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Education: Why is "English" so hard to learn?

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posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 07:20 PM
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reply to post by mugger
 


I don't think that the OP was implying it was "too difficult" for foreigners to learn when the come here, but if you want to (s)troll down that avenue, there is a xenophobic thread here. Again, you should keep in mind that "understanding" (comprehension) of spoken English is a whole different ball game than "speaking" ...let alone "reading and writing".




posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 07:23 PM
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reply to post by Solasis
 


Hmm, that's interesting. I'll have to look into it. I thought at first you meant "Klingon" but I guess I misunderstood. At any rate, I watched a lot of the two series with Captain Jean Luc Picard and Captain Jane Way or Janeway (not sure if Jane was her first name or part of her last) back in the early-mid 90s when basic cable meant exactly that.
edit on 27-7-2011 by Sphota because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 07:28 PM
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reply to post by Sphota
 


It was an episode from Next Generation -- the one with Picard. Here's an article about the language from the Star Trek Wiki.

(And Janeway's her full last name
)



posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 07:39 PM
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Originally posted by Sphota
reply to post by Wetpaint72
 


This was going around as a chain email a couple years back.

I think he was getting at phonetic reform, in which case it would just be easier to use the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) since it is standardized.


I Thought you would find this article entertaining.
findarticles.com...



posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 08:29 PM
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reply to post by Wetpaint72
 


Great find, I just read pages two to three. I think that orthographic reform is a difficult thing to establish, but it happens slowly. They mentioned that -gue got replaced by -g, but ph to f has not yet happened.

The reverse has been true in periods of our language. For example, the "s" in island was added under the assumption it came from Latin "insula" (cf, isla in Spanish or isola in Italian), when in reality it was i + land = iland.

Another two were debt and doubt. Even though they do come from Latin, the words passed through Norman French, which did not retain the "b" sound. Oddly enough, in this case the "b" never got "re-pronounced" despite re-adding it.

I think the most interesting thing about English is the lack of words that start with "N". Just look in any dictionary and see how thin the "n" section is compared to others (keep in mind j, x, and z are not really "native" letters to English).

At any rate, the explanation is that words that started with "n-" were confused by the use of a/an. In other words, we use "an" when a word starts with a vowel, right? Well, people assumed (in speech) that the "n" they heard was part of "an" and not the word that followed. Examples:

Adder used to be nadder
Orange used to be norange (cf. naranja)
Umpire used to be nompire
Apron used to be napron


It also explains the reverse, with words like "nickname", which has nothing to do with "nick" (whatever that is) but rather with "eke" which was old English for additional.

I also theorize, though I can't prove, that this is also why we say "opossum" as "possum". We probably hear "uh-possum" and think "one" as in "a". Like a possum and a raccoon. I also hear people saying more and more that "He's 'Merican" which I can only assume has the same confusion:

I'm an American (uh-merican).
I'm a American (uh-merican) --> I hear more and more people use "a" even with words that start with a vowel.
I'm American (uh-merican)
I'm a Merican (uh-merican)...and I'm from Merica.



posted on Jul, 27 2011 @ 09:55 PM
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Originally posted by Sphota
reply to post by Wetpaint72
 


Great find, I just read pages two to three. I think that orthographic reform is a difficult thing to establish, but it happens slowly. They mentioned that -gue got replaced by -g, but ph to f has not yet happened.

The reverse has been true in periods of our language. For example, the "s" in island was added under the assumption it came from Latin "insula" (cf, isla in Spanish or isola in Italian), when in reality it was i + land = iland.

Another two were debt and doubt. Even though they do come from Latin, the words passed through Norman French, which did not retain the "b" sound. Oddly enough, in this case the "b" never got "re-pronounced" despite re-adding it.

Off subject I know, but I just friended you on ATS...I just adore smart people.

I think the most interesting thing about English is the lack of words that start with "N". Just look in any dictionary and see how thin the "n" section is compared to others (keep in mind j, x, and z are not really "native" letters to English).

At any rate, the explanation is that words that started with "n-" were confused by the use of a/an. In other words, we use "an" when a word starts with a vowel, right? Well, people assumed (in speech) that the "n" they heard was part of "an" and not the word that followed. Examples:

Adder used to be nadder
Orange used to be norange (cf. naranja)
Umpire used to be nompire
Apron used to be napron


It also explains the reverse, with words like "nickname", which has nothing to do with "nick" (whatever that is) but rather with "eke" which was old English for additional.

I also theorize, though I can't prove, that this is also why we say "opossum" as "possum". We probably hear "uh-possum" and think "one" as in "a". Like a possum and a raccoon. I also hear people saying more and more that "He's 'Merican" which I can only assume has the same confusion:

I'm an American (uh-merican).
I'm a American (uh-merican) --> I hear more and more people use "a" even with words that start with a vowel.
I'm American (uh-merican)
I'm a Merican (uh-merican)...and I'm from Merica.





posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 08:34 AM
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reply to post by Sphota
 


The reason English spelling seems difficult is that we have not had a spelling reform recently like the other languages nearby.

English spelling is not quite as idiosyncratic as it seems. It reflects the syncretism of English.

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist the assonance. What I mean, of course, is that English is a hybrid language and the spelling of a word often reflects its origins in another language.)

English is a mixture of Celtic, Latin, Old Norse and various Teutonic dialects, with French (plus its own Latin borrowings) added in the eleventh century. Variations in the spelling of words help indicate the origins of the word for historical linguists and language enthusiasts. I’m sorry not to be able to give examples, but if you’re really interested you’ll find plenty in a book called The Stories of English by David Crystal, who is an expert on the subject. Academics since the early Modern era have tended to preserve these distinctions, though there is a lot of disagreement about them, as you can imagine among linguists.

I do not deny that even if this historical function is accounted for, English spelling is still quite eccentric.

The hybridity of English also explains why, as one poster pointed out earlier, the language is so full of synonyms. Actually, this is one of the great advantages English has over other language: we have many words for the same thing, except that we don't use the words in quite the same way – and these differences of usage make for great subtlety of meaning and expression.

Here’s a simple example. The following words all mean ‘small dwelling’ in English: cabin, hut, shack, shanty, hovel, croft. You could use all of them to refer to the same building, yet with every usage the character of the building changes – sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly. This kind of thing is a lot more difficult to do in languages whose vocabulary is more restricted than that of English.


edit on 28/7/11 by Astyanax because: I can’t spell



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 11:49 AM
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reply to post by Astyanax
 


Yes, a very good point. This has also led to something called two registers in English, a low and a high. The high register has a higher percentage of Latin and Greek compounds and recent French borrowings while the low register usually keeps to the Germanic and Norman French early underpinnings of the language. Usually the high register uses the prescriptive formal variety of grammar (no double negatives, prepositions never end a sentence, use of the word "whom", etc.).

Someone successful at using the language will understand the appropriate situations to switch between the two registers. It depends on social situations.

You would use the lower register among friends, at a bar, on TV comedy shows, etc.
You would use the higher register with your boss, at formal events, giving speeches, in a news broadcast, etc.

Of course there are exceptions - like if your friends want to talk about socioeconomic situations or political events (though you could still use "ain't" cause you're with your friends) or if you're American cable television, in which case using complex speech styles might allow your audience to attain that higher level of semantic awareness, which I doubt Fox really wants...


EDIT: There's an interesting book called "A History of English Words" by somebody (can't remember - it's on my bookshelf at home) that goes into detail about English etymology. Otherwise, I'd suggest www.etymonline.com

edit on 28-7-2011 by Sphota because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 01:07 PM
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Thank you everyone for your feedback....

I'll look over the comments and get back with you



OT



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 02:46 PM
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reply to post by Sphota
 


All languages have rules but some are far more complicated then others. Japanese is almost a different language between men and women, it has four levels of addressing people, and almost three different alphabets based on different systems.

It is not related to any other language.People can study Japanese for years and never become fluent in it.

But then it comes down to the language you speak, if you only learn one language, that determines how difficult it is for a person to lean the other language. Japanese don't have an f in their language, and have to learn how to formulate and f sound. Such as Americans have the worst time with the rolling r in Spanish, as it is not a part of the accent.

The US state department approximated the learning curve of many languages and noted that the hardest languages to learn are Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean for native English speakers. Japanese being the hardest one of all.

Chinese is considered second. Chinese has far more characters to learn, but there are a lot less rules regarding their use then compared to Japanese characters.

If you speak a native language, then similar languages are easier to learn. Which is why a Spanish speaker easily picks up French and vice versa. But cross over to a new category such as Asian and it becomes more difficult. French speakers have particular trouble with Japanese because Japanese is a non-tonal language.

So yes, the language you speak natively does effect how you learn other languages, depending on what they are.



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:13 PM
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reply to post by nixie_nox
 


I agree, from the standpoint of an English speaker, French and German would probably be easiest, followed by Scandinavian languages, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. After that, I would think Slavic languages.

Although, once an English speaker has mastered Spanish, any other romance language becomes 100x easier, and Slavic languages too, because their verbs and usage are similar throughout. Once the speaker gets the concept, a new language will always be easier.

I agree that languages far away from English, like Japanese will pose more of a challenge. I think an English speaker would find other languages of the same type (Isolating, like Mandarin or some Bantu languages, Southeast Asian languages easier from a grammar standpoint) than Japanese or Spanish. But then again, Spanish has a lot of cognates - words that sound and mean the same whereas Japanese has almost none - except the words taken from English, which sometimes have a more nuanced meaning than the English word they came from.


Originally posted by nixie_nox
reply to post by Sphota
 


All languages have rules but some are far more complicated then others. Japanese is almost a different language between men and women, it has four levels of addressing people, and almost three different alphabets based on different systems.

It is not related to any other language.People can study Japanese for years and never become fluent in it.


I don't agree with this though. All languages have rules, it's just that some apply some and some apply others. That is to say - if we go by Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar principle - you have "switches" in your brain - almost like binary code - that say either you have this or you do not.

However, every language stresses one thing or another that another languages does not.

For example, from an English standpoint, verbal adjectives might seem odd in Japanese, however, Haitian Creole, African American Vernacular English, and the languages in Africa that their grammar is based on (West African languages like Ewe, Yoruba and Ngola) have this concept. In other words, "blue" isn't just an adjective, but a verb as well.

Another example is "articles" (the/a/an), which are present in most Western European languages, Hungarian and Arabic, but are not present in Slavic languages or East Asian languages. That doesn't mean that Polish or Chinese cannot distinguish between a definite thing and a thing in the abstract (the table vs. a table), it just means they have different ways of going about doing it.

Taking for instance the idea of "the", we could say that English has an easy rule, whereas other Western European languages do not. In German, the word for "the" depends on gender, number and case (is it the subject, object, etc.), in Spanish/French, only the number and gender matter. In German, Spanish and French, the word for "the" comes before the word it modifies, whereas Swedish puts it after. In Haitian Creole - a language many think is just a simplified version of French, the word for the marks singular and plural only, follows the noun it modifies, and the singular form has no less than 4 versions that go in sync depending on the last sound of the word (similar to why we have "a" and "an").

I agree that Japanese has no as of yet identified relatives (although people have linked it as distant with Korean, other linguists postulate it branched off early on from the Altaic languages), but I don't think that this alone can be sufficient to categorize it as a language difficult to master.

One thing is for certain, a baby of any ethnicity will have no difficulty becoming fluent in Japanese if they are born and raised there - at the same rate native Japanese develop.
edit on 28-7-2011 by Sphota because: to add quote



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:15 PM
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reply to post by OldThinker
 


Because it is hard to dumb down to a universal language that will soon be as ancient as roman or greek?

edit on 28-7-2011 by Sover3igN because: meh typo, guess I need to learn english



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:28 PM
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reply to post by OldThinker
 


IMO, English is of extreme difficulty to learn for non-native speakers because of the plethora of different ways you can say the exact same thing.

Like there, I said "plethora", but I could have used ten other different words, or hundreds of combinations of words, to mean the exact same thing, not to even mention the myriads of ways that that general concept could be transmitted.

A mastery of English is an on going process through out ones life, and is only achieved through a general understanding of the syntax, which is very fluid, and practice.

Thats one reason its so important for a person to read. Not Newspeak trash, like comments on spybook and youtube, but actually fricken books, written by competent authors that challenge the readers vocabulary.

And the spelling of english words is just a whole 'nother topic all together


Thank the gods for that little red squiggly line under wrongly spelled words in FF



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:32 PM
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A big part of its difficulty I thought is the lack of accents above letters, like what we have in Spanish, along with a lot of other languages. Which is surprising because the pronunciation of a word can change its meaning dramatically. English is a very irregular and hybridised language, and because it is so widely spoken there are the multitude of different dialects.

I think the best way to properly learn English to fully immerse yourself in the language.



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:44 PM
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reply to post by DeepThoughtCriminal
 


I agree, out of all the languages that use accents to mark syllable stress, the rules for accent marks in Spanish make the most sense. Portuguese is bass-ackwards from Spanish rules half the time, though I suppose it makes sense if you don't start with Spanish, like I did. Italian barely uses the accent marks and the way the word is spelled only helps sometimes. French seems to only use accents for vowel sound reasons, Czech uses them for vowel length reasons and Polish uses them to change the sounds of consonants (and an o to a u sound).

The reason why accent marks won't work as well in English is because we have so many words with secondary stress. Another reason why is that Spanish is a syllable-timed language whereas English is stress timed.

So, for a Spanish person to say la.fuer.za.es.im.por.tan.te takes an equal amount of time for each syllable, but in English, the same sentence has some syllables that take up more time than others (in bold): strength.is.im.por.tant.

**Another reason this comes into play is that where Spanish has 5 clear vowel sounds (a,e,i,o,u), English has vowels that become weak when they aren't stressed. So, in the example above, the "a" in -tant (important) basically all but disappears because the length is so much shorter than the stressed part "por". imPORt'nt

You can read more on that here: wiki on isochrony
edit on 28-7-2011 by Sphota because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 06:53 PM
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there is something sad happening in France about language.

The dubbing/translation houses and companies for all hollywood, american and mostly english movies (to make the lips sync corespond to the screen) come up with expression and words that dosent make any sense whatsoever. And those expressions and words end up in the french culture as their own.



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 11:33 PM
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Translation:



posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 11:35 PM
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Originally posted by taroeel
Translation:





posted on Jul, 28 2011 @ 11:39 PM
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reply to post by mr10k
 


While I'll grant that English is easier than chinese... As far as European languages go, it's goddamned difficult

Because it's a melding of three different families of languages; Germanic, Brythonic, and Romance. It is largely based on Old Saxon, both an enormous dose of French and fairly large injections of Gaelic and Norse. All this was then "codified" according the Latin with a dash of Greek! This is not counting the mutations derived in the three strongholds of the old British Empire; American English has absorbed a hell of a lot of Spanish and Native American terms, Australian English is dripping with regional Aboriginal words, and even back in the Old Country, the language is infused with lots of words from the Indian subcontinent.

Basically English is a gigantic sprawling mutant of a language that has absorbed words from all over the world with a grammar system that varies according to the time of day.



posted on Jul, 29 2011 @ 12:00 AM
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Hard to learn not English is.. Speak with fluent tongue dripping on my chin do I. Laugh I sometimes do, with gas exiting from anus my. When I look to sea on peoples mouth speak openly to my ear. When I insert finger with Key to unlock knob, I turn left, but clockwise I should.

Sorry Guys, just reading my ancient "how to repair manual" of my classic Japanese motorcycle.

Written in "Japlish".

Wonderful is it to understand.

(you think this is funny, you should see whats written on an old American Muscle Car model box of a made in Japan car model...nice)



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