English is easy, isn’t it?!

One of the things I did this week was to research online English language tests. I also helped some Chinese friends with their English. Doing these things gave me insights into some of the peculiarities of English. For example, usage of small words like at, on, in, for, and phrasal verbs like get on, get off, put in, put up with, etc. must be particularly difficult to master, I imagine. It’s interesting to see your native language in a different light.

Many aspects of your native language are instinctive to you. Explaining them to others can be difficult – they just sound and/or feel right, but you aren’t necessarily sure why. The same is true for other skills – once you’ve mastered them, it can be difficult to remember how you learnt them, and you might feel that you have always been able to do them. For example, when I teach people juggling and other circus skills, I try to break every move down into small parts and to explain each in turn. Quite often I find myself wondering why things that I find very easy are so difficult for others. Then I remind myself that I’ve been doing these things a lot longer than my students.

My aim when learning other languages is to internalise as much as possible of the grammar so that I can use it without having to grope for the right inflection, gender, etc. With lots of exposure to a language, I eventually get a good feel for its structure. This enables me to speak and write it quite fluently.

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This entry was posted in English, Language, Language learning.

7 Responses to English is easy, isn’t it?!

  1. Dennison says:

    Wow, I thought about the same thing myself, recently. The five Wh’s are quite a challenge for English-learners, n’est-ce pas?

    “Who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why”.. oh, and “how.” Five Wh’s and an H.

    Yikes.

  2. David says:

    My Japanese teacher was telling us that she didn’t know why a ‘desu’, ‘masu’or a ‘ka’ were put onto a word until she started her late years of high school and in university.

  3. Mike says:

    I was recently watching some videos online of a girl in Japan who hits people up with “Suprise English Lessons”. She taught one girl how to say, “I understand,” and then proceede to say, “You understand, she understands, they understand, etc.”
    Afterward, the girl receiving the lesson asked why, in English, we have to include all of the “funny little words” before the verb (the personal pronouns I, you, he, etc.), because in Japanese it is extremely common to drop anything that is understood from context, such as personal pronouns. She laughed at the idea of having to say, “Watashi wakarimashita, anata wakarimashita, etc.”

  4. Laci the Hun says:

    well I can assure you English is a lot more easier then Hungarian… :D

  5. Lev says:

    My native language is Russian, and when I see my kids mastering it, I appreciate how hard it is.
    One truly puzzling thing is that when you prepend a noun with the numeral for 2, 3, or 4 (but not others), you put the noun in singular. I’ve been doing it all my life without noting that it’s absurd!

  6. Chase Boday says:

    To expand on Lev’s explination (because this STILL confuses me as a learner of Russian) When you use ONE to modify a noun phrase, it agrees with the gender of the noun. When you use 2,3, or 4 (or numbers after 20 that end in 2, 3, or 4) , as Lev said, you use the genative singular of the noun, BUT the genative PLURAL of the adjective. For 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, (and all numbers ending with those numbers) use the genative plural of BOTH the noun and the adjective. If this weren’t confusing enough, 11, 12 13, 14 break the rule and follow the 5-9 description above.

    Three crazy mice: три сумашедших мышки
    Six crazy mice: шесть сумашедших мышек

    Get it? I don’t.