Bloody English Language
July 29, 2004

It's hard to believe that English is becoming the "language of choice" for the business/technical world. It's hard enough to learn as a first language, let alone as a second, third or even fourth language.

I've been helping my son Nykolai with his spelling home work. Each week the kids are given a list of words to learn and are tested on a Friday. Much fun and we work at it when driving in the car or at the end of the day for his homework.

At the worldly-wise age of six and a half (gotta have the half - that's important you know :) he has discovered the joys of words that are spelt similarly but pronounced differently. He's also discovering that some words are spelt differently but pronounced the same.

The classic today was that food and wood are different by one letter but the "oo" is either long (fewd) or short (wud) with no way of knowing except through experience. Hah! Wait until he gets to comb and tomb :)

Then, of course, he's already meeting there, their and they're - all pronounced the same bloody way. Hah again! I'm waiting for the moment I can run this line at him:

"As I sat with you under the yew a ewe strolled by."

Officially, it's about sitting with someone under a tree and watching a sheep but if you're not up with your trees and animals, the mind boggles! :)

My second language is Spanish and I've really got to hand it to a language where you pronounce it how it's written. No silly "i before e except after c" or plain old "you just have to know how it sounds" situations. Once you get the hang of the vowel sounds and accent marks, you're away. Sure, it has irregular verbs (shudder) but don't most languages?

Anyhow, I'm off to see if I can't relearn my French and German (they got kicked out due to disuse when I learned Spanish - whoops :) and learn some more Thai. I figure the languages to watch though are Mandarin and Hindi, just by population numbers alone. Add in the fact that China/Asia and India (technically, also part of Asia :) are likely to be the "new barbarians" that take over after the fall of New-Rome (aka the USA), well, ni hao ma? :)

For now, here's a few other pages with rather amusing comments on the perils of pronouncing the English language :)

Cheap Thoughts on English

Poems on the perils of English pronunciation

Yet another poem on the pronunciation perils