I interviewed a lot of people and almost all of them told me about their problems with English. But none of them did know why…
That is why I consider my topic “How and why we learn English” to be actual, interesting and up-to-date. Let me then start…
How we learn English
Two English Languages.
Everyone has had problems using English language as effectively as it should be used.
Many, if not most, of our problems with English develop when we forget that there are two closely related but essentially different kinds of English - spoken English and written English. To use the language effectively, we have to be able to switch from one of its forms to the other with ease. If these two forms of English were identical, we could simply apply one set of rules to both, and many of our problems would disappear. But, unfortunately, spoken English and written English is not the same thing. And you simply can’t ignore their differences.
When we speak, we don’t have to worry about spelling, punctuation and capitalization, or neatness and legibility. But when we write, these things become very important. When we speak, we can correct ourselves immediately if our listener doesn’t understand. But when we write, our writing must stand alone and explain itself without us. When we speak, our words vanish in the air. But when we write, they remain for everyone to see. Small wonder that speaking seems so easy and natural; writing, so difficult and forced. Small wonder, too, that others are more critical of the way you write than of the way you speak.
Because people from different parts of the country and different backgrounds speak English differently it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to establish hard-and-fast rules for a standard spoken English. But while people may expect varieties of spoken English to “sound” different, they expect written English to “look” the same. This is why fairly rigid and universal standards for written English have been established and why these standards are taught in schools. In fact the sort of “good” English an educated person is expected to use is called Standard English – or, more accurately, Standard Written English.
To be successful in school and in the workaday world, we’ll have to demonstrate our mastery of the basic skills necessary for using English effectively. These essential skills include being able to write clear, complete, well-constructed sentences; being able to use the right word at the right time; being able to punctuate and capitalize correctly; being able to spell correctly; and being in command of a good-sized dictionary.
Now I would like to offer to your attention useful advice for learning English:
1. Learn six new words every day.
Make up vocabulary charts and memorize them.
Try to become aware of the grammar system and learn the rules of it.
Listen to the radio and watch TV, go to see films or plays in the new language.
Ignore difficult words and try to get the general meaning of what you are reading.
Repeat sounds several times to get them right.
Try to think in language you are learning.
Be willing to practice.
Find friends who speak the same language.
Be willing to use the language in communication.
Get a pen pal to write to in the foreign language.
Find some sort of association for new words (visual, auditory).
Find the meaning of unknown words by breaking them to pieces (prefix, root and suffix).
Be critical about the way you use the language and correct yourself.
Compare your language (native language) with the new foreign language to see similarities and differences in structure.
I do think that all of them are quite important and there is no use explaining the sense.
British English and American English: One language or two?
The English language is at present spoken as a native language by millions of people spread over four continents. Can it therefore be one language or must it have many varieties? You don’t have to be a linguist to admit that it must vary. It is an obvious fact now that every language is always changing. New concepts and ideas are created with the rapid development of civilization. American English, for instance, was influenced by native American languages and by the languages of other colonists, French, Spanish, Dutch and German.
Different varieties of English are used in Great Britain, in the United States of America, in Australia, in New Zealand, in South Africa and in Canada.
If there are so many varieties of English, which one should we learn? Either American English or British English, as those are languages of the two countries that shape the life of our planet. What is American English, then?
We can start with looking at the question of whether American constitutes a separate language from English. Henry Louis Mencken wrote an interesting book called “The American Language”, first published in 1919. The book contains the most complete survey of what is called American English. H.L.Mencken regarded British- and American English as separate languages. His book demonstrates the distinctness of American English, and stresses American linguistic creativity and independence. In fact, however, he was leading an anti-colonialist campaign about the language Americans use. Although political independence from Britain had been gained more than a century before, the influence of accepted canons of usage was still felt to be imposed from London. Mencken told that Americans had no need to be modest about their own characteristic form of English. Once he had pointed this out, it was obvious to everyone that an American English tradition was clear, and by accepting this fact it was no longer necessary to press for the idea of a separate American English. I should add, that if we take into consideration the mobility of tourists, the exchange of literature, press, films, and TV then we will easily understand that British and American English mutually influence each other.
Is there such a thing as Standard British? There is! It is the language of the educated class of people centered in London and its vicinity, and spoken by BBC radio announcers. The differences between American English and British English are considerable. Different words are used for the same common objects, and they may be spelled differently, different phrases are used, and different sounds are heard in speech. I’ll illustrate the main groups of the differences:
The main groups of spelling differences
(1) The colo(u)r group. Most words of this type are from Latin or French:
arbo(u)r, armo(u)r, endeavo(u)r, favo(u)r, hono(u)r, humo(u)r, labo(u)r, odo(u)r, neighbo(u)r, rigo(u)r, savo(u)r, tumo(u)r, valo(u)r, vigo(u)r.
The ending -our becomes -or in American.
(2) The centre/center group. In words of this type British English has -re and American English -er, and the difference is exclusive. The chief members are of non-Germanic origin and are:
fibre/fiber, goitre/goiter, litre/liter, meagre/meager, mitre/miter, sabre/saber, sombre/somber, theatre/theater; centred/centered; centrefold/centerfold.
(1) The instil(l) group. In such words, British English has a single written vowel plus -l, and American English has a single written vowel plus -ll, and all disyllabic verbs stressed on the second syllable:
distil(l), enrol(l), fulfil(l), instil(l), etc.
Exceptionally, extol prevails in American English over extoll. In American English -l in a syllable that is not stressed is not doubled.
5)The -ize/-ise group. Some verbs can only have -ize: capsize, seize. In some, only -ise is possible: advise, surprise. In many, both -ise, -ize are possible, as in civilise/civilize, organise/organize. For such verbs American English has systematic, exclusive -ize, and British English has both -ize and -ise.
Conclusion. Where differences exist, American English spellings tend to be shorter than British English spellings:
According to Tom Mcarthur there is no analogous basis for comparing British English and American English pronunciation.
(1) A few words have their stress on a different syllable:
AmE -----> BrE
· address -- address
· cigarette -- cigarette
· detail -- detail
· garage -- garage
· laboratory -- laboratory
5.0.1 In American English 'r' occurs before vowels and before consonants, and also word-finally:
air, are, arm, bear, beer, more, care, deer, fear, hair, or, peer, pure, wear, work, etc.
5.0.1 In American English when 't' occurs between two vowel sounds it is pronounced as 'd':
bitter, catty, latter, utter, shutter, water, waiting, writer, etc.
The most common differences can be grouped under three headings:
· differences to do with the verb
· differences to do with the noun and pronoun
· differences to do with the preposition
5.2 Vocabulary and idioms
It is possible to distinguish three types of vocabulary:
5.0.1 The common word-stock
The greater proportion of English words are common to both main forms of English. Words such as man, woman, fish, sky, tree, week, math, green, hot, smell, and thousands of others are exactly the same in both kinds of English.
5.0.2 Common ideas, different words
The second category is a large number of items where an object exists in both British and American culture, but where different words are used for them in the two forms of English.
'e.g.' Differences in the organization of Education in Britain and America lead to different terms:
AmE -----> BrE
· public school -- maintained school
· private school -- public school
· grade school -- elementary school
· high school -- secondary school
· grade -- mark
· student -- pupil
· semester (quarter) -- term
· required (subject) -- compulsory
· graduate -- post-graduate
· electives -- subsidiary subject
· dissertation -- thesis
· Associate Professor -- Reader
· Assistant Professor -- Senior Lecturer
· Instructor -- Lecturer
· anyplace -- anywhere
· someplace -- somewhere
· noplace -- nowhere
· attorney -- barrister, solicitor
· hood -- bonnet (of a car)
· trunk -- boot (of a car)
· fender -- bumper (of a car)
· suspenders -- braces
· automobile -- car
· parking lot -- car park
· cab -- taxi
· candy -- sweets
· French fries -- chips
· checkers -- draughts
· elevator -- lift
· fall -- autumn
· fine -- good
· outlet -- power point
· windshield -- windscreen
American English and British English sometimes have slightly different idioms, such as:
AmE -----> BrE
· a home away from home -- a home from home
· leave well enough alone -- leave well alone
· a tempest in a teacup/teapot -- a storm in a teacup
· blow one's own horn -- blow one's own trumpet
· sweep under the rug -- sweep under the carpet
5.0.1 Words with no counterparts
The third category covers words for ideas and objects in American English which have no counterparts in British English.
1. GEOGRAPHY: gulf, prairie, canyon; state, downstate, upstate; downtown, uptown, ranch, etc..
2. GOVERNMENT: Congress, Senate, veep, honeymoon, House of representatives, President-elect, State Department, Attorney General, etc..
3. Others: drive-in-cinema, hot dogs, hamburgers, potluck, yard sale, popcorns, Manhattan, Times Square, toothpick, die-in
From what has been said above, it is clear that American English is a variety of English Language with its own identical aspects, different kinds of dialects which are conventionally treated under four broad geographical headings: North, Coastal South, Midland, and West.
From my point of view American English is a beautiful and original language. If I had to choose between the languages I would choose the American spelling (it is shorter), but English pronunciation (in my opinion it is more melodious and romantic)!
Additionally I am to say that the whole body of the language is the same. Its similarities still predominate so it won’t be the case that if you learn British English you will have to use a dictionary when you go to the United States, or Canada, or Australia.
Why we learn English
The most important reason for learning English is: