All languages have their oddities and quirks which learners find difficult to come to terms with, forgetting that their language causes the same puzzlement to its learners. English is remarkably free of such things, being a fairly straightforward language with peasant roots, having lost a lot of complexity along the way. In this post, we talk about learning French when English is your mother tongue.
English Speakers Learning Second Language
English must be the worst language from which to learn another as so many concepts are quite strange to us: gender, irregular verbs, verb endings, word order. The trouble is that all these turn up in most languages which is why it’s the first foreign language an English person learns which gives them the most trouble. Once they have accepted these quirks, it’s no problem when they turn up in the second language they are tackling.
Languages, very simplistically, can be put into two groups (though there are sub groups): analytical or synthetic. An analytical language generally has one word for one idea while the synthetic conveys meaning by changing a word, as in verb endings. For example: ‘I was working’ ‘je travaillais’ ‘I shall work’ ‘je travaillerai’. Of course, all languages have elements of both. ‘Stationmaster’ is a synthetic English word but the French use the analytical ‘chef de gare’.
Verbs cause the most trouble to French learners, not only the endings but the dozens of irregular ones. Apart from the verb ‘to be’ which is irregular in most languages, there are no irregular verbs in English: ‘does’ and ‘has’ instead of ‘dos’ and ‘haves’ in the present tense and a very few odd past participles. You could learn every English verb in the present tense in five minutes.
What foxes those learning English? Spelling and pronunciation. Google ‘I take it you already know’ and you’ll see what they have to put up with.