PDA

View Full Version : Mother Tongue against How Hard English Was to Learn



Hwt
December 19th, 2009, 09:32 PM
I'm curious as to how the difficulty of learning English changes between speakers of different mother tongues.

How hard was English for you to learn, and what is your mother tongue?

Kimm
December 19th, 2009, 09:50 PM
I'm curious as to how the difficulty of learning English changes between speakers of different mother tongues.

How hard was English for you to learn, and what is your mother tongue?

I'm quite sure it depends greatly on the quality of the education on the subject. My native language is Swedish, I speak English at a near-native level. However, most Swedes don't (most swedes to understand English, and speak it fairly well, but more often than not, it sounds terrible).

The interesting thing is that Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are pretty much the same language (comparable to dialects), but the overall English-skills vary greatly between these countries.

Lightstar
December 19th, 2009, 10:29 PM
First language: French

English was very easy to learn, for me anyway. Started learning it at the age of 12 maybe, very very basic... and then I had an english class every year in high school (5 years here)

I was doing okay, not the best, but not bad.
What made my english skyrocket to full bilingualism was internet. English has always been the most used language in the online video games or online chat programs I used.

I guess the whole "immersion" idea really does work.

Hwt
December 20th, 2009, 12:25 AM
First language: French

English was very easy to learn, for me anyway. Started learning it at the age of 12 maybe, very very basic...

Just thank God that highly irregular grammatical gender and strong and weak nouns no longer exist in English.



I guess the whole "immersion" idea really does work.

Yeah, if you don't practice a language regularly, you will easily forget it.

Cuddles McKitten
December 20th, 2009, 12:34 AM
The more distant the language is for English, the more difficulty in learning it. Dutch people have it the easiest, Spanish/French/Italian/Portuguese speakers take a bit more time and effort, Slavic language speakers more so, and Asians have it the toughest. All non-European languages have difficulty learning every single word by pure memorization due ot lack of cognates, but Chinese, for example, also have to learn other concepts like plurals, gender, verb conjugation, rigid word order, etc. It's my supposition that it's easier for English speakers to learn other languages than it is for native speakers of those languages to learn English simply because English has so many sounds and so many irregular rules.

Almost forgot: in English, we just take the spelling of whatever language we took the word from, so there's no real rules on how to read anything either.

Hwt
December 20th, 2009, 12:49 AM
The more distant the language is for English, the more difficulty in learning it. Dutch people have it the easiest, Spanish/French/Italian/Portuguese speakers take a bit more time and effort, Slavic language speakers more so, and Asians have it the toughest. All non-European languages have difficulty learning every single word by pure memorization due ot lack of cognates, but Chinese, for example, also have to learn other concepts like plurals, gender, verb conjugation, rigid word order, etc.


Very true, although, I would think that Scots speakers would have the easiest time learning English, given that Scots is in the exact same language family.



It's my supposition that it's easier for English speakers to learn other languages than it is for native speakers of those languages to learn English simply because English has so many sounds and so many irregular rules.

You know, I've often wondered this myself. Although, I wouldn't necessarily say that it's easier for an English speaker to learn a Romance language, for example. You'd be quite surprised by how many English speakers have difficulty pronouncing sounds that are not covered by Grimm's law.

Ex. Compare Spanish \\ to English \\. The English \\ is much more distinct from \d\, while the Spanish one is practically \d\, which happens to also be the letter that represents it.

jwbrase
December 20th, 2009, 01:15 AM
First language: French

English was very easy to learn, for me anyway. Started learning it at the age of 12 maybe, very very basic... and then I had an english class every year in high school (5 years here)

I was doing okay, not the best, but not bad.
What made my english skyrocket to full bilingualism was internet. English has always been the most used language in the online video games or online chat programs I used.

I guess the whole "immersion" idea really does work.

The "immersion idea" is the only one that really *does*. (Which is why I'm in Germany, although in my case the Internet and my nerdish, asocial tendencies are making difficult for me to get the immersion I'd like.)

But *everybody* learns their mother tongue by immersion. Thus the brain is wired to learn language by immersion.

NCLI
December 20th, 2009, 01:18 AM
My mother tongue is Danish, and I found English very easy to learn, so I was pretty much fluent at ag 7, purely from watching movies and playing games. :)


I'm quite sure it depends greatly on the quality of the education on the subject. My native language is Swedish, I speak English at a near-native level. However, most Swedes don't (most swedes to understand English, and speak it fairly well, but more often than not, it sounds terrible).

The interesting thing is that Swedish, Danish and Norwegian are pretty much the same language (comparable to dialects), but the overall English-skills vary greatly between these countries.
While you're right that our three countries share pretty much the same language, both Norwegian and Swedish have a much more distinct tone, while Danish is more bland IMO. It's hard to explain, but I think that's why we're so good at other languages in general.

Now for something concerning only Sweden:
Giv s Malm tilbage, og alt det I stjal fra Kronborg!!! Det er vores ejendom, tak!

gnomeuser
December 20th, 2009, 01:47 AM
English wasn't that hard to learn for me, mostly since it was everywhere and I started playing the type adventure games from Sierra at age 6. I was really good at Leisure Suit Larry, I would play with a dictionary and learn a lot of words that way.

Other languages have proven problematic, I learned French but I never got good at it then having not used it in years I have forgotten most of it.

Currently I am learning Brazilian Portuguese which is I have to admit very structured and yet so unnatural to pronounce for me that it will be a challenge to speak it well.

jwbrase
December 20th, 2009, 01:56 AM
It's my supposition that it's easier for English speakers to learn other languages than it is for native speakers of those languages to learn English simply because English has so many sounds and so many irregular rules.

As far as sounds go, English has a lot of vowels, but a fairly average inventory of consonants. It's nowhere near the record for the total of both, though.

As far as irregularities, English does have quite a number, but is by no means unique in having irregularities.



Almost forgot: in English, we just take the spelling of whatever language we took the word from, so there's no real rules on how to read anything either.

Not to mention the fact that we still write native English words in a manner that reflects how they were spoken 700 years ago (with *major* changes is the vowels in between). But this is not a property of the language itself. It is a property of the traditional way of encoding it. You kan j@st as iezilie r@it it in @ wei dhat d@z meiks sens, thoe. And you doent ievin nied tou youz dh@ Roemin alf@bet. Eir@bik or Srrilik kud olsoe wrk.

Dialectical differences might be a problem for finding a better spelling system, though. Where certain British dialects have 3 vowels "Father, bother/cot, caught", I have one: "Fother, bother/cot, cot", is how speakers of such British dialects would hear what I say (meaning that what I use for all three is closest to their short o), and many Americans would hear something like "Fawther, bawther/caught, caught". (Meaning that what I say is closest to the sound they use in "caught"). The aforementioned British dialects would hear the American dialects in question to say something like "Father, bahther / caht, caught".

VCoolio
December 20th, 2009, 02:07 AM
I'm dutch. English wasn't too hard too (<-- edit, see, spell error) learn; its the same language group. French was much more difficult for me. It's another thing to do it right. For me especially prepositions are difficult; for example in combination with verbs. What goes with 'wait'? Answer: 'for' (I'm waiting for you), where in dutch it is 'wachten op' so that looks more like 'wait up' which means something different. Or what goes with 'laugh' (and who thought of writing "laugh" this way?); to laugh at / about etc.

Also, but it's a known issue, it's a mystery how to spell sometimes. The same sounds can be written in 6 ways, it's ridiculous.
http://www.ee.adfa.edu.au/staff/hrp/useful/EnglishPronunciationGBShaw.html
I rest my case.

jwbrase
December 20th, 2009, 02:25 AM
You know, I've often wondered this myself. Although, I wouldn't necessarily say that it's easier for an English speaker to learn a Romance language, for example. You'd be quite surprised by how many English speakers have difficulty pronouncing sounds that are not covered by Grimm's law.

Not sure quite how Grimm's law comes into it. English speakers have trouble with the German/Dutch/Norwegian versions of sounds that *are* covered by Grimm's law. And English, as well as the other Germanic languages, have each developed their own sets of sounds that weren't around at the time Grimm's law took place, and lost sounds that were around when it did.

In fact, we don't know what exact sounds were involved in Grimm's law. We know approximately what they were because of what they became in later languages, but since Grimm's law did its work several thousand years before anyone figured out how to record sound, we can't pin the sounds down closely enough that we could go back in time and speak Proto-Indo-European or Proto-Germanic (the "before" and "after" languages of Grimm's law, as a simplified explanation for those who don't know) with an accent that would be very intelligible to native speakers.



Ex. Compare Spanish \\ to English \\. The English \\ is much more distinct from \d\, while the Spanish one is practically \d\, which happens to also be the letter that represents it.

Yes, this is because // is not a distinct phoneme to Spanish speakers. You could replace all the //'s in Spanish with /d/'s, and they might think you had a funny accent, but they'd understand you. In English, if you do that (and some dialects do it), then words like "die" and "thy", Dow" (as in "Dow Jones") and "thou", or "there" and "dare", become identical.

In Spanish, you can tell whether a "d" will be a /d/ or a // by where it is in a word, so they're just two variants of the same sound. In English, you can't tell, and which one it is can make a difference as to the meaning of a word.

Mornedhel
December 20th, 2009, 03:10 AM
I'm half French, half Ecuadorian, so my mother tongues would be French and Spanish (ecuadorian variant).

I basically learned English through video games, I think... The first English book I read cover to cover *may* have been a Sim City 2000 strategy guide. At least it's the first I can remember.

Then surfing the Internet and watching movies in the original English brought me to my current level.

I'm also a science-fiction/fantasy reader, and I prefer to read my books in their original language.

razorboy5
December 20th, 2009, 03:18 AM
Korean

was quite young when i learned english, just hanging out with ppl made it much more fluent, but still people say i got a accent on a few words

lisati
December 20th, 2009, 03:22 AM
Try this for size: In Samoan and Maori, you generally keep the noun the same but denote tense and plurals by changing the surrounding words.

Singular: Samoan: ('O) le manu. Maori: Te manu. English: the bird.
Plural: Samoan: ('O) manu. Maori: nga manu. English: birds.

jwbrase
December 20th, 2009, 03:24 AM
I'm dutch. English wasn't too hard too learn; its the same language group. French was much more difficult for me. It's another thing to do it right. For me especially prepositions are difficult; for example in combination with verbs. What goes with 'wait'? Answer: 'for' (I'm waiting for you), where in dutch it is 'wachten op' so that looks more like 'wait up' which means something different.

Well, German has "Warten auf," with "auf" being equivalent to English "upon". English does have "wait upon/on" which generally (although not always, depending on context) means the same thing as "wait for". ("Wait on" can mean "to act as a waiter for somebody" (such as at a restaurant)).


Or what goes with 'laugh' (and who thought of writing "laugh" this way?)

Laugh is written the way it is because we still write English the way we pronounced it in the 12/1300's. At that time, gh was pronounced like German/Dutch "ch" or Dutch "g". English also still had all the "en" verb endings (they were starting to disappear right around that time), so "laugh" would have been something like "laughen," and pronounced approximately like German "Lachen".

Sometime around that time, all the "gh"s in English dissapeared ("night", "through", compare to German "Nacht," "durch") or turned into f's, but the spellings never changed, and probably won't for a fairly long while. (It's fun to research the pronounciation of Middle English and start reading Modern English that way. Alot of it starts to suddenly sound very, very similar to German or Dutch)


; to laugh at / about etc.

Either works in general, though there is a fair bit of context sensitivity. "Laugh at" tends to carry a connotation that the object of the laughter is present, and whatever event or action inspired the laughter has just happened, (or in the case of something recorded, has just been seen or heard, to be pedantic). When used with reference to people being laughed at, it can carry a bit of a connotation of mockery or derision. "Laugh about" carries a bit of a connotation that something has been brought up in conversation, and is not so "close" in space or time (friends laughing about good times spent together in the past). But you still laugh *at* a joke.



Also, but it's a known issue, it's a mystery how to spell sometimes. The same sounds can be written in 6 ways, it's ridiculous.
http://www.ee.adfa.edu.au/staff/hrp/useful/EnglishPronunciationGBShaw.html
I rest my case.

Yeah, and as an American, 150 years after he was born and 50 years after he died, with him being Irish, it's even more entertaining since dialect differences mess with both the pronunciations and the rythym, and you have to figure out how *he* was pronouncing all of it. There are even a few words for which I'm familiar with a different (sometimes more logical) spelling, such as "hiccough" (we write "hiccup"), or "aerie" (I learned eyrie).

There are a lot of words with oe or ae in British (from Latin or Greek, mostly), where American just has an "e" (Foetus/fetus, Encyclopaedia/Encyclopedia, etc). There are a few words in American English that retain such spellings "Phoenix", "Phoenician". In the case of "Phoenix" it retains the "ee" pronunciation, while in the case of "Phoenician" I'd pronounce it with a "o", though the "o" generally gets reduced to a schwa ("uh" sound) in that position anyways.

Eisenwinter
December 20th, 2009, 06:33 AM
My native language is Hebrew (and Finnish, though I forgot Finnish since I rarely spoke it, despite growing up speaking it at home with my mother).

I learned the basics of English at school. Nowdays I speak English fluently, except for words that are rarely used in common conversation, at which point I get somewhat stuck.

I learned English to an almost native level through being online for 8 years, mostly through IRC.

The highest compliment I've ever gotten for my English knowledge is a bunch of Americans asking me if I was an american on tour.

English has no gender grammar, and that makes it really easy to learn. Hebrew has gender grammar.

There are weird things like future-present-past ways of saying a word.

For example Do, Did, Done, for the word "do". Yet for the word "cut" it's Cut, Cut, Cut.

I guess you just memorize those initially, and it comes naturally to you once you have spoken the language enough times.

mamamia88
December 20th, 2009, 07:24 AM
i am no expert at languages but i have to say this. your first language is learned naturally by listening to people speak. after a certain age it is really hard to learn another language.

clanky
December 20th, 2009, 11:52 AM
i am no expert at languages but i have to say this. your first language is learned naturally by listening to people speak. after a certain age it is really hard to learn another language.

there are many factors which can affect this, I grew up speaking both Irish and English as native languages and I think that being bi-lingual from an early age has made it easier for me to learn other languages.

But the only sure fire way to become fluent in a language is to be immersed in it, now that I am living in Englandshire my Irish has become awful to the point of embarrassment! I am sad to say that English is now the only language I really speak fluently. Although I do speak about 5 others to varying degrees.

jayze
December 20th, 2009, 12:15 PM
Maybe it would depend which was your mother tongue..eg..English is not exactly related to Chinese. English has become worldwide for several reasons..(forgetting colonisation):).one being that its a historically bastardised language with a very loose structure( for example if you learn the phrase "I am going to" + the finite verb..you need not bother to learn anything about future tenses.). so is in many ways easy to learn (unless you have a personality that needs lots of strict rules and regs..eg as in written (not spoken) Italian..deriving from Latin)...Language learning has several prerequisites:-bear in mind that language and concept formation are very closely linked...eg the eskimo has 42 words for snow it is said: whereas an average english person just understands snow or maybe slush!.this again makes english easier (less concepts but more descriptive adjectives which one can learn later).........and as a consequence the learning of one language will facilitate the learning of even more languages (add to that the geographical and historical links which might influence which languages you find easy to pick up)..I think language learning depends upon personality to a great extent with adults: if you dont like to be seen to be a fool and are scared to open your mouth for fear of making a mistake you will have a hard time! ...doing is learning!...children pick languages up easily because they are still in the process of concept development..:popcorn: