为什么英语这么难学?
文章来源:未知 文章作者:enread 发布时间:2020-03-18 06:17 字体: [ ]  进入论坛
(单词翻译:双击或拖选)
人们常说英语是最难学的一门语言之一。
It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn.
 
Given the fact that many of the words we use in English stem from Latin and Ancient Greek words – in common with many other European languages – what is it about English that has attracted this reputation for being so fearsomely difficult? And is it really even that difficult, when so many other countries adopt it as their second language and speak it a lot more fluently than we Brits speak other languages? We’ll leave you to make your own mind up…
 
It just makes no sense!
 
One of the reasons why English is known for being difficult is because it’s full of contradictions. There are innumerable examples of conundrums1 such as:
 
There is no ham in hamburger.
Neither is there any apple nor pine in pineapple.
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian2 eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian3 eat?
“Overlook” and “oversee” have opposite meanings, while “look” and “see” mean the same thing.
As native speakers, we rarely stop to think how illogical many of the things we say really are – we’re just used to them. Unless you’ve been brought up speaking English, how can you possibly begin to learn all these oddities? It’s little wonder that people trying to learn English end up feeling confused. But it gets worse.
 
Exceptions to rules
 
One of the hardest things about English is that although there are rules, there are lots of exceptions to those rules – so just when you think you’ve got to grips with a rule, something comes along to shatter what you thought you knew by contradicting it. A good example is the rule for remembering whether a word is spelt “ie” or “ei”: “I before E except after C”. Thus “believe” and “receipt”. But this is English – it’s not as simple as that. What about “science”? Or “weird”? Or “seize”? There are loads of irregular verbs, too, such as “fought”, which is the past tense of “fight”, while the past tense of “light” is “lit”. So learning English isn’t just a question of learning the rules – it’s about learning the many exceptions to the rules. The numerous exceptions make it difficult to apply existing knowledge and use the same principle with a new word, so it’s harder to make quick progress.
 
The order of the words
 
Native English-speakers intuitively know what order to put words in, but this is hard to teach to those learning the language. The difference between the right and wrong order is so subtle that it’s hard to explain beyond simply saying that it “just sounds right”. For example, we often use more than one adjective to describe a noun, but which order should they go in? We would say “an interesting little book” not “a little interesting book”. Both are technically4 grammatically correct, but the first “just sounds right”. It’s a bit of a nightmare for those who are trying to learn, and it may prove one nuance5 too much. (In fact, there is some method to this particular English madness – but it’s quite involved, and beyond the scope of this article to explain it.)
 
Pronunciation
As if the spelling wasn’t hard enough, English pronunciation is the cause of much confusion among those trying to learn English. Some words are very low on vowels6, such as the word “strengths”, which is hard to say when you’re not accustomed to English pronunciation. What’s more, words that end in the same combination of letters aren’t necessarily pronounced in the same way. Why is “trough” pronounced “troff”, “rough” pronounced “ruff”, “bough” pronounced “bow” (to rhyme with cow) and “through” pronounced “throo”? There are silent letters at the start of words, too. Why are there so many words that begin with a silent “K”, such as “knife”? Or even a silent “G”, such as “gnome”? If it’s not pronounced, what’s the point of including that letter in the first place, if it only adds to the confusion of both native speakers and learners? And don’t get us started on the number of hapless tourists who don’t know where to begin with pronouncing a town name such as “Worcester”. Sadly, many English learners have to learn the hard way when it comes to our confusing pronunciation; if you pronounce something incorrectly, most Brits will demonstrate the correct way to you – but not without a little chuckle7 at your expense.
 
Emphasis
To make matters even more complex, the way in which you emphasise8 certain words in a sentence can subtly change its meaning. For example, consider the different ways of emphasising the sentence below:
– I sent him a letter – a plain statement.
– I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter – someone else didn’t send it (or “you didn’t send it, I did”).
– I sent him a letter – this could imply “I sent him a letter, but I’m not sure he received it”.
– I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter – you didn’t send it to someone else (perhaps even “you weren’t meant to read it”).
– I sent him a letter – you sent him a letter, not anything else.
When you’re not used to speaking English, these may all sound the same to you. It’s only by constantly being exposed to English that you start to pick up on these subtleties9.
 
Homophones
 
Confused yet? If not, you will be after this next point. English is absolutely full of homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings or spellings. 
 
A bandage is wound around a wound (“wound”, pronounced “wowned” is the past tense of “wind”, as well as an injury when pronounced “woond”).
The door was too close to the table to close (the first “close” is pronounced with a soft “S” and means “near”, while the second is pronounced with a hard “S” and means “shut”).
I decided10 to desert my dessert in the desert (the first “desert” means “abandon” and has the emphasis placed on the second syllable11; “dessert” is pronounced the same but means a pudding; and the second “desert” means the dry, sandy environment with camels, and is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable).
Homophones exist in the English language that has no fewer than seven different meanings – namely words that sound like ‘course’ and ‘raise’. Most have only two or three meanings – such as “there”, “their” and “they’re” – but that’s still enough to add an extra level or two of complexity12 for those trying to master the English language.
 
Synonyms13 aren’t necessarily interchangeable Flick14 through a thesaurus and you’ll see countless15 groups of words that supposedly mean the same thing. You’d think that this would mean that they were interchangeable – but you’d be wrong. Even words whose definitions are seemingly in the same ballpark differ subtly – or apply to something completely different, because English words can have multiple meanings. You can’t always swap16 words with the same meaning, and this means that it’s easy to end up using a word in completely the wrong way. For example, you “watch” television, and you can either “watch a film” or “see a film” – but you don’t “see television”. But you’re not a “watcher” when you’re doing this – you’re a “viewer”, even though you don’t “view television” or “view a movie”. To take another example, I could talk about a swan’s elegant neck, but I couldn’t swap the word “elegant” for the word “classic” or “chic” (both suggestions I found in the thesaurus when I looked up “elegant”) because these are words that apply to fashion, not birds! If you were learning English, though, you wouldn’t necessarily know that.
 
Idioms
 
English is a very old language, and over the course of many centuries, interesting sayings have been incorporated into everyday language that make little sense if you haven’t grown up with them. “Barking up the wrong tree”, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and “raining cats and dogs” are all examples of idioms that add colour to the English language. If you find yourself starting to use idioms when you speak English, well done: you’ve mastered it!
 
Traces of archaic17 English
 
Though English does ‘move with the times’, there are still plenty of archaic words floating around that you may well encounter (and they may not be in your English dictionary). “Alas” (an expression of grief or pity) is one of the more common ones, but language of the sort traditionally used in the Bible is also still commonly understood, such as “Thou shalt not kill” in the Ten Commandments. This means “You will not kill” in modern lingo18, but the Ten Commandments usually retain this old language. Old-fashioned words such as “apothecary” (someone who prepares medicine) and “shilling” (an old form of English currency) will crop up in historical dramas that you watch on television. You’ll also see old literary and poetic19 references cropping up in popular culture, such as Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be” or Burns’ “My love is like a red, red rose”.
 
Regional dialects
 
We’d imagine that all languages have regional dialects, but when you add the bizarre pronunciations and unique additional vocabularies of the UK’s many regional dialects, they don’t exactly help the poor folk trying to learn English. It’s bad enough for us southerners to understand people from Glasgow, or even for people from Edinburgh to understand people from Glasgow. There’s a broad north/south divide in the pronunciation of certain words, a good example being “bath”, which is pronounced with a short “A” by those “up north” and a long “A” (“barth”) by those “down south”. Of course, every English-speaking country also has its own way of speaking the language; the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all have their own distinctive20 way of pronouncing words. Which you end up using when your native language isn’t English probably depends on whereabouts your English teacher is from, or whereabouts in the country you’re learning.
 
Is it really the hardest language?
 
As we’ve seen, then, English is pretty challenging. But it’s not the only contender for the World’s Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky21 languages include Finnish, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin22. Mandarin’s tone system, for instance, is famously tricky (but when you look at the ‘Emphasis’ section above, you’ll see that English can be just as bad!). Finnish is held to be difficult because of its numerous cases; Arabic because, among other things, its script has four different variations for each letter depending on where in the word it sits. Written Japanese differs from spoken Japanese, and there are three different writing systems – including 2,000 to 3,000 kanji characters that must be learned by heart. It makes English sound easy in comparison!
Ultimately, though, it’s down to the individual whether or not a particular language is difficult to learn. Some people have a natural aptitude23 for languages and pick them up quickly; children, of course, absorb new languages much more easily than adults. The difficulty of a language also depends on its similarity to your own language. You’ll probably find it easier to pick up French if you’re Italian, because these languages use many of the same roots, and the same alphabet. If you’re used to the Roman alphabet then you may struggle to learn oriental languages that rely on symbols, such as Japanese. English isn’t so bad once you get used to it, and it’s probably only commonly talked about as being hard because so many people are trying to learn it. 


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1 conundrums a46e5f8b66d51238c7a4a31d910cc653     
n.谜,猜不透的难题,难答的问题( conundrum的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • After all the conundrums of Hungary, the second Turkish Grand Prix promises much. 继匈牙利站所有猜不透的事之后,第二届土耳其大奖赛许诺了太多。 来自互联网
  • I see conundrums, dilemmas, quandaries, impasses, gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out. 眼看问题经纬万端,进退两难、入困境,死路一条,盘根错节的命定可能性,但找不到明显的出路。 来自互联网
2 vegetarian 7KGzY     
n.素食者;adj.素食的
参考例句:
  • She got used gradually to the vegetarian diet.她逐渐习惯吃素食。
  • I didn't realize you were a vegetarian.我不知道你是个素食者。
3 humanitarian kcoxQ     
n.人道主义者,博爱者,基督凡人论者
参考例句:
  • She has many humanitarian interests and contributes a lot to them.她拥有很多慈善事业,并作了很大的贡献。
  • The British government has now suspended humanitarian aid to the area.英国政府现已暂停对这一地区的人道主义援助。
4 technically wqYwV     
adv.专门地,技术上地
参考例句:
  • Technically it is the most advanced equipment ever.从技术上说,这是最先进的设备。
  • The tomato is technically a fruit,although it is eaten as a vegetable.严格地说,西红柿是一种水果,尽管它是当作蔬菜吃的。
5 nuance Xvtyh     
n.(意义、意见、颜色)细微差别
参考例句:
  • These users will easily learn each nuance of the applications they use.这些用户会很快了解他们所使用程序的每一细微差别。
  • I wish I hadn't become so conscious of every little nuance.我希望我不要变得这样去思索一切琐碎之事。
6 vowels 6c36433ab3f13c49838853205179fe8b     
n.元音,元音字母( vowel的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • Vowels possess greater sonority than consonants. 元音比辅音响亮。 来自《现代英汉综合大词典》
  • Note the various sounds of vowels followed by r. 注意r跟随的各种元音的发音。 来自超越目标英语 第3册
7 chuckle Tr1zZ     
vi./n.轻声笑,咯咯笑
参考例句:
  • He shook his head with a soft chuckle.他轻轻地笑着摇了摇头。
  • I couldn't suppress a soft chuckle at the thought of it.想到这个,我忍不住轻轻地笑起来。
8 emphasise emphasise     
vt.加强...的语气,强调,着重
参考例句:
  • What special feature do you think I should emphasise? 你认为我该强调什么呢?
  • The exercises heavily emphasise the required readings.练习非常强调必须的阅读。
9 subtleties 7ed633566637e94fa02b8a1fad408072     
细微( subtlety的名词复数 ); 精细; 巧妙; 细微的差别等
参考例句:
  • I think the translator missed some of the subtleties of the original. 我认为译者漏掉了原著中一些微妙之处。
  • They are uneducated in the financial subtleties of credit transfer. 他们缺乏有关信用转让在金融方面微妙作用的知识。
10 decided lvqzZd     
adj.决定了的,坚决的;明显的,明确的
参考例句:
  • This gave them a decided advantage over their opponents.这使他们比对手具有明显的优势。
  • There is a decided difference between British and Chinese way of greeting.英国人和中国人打招呼的方式有很明显的区别。
11 syllable QHezJ     
n.音节;vt.分音节
参考例句:
  • You put too much emphasis on the last syllable.你把最后一个音节读得太重。
  • The stress on the last syllable is light.最后一个音节是轻音节。
12 complexity KO9z3     
n.复杂(性),复杂的事物
参考例句:
  • Only now did he understand the full complexity of the problem.直到现在他才明白这一问题的全部复杂性。
  • The complexity of the road map puzzled me.错综复杂的公路图把我搞糊涂了。
13 synonyms 61074ebd64d7f24131fd4b896f51f711     
同义词( synonym的名词复数 )
参考例句:
  • If you want to grasp English, you must carefully discriminate synonyms. 如果你想掌握好英语,你必须仔细区分同义词。
  • Study the idioms and synonyms l wrote down before your test. 学考试前我给你写的习惯用语和同义字。
14 flick mgZz1     
n.快速的轻打,轻打声,弹开;v.轻弹,轻轻拂去,忽然摇动
参考例句:
  • He gave a flick of the whip.他轻抽一下鞭子。
  • By a flick of his whip,he drove the fly from the horse's head.他用鞭子轻抽了一下,将马头上的苍蝇驱走。
15 countless 7vqz9L     
adj.无数的,多得不计其数的
参考例句:
  • In the war countless innocent people lost their lives.在这场战争中无数无辜的人丧失了性命。
  • I've told you countless times.我已经告诉你无数遍了。
16 swap crnwE     
n.交换;vt.交换,用...作交易
参考例句:
  • I will swap you my bicycle for your radio.我想拿我的自行车换你的收音机。
  • This comic was a swap that I got from Nick.这本漫画书是我从尼克那里换来的。
17 archaic 4Nyyd     
adj.(语言、词汇等)古代的,已不通用的
参考例句:
  • The company does some things in archaic ways,such as not using computers for bookkeeping.这个公司有些做法陈旧,如记账不使用电脑。
  • Shaanxi is one of the Chinese archaic civilized origins which has a long history.陕西省是中国古代文明发祥之一,有悠久的历史。
18 lingo S0exp     
n.语言不知所云,外国话,隐语
参考例句:
  • If you live abroad it helps to know the local lingo.住在国外,学一点当地的语言自有好处。
  • Don't use all that technical lingo try and explain in plain English.别尽用那种专门术语,用普通的词语解释吧。
19 poetic b2PzT     
adj.富有诗意的,有诗人气质的,善于抒情的
参考例句:
  • His poetic idiom is stamped with expressions describing group feeling and thought.他的诗中的措辞往往带有描写群体感情和思想的印记。
  • His poetic novels have gone through three different historical stages.他的诗情小说创作经历了三个不同的历史阶段。
20 distinctive Es5xr     
adj.特别的,有特色的,与众不同的
参考例句:
  • She has a very distinctive way of walking.她走路的样子与别人很不相同。
  • This bird has several distinctive features.这个鸟具有几种突出的特征。
21 tricky 9fCzyd     
adj.狡猾的,奸诈的;(工作等)棘手的,微妙的
参考例句:
  • I'm in a rather tricky position.Can you help me out?我的处境很棘手,你能帮我吗?
  • He avoided this tricky question and talked in generalities.他回避了这个非常微妙的问题,只做了个笼统的表述。
22 Mandarin TorzdX     
n.中国官话,国语,满清官吏;adj.华丽辞藻的
参考例句:
  • Just over one billion people speak Mandarin as their native tongue.大约有十亿以上的人口以华语为母语。
  • Mandarin will be the new official language of the European Union.普通话会变成欧盟新的官方语言。
23 aptitude 0vPzn     
n.(学习方面的)才能,资质,天资
参考例句:
  • That student has an aptitude for mathematics.那个学生有数学方面的天赋。
  • As a child,he showed an aptitude for the piano.在孩提时代,他显露出对于钢琴的天赋。
TAG标签: 英语学习 difficult
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