English: Not for the Faint of Heart

When you think of countries where English is spoken as the primary language, Canada and the United States typically come to mind. It might be surprising to learn that, based on statistics gathered between 2003 and 2012, Canada places 10th on a long list of countries where English is spoken as either a first or second language.

The figures are based on percentage of total population. In fact, while Canada’s English population accounts for approximately 85% of the total population, it has fewer English-speaking citizens than more populated countries such as India, Nigeria and Bangladesh. The United States has the highest percentage of English speaking population – over 95% or 276.5 million, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 statistics report.

A Challenging Language

Why is English not for the faint of heart? Have you taken a good look at English and the intricacies associated with reading, writing and speaking this widespread language? When one grows up with English as his or her mother tongue, there is a natural progression to speaking, reading and writing; however, it is not as easy when learning it as a second language. Unlike the Spanish language, where every letter and syllable is pronounced, English uses numerous diphthongs and silent letters, often slurring syllables and contributing to difficulty in grasping the spoken word, in addition to reading and writing it.

Identical word spellings are also associated with difficulty in learning English. Often a word has two meanings even though it is spelled the same way; just as often the pronunciation changes. The only discernible difference may be accentuation of a syllable. The following examples illustrate the perplexities when learning English as a second language:

  • I shed a tear when I noticed the tear in my new dress.
  • The wind picked up and I found it difficult to wind the sail’s ropes.
  • The nurse wound the bandages snuggly around the patient’s wounds.
  • Unfortunately, the invalid discovered his medical insurance was invalid.
  • Kitty was unable to pursue the dove when it dove into the thicker branches.

A tip of the TULU hat goes to those learning English as a second language.

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