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What do you find most difficult about English?

  1. Dec 27, 2011 #1
    For non native speakers here. For example, the spelling, the grammar (be specific please), the sentence structure, the vocabulary, etc.

    One specific example that comes to mind: the way the word "over" is used. It can mean "above" contrasted with "below"; or as contrasted with "under". It can also be used in the sense of "over there", which is not contrasted with "below there" or "under there". Then there's "It ain't over 'tll it's over." Here it means something like "finished" or "completed" which are not prepositions, but past participles used as predicate adjectives. Then there are phrases like "Over and out." or "Over to you, Joe." Here "over" does not mean "above" or "completed" but may mean something like "Over there." except that Joe isn't over there, but here, sitting right next to you.

    Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to hear what, if anything, bugs you about English. Also feel free to praise the language and say why you like it better than some other language(s).

    EDIT: I just had to add that famous British quip from WWII about the Yanks being "Overpaid, oversexed and over here!" Here it means "excessively" in the first two uses.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 27, 2011 #2
    What I like about English is that most of the phrases are the same for both masculine and feminine cases. If you look at slavic languages there are different words for the masculine and feminine cases.
  4. Dec 27, 2011 #3
    I don't find "over" to be very difficult. But some english things bother me.

    For example:
    - I'm talking with him
    - I'm talking at him
    - I'm talking to him
    I have no idea which one would be the most correct form.

    The difference between to and too bothers me as well. I can't ever remember that.

    Things like advice vs. advise are also quite difficult.
  5. Dec 27, 2011 #4
    It's easier to learn than Chinese.
  6. Dec 27, 2011 #5
    Most annoying thing I find is missing out on words and such .. They are very hard to spot out! Like writing "I am to school" when I am thinking "I am going to school".
  7. Dec 27, 2011 #6


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    English must be horrible to learn as a second language!

    It would be "I'm talking to him". To make the others more correct [sic] you could say "I'm having a conversation with him" or "I'm shouting at him".

    'Too' generally means more than one, or as well, so you could remember it as having more than one letter o (I have no idea if that helps or hinders!).
  8. Dec 27, 2011 #7
    Thanks!! I really like people pointing out mistakes. It helps a lot!
  9. Dec 27, 2011 #8
    At least there are schools that teach it. My wife was never able to find a school that teaches English as a third language. The part she finds most difficult is "Yes, you're right."
  10. Dec 27, 2011 #9
    I think all three are acceptable, but in different contexts. "I'm talking with him." to me, conveys a kind of ongoing process more than "I'm talking to him." particularly if it's in the third, rather than the first person. "I'm talking at him." is used in a negative way, meaning it's a one sided conversation where the other person is not engaged.

    to - a proposition or when preceding a verb to make the infinitive."He came to the meeting just to irritate me."

    too- an adverb meaning excessively or also. "I too sleep too much."

    Advice- a noun. "Take my advice." Advise- a verb "I advise you not to take my advice."
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2011
  11. Dec 27, 2011 #10

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    Warning: This could be an across the pond issue. American and British English differ in subtle ways.

    I would say that "talking at," "talking to," and "talking with" are subtly different.
    "Talking at" means you are talking but no one is listening.
    "Talking to" means you are talking and someone is listening, but it's one-way.
    "Talking with" means a two-way conversation.

    Scenario: You have a mess of equations on a piece of paper, and even more bouncing about in your head. (Or code one part written, one part diagramed, one part in your head.) You've been at this for a couple of hours. The pieces are about to come together when a small part of your brain senses a slight increase in the background noise. Ignore it! (Note well: At this stage in the mental juggling act a fire alarm would be a slight increase in the background noise.)

    Easy to ignore -- until your SO gets right in your face and says "I was talking to you. Did you hear a word I said?"

    Your response is to
    • Get angry at the mental juggling work that just hit the floor and snap back "No, you were talking at me. Talking to me would mean that I was listening."

      While technically correct, this is a good way to get a much longer "talking to," followed by a night or two or three in the dog house.

    • You think back to when you first noticed the slight increase in the background noise. Ouch. A good ten minutes ago. That, coupled with the throbbing vein you see calls for a diplomatic response. "Oh, I'm sorry. I was lost in thought. Please give me just a couple of minutes to jot my thoughts down and then I'll talk with you."

      Those couple of minutes will give you a chance to save some of your work and give her a chance to calm down just a bit.
  12. Dec 27, 2011 #11


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    Too="in addition; also; furthermore; moreover..."
    Whereas Two="a cardinal number, 1 plus 1..."

  13. Dec 27, 2011 #12
    We were on the train and I was talking to my wife, not about anything important, just talking to relieve the boredom. I started talking in Philadelphia and kept talking to Albequerque. That's when she gave me a good talking to.
  14. Dec 27, 2011 #13


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    Correction. To ≥ 1.
  15. Dec 27, 2011 #14


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    English, 3rd language I speak/read the best. I'd give it a 3 to 4/10 of mastering compared to my native tongue but it's a gross guess.
    Pronounciation for me, a clue I've no idea many times. For instance take the word "pyramid". How on Earth is it pronounced?
    Peerameed? Pie-rameed? Peeram"ide" like the "ide" in "hide"?
    I don't know how to pronouce "sure". The u.
    And many, many more words.
  16. Dec 27, 2011 #15


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    the 'mid' rhymes with kid, lid, did

    rhymes with her
    although some English dialects do weird things with this word, like "shoo-er", but that's clearly wrong :tongue2:
  17. Dec 27, 2011 #16
  18. Dec 27, 2011 #17
    Sounds familiar. My other is Japanese, but I don't recall her ever saying that to me either, although she speaks perfect English. In fact, she's a linguist. She's qualified to teach English as a first, second, fourth or fifth language. However, for some reason there's no approved program for teaching English specifically as a third language. Of course you can enroll in a course for English as fourth or fifth language which is what she did. She did find a program for Albanian as a third language so she could then take English as a fourth language.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2011
  19. Dec 27, 2011 #18


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    English is a really screwed up language and I've been speaking it my whole life.

    It's almost like someone decided to get five or six languages and just put them in a blender and the result is the English language.

    At least with a language like german, you know at least how to pronounce the word from the carets and the umlaut symbols and the hats. With english its always memorizing the exception to the rule.

    I used to learn japanese in school and the only thing I didn't like about that language was the insane amount of symbols that you needed to learn if you wanted to master the language. Same thing with other asian languages like cantonese though.
  20. Dec 27, 2011 #19


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  21. Dec 27, 2011 #20
    I pronounce SURE (as in sure thing) the same way as SHORE (as in sea shore). :S
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