Mastering English: The Many Challenges Language Learners Have to FaceFeb 23, 2023
Learning a second language is a challenging and time-consuming process.
First, it can be overwhelming to learn unfamiliar words and remember them all in the context of the new language.
Another obstacle is remembering the grammar rules. Grammar structures can differ significantly from one language to another, and it can be difficult to remember the rules and apply them correctly in speech or writing.
For example, in English, the adjective comes before the noun. If someone finds a car beautiful, they will likely say What a beautiful car!
In Portuguese (my native language), however, the adjective comes after the noun. So, I would say, Que carro bonito! which would translate into What car beautiful!
I have been in the USA for many years now. To this day, whenever I am tired or stressed, I find myself reverting to the patterns of my native language.
Many languages also have their unique idiomatic expressions and cultural references, which can be challenging to understand. Idioms can often be confusing to second-language learners because their literal meaning does not always match their figurative meaning.
Many individuals grew up with soccer, so idioms such as
- hit a home run,
- a ballpark figure,
- strike out,
- throw a curve ball,
- touch base,
mean absolutely nothing to them, especially if they are new to this culture.
So, instead of saying “let’s touch base at the end of the day” you may have a better chance of being understood by saying “let’s have a brief conversation at the end of the day.”
Language is deeply connected to culture, and a lack of understanding of the cultural context of the language can lead to misunderstandings. In other words, it is not enough to learn the language; you also need to learn all the cultural nuances that go with it.
Keep in mind that just because you are speaking the same language, it does not mean things will go as smoothly as you expect. In fact, the global business literature is filled with disastrous situations that stemmed from individuals ignoring cultural differences.
Point in case. Animals are very common in advertising in the United States. and we find ads including different types of animals ranging from dogs (i.e., Taco Bell’s Chihuahua) to a gecko (Geico’s mascot).
In certain countries, though, using dogs in your marketing campaign would be disastrous. In their book Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: Sales and Marketing, the authors shared the story of a U.S. real estate executive joyfully handing out business cards at a conference in the Middle East and being surprised by the negative response they evoked. His card, mind you, featured him with his beloved dog.
What is the problem? you might ask. The problem is that dogs are considered unclean in much of the Middle East.
As you can see, learning a second language is a slow and, sometimes, frustrating process.
As the examples above illustrated, you need far more than grammar and vocabulary to be effective. You also must learn the nuances of the culture if you want to avoid misunderstandings.
Finally, I want you to remember the following: next time you hear someone speaking with an “accent,” keep in mind that the individual is at least bilingual, which in today’s global economy, is a tremendous advantage.
My Challenge to You
To my friends and colleagues who are native speakers of English, here is my challenge to you.
Go through the list below and read all the sentences out loud. For each sentence you read without stumbling, you get 10 points. I would love to hear how you did.
Reasons Why the English Language Is Hard to Learn**
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- We must polish the Polish furniture.
- He could lead if he would get the lead out.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
- They were too close to the door to close it.
- The buck does funny things when the does are present.
- A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
- To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
- After a number of injections, my jaw got number.
- Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
- How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
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