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Language oddities


Arthur B. Funky
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Without being all hoity-toity, the English language is peculiar.  I think we can all agree. :)

What are the language oddities that make you smile, wind you up, generally confound or confuse people?

Niche (French of course) to nitch (American pronounciation); it's niche Americans, learn it!

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Not being a snidey wanker about it like a previous poster, as an English language teacher I feel this all the time. Phrasal verbs are the worst for this - so often students will be compelled to get right down to the nitty-gritty and establish WHY something happens (which is annoying because in English, most of the time there is no real set reason). It's led me to tell my adult students straight up when they ask me "Why is X like like this..." "Because English is a shit". Not  many of us really appreciate how fortunate we are to have English as our mother tongue. It's a constantly confusing language.

Languages are absolutely fascinating though. The fact that the same very similar word can exist across an entire continent for the same object never fails to blow my brain. 

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8 hours ago, SpiritOfTheForest said:

Not being a snidey wanker about it like a previous poster, as an English language teacher I feel this all the time. Phrasal verbs are the worst for this - so often students will be compelled to get right down to the nitty-gritty and establish WHY something happens (which is annoying because in English, most of the time there is no real set reason). It's led me to tell my adult students straight up when they ask me "Why is X like like this..." "Because English is a shit". Not  many of us really appreciate how fortunate we are to have English as our mother tongue. It's a constantly confusing language.

Languages are absolutely fascinating though. The fact that the same very similar word can exist across an entire continent for the same object never fails to blow my brain. 

Yes, let's not be snide wankers and talk about the topic in hand. What I've enjoyed most about teaching English is idioms - they're a great way of helping people understand how English actually functions, but they are nonsensical and that can be a stumbling block. You start with "It's raining cats and dogs" and go from there, though, and ask them to explain idioms that exist in their native language. I always try to avoid saying "because English" when a difficult question comes up, and attempt to get into the nuts and bolts of the language in my own rather cackhanded manner if that's what's warranted in the class at the time. I see the tenses in English, for example, rather like a mathematical formula, but it's more helpful to students, I find, to give real life examples rather than just writing it up on the board and saying "that's what you must do!"

Are you familiar with the teach-this website? Phrasal verbs become a lot more fun when you're playing Jeopardy with the class! Where do you work out of interest? I've been teaching English in Indonesia for 9 years and I think I'm finally getting a bit good at it. 

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