Pecularities of the english
LanguageAn expert of english
fluency must be able to command all the language’s dimensions, including even the most defeating of oddities. Many people find that english
might possibly be one of the most difficult languages to learn. Not for the words per se, but for the fact that it has so many unusual and contradictory rules.
First off, english
has many irregularities when it comes to pluralizing; why is it that the hunter who shoots three deer, buys him and his buddies a few beers to celebrate? There are countless more of these eccentricities: an ox in a herd of oxen, one louse in a flock of lice, one mouse in a horde of mice; following this pattern one might be tempted to refer to a neighbourhood’s charming hice; it’s these very inconsistencies that make it difficult to master the language.
Another dimension that is baffling to those who are studying english
is how strange its figures of speech are. Why do “quite a lot” and “quite a few” mean the same thing? How can the weather be “hot as hell” one day and “cold as hell” another? Why is it that when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible? Why is it that that winding up a watch starts it, but winding up a story, finishes it? And isn’t it strange that “fat chance” and “slim chance” refer to the same thing?
Of course there are likely valid reasons for some of its peculiarities: english
has a very rich and turbulent history. According to askoxford.com, 26% of english
words have a Germanic influence (Old/Middle english
, Old Norse and Dutch), words such as such as father (Fæder ), God, word, and, while (hwile), what (hwat), water (wæter) and many others. Besides its strong Germanic influences, a great many cultures have influenced the english
is said to account for 29% of the english
vocabulary – many sayings, such as “carte blanche” and “crème de la crème” are derived from french
. Another 29% of its words have Latin roots – although quite a few are of a technical or scientific nature, “de facto”, “et cetera”, “ad hoc”, “alter ego” and “rigor mortis” are Latin-based sayings that enjoy extensive use in english
There are even examples of words derived from less likely sources such as Sanskrit: cheetah, China, cot, guru, loot, musk, orange, rice, sugar, swastika, thug and veranda. It is likely that all the most spoken languages of the world have shaped the english
vocabulary in one way or another. It is partly due to this mishmash of different languages that there is inconsistency in terms of pronunciation and spelling, such as ‘eau’ making the ‘o’ sound in ‘plateau’ due to its french
However, many other eccentricities in english
don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason; it would be confounding for a rookie in english
to read the seemingly simple sentence “I must polish the Polish table.” Even “I will wait until the wind winds down” or “That bass has a sticker of a bass on it” is sure to cause confusion until the students are made aware of these different words that, although are spelt the same, do not sound the same and do not mean the same thing. This must be addressed when it comes to teaching the pronunciation and meaning of words.
Furthermore, certain letter combinations don’t have the same pronunciation. Case in point is the letter combination 'ough' which is especially tricky. Comparing tough, thought, though, cough, bough, hiccough, and through; the ‘ough’ combination sounds different in each case. Another instance is the inconsistency with the letter g; although it is virtually always sounded as a hard g after the vowels a, o and u (except margarine, algae and a few others), with i, e and y it is hit or miss: get, giddy, begin, girl, gift have the hard g, while gel, gesture, ginger and eligible feature the soft g.
The meaning of idioms is also another important concern when it comes to teaching english
, since the context of what is being spoken about is seldom apparent from the words themselves. Particular attention should be placed on the differences between colloquial versus “proper” speech (such as the use of double negatives, ain’t, slang and so on). Differentiating American english
from other varieties of english
(such as international or British english
) in terms of spelling, pronunciation as well as the different words used is also a key consideration.