Why Is English So Hard To Learn?
Today on WiredAcademic, a piece of mine about how to deal with the difficulties of the English language:
“As anyone who’s lost a spelling bee or failed a spelling test will affirm, the English language is more ornery than most. About 25% of its words employ irregular spellings, and many of these terms are among the most frequently used in the language.
Cross-cultural research demonstrates that the trickiness of English affects how quickly American children learn to read and write. After just a few months of instruction, for example, children living in Italy are able to read and write any word they encounter, because their language is almost perfectly regular: each letter or combination of letters maps reliably onto a particular sound.
Children in the U.S., on the other hand, must endure years of drills before they have mastered the intricacies of bough and bow, weigh and way. (American pupils can console themselves with the knowledge that kids in China have it even harder: there, lessons on reading and writing the thousands of symbols in the Chinese language extend into students’ teenage years.)
Big deal, you might think — so it takes a few years to learn written English. With practice, our peculiar spellings become second nature. But there is evidence that for some English users, the knottiness of the language leads to lasting problems with reading. About twice as many Americans as Italians fit the definition of dyslexic, even though brain-scan studies suggest that the two populations have similar proportions of people with the mental processing deficit associated with the disorder. The irregularity of English ruthlessly exposes this brain anomaly, while the consistency of the Italian language allows readers to compensate for it. Dyslexia, remarkably enough, may be partly culturally induced.”
Read more here, and let me know what you think . . .