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7 Worst Things About English

Saturday, October 8, 2011

1. The past tense.  Sure, there are irregular verbs in Spanish, but not this many.  Some are just really different: Buy –> bought,  go –> went.  Sometimes it’s the same, like hit –> hit (Today I hit the target.  Yesterday I hit the target).  Sometimes it’s the same spelling, but different pronunciation, like read –> read (Today I read a book.  Yesterday I read a book).

2. Pronunciation inconsistencies.  Sometimes I get on my students to pronounce the end of words, especially the third person s (She walkSSSSSSS) and plurals (I talked to three studentSSSSSS), but then they ask why there is no “t” to be found when I say a word like “right”.

3. Making questions.  Sometimes you flip the verb and subject (You are happy.  Are you happy?).  Sometimes you add “do” and “does”.  Then there is who/what/when/where/why/how many.

4. “Did”.  In the question, “When did you last go to the movies?”, “did” takes care of the past tense, “go to” remains in present, but the response is, “I last went to the movies…”  Isn’t that confusing?

5. The American t –> d pronunciation.  Where is the “t” in the word “butter”?  The difference between “later” and “ladder” is the vowel, because “t” and “dd” have the same pronunciation.

6. Vowels.  An adult student suggested I teach the sound of each vowel in English, and I pretty much laughed.  There’s diphthongs, sometimes the same letter is different in different contexts, and I don’t even know the rules that do exist.  All I know is that to teach kids the difference between “ih” as in ship and “ee” as in “sheep”, show that for “sheep” you should be able to bite on your pencil, but not for “ship”.

7. “Th”. This sound only exists in English.  I like to teach it by standing in profile to show my tongue sticking out.  I get all my students (if kids) to stick out their own tongues (popular), and then I show with my hands how you slide it in as you make the sound.  So far, I haven’t gotten into the fact that there are actually two pronunciations of th: check out “three” versus “the”.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. m p r permalink
    Saturday, October 8, 2011 9:51 pm

    I love everything about this. Also: you.

    I’ve been trying to teach myself Korean and the hardest thing is that it has so many more sounds than Japanese; Japanese is blessedly simple in its phonetics and I’m not just saying that because it’s been in my life for ten years. Literally, here is every sound in the Japanese language. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMzxGTsCxEk&feature=related (well, some of them combine to make sounds like kya and sha and cha but the VOWELS. They’re so flat and so easy and there are only five of them and they sound the same all. the. time.)

  2. Saturday, October 8, 2011 9:58 pm

    Ah, consistent vowels, what a dream. Isn’t part of the problem with English that the Roman alphabet was made for, you know, Latin, and the further we get, the worse it is at actually reflecting the sounds we make? Spanish vowels are much more straightforward.

  3. David Russell permalink
    Sunday, October 9, 2011 6:59 am

    Wow, it is convenient to have English as one’s first language. All of what you list must be maddening to assimilate. The closest I get to understanding the challenge is in teaching spelling to my middle schoolers. It can be maddening to them, and they are mostly native English speakers.

  4. Sunday, October 9, 2011 9:45 am

    Yes, spelling in English is terrible. Where are the rules?

  5. Sunday, October 9, 2011 3:13 pm

    ¿Qué piensas sobre pretérito e imperfecto? Estar y ser? Algo totalmente nuevo: subjuntivo?

    • Sunday, October 9, 2011 3:51 pm

      Es cierto, hay un montón de cosas terribles de español! Pero lo que me gusta es que cuando tu ves una palabra, sabes como pronunciarla, lo que no se puede decir de inglés. Espero que estés muy bien en Puebla! Saludos!

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