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TEFL Peculiarities of the English Language
The English language was created in England. Throughout history, this language has spread to many parts of the world. It is used as a link language for International business and diplomacy.
According to Madhukar N. Gate, it has taken thousands of words from other languages such as French, Latin, German, Greek and so on. We can even find Sanskrit words in English. For example: Guru and Pundit are two Sanskrit words used in English. English grammar is quite simple, in many languages nouns have grammatical gender which makes some verbs and adjectives change. This doesn?t happen in English. The adjective ?big? is used with all nouns such as man, woman, child, book etc, as well as applying to both singular and plural nouns.
Counting large numbers in English is very simple. For example, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, etc forms a series. The next one is thirty-one, thirty-two, twenty-three etc. In other languages, numbers are unrelated and have to be memorized. English has changed some words, which hurt some peoples feelings. For example the word ?Christian name? when many Hindus and Muslims started using English, as it became awkward. So the word Christian was changed to First name. The word Negro caused some offense and was changed to Black person.
About two hundred years ago, Americas leaders changed some spelling. For example British spelling c-o-l-o-u-r was changed to American spelling c-o-l-o-r and a student writing the word (sell) as s-e-l would loose marks in his/her exams. There are certain characteristics of English that cause problems to non native English speakers. These are some of the most common examples that I found during my research, written by Curtis R. Brautigam: The verb-adverb combination is peculiar to English such as ?turn on?, ?turn off? or ?mark down?. In other languages, single specific verbs are used in place of the English verb-adverb combination. A combination like ?turn off? is problematic because in English it has several meanings. You can turn off a light, or you can use the word ?turn off? when talking about something repulsive. Another peculiarity is the verb ?to do? .In many languages the verb ?to do? and ?to make? have the same meaning. In English they are different, which means that sometimes phrases like ?Do you speak English?? can cause problems to non native English speakers.
I also found very curious that when it comes to translating English into other languages, sometimes the size of the text increases when we translate from English to certain Western European languages, and other times decreases when we translate from English to Hebrew for example. I find this fact very fascinating. I also wanted to include this piece of article that I found during my research written by Bill Bryson where he mentions that some people think that in English it is not correct to end a phrase with a preposition. He spoke about Winston Churchill who was editing a proof of one of his books, when he noticed that an editor had rearranged one of his sentences, so it wouldn?t end with a preposition, so he scribbled in the margin ?This is the sort of English up with which I will not put?. Another example that I personally thought was amusing is this dialogue occurred in a place called Hahvahd: ?Excuse me, where is the library at?? ?Here at Havhavd we never finish a sentence with a preposition? ?O.K. Excuse me, where is the library at, a**hole??
In conclusion, what I find so remarkable is how being a native English speaker we articulate in such different dialects and how the English language has such different grammar rules compared to other languages.
Author: Laura Frenandez
Date of post: 2006-08-22