Common linguistic problemsEnglish presents a number of issues to non-native speakers. It is grammatically unlike other languages and has a number of irregularities.
Some major problems ESL students have to face while learning grammar:
Word order – In the english
language the word order is more important than it is in most of the languages. Even though the basic pattern (subject – verb – object – place- time) is simple, keeping this order might sound unnatural for many students, so they make some changes; that can make the sentence mean something completely different.
Articles – for the nouns that we can count, we use ‘a’ or ‘an’ before the singular noun. Many ESL students get confused by these. E.g. ‘a cup of coffee’ is right, but ‘ a coffee’ is wrong. The definite article ‘the’ is used with most nouns whose specific identity is known. However, we shouldn’t use the article ‘the’ with names of people or with plural nouns that indicate the meaning ‘all’.
Gerunds and Infinitives – A gerund is the – ing form of a verb, but in this form it is a noun. ESL learners often mix gerunds with infinitives. It is worth to remember that a gerund can be replaced with a pronoun ‘it’, while an infinitive means ‘to do something’, ‘to do it’. For example, ‘We like singing.’, but ‘He wants to sing.’
Prepositions – english
prepositions are a problem because of two different reasons.
The other reason is, that different languages use different prepositions to express the same things. Putting the prepositions in context helps understanding.
Prepositions of time and place can be confusing as well, because the difference between them is idiomatic. E.g. ‘We’ll meet at 12:00.’ (specific time), ‘I went to the gym in the afternoon.’ (part of time), ‘You have a meeting on Tuesday.’ (specific day), ‘I am at home.’ (specific place), ‘Your t-shirt is in the wardrobe.’ (enclosed place), ‘I write it on the board.’ (on the surface of sg).
Grammar is not the only problematic area. There are varieties of aspects in the english
language that make learning more difficult.
Pronunciation and Spelling – inconsistent pronunciations and spellings make english
phonology really difficult. Actually there are no set rules for pronouncing a specific letter. For example ‘passion’, ‘fashion’ and ‘station’ are pronounced the same way in their last syllable, but they have three different spellings.
The ‘ou’ sound in the word ‘south’ differs from the ‘ou’ sound in the word ‘Southern’.
There are also many difficult sounds, like the ‘th’, that can’t be found in other languages.
Learning the correct way of pronunciations requires a lot of practice and experience.
Ambiguity – there are phrases/words that have exactly the same structure, but the meanings are completely different. For example ‘piece of cake’ describes a pastry or something that should be easy to do.
Structural ambiguity is another cause of misunderstanding. ‘They are hunting dogs.’ could mean that these dogs are hunting or states the dogs’ breed.
The only way to analyze the meaning of these sentences is to look at the context that they are said or written in.
In conclusion, learning a new language involves learning about the culture where the target language is spoken. Listening to authentic material and talking to native speakers can speed up learning process.