different cases. So, part of learning English is learning a case system, even though it’s only used for a handful of words.

WHAT KIND OF WORD IS THIS, ANYWAY??

One of the most difficult things about English, is the fact that there’s very little in the way of signals to tell you what kind of word a word is. For example, in Japanese and Spanish, all verbs have similar endings. Not so in English.

Click here to read the rest.

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