"Why the English Language is Hard to Learn:"

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Barret VII

"Why the English Language is Hard to Learn:"

Postby Barret VII » 2004-10-15, 23:26

My mom gave me this newspaper clip that a coworker of hers gave her. It's just a list of 21 English sentences that shows off how certain English words are pronounced different depending on how they're used, though they're spelled exactly the same. Here's the list:
(1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
(2) The farm was used to produce produce.
(3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
(4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
(5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
(6) The soldier decided to desert the dessert in the desert.
(7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
(8.) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
(9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
(10) I did not object to the object.
(11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
(12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
(13) They were too close to the door to close it.
(14) The buck does funny things when the does are present. (buck = male deer, does = female deer I believe)
(15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
(16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
(17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
(18.) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
(19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
(20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
(21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend.
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Now me being an English speaker, can read those sentences fluidly, recognizing how a word should be pronounced by where it is in the sentence in regards to all the other words before it. I would hate to have to learn English as a second language :roll:
Last edited by Barret VII on 2004-10-17, 5:41, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Intrigued Linguist » 2004-10-15, 23:59

Phonemes
English uses some difficult sounds, like those in thing or soothe. These sounds are, in my opinion, impossible to master perfectly unless you have lived in an english-speaking environment before you turned 16-18.
Syntax
Pretty logical and not very difficult to master. Adjectives do not vary, conjugation is almost esperanto-like, but orthograph is tricky. The problem is that with such a weak verbal system and such easy rules to turn adjectives into verbs, the beginner may be puzzled by some phrases. Another difficulty is that of the verbs that use a separate particle like to set off or to pop out. I advise the learner to review lists of common verbs to save time, because they are especially tricky to look in the dictionary.
Vocabulary
The english language has one of the most extensive vocabulary around, with more than than 460'000 different words in the Webster Dictionary alone. This comes from the french/german origin, and means that you often have at least two words with almost exactly the same meaning. However, most of the dictionary only lives in litterature and scientific publications.
Overall difficulty
I rate this language as ÐÐ, that is, quite easy to learn, because of its ubiquity, and grammar. Almost everyone will tolerate a bad english if they still understand you, and anyway they will have heard so much of it by the time you talk to them that they won't mind. In most parts of the world, you only have to go to the cinema, open the TV or buy newspapers to have the language imposed on you so there's really no excuse for not speaking it at least decently.
Time needed
The big question, I think that two years of moderate study should be sufficient for all but the most lazy people, and you can definitely learn it in 6 months. As to the number of hours, I think that 250 hours is a safe estimation.

Just some info from http://www.micheloud.com/FXM/LA/LA/english.htm

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Postby Patricia » 2004-10-16, 13:58

Barret,

Foreign learners usually get that set of sentences to learn when studying the English pronunciation. I've had to learn them several times. Basically, if you know the meaning of all the words in the sentence, you should have no difficulty in pronouncing them....that's my own experience, at least.

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Postby Liisi » 2004-10-16, 19:16

I agree with this being a very difficult thing in English. I never was taught English pronounciation at school, the only thing I could do was listen to my teacher (who ALWAYS were native Finns with not so great pronounciation). I admit I would pronounce most of these sentences incorrectly.

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Postby Malcolm » 2004-10-16, 19:34

I think I'd never have been able to learn English at school. Thank god we speak it at home. In France, English is taught like a dead language, like Latin or Greek. That is, no talking, just grammar. After 7 years od English learning at school, a kid doesn't even know that English is a spoken language. For him it's just boring texts and newspaper articles.

Barret VII

Postby Barret VII » 2004-10-17, 5:19

Patricia wrote:Barret,

Foreign learners usually get that set of sentences to learn when studying the English pronunciation. I've had to learn them several times. Basically, if you know the meaning of all the words in the sentence, you should have no difficulty in pronouncing them....that's my own experience, at least.

Oh, wow, I had no idea that they were used to teach foreigners. I myself had never seen those sentences before Friday.
Whenever I learn a language, I try to immerse myself in the native writing system, completely foregoing any transliteration unless completely necessary (like with Chinese and such), and I try to not just read and write, but listen and speak as well. It makes it much easier in the long run as opposed to, for example, learning Japanese with just rōmaji and the sound of your own voice.

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Postby Patricia » 2004-10-17, 17:41

Malcolm wrote:I think I'd never have been able to learn English at school. Thank god we speak it at home. In France, English is taught like a dead language, like Latin or Greek. That is, no talking, just grammar. After 7 years od English learning at school, a kid doesn't even know that English is a spoken language. For him it's just boring texts and newspaper articles.


Well, I guess I've been lucky to have attended a school where production of the language was more important than anything else. But, unfortunately, most schools here are just like you describe: all grammar and theory and zero production.


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