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Frustrated with the English Language

English is such a complicated language to learn that it makes me wonder how it ever became one of the…

By Stephanie Lim , in Blogs Secret Life of an English Teacher , on February 8, 2008

English is such a complicated language to learn that it makes me wonder how it ever became one of the top languages used for business, politics, and the internet. The evolution of English can be dated back to fifth and sixth centuries when Germanic invaders came to Britain. As time progressed, this language slowly morphed into Old English, then into Middle English, and lastly into Modern English.

Learning any second language is difficult. However, some of my former students complained that English is more difficult to learn than French or Spanish. Perhaps it’s the grammar, or maybe it’s simply the variety of regional accents and expressions found in English speaking countries around the world.Most language schools overseas (i.e. Aeon, Geos, and Berlitz) will hire teachers from any country just as long as English is their native language. However, British English, Scottish English, Canadian English and Australian English are quite different from each other due to cultural idiomatic expressions and phonetic sounds. Even dialects within those countries have different variations of accents and expressions.

For the school I worked at, we had a rotating teaching schedule. This meant that for each class, each student would have a different teacher. Some may think this is good for the student to be exposed to the various forms of spoken English, but I think it may actually hinder a student who is learning English for the first time.

Here are some examples of words my students had trouble with because of the complexity of the English language (this is the way I explained it to them):

  • Garbage (North America) = Trash (North America) = Litter (North America) = Rubbish (Britain)
  • Washroom (North America) = Toilet (Asia, North America, Europe) = Bathroom (North America, Europe)

While some students are excited that they are learning all the different ways of expressing one word, others (like my former students) may feel apprehensive and even start to fear learning the language.

I don’t know if there is a solution to this problem or non-problem. Learning the various English dialects is like a double-edged sword for many beginners – it can be fun, but difficult and counterproductive at the same time.