- Education and Science
English: The Language That Isn't!
Is The English Language the Hardest to Learn
The Hardest Language Known To Man
I am sure you've heard it said that the English language is the hardest language to learn, assuming of course you don't grow up speaking it. I can't tell you if this is true or not, after all how do you determine this, there are just too many variables to consider in ranking the most difficult languages to learn to speak, but I have no doubt that it ranks high on the list despite (because of) its popularity. I do however have one minor nitpick about that theory, and that is that I will strongly assert and stick by my claim that English is not, in fact, a language at all, but a pidgin.
I am no linguist, I haven't made it my mission to know all about the English language, however I've always had a fascination for the subject. The more I learn the more I realize how absolutely ridiculous a language English really is.
Image used with permission from sxc.hu
Factors to Consider
How to determine which is the hardest language
Arbitrarily determining what could be considered the hardest language to learn is difficult at best. After all if you speak one romantic language learning another isn't that hard. Coming from an Asiatic language would most likely be much more difficult to learn any romantic language than say coming from a germanic language. Just as coming from a romantic language it would be easier to learn english than say cherokee.
So how does one truly determine it? Really in the end its up to the linguists to determine, they study the languages and structures, and while I find the subject of languages interesting I am far from a linguist.
What the Heck is Pidgin
A pidgin is a blending of languages so that people who speak different languages, but wish to communicate, to conduct business without difficulty. English unfortunately isn't a nice clean pidgin like the Creole language, but a hodgepodge blend languages. Imagine if someone took all the languages of the world, threw them in a blender and created a "language smoothy" what you would end up with is the English Language.
The English Language is a strange and wonderful beast, it has strict grammatical and spelling rules that it promptly ignores. Nothing about it is logical, it doesn't flow it oozes. As such here is my recipe for an English Language Smoothy.
Prep Time: 1500 Years
Total Time: 3000 Years
Serves: 375 Million
- 1/4 cup Gaelic
- 1 cup Roman Latin
- 5 cup Anglo-Saxon/Danish
- 1/2 cup Old Norse
- 2 cups Norman French
- pinch of Modern Latin
- 1 Cup Greek
- pinch of Modern French
- dash of Modern Italian
- 1 sprig of Hindi
- pinch of Persian
- 1/4 cup of Arabic
- 1 tsp of Maylay
- 1 tbsp of Modern Spanish
- 1 tsp to 1 cup of Native American (depending on location)
- Additional Lanugages to taste
- Take out Gaelic and allow to thaw at room temperature for approximately 11 centuries.
- take half the Roman Latin and force it into the Gaelic, slowly mix in the rest of the Roman Latin over four to five centuries allow to simmer over low heat
- take the premixed Anglo, Saxon, Jute, Danes, and Fresian mix commonly available as Anglo-Saxon/Danish and mix it in over another three centuries while increasing the temperature to high
- acting quickly before the Anglo-Saxon/Danish mix can blend too completely quickly mix in the Old Norse and lower temperature slightly.
- increasing the temperature rapidly add in the Norman french without mixing and allow to mix in naturally over five centuries, do not turn down the heat, mixture may boil over, but that's to be expected, the unwanted bits will overflow first
- Over the next two centuries mix in the Modern Latin, Greek, Modern French, Modern Italian, Hindi, Persian, Arabic, and Maylay as you see fit, turning down the temperature as you go
- Throw in odd bits of Modern Spanish and Native American to taste.
- Season with additional languages to taste
- throw mixture into blender and blend on high until all semblance of logic and sanity are eliminated from the mixture
- Results may vary, the mixture is very unstable and will change depending on region, climate, and the hair colour of your mother's sister's roommate's uncle's hair.
A Brief History of The English Language
The English Language went through several distinct phases, each phase helped define the english language and grow it a little more.
Old English: 450-1000 CE
Middle English: 1100-1500 CE
Modern English: 1500-Present
Modern English can be further broken down into two distinct dialect groups:
Early Modern English:1500-1800
Late Modern English: 1800 - Present
How Many Languages Do You Speak?
Are you fluent in more than one language? If so how many?
All Languages Evolve
What Makes English So Different?
All languages evolve and change over time, they adapt words from other languages into their own. German is a prime example, it developed over time from Gaelic languages and began to adapt in some Latin, Old French and more. Old German is not very similar to modern German, in the same way Old English looks nothing like modern English. So what's the difference?
Well German evolved in a random manner and incorporated words from other languages as necessary. English however did not have this natural evolution to begin with. English was a literal smashing of languages together in an attempt to be understood, English is and always was an invented language, but it was invented on the fly. In this way English stands out from the other popular languages of the world. It was never meant to be more than a way for all the hosts of cultures living in Britannia to communicate effectively with each other. It was not the language of the English court, in fact many many monarchs never bothered to learn English for this very reason, it was seen as a language for commoners, not for statesmen.
The Lingua Franca Fallacy
Lingua Franca simply means the primary language of business. The term derives from a time during the middle ages when the language of the day was French (Franca) so if someone was speaking a foreign language you could simply say to them "Lingua Franca" and there was a good chance they knew how to speak in French and would speak in that Language. Its much the same now, generally in most parts of the world you can simply say "do you speak English" and chances are they do, or someone near by does (not entirely accurate, but close).
Now that I've defined what Lingua Franca is, let me explain what the lingua franca fallacy is. Many have posted that it is obviously a language since so many people speak it. People that is not an argument. Most school children speak pig-latin with relative fluency, in fact I can still do so myself, doesn't make it a language. Defend your position, fine, I love a good debate, but please remember to take a stance that stands up to logical reasoning. The fact that it is the lingua franca means nothing to this debate.
In fact English being the Lingua Franca actually strengthens my case. Considering a pidgin usually evolves in order to make business transactions more efficient a pidgin becoming a Lingua Franca is not only logical, but almost inevitable.
So Why Do I Hate The English Language So Much?
What was my whole point? It seems I ruffled some feathers and some people even got offended by this lens. Let me just say this, I don't hate the English language, its great, it has so many subtleties you just can't find in some other languages. its fun to poke fun at the English language though because it is such a mess. I had fun with this debate, that's what it boiled down to, I truly believe every word of what I said, English is not truly a language.
Is English a Language?
Got a beef with my assertion? Want to voice your opinion... or do you just love the way I have written this. I love feedback from my loyal (and not so loyal) readers. I'd love to hear your point of view, even if its different from mine (aka wrong) .
© 2012 Jeff Johnston