The Struggles of Teaching Difficult English Language Patterns
There are many different types of peculiarities when concerning the English language, and this essay is aimed at the difficulties in teaching those peculiarities to learners that are not fluent in the English language. It can be difficult for native English speakers to progressively learn the subtle nuances as children graduating to young adults and navigating complexities of the language as adults; deciphering whether or not these peculiarities warrant further investigation or retention based on usage and context. These oddities of the English language can be exponentially more difficult for those attempting to learn the English language as a second language, having fully grasped the complexities of their own language only to have to navigate the complexities of another, non-native language to their own experiences, having to decipher context along with learning the basics of a new language.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate David S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The first type of peculiarity I would like to discuss different types of homonyms, which would be two or more words having the same pronunciation or spelled the same but have different meanings and likely different origins, and the intricacies that can be involved in learning these in English when it is not the learner's primary language. Two different types of homonyms are homophones, which are words that are pronounced the same or similar but have different meanings and are spelled differently, and homographs, which are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, and finally heteronyms, which are words that are spelled the same and have different meanings but sound different. Learning these different types of nuances of the English language can be difficult and further compounded when learning English as a second language because their own native language undoubtedly has these types of homonyms that they may already be aware of as well as the confusion of learning these words correctly in the context of their native language.
Another type of peculiarity or oddity in the English language which may not occur with all languages would be words that have silent letters. Words such as knock, gnat, and knife tend to confuse those that are not native English speakers. Tackling this is tantamount to the way Italians pronounce some Spanish words with the "double L" in that they mispronounce these words and adapt them to their native tongues. It can be difficult to correct these pronunciation errors with young learners as they legitimately do not understand the corrections. It can be even more difficult to teach as a lot of these words are needed to learn the basic nouns in the English language and therefore they may have to be taught to younger learners.
Lastly, I would like to touch on one of the most difficult types of peculiarities in the English language, which also can be related to most other languages of the world, that of the colloquialisms and words that are incorrectly used but widely accepted. Colloquialisms can be as simple as contractions used that do not exist such as "ain't" or "gonna" or very specific as people in Wisconsin, USA referring to automatic teller machines as "TYME machines" because the predominate ATM was operated by a bank called TYME, pronounced "time;" this specific example can even confuse people of the same country as in English a "time machine" is a fictional device that transports a user backward and forwards through time. Attempting to teach students of the English language colloquialisms that confuse even native English speakers can be immensely difficult. And lastly, the words that most English speakers use incorrectly, so often so that it has become common usage to improperly use an incorrect word. Examples of these would include: assent versus consent, breach versus breach, compelled versus impelled, and disinterested versus uninterested.
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These are only some of the peculiar ways the English language has taken shape over the hundred years it has been in existence. Navigating through these difficult to learn parts of the language can be daunting for those first learning English, but as with everything, the more it is used, the easier it is to grasp and retain, and the easier it is to accept that there will always be more difficult facets of this language to learn.
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