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A Question About The English Language


RainMan
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Chac, I agree only partially:

1) It is true that it helps to know a language from the same family

2) But it is also true what I said about verb forms and tenses and cases.

 

Take German (also a "germanic" language::surprise :-)) it has cases, verb-difficulty, capitalisation etc. --> much harder.

 

So given a germanic background or not (!), the only hard thing about English I see is the rather huge vocabulary.

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Sanctus brings up some good points in his last couple posts. English is easy compared to, say, German, when it comes to matching case and gender (as one example). What makes English extraordinarily difficult is the seemingly endless lexicon. I'm a native English speaker, and it's not uncommon in the course of reading a novel for me to come across a word I've never heard before. It may be annoying in grade school to have to learn 1000 words that mean 'happy,' each with its own very specific use, but I've come to appreciate it for its poetic quality. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

So far no one has noted the lamentable obverse of the OPs observation. If English is the most difficult language in the world, why are native English speakers not rushing to learn all these easy languages.

 

I have attempted to learn - and failed in each instance - Norwegian, Finnish, Russian, German, Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Indonesian, Malay and Manadarin. My single succes in language learning came when I lived in Cairo: I resolved that, following the aforementioned failures, I would make no attempt to learn Arabic. When I left four years later I had attained my goal.

 

I do have an interesting measure of language difficulty, based upon the amount of alcohol one has to consume to think one is speaking the language. Thus Spanish is a two pint of lager, language; Fench is three pints. Chinese requires two bottles of Jack Daniels over a thirty six hour period and may therefore prove fatal for some individuals.

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So far no one has noted the lamentable obverse of the OPs observation. If English is the most difficult language in the world, why are native English speakers not rushing to learn all these easy languages.

 

 

 

One reason could be the origins of different languages. It is pretty easy to learn the Mexican form of Spanish when you are well versed in Spain's form. There are tons of similarities. Going from American english to Mandarin Chinese though is the linguistic version of culture shock. Other languages may be easy by comparison, but only once you learn them. Crossing over from one language to another that is drastically different in origin can be very hard for most people. 

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Ehropa, I don't think so. I agree if you understand spanish Spanish you have almost no problem understanding mexican Spanish. But the languages being sooo close, makes it very hard to separate them in your head...and you have all this "false friends"...

When I learned Norwegian I told myself that it is the last time I will learn a language similar to any I already know (in this case German) you just get so confused and need to concentrate much more.

Just some fun examples of false friends:

kake= cake (Norwegian)

kake= **** (German)

 

Puppen= puppets (German)

Pupper= boobs (Norwegian)

 

So, you just don't want to mix them up ;-)

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Many years ago a Dutch friend had moved to Latin America and was starting the process of learning the language. When he and his wife boarded a bus one of the other travellers offered their seat to the lady. Wishing to thank him in his native language my friend intended to say "Muchas gracias senor, usted es un caballero", thank you very much sir, you are a gentleman. (Caballero is literally a horse rider, and consequently a person of substance, since they can afford a horse.) Unfortunately, under the pressure of the moment and the novelty of the language, he used a closely related word "Muchas gracias senor, usted es un caballo", thank you very much sir, you are a horse. He received a very peculiar look!

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