Teach English in Damiao Zhen - Xuzhou Shi

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As a native speaker, it’s tempting to think that your own language is normal and efficient, but in learning Japanese, German and Polish I’ve become aware of a few different language structures that are either more simple or elegant in other languages, and comparatively complex in English. Grammatical cases are minimally used in English. We recognise them when we use personal pronouns, such as “I have it”, “it is for me”, “it is mine”, but we tend not to use them elsewhere. In other languages, the declension system can be a bit complex, and the combination of declension, the sheer number of cases, and the variations in declension rules can seriously increase the learning curve for learners. For example, Slavic languages tend to have seven cases across three genders, meaning some words can be declined in 21 different ways - a huge overhead when getting used to the language. On the other hand, in some Southeast Asian languages such as Japanese, the declension system involves merely adding a particle to the end of the word in a consistent way, giving the benefits of grammatical case without the extra overhead. In English, the lack of use of grammatical cases means we need to use combinations of prepositions and word order to convey extra meaning. For example, the passive voice in Slavic languages is often simply a case of using the verb in the third person combined with the object in the dative case. On the other hand, English requires the word order to be reversed and the use of extra prepositions, e.g. “I ate the apple” v.s. “The apple was eaten by me” (note the case change for the personal pronoun anyway). Because of the lack of grammatical cases in English, we can’t use word order for emphasis, as it often ends up being too clumsy. This is where the importance of word stress comes into play - this seems to be the main way that we emphasise the important information in the sentence. Another weird feature in English is the reliance on the modal verb “would” for the type 2, 3, and mixed conditionals. In other languages, verbs can be conjugated into a conditional form; for German it ends up further complicating the way each verb can be conjugated (albeit in fairly predictable fashion), and in Slavic languages they simply combine the past participle with a particle to create the conditional form. This seems to feel a bit nicer; the English “I would have liked to have done it” contracts to “Ich hätte es gerne getan” in German. Verb conjugation in English is a little loose, as many verbs will only have two conjugations in any given tense; one for third person singular, and one for the rest - for example, he runs (with an “s”), but I run, you run, we run, you (all) run, and they run. Because of this, personal pronouns need to be used, whereas other languages with stronger conjugation rules can often drop the personal pronouns (e.g. in Spanish or Polish). Finally, the use of articles seems to be one of the least valuable and most confusing parts of English. Definite articles can be valuable for signalling gender and case (as is the case in German), but English has neither of these. We have fairly important distinctions that are signalled by the use of articles (compare “going to school”, “going to a school” and “going to the school”), but these end up being horribly inconsistent, as one goes “to work”, but goes “to the bar”; the opposite simply sounds weird. In Polish they use word order to help “czerwony samochód”, meaning “red car” translates as “a red car”, whereas “samochód czerwony”, literally “car red” translates as “the red car”. Given the lack of value of this vestigial grammatical feature, along with its inconsistent nature and steep learning curve for speakers of article-less languages, this is one feature I would love to remove from the English language.