What are easiest, and hardest languages, to speak, and then write?

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

If you’re an English speaker and wish to learn some other languages, where should you start? If it were me, lazy me, I’d probably go with the easiest choice.

According to Victor Mair, writing for the Language Log, I should learn to speak, but not write, Mandarin. He thinks it is the easiest to grasp. Contrast that with Sanskrit, or written Chinese, which he ranks as a little harder.

  • Mandarin (spoken)
  • Nepali
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Sanskrit
  • Chinese (written)

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There are 3000 words for being drunk (but I can’t remember any)

Thursday, 9 February, 2017

The English language is said to be possessed of no fewer than three thousand words for being in a state of intoxication, or drunkeness, says British lexicographer and etymologist Susie Dent, writing for the BBC.

“Alcohol” itself is 800 years old, taken from the Spanish Arabic al-kuhul which meant “the kohl”, linking it with the same black eye cosmetic you’ll find on any modern make-up counter. The term was originally applied to powders or essences obtained by alchemists through the process of distillation. This included both unguents for the face as well as liquid spirits of the intoxicating kind.

What – I wonder – does that say about English speakers?

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The first rule of proper English? There is no proper English

Wednesday, 25 March, 2015

I am, sometimes, and who knows why, asked to offer my advice (I almost said advise), as to what constitutes correct, or proper, English, in certain circumstances. Not an easy question really to answer, given 1200 million people, all across the globe, speak the language.

The user base is simply too diverse, too spread out, too alive and in the moment, to make the imposing of lasting rules possible. Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t learn the rules, or conventions first, before you go – as it were – breaking them.

The grammatical rules invoked by pedants aren’t real rules of grammar at all. They are, at best, just stylistic conventions: An example would be the use of a double negative (I can’t get no satisfaction). It makes complete grammatical sense, as an intensifier. It’s just a convention that we don’t use double negatives of that form in Standard English.

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Idioms from languages other than English

Thursday, 26 February, 2015

Idioms. Where would we be without them? We probably use them so frequently that we’re not aware we actually are. “Add insult to injury”, “back to the drawing board”, “costs an arm and a leg”, or “kill two birds with one stone”, to reference but a few, that English language speakers commonly use.

I doubt we could go too wrong by incorporating such phrases from other languages into our vernacular though, even if their meaning may not be entirely clear, at least at first.

For starters, there’s “to buy a cat in a sack”, from German, or “to slide in on a shrimp sandwich” from Swedish, or “to jump from the cock to the donkey”, from French, although there are many more to choose from.

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An English teacher is far more than a teacher

Thursday, 5 June, 2014

Advice for English teachers, from an English teacher. I am grateful my high school English teacher took the time to not only read what I wrote, but also offer some favourable feedback. I may not be working in the field I am today else wise…

You may be the only person who will ever read their sonnets, or their prose poems, or their dystopian novellas. Don’t take that privilege lightly.

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The English language is very much the some of its parts

Monday, 7 January, 2013

How do you spell HERE?

H-A-I-R.

Wrong, it’s H-E-A-R.

Just how does the English language end up with so many words that sound exactly the same, yet have quite different spellings and meanings? Part of the answer lies the way the language has developed over time, in particular the influences of Latin and French, and the way people have spoken during different periods, among other things.

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It began in Anatolia, the English language originated in Turkey

Wednesday, 29 August, 2012

Maybe this is why I had the feeling I was re-visiting a place I’d lived in many years earlier (even though I’d never been there before) while I was in Turkey… it is highly possible the English language originated in Turkey some nine thousand – give or take – years ago.

Commenting on the paper, Prof Mark Pagel, a Fellow of the Royal Society from the University of Reading who was involved in earlier published phylogenetic studies, said: “This is a superb application of methods taken from evolutionary biology to understand a problem in cultural evolution – the origin and expansion of the Indo-European languages. “This paper conclusively shows that the Indo-European languages are at least 8-9,500 years old, and arose, as has long been speculated, in the Anatolian region of what is modern-day Turkey and spread outwards from there.”

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India, home to its own English language words

Wednesday, 1 August, 2012

A couple weeks ago I linked to a list of words that originated in India, or on the Indian subcontinent, that have become so much a part of the English language they almost seem endemic to it (if that is really possible of course… scroll down to “English” heading).

Not only has India played a part in augmenting English though, it is also one of the only places where certain English words, such as wheatish, stepney, and prepone, are ever used.

I need to prepone some meetings to arrange for the trip so I need to rush due to the same, but not to worry, I will keep you initimated of my progress. Will give you a missed call when I deplane upon returning back.

(Thanks Jessica)

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You and whose empire?

Monday, 16 July, 2012

Shampoo, pyjamas, and veranda, are but a mere few words that have been absorbed into the English language, that are of Indian, or sub-continent, origin.

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The universal form of English may not be English as we know it

Thursday, 10 November, 2011

While English could well become a universal language, in doing so it may assume a vastly different, unfamiliar, format:

Madhukar Gogate, a retired Indian engineer, has independently come up with an idea for something he too calls Globish. It would use phonetic spellings to create what he considers a neater form of English. This could become a global language enabling links between people from different cultures. Meanwhile Joachim Grzega, a German linguist, is promoting Basic Global English, which has a mere twenty grammatical rules and a vocabulary comprising 750 words that learners are expected to supplement with an additional 250 words relevant to their individual needs.

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