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How hard is the English Language? Really? What about all languages?
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Lightbulb 
Linguistics is a fascinating thing to me,.. Languages , naturally related, are as well.

For those of you who know me, I am a Native English speaker and writer. I speak/write two other languages,.. French and Spanish. The former less poorly than the latter. I totally attribute this to selecting the less popular choice in High school to take a few years of French instead of Spanish for my College "Advanced Diploma". I also had the notion that French, Francais, was somehow a more elegant sounding language (than Spanish). I still maintain that, perhaps silly, notion to this day.

With that statement I now think of the Merovingian in The Matrix speaking of his favorite language, as seen in this 30 second clip:





It is a popular concept that English is among the more difficult languages to learn. You may or may not have heard or read that statement,..but is it true?

Is it even really possible to make such a statement and defend it for any length of time? What about for ANY language?

Personally I think there is one over-arching theme that more or less holds true with languages and the learning "Curve" or difficulty.

I believe that another languages difficulty is first and foremost based upon your native tongue. For example a native speaker of German or Dutch—Germanic languages closely related to English—will find English relatively straightforward. Learners whose first language is Chinese (completely unrelated) or Russian (distantly related) will find English much harder. This is roughly true of languages all around the world. If you learn a language geographically close and from a common ancestor of your first language, there will be fewer nasty surprises, at every level from sound to word to sentence.

Languages have various numbers, and degree's of Inflection "change".. That is the bits and/or pieces that are added to a noun, adjective, or verb to make it match with the other pieces of any single sentence. In English a verb has a maximum of 5 forms (speak, speaks, speaking, spoke, and spoken), where in a seemingly "easy" language by most opinions, (ie: Spanish), can take dozens of inflection forms. Similarly with nouns,.. English has two forms (singular and plural).. Russian, interestingly, has a few times this showing gender bias, number and case.

A bit drab and boring,.. right? Well interestingly what has been found is that inflection has strong correlation to the number of people who speak a language across our planet; As there are only a sliver, fraction of languages actually used by the majority of people on this planet out of the hundreds that exist today.

It has been found that highly inflected languages are spoken by a SMALL number of speakers and have few "Neighbors". However, languages with large groups of speakers.. like, oh ,.. say English, with many neighboring languages as a definite attribute systematically have FEWER inflections.

Why?

Well,.. as a language spreads over time,.. over centuries and longer, it is learned by many non-natives (ie: Traders, the conquered, etc..). Adults, learning a foreign language imperfectly, tend to avoid using non-necessary endings.... and MANY endings in any language are certainly unnecessary. If other queues.. like word order in sentences,.. can be recruited to accomplish the same things that word endings do--for example, easily distinguishing the subject of a sentence from its direct object.

So as languages spread and grow, over time, organically, .. they are far more likely to rely on clues like word order than on word-endings. So "Large" languages are , in a manner of speaking, "simple".

Which, by this Logic,.. English fits both! -- It is Big and Simple.

But not so fast -- English makes up for this simplicity in other ways. When to use the various auxiliary verbs is far from obvious: How would you explain to a learner the use of do in the following? “I don’t normally drink, but I do like a crispy lager on a hot summer’s day.” The first use is simply standard with negative statements: we say “I don’t drink” rather than “I drink not.” But the second do, just a few words later, is quite different. It is emphatic, stressing the unusual behavior on a hot summer’s day. These and other wrinkles can be mind-bending for learners of English.

Another example of a Mind "Benders" in the English Language would be taking a Non-English speaker learning English initially and attempting to explain the difference between (AND All the possible meanings of):

Give up, Give Out, Give Over, and Give in.
Get up, Get Over, Get Down, Get Along, Get on, and Get off.

How about; Why don't the following words rhyme?: Plough, Dough, Cough, and Tough!

Or why Sew rhymes with So but not with Dew or Do!

What Say you, mes amis! Smile




[Image: english.jpg]


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