You Already Know More English Than You Think

July 15th, 2010

English is easy?

So, to build on my last post, which explained why English grammar is impossible, why do nearly every one of my clients at the Lake Tahoe Institute of English tell me that learning English is easy?

They say that English is, for them, easier than learning French or Portuguese or Russian.  On the face of it, that doesn’t make sense, either.

Irregular grammar, irregular spelling, irregular pronunciation would not logically indicate that the language is easy to learn.

My theories

I have a couple of theories that are, as far as I know, unfounded and unproven.  They just come from my experiences here at the Lake Tahoe Institute of English.

First, I think that English, particularly American English, is such a combination of other languages that nearly everyone in the western world at least can recognize words and phrases.  Just as English speakers can study Latin to increase their vocabulary, speakers of other languages can study English to find words or remnants of words from their native languages.  If they speak more than one language, for example German and French, then this only increases their platform.

Something for everyone in English

In English there is something familiar to everyone.Not only do western world non-English speakers regularly find their own language in English, but non-English speakers  everywhere in the world have taken on English expressions in their own languages.

According to Bill Bryson in Mother Tongue, in 1964 just under 10 percent of words used in Japanese newspapers were English, or at least interpretations of English, such as “nekutai” for “necktie” or “bata” for “butter”.  If that was the case in 1964, imagine what it is in this post-modern tech-driven world.

You already know more English than you think

My clients find they already have a large working English vocabulary just from living in the modern world.  Without even trying they know hundreds, maybe thousands of English words.  As they actively study and try to acquire vocabulary, they realize that there are many more words they know or can guess at, coming from a conglomeration of many, many languages.

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