learning

We talk a lot about words here at home, Gerry and I. He being a linguist, and me speaking my second language … I think that’s only natural. We’re both interested in words.

Almost not one day goes by, without me having to look up a word in English … check them out, getting the full gist of them. Now, that I have the online tool TYDA.SE, it’s gotten so much easier … Websters online is great, but reading it in your native tongue is different … you get the full essence of it. Quite often I do that, when I feel that I don’t have the full grasp of it after we’ve talked about it. I don’t think it really matters for how long you’ve been gone from your own language — sometimes you need that.

One ‘phenomenon’ that I’ve noticed though … a word isn’t fully ‘incorporated’ into my own vocabulary until I’ve used it. I forget so many words I look up, but once  I’ve used it … either in speech or in writing … they stick! Before, I used to jot them down by hand each time I’d looked them up, and that was a good method. Unfortunately, somehow the computer has made it so I hardly ever do that anymore.

Almost from Day One, online, I’ve communicated with English-speakers. The thing about this is that only THREE persons,  have corrected my English. Two online and one in “real life”. The interesting part about this is that all three were non-native English-speakers! Well … the ‘real-life one’, I guess could be considered almost native speaker but the other  two spoke English as second language, as myself! I, myself could never bring myself to correct anybody else … perhaps that’s the same phenomenon. I admit there are times when I’m just itching to do it, but I’m too afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings.

I can only imagine all the bizarre things I must have said in the beginning, even if all the any good examples escape me right now … and all the grammatical mistakes I must have made  … none, of all the English-speakers I communicated with, said a word to set me straight. I quickly got good buddies online, and I was totally at ease with asking when I didn’t understand. There are so many expressions in the English language that you just won’t learn in another country. For example, a friend told me about how she had been ‘stood up’ and that didn’t make any sense whatsoever to me, but she explained it. ‘To go whole hog’, ‘I made a hog of myself’, ‘there are many ways to skin a cat’ …. the list could go on and on… Have you noticed, by the way, how many of all those expressions are related to animals?! That was a parenthesis, though 🙂

Two words come to mind, that I had problems with: “ignorant” and “eventually”. I had them totally wrong. I didn’t use them, myself, but I kept reading them online frequently, and misunderstood them totally. If you’ve tried to learn a foreign language perhaps you’ve heard about ‘false friends’. These two words were examples of that. All this has made me admire all the people that came to my own country and quickly learned the language! Many of them from countries with a different way of writing too … and a totally different culture to boot.

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23 thoughts on “learning”

  1. Very interesting post — so many difficulties, some quite hidden, I guess, about really becoming fluent in another language.

    Would you want to have been corrected sometimes, or did you prefer the “polite” approach? (After all, you are always understandable.)

    1. Judith, That was a difficult question that I really had to stop and think about. In hindsight, I think it was just as well that they never said anything. Knowing myself, I could very well have stopped ‘talking’ online and crawled under a rock or something, if I’d been constantly corrected.

      Just the other day, I noticed that I’d written ‘unseemingly’ instead of ‘unseemly’ … in the old days, I would have been embarrassed when I found out. Not now so much, as I often come across native speakers that say things like ‘irregardless’ and stuff like that 🙂

  2. I am in awe of others who learn English as a second language. You’re right, we have so many phrases that we use but can’t trace where they originated. Your writing is pretty clear and concise and I haven’t noticed many grammar errors. Here’s a virtual pat on the back for your success!

  3. Rebekah, I’ve always found your use of the English language to be admirably correct. My pet peeve is the abominal misuse of English grammar by native English speakers in their comments to news or blog articles. Particularly, I get annoyed with the overuse of “it’s”, which should have an apostrophe only if it is the contraction for “it is”. No apostrophe ever for “its” as a possessive. Then, too, there’s the misuse of “there/they’re/their”. Whenever you see the word in a comment, there’s a 50% chance you see the wrong word. The recent rise in everyday use of “txt msg Engl” does our language no favors either. Those who learned English as a second language are probably more faithful to our rules of grammar (and spelling) than are most native speakers of English.

    Thus, I’ll leave you with a few words of my Scandanavian as a second language. (I get to speak it so rarely these days.)

    Takk for siste.
    Med vennlig hilsen,

    StockC

    1. Thank you 🙂 You’re right, and as a non-native-speaker, I always notice those … sometimes, I think they’re plain typos, though. When it comes to its … the possessive pronoun, I think there’s sometimes some hesitation. The texting doesn’t do the spelling any good at all.

      That looks a lot like Norwegian to me 🙂 wonderful…

  4. The whole idea of language is to communicate. It does not matter one iota ( there’s a word for you) if the grammar in not correct or that there may be a spelling mistake.
    You communicate..that is the main thing

    love P

    1. Patrecia, I’m always so thankful for our English education. None of this would have been possible otherwise! It has affected my life on so many levels … all positive!

      And you’re right … I’ve seen so many examples of that — people speaking without knowing one iota of grammar (!) but still being able to make themselves understood! It’s a wonderful thing…

  5. Hi Rebekah,
    I could only imagine how hard it is for people learning another language. I only speak English, and do not know a second language. I have heard people say that English is a very hard language to learn and I can understand why. As far as spelling goes, I don’t think a lot of people worry too much over things like that, and besides we all make spelling mistakes is part of our DNA. 🙂

    1. Mags, Yeah …well, I don’t think there are any easy languages. I’ve often thought of people trying to learn Swedish! French seemed very difficult to me, but they’re all difficult when you don’t know them!

      Sometimes I see those Spelling-Bees on TV and I’m amazed! Those little kids knowing all those words … many of which I’ve never heard of, and they can spell them too! We don’t have spelling bees in Sweden.

  6. Sometimes it’s hard for English speakers too! There is still a difference between UK and US English. I wasn’t aware just how different this is until I started blogging 10 or more years ago. I think it’s easier now, but there is still a lot to be desired in some bloggers ‘English’ whether US or UK. Spelling is interesting – and one wordthat so many people get wrong is ‘dyeing’. I dye all the time, however, I’m often asked how I ‘die’, and how do I do my ‘dying’. I think it’s rude to correct, but maybe I’m old-fashioned! I love your blog – it’s clear and easy to read. There may be a few odd words that are in the wrong place but it adds to its charm. Don’t change.

    (Very few wrong words, by the way)

    1. Ha ha ha! I know … Once I saw a hair salon in Maine with the name Curl up and Dye. I even took a picture of the sign … I thought it was so funny!

      We were taught British English in school. What you learn at such an early age, tend to stick. I spell in UK English (most of the time … especially since I’m living in Canada). When I was young, I worked at an American company, and I wanted to talk like they did, but with some words, the pronunciation has stuck. Mostly with words containing the letter A … bath, France, demand … I have a hard time adopting the North American pronunciation … law, paw also..

  7. I always assume that since Shakespeare and Marlowe were writing only 400 years ago and (thank god) English had not yet become – and still is not – a language like French where you have an actual language police/board to state what is correct, that the “mistakes” and “incorrect” spellings are all part of a growing language. Those two boys and their contemporaries invented so many words! They stole from French, German, Latin, Gaelic, Spanish and who knows where else. English is a living breathing thing and so it is a hard language to learn…”Rules, we don’t need no stinkin’ grammar/spelling rules!”

    Grt tht provoking post. lol

    1. GR8! TY! 🙂

      Yes, it’s a wonderful thing. A couple of years ago, I watched a series on TV about the history of the English language. It was SO good, so interesting … well presented — I learned a lot! I thought it was on PBS but now I’m not sure which channel it aired on http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0343228/

      In Quebec they had some kind of language police, but I think that was more about checking so that no English words sneaked (snuck? LOL) in..

  8. Great post!! I have used that website for several years. I can relate to much of what you wrote. Trying to learn Swedish has been so challenging. That website has helped me know how to use many words. I also use Google Translate. It is excellent. Helps me construct sentences. I have no one to speak Swedish to or them to speak to me, so that makes it more difficult. But I write my journal in Swedish. Or Swenglish!

      1. Eek is not even close. We have had almost 30 days of 100+. Last sunday it was 112F or 44.44C. Not good. Anxious for autumn…..

          1. In a car and church. If the power had been out, would have been dreadful. During times like that, people can become really sick or die. I would have to move somewhere where the power was on and get a motel room. Not sitting here in the heat.

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