Learning the English Language (and others)

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I read that the reason English is such an easy language to learn - and I might be wrong here but it is because English started out as a trade language - a fusion of Norwegian, German, French and Latin - and then it went from there and evolved into something that could be learned relatively quickly -

Mandarin would be brutal due to the tones - I guess that there are four basic pitched tones and a fifth neutral (toneless) tone - and if you mess up the tones what you said is gibberish -

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I don’t know the history of English but certainly one of the reasons it is the easiest language to learn is that it is the most logical and straightforward. That is why it is also the international language of aviation and the sea. Take the number 98, for example. In Germanic languages such as Dutch or German, you effectively say it as eight and ninety, which is backwards. In French it is quatre vingt dix huit, which is effectively 4 x 20 plus 18. Convoluted and a microcosm of how these languages compare in simplicity to English. English also brilliantly uses the universal word “the”, thereby negating the need to ascribe masculine or feminine traits to every object, which is inane.

My Dad spoke 8 languages at one time including Latin. His second wife, my stepmother speaks Mandarin. He didn’t even bother to try and learn it for the 40+ years they were together and confirmed to me how difficult it was. Interestingly, while doing some searching on the internet a few months ago, many websites ranked the most difficult language for an English speaker to learn as Danish, even over Mandarin and Arabic. Not completely scientific and probably impossible to prove or disprove, but apparently Danish uses many different inflections as you describe for Mandarin and that is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to learn.

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As an English teacher, I can tell you English is not so easy or logical to learn. The main reason English is so prevalent is that it was/is the language of powerful nations that exerted their influence over much of the world.

The way we use idioms and phrasal verbs is crazy hard to learn.

What Makes English Such A Difficult Language To Learn?.

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Yes you can find opinions to support your position and all you have to do is search the internet for wildly varying opinions that can’t be proven either way. In 5 minutes I found articles rating Japanese as the hardest for English speakers to learn as well as one of the top 10 easiest. Dutch, German and French are among the easiest ranked to learn fairly consistently for English speakers. One thing that colours it is what language or languages you already know, which will make it easier or harder to learn certain others.

I do believe English is the easiest language to learn at first instance. It is simple and straightforward. Yes it has nuances as you point out, but so do many other languages that rely on inflection. It is the most precise language and as the most common language is the easiest to practice, which experts say greatly facilitates learning. It doesn’t have masculine and feminine or backwards or multiplied numbers. Now I don’t think English is the easiest to master, just to learn. That is because there are so many more words than any other language and the idioms and such you point out that about 50% of languages have.

https://www.ef.edu/blog/language/5-easy-languages-to-learn/

My Dad, who as I said spoke 8 languages, swore that English was the easiest one he learned. In our roughly 20 person office we have a veritable UN of languages spoken. Dutch, High German, Low German, French, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Tagalog, Nigerian, Farsi, Arabic, Mandarin, Mongolian and Bulgarian. I think I got them all. Pretty amazing actually. I have asked every one of these people, some of whom speak 3 or 4 languages, which one they found the easiest to learn. They all say English. I realize that this is anecdotal but as I said, there is no way to prove whether you or I or someone else is right. It’s not objective enough. At least you know the basis for my opinion.

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I agree that languages like Japanese and Korean are among the most difficult to learn for English speakers, and English is one of the most difficult to learn for Japanese and Korean speakers. They are very different in the way their grammar is organized.

One advantage English speakers have in learning other European languages is that English is such a bastardization of Germanic and Romance languages that there is much overlap with other European languages. But for speakers of non-European languages, that bastardization makes it difficult to learn. Too much overlap and grammatical exceptions and idiomatic expressions. It's very difficult, but fun.

I've been wanting to get this book for a while:
51lnxPKwPOL.SY384_BO1,204,203,200

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I think it is the US Military that lists Korean, Japanese, Arabic and Mandarin as level IV type languages for native English speakers to learn. Meaning that these languages are incredibly difficult. And this is of the major languages.
I read a book on the Americans and their use of the Navajo Code Talkers during the war in the Pacific against the Japanese. In that book it said that Athabaskan languages like Navajo, Apache and the other Athabaskan Languages that you would see in Alaska, Yukon and NW Territories can't be learned if you start trying to learn them after about the age of 5. According to the book you can sort of learn some words and maybe get to a rough level of proficiency with pidgin but any level of fluency is not happening.

On a side note for me it is fascinating that the Navajo and Apache of the US Southwest started out up north somewhere between Edmonton and Yellowknife, and at some point said to heck with it we are heading south. And a few hundred years later ended up in what is now Arizona and New Mexico.

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That's funny because I taught English as a second language to immigrants and from their perspective and all I've read English is one of the hardest languages to learn and it is also very harsh and judgemental. We say, "I broke my arm". Where in Spanish or other languages they would never say that. They would say "My arm is broken, or I fell and it broke". You didn't purposely lay your arm on the counter and give it a smack with a hammer a few times. There are plenty of other examples.
Easy: There, their, they're, over there, there there now, there doesn't seem to be Glen Suitor in the house. Just sayin.

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I think that we should break down learn into a couple of different levels. 1) to learn English, which to me means get a base level ability to communicate with those around you. 2) gain fluency in English which would entail the ability to read and write at some academic level.

I think English is easy to learn - but difficult to gain any significant level of fluency in. Especially if you are coming from an Asian Language such as Mandarin. I crossed paths with a PhD metallurgist from Taiwan - We talked about languages and he said the grammar in Mandarin was easy. He said in English it would be baby talk. But the writing system and the tones are what make that language so messy for English speakers.

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Any given language can be easy or hard to learn. It depends on the individual. A friend of mine who lived nearby raised a girl they brought with them from Hungary like a daughter and she went on to become a Psychologist and Language Translator. This lady could learn a new language fast. She had an 'ear' for various language nuances and as a result she could speak that language perfectly (without an accent).

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Interesting commentary but something else I need to throw out since I do not see it mentioned

"Easiest" language to learn also makes huge assumptions on your starting point

eg For a native english speaker vs a native spanish speaker

I will argue english is not a simple 1st language because there are too many nuances and variations
Its the same reason why I find some languages unintelligible and others quite simple to pick up
Chinese languages are considerably easier than say Vietnamese (despite the fact modern viet is based on a western alphabet and structure after the french rule)

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I would think English spelling is where foreign learners get completely thrown, because you have many languages where one letter = one sound, or at the very least you'll have "pure vowels" that can only be pronounced one way, so when you hear a word you'll almost immediately know how to spell it.

English, on the other hand, comes up with this...

Cough
Bough
Through
Rough

where the "ough" combination is pronounced differently in all four words.

Or a learner wants to expand their vocab and they see this

Edict - e-DICT
Predict - Pre-DICT

Indict - great I know how to say this!

In-DITE

Wait, what???

What languages can forum members speak aside from English?

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https://reallifeglobal.com/is-english-easy-to-learn/

Another commentary above. It gives reasons on both sides of the debate. As mentioned by others and myself, there are various factors that influence how easy English or another language is to learn, most notable the language(s) you already know.

I still think English is the easiest language to learn (not to master) based on the reasons given in the link and others. Having masculine and feminine is ridiculously complicated and unnecessary. English grammar is relatively simple and the language is generally straightforward rather than ass backwards. There are also more resources by far for learning and practicing English. From my personal experience those who know multiple languages that I have spoken to overwhelmingly agree with me ( hundreds in my lifetime). Full disclosure: English is not my first language.

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That sentence alone is grammatically incorrect. But I'm not here to teach an English class. It's almost impossible for native English speakers. It comes down to what are the standards? :slightly_smiling_face:

If you're wondering, it's the lack of a comma between two independent clauses joined with a conjunction.

Lol, not to mention the idiomatic expression "ass backwards".

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Idiomatic expressions are allowed. At least now-a-day. :slightly_smiling_face: That's what I'm told.

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I’m not a native English speaker and I make no effort to be grammatically perfect. I would say that is in line with 99% of the posters on this forum. In fact the rules encourage this and forbid criticism of spelling, grammar, etc. I realize you are not criticizing me personally and just pointing out a missing comma, presumably to highlight how difficult you believe English is. I would counter with the proposition that you could parse any paragraph in any language and find grammatical fault.

Although I believe that I know English gooder than most, I have never had any interest in grammatical perfection. I love English largely because of the massive vocabulary, richness and precision of the language. The double entendres also lend itself better to humour better than any other language I am familiar with.

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No. I was only driving in a point that others would find useful. Personally, I find your posts quite easy to read.

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I actually had originally typed “bass ackwards” but then changed it. The language police are omnipresent. :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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No worries.