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Peculiarities of the English language All of my life I?ve been told that
All of my life I've been told that English is one of the most difficult languages on Earth to learn, and I should thank my lucky stars that it was my first language and I would never have to go through the agony of learning it later in life. Of course, I thought this was B.S. when I first heard it; after all, I learned English when I was like three years old. How hard could it be'
It wasn't until I began to learn another language, Spanish, that it began to dawn on me just how convoluted and peculiar some parts of our language are. In Spanish, if you can say a word, you can spell it. That's it. Sound it out and you've got it. But English is chock full of all these funky, weird rules for spelling like I before E except after C. Okay, you got that' Now you can spell anything, right' But what about the word weird, that's an exception to this rule that already has an exception in it! So what's the rule there, that weird is spelled weird' I could go on like this for hours. English is full of words that sound nothing like they are spelled, or words that are pronounced differently but spelled the same. In Spanish, if you want to make a noun plural, you add an S to the end of it. But in English you have to deal with plurals like geese, fish, feet, mice, and moose. There are no rules here, these are things that we as native speakers memorized long ago when our minds were young and absorbed everything. But these very things will drive an adult trying to learn English absolutely crazy because there seems to be no rhyme or reason anywhere.
Of course, English is not all nonsense rules and oddly spelled words. We have a simple tense system that is fairly easy to grasp, and our nouns have no masculine or feminine forms, which cuts down on confusion. Its similarities to German and the romance languages make it easier for native speakers of those tongues to learn. I do believe, however, that it is the mixture of German and the romance languages that resulted in many of English's peculiarities.
It's up to us as teachers to find ways to help our students navigate though this minefield that is the English language, to keep them from getting frustrated when they can't read a word like thorough (which I needed to use spellchecker to spell correctly), and to correct and encourage them when they say a person has two foots. The fact that English is spreading around the globe and becoming more and more important on the international scene provides we the teachers with our most valuable asset against English's quirks. The people we are teaching want to learn, or need to learn. The desire is there, and we can use it to help people assimilate our wonderful yet odd language. I'm just glad I'm not the one who has to do the learning.