The Biggest Challenges a Foreign Person Faces When Moving to an Englis
Feb 11, 2009 English Language Learning (ELL) 2118 Views
Anyone who moves out of their native homeland can encounter many obstacles that will make starting out fresh a very difficult process. The cultural differences alone between two neighboring countries can be like that of night and day, but there are few barriers more difficult to break down than the language barrier. The inability to speak or understand the native language of a country you are entering makes for a very imposing obstacle to overcome, and despite the fact that the English language is one of the most widely spoken, it's multitude of tiny intricacies and nuances make it one of the hardest for a foreign person to get a good grasp of or feeling for.
On appearance alone there are some languages that appear much more imposing than the English language, partially due to the fact that English has many similarities to languages spoken in other counties. In the English language there are striking similarities to many of the characteristics present in Spanish, French and German - so what are the things that make the English language so difficult for a foreign person to learn?
What to Stress
English doesn't necessarily have more regular consonant or vowel sounds than other languages, but how the stress is placed on some of those consonants or vowels that make it such a difficult language for someone who is learning. There are hard and soft consonants like 'c' taking on a 'k' sound or an 's' sound depending upon the situation. There are silent letters in some words and then some consonants that when combined take on an entirely different sound (like 'th'). The unusual combinations and ever present rule changes in the pronunciation of words make English much more complex to learn than it would seem.
Another thing that sets English apart as one of the more difficult languages to learn has to do with verb tense. Some languages have very limited connotations of verb tense, sometimes basically just present and past, making it relatively simple to grasp. English, on the other hand, is a bit more complex in this area - for example in different situations it may be appropriate to use any of the following tenses: present; past; future; past perfect or present perfect - the verb 'choose' can be used in the following forms depending on tense: choose, chose or chosen - this can be very difficult for someone with no familiarity with the language to grasp.
All languages have words, terms and phrases that are used in a situational nature and that, in those instances may not have the same meaning that they would normally have in a dictionary definition. Slang is reasonably common across the board in all languages, but in some areas (especially when talking about American English); slang is more widely used than proper grammar. To be truly comfortable communicating, someone must be comfortable speaking and be able to understand the language how it's spoken within an area - in the US just knowing the language as it's generally taught may not be enough, in every single region or even neighborhood that's traveled to, different slang terms make an almost entirely different language that must be learned.
At times it's not just words used with a slightly varied use of meaning, in some areas there are frequently used terms that wouldn't even be found in Webster's Dictionary, words and terms created by locals, which only locals understand. This can make it exceedingly difficult for someone not familiar with the language to get accustomed to, especially if they don't remain in one area for very a very long period.
English may be the most difficult language for a native of a non-English speaking country to learn, but for the potential benefits that could come along with it, it's most certainly worth the added effort to learn.