Learning English Made Easy

Around 800,000 million people worldwide speak Latin based languages.
Around 800,000 million people worldwide speak Latin based languages.

In today’s increasingly global world of business, the Internet, entertainment, and the media, the domination of the English language is overwhelming. For example, a girl and boy meet on holiday in Thailand. He is from Holland, she from Japan. What option do they have but to try and communicate in English? In love as much as in business and work opportunities, learning fluent English is of paramount importance. But why should this be so?

Why Is English So Popular?

Firstly, the mixture of its linguistic origins makes English rich and versatile. English has its roots partly in northwest Germany and the Netherlands brought to Britain by invaders and settlers during the fifth to seventh centuries. Secondly, dating back to the Norman Conquest in 1066, English also acquired the influence of Anglo-Norman French, a Latin based language. Much later, colonization spread the English language like (literally) wild fire in the conquest of the British Empire.

Benefits of the English Language
You notice it anytime when reading an in-flight magazine on the plane. Any English text printed next to its translation in another language is shorter. The second language usually needs a few more lines of text to convey the same content. Compare the three columns below.

The relative shortness of English versus other languages is evident.
The relative shortness of English versus other languages is evident.

Latin Based Languages

But enough praise for the English language, how can it be absorbed quickly and efficiently, by over 800 million Latin based language speakers spread out all over the world? The circles denote little islands on this map.

Global spread of Latin Based languages.
Global spread of Latin Based languages.

Many Suffixes (word endings) Are the Same

Here is a little known fact: all Latin influenced (Romance) language speakers already possess a huge potential English vocabulary of thousands of words. How is that possible? Let us look at some English suffixes (word endings) comparisons in several other languages.

Common suffixes denote a shared vocabulary.
Common suffixes denote a shared vocabulary.

Words Ending in –ion or –able –ible

In all Latin based languages, With a distinct difference in pronunciation, a slight difference in spelling, and where they are placed in a sentence most words that end on

  • -ion
  • -able or
  • -ible

are the same or very similar. Let us put this to the test with a few examples.

English
Spanish
French
Italian
Levitation has magical connotations
La levitación tiene connotaciones mágicas
La lévitation a des connotations magiques
Levitazione ha connotazione magiche
Adorable babies touch emotions
Los bebés adorables tocan emociones
Les bébés adorables touchent les émotions
Bambini adorabili toccano emozioni
Inflation is not always detectable
La inflación no siempre es detectable
L'inflation n'est pas toujours détectable
L'inflazione non è sempre rilevabile
Vacations are for rehabilitation
Las vacaciones son para la rehabilitación
Les vacances sont pour la réhabilitation
Le vacanze sono per la riabilitazione
The situation is irrevocable
La situación es irrevocable
La situation est irrévocable
La situazione è irrevocabile
This extension is measurable
Esta extensión es mensurable
Cette extension est mesurable
Questa estensione è misurabile
This apparition is most presentable
Esta aparición es más presentable
Cette apparition est la plus présentable
Questa apparizione è più presentabile
The constitution defines what is acceptable
La constitución define lo que es aceptable
La constitution définit ce qui est acceptable
La Costituzione definisce ciò che è accettabile

From the above examples, it looks like it may be easier to learn several related languages all at once. The saying that the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn a new one is very true.

Words Ending in -ant, -ent, -ance, and -ence

Next is a list of only 5 words each in the category of countless words with the suffixes

  • -ant
  • -ent
  • -ance
  • -ence

In French, the words are usually spelt the same as in English. In Spanish, ”-ance” becomes “-ancia”.

-ant
-ent
-ance
-ence
abundant
competent
assistance
difference
distant
continent
circumstance
existence
fragrant
different
distance
influence
instant
intelligent
importance
reference
tolerant
prudent
resemblance
silence

More About Romance (Latin based) Languages

Cognates

Cognates are words in different languages that

  • look the same
  • sound the same
  • mean the same

When I was new to London, aged 25, hardly speaking a word of English, I began to realize that many English words were the same as, or very similar to French. Being fluent in French, my trick was to simply use a French word like for example "journal", and then try to pronounce it in an English fashion. And more often than not, it worked. I later found out that such words are called cognates. The next illustration shows some examples of English/French cognates listed alphabetically.

False Cognates

False Cognates are words in different languages that

  • look the same
  • sound the same
  • do not mean the same

The next short video explains the difference between cognates and false cognates.

Embarrassing Misunderstandings

False cognates often create embarrassing misunderstandings as illustrated by the next unintentional joke.

The Ant in the Beer

An English speaking visitor to a French rural town is sitting in a bar drinking a beer.
He is approached by one of the locals who points at the beer and says "fourmi".
"No, no" replies the visitor "for me, it’s mine".
The Frenchman thinks for a minute and the repeats "fourmi".
The visitor rather exasperated says again "No, no, for me".
This sequence is repeated several times until the visitor, very annoyed, thumps the Frenchman who hastily leaves the bar.
The barman seeing the altercation comes across and explains: “There is an ant in your beer!”
"Oh heavens" says the visitor, "I must apologize to him. Does he come in here often?"
"Yes, every day" replies the barman. The next day the visitor meets the Frenchman again in the bar and apologetically says,
“Come here”
The Frenchman waves his arms about in fright and replies,
“Non, non, pas comme hier!” (= “not like yesterday”)

Adventures of a New Language Learner

To further lighten the load of learning a new language, here are some funny anecdotes I have experienced during my frequent moves from one country to another.

The Sauerkraut Story

At age 12, when we had just moved from Paris to Amsterdam, my bossy Dutch step father was cooking dinner and wanted some "zuurkool" (sauerkraut). He ordered,
'Juliette, quickly go to the greengrocers and get me to go and buy some "zuurkool" for dinner but I protested.
'I can't say that in Dutch, and I'll forget.'
'Don't be stupid,' he shouted, you've got to learn the language, so you might as well start now. It's simple enough, say "zuur"...
I repeated 'zuur'
'Good. Now say "kool (pronounced "cohl")
I copied him and said 'kool'
'Good. Now say "zuurkool"
I said 'zuurkool'
'Very good; you see, there is nothing to it, now just keep repeating "zuurkool" until you get to the shop.'...

My linguistic ignorance turned cabbage into oxygen.
My linguistic ignorance turned cabbage into oxygen.

...Chanting "zuurkoolzuurkoolzuur..., etc.” all along the canal, I turned right where all the shops were, still chanting, but more quietly now that I was among more people in the busy street. When I finally got to the greengrocer shop, a man was standing there wiping his hands on a dirty apron and said something incomprehensible in Dutch but it sounded like a question. I very bravely said,
'koolzuur'. The man looked at me with large eyes, lifted his shoulders and opened his palms. He pointed at various fruits and vegetables but I shook my head, no, no, no, that's not what I want. In the end I left the shop.

When I returned home empty handed, my step father asked,
'Well, where is the sauerkraut?'
'The man in the shop didn't have any koolzuur.'
'Idiot!' my step father said, 'koolzuur means "oxygen" you should have said "zuurkool, you idiot!' He went out and got it himself.

Meeting My First Cockney

Later, I moved to London to complete my studies in Choreology. One day, I wanted to get some bread at the little local grocery shop but my English was virtually non-existent. I was relieved to notice that the bread was neatly laid out in different piles on a shelf behind the counter. Pointing at the bread, I uttered,
'Bred pleeze?' but now the shopkeeper was beginning to make life difficult.
'Wotshlahsst?' he asked.
'No speek Inglies' I replied. And again I pointed at the bread, more forcefully this time. The man looked up in despair and handed me a loaf of bread, wrapped in plastic. On the way home, I read the label on the bread. It said: "White Sliced". Was that really what the man had been saying when he'd said "Wotshlahsst?" I wondered climbing up the stairs to my new room, unaware that I had just encountered my first London Cockney.

Andalu

Much later, when I had just moved to Andalusia in Southern Spain, again not speaking the language, I made friends with my Spanish neighbors. The mother kept introducing me to her friends as ”La Traéra”. Wondering what “traéra” meant, I looked it up in my English / Spanish dictionary but the word didn’t exist in my dictionary. The next day I asked her: “What does ‘traéra’ mean? “Oh,” the mother said, she got out a piece of paper and wrote ‘estrangera’, which means “foreigner”. The people in Andalusia speak a very rapid incomprehensible dialect which often omits to pronounce the letter “s”.

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Conclusion

Over 9000 words may be the same in your own language. Considering that the average native English speaking adult uses a vocabulary of around 20,000 words, you are almost halfway there without even realizing it. Of course it takes more than just vocabulary to learn a language, but now that you know about the suffixes and cognates that English has in common with all latin based languages, there is surely a lot less to memorize than you expected.

I hope that now you know about the availability of such a large vocabulary before you even start learning English increases your confidence and makes learning English much easier. With English at your fingertips, the opportunities are endless. Good luck and let us know how you are getting on in the comments discussion.

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© 2017 JULIETTE KANDO - You may link to this article, but you may Not copy it. Copied content will be reported with a DMCA notice and will be removed.

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