English grammar is renowned for being particularly tricky. We have rules that are not consistent and spelling that doesn’t always make sense, never mind the correct use of punctuation! But how hard is it really? Is the English language really more difficult than other languages or do other languages also incite confusion from participants?
This week, our blog at eSense Translations compares the rules surrounding English grammar to that of other languages and question if we actually deserve to complain about them.
English grammar can trip up even the most able student. Whether they need to check where the apostrophe goes or whether a particular word overturns the spelling rules of its counterparts, there are always circumstances that leave us deliberating. Nonetheless, this doesn’t stop us from having our own pet peeves about the misuse of the English language.
My particular bugbears revolve mainly around spelling; ‘to or too’, ‘there, their or they’re’ and, of course, ‘which or witch’. With the aids of spell checkers, most of our spelling misconceptions can be rectified, sometimes without us even realising (the joy or misery of auto-correct!), but these pesky homophones often escape the checker, making their way onto the page of the reader and mortifying the author when they are finally picked up!
Another English faux-pas, which I was discussing with a colleague only a few days ago, is the misspelling of the lengthened ‘should’ve, could’ve and would’ve’. Perhaps due to the laziness in our speech nowadays, these words are often lengthened on the page to ‘should of, could of and would of’, which, if taking the time to think about, is absolutely nonsense! It’s ‘have’! For example, ‘I should have done my homework, and then I could have watched TV and would have enjoyed my favourite programme.’ There has to be a verb in there for the sentence to work. This particular error does make sense in our rules of English grammar, but there are other countless points that do cause confusion, as they are not so logical.
So how do we fare when comparing English grammar to that of other languages?
I remember when I first started learning French and German and discovered the idea of masculine, feminine and (in German) neutral nouns. It boggled my mind a bit. To be honest, as my foreign language learning did not go past the just about fluent (good job eSense Translations employ fully qualified translators!), I’m still not really sure if the gender of a noun is something you can work out or if it’s something you just have to learn. Please feel free to comment to eSense Translations in the section below.
But what else?
In an article entitled ‘English the Inescapable Language’, English grammar is quoted as being quite unlike any other language in the world. In part, due its isolated evolution, English does not share many similarities with its other European neighbours.
The article goes on to compare the English language with other European languages and shares that in some aspects, English is harder and in other ways not so much.
As above, the example of the noun gender is mentioned. Not having to consider the correct version of a noun and the way in which adjectives, which describe the noun, are altered, make English easier.
Furthermore, we have an easier time when it comes to verbs, having fewer verb endings than for example French and also having surprisingly fewer irregular verbs. It turns out this is not something we can complain about, having only around a page worth of irregular verbs, compared to 16 pages in Spanish!
Where we do have a harder time is with spelling and pronunciation. We have many more vowel sounds than our European neighbour Spain for example, making trying to spell out our words often tricky and illogical. Add to this the fact that we do not have a way of indicating these different pronunciations of vowels, by using accents or markers like in other languages, and it is no wonder we all struggled in spelling class and resorted to learning our words by rote!
And speaking of words, the article reports that we use a lot more of these too! It could be around 1.5 times more than other European languages. In English, we identify subtleties in areas, where other languages may stick to one term. I can only imagine that this adds to the joy of reading and writing in English, allowing us to create and share vivid worlds for one another.
So it seems when compared to other European languages, English is not more difficult. There are challenges in most languages, but these can be found in different places. At eSense Translations we think that perhaps we should enjoy the complexity of our language and not moan about it. After all, it is the intricacies in English that has created great works of literature, bringing alive stories and poems that have been shared throughout the centuries.
By Lorna Paice