A friend from Germany remarked that english
, though arguably for some very easy to learn at first, is a language that becomes increasingly difficult to master the further one gets in one’s study of it. The language can be said to be easy at first given a number of factors relating to a relatively simple grammar as well as to the language’s role in our global society (this same friend reveled with pride at english
being a sort of modern day lingua franca). Its real complications may only reveal themselves later. This friend noted that the language is hard to master. Obstacles to its “mastery” derive perhaps almost exclusively from a number of peculiarities relating to the already infamous problems of english
spelling and how this relates to pronunciation. Additional factors may have to do with certain grammatical forms, which, while not necessarily exclusive to the language itself, contain in themselves subtleties that make their usage very vague, especially to non-native speakers who have similar forms with almost entirely different uses.
It has been noted that irregularities in english
spelling always lead back to the language’s various sources. One finds loan words from french
, German, Latin, greek
, etc. many of which have kept their original spellings. This is especially true of the language’s relation to french
, of which something like thirty percent of english
derives. In fact, such loan words as “conversation” and “blond” find no more originally Anglo-Saxon equivalent, not to mention a word like cliché, which even retains its french
accent mark. This plethora of sources alone was bound to lead to inconsistencies in pronunciation. Take the use of the letter combinations ph and ps in words of greek
origin such as philosophy and psyche, the first being a sort of Roman equivalent of the single greek
letter phi (?,?), the second that of psi (?,?), though the Roman letters F and S should suffice given our actual pronunciation of the words themselves. Such inconsistencies lead speakers of english
to even believe these spellings were originally a mistake! One spelling-pronunciation discontinuity that has always interested me is that of the word colonel, pronounced kûr’n?l in what could possibly be attributed to a bad french
accent, thereby retaining some remnant of the french
All spelling aside, it has rightly been said that english
has a fairly simple grammar in relation to other world languages, including many found in Western Europe. Take for instance the absence of “grammatical gender,” otherwise found in french
and German, for example. Declination of adjectives and the use of multiple articles to account for gender play no role whatsoever in english
, which is partly what my friend meant by saying that the language is very easy for many to learn at first.
I have been told that such a structure makes english
particularly suited as a world language, in that one can more easily convey what one means regardless of whether the construction is all there. Such an argument would require a deeper analysis of the use of everyday english
in relation to communication in similar circumstances in other languages. For the remainder of this paper however, I would like to look at some of the peculiarities of english
drawn from my own experience in my study of other languages, namely french
and German. It seems to me some of the problems native speakers of these two languages have when speaking english
is a result of the differing uses of similar grammatical forms as well as the use of forms which are entirely lacking in these languages. For example, no progressive form exists in either of these two languages, leading native french
speakers, for example, to sometimes overuse and misuse it. Additionally, english
is the only language I am presently aware of that contains progressive and progressive perfect forms in all tenses.
What is more striking to me however is the use of the present perfect form itself, which in french
and German simply relates to the past. While this tense is used in english
to talk about the past, it is also used at times to relate past actions or states to the present, something which seems at times almost impossible to explain to someone who has the same structure (auxiliary verb “have”+ past participle) with a meaning solely relating to the past, as is the case with native french
and German speakers (in french
as the modern simple past, in German as the “conversational” past). I have also yet to come across another language that makes use of “do” as an auxiliary verb, though I don’t doubt it may be found in another of english
’s sister languages.