Learning ESL: Who Knew "Knife" had a "K"?

Apr 18, 2011 10:21:41 AM / by Rachel Reardon

As someone whose first or second language was not English, I decided to focus on the most widely-spoken language in the world and the difficulties I had while learning it.

It's true what they say: kids are like sponges, they soak up all kinds of information rather quickly. This is also true for languages. You place a child in a new environment and they will pick up the culture, slang, pronunciation, etc., in a timely manner. I know this because I was one of those kids. My family and I moved to the United States when I was nine years old, and besides it being the land of McDonald's and the phrase "I'll be back," which I learned from watching American movies starring fellow European native Arnold Schwartzeneggar, I didn't know anything about the American culture or the English language.

Fast forward nine months later when I tested out of my ESL classroom to a regular 4th grade class. I had American friends, I knew the cool 90's slang, I felt like I fit in. By that time, most people wouldn't even be able to tell that I was not a native speaker. However, I still had (and still do have) many questions about the English language. Fifteen years later after learning four languages, I still believe English is an interesting and at times difficult language to learn.


-English has the weirdest spelling. Who knew that knife had a "k"? I didn't (lost a spelling bee because of this, still bitter). What's up with the random "g" or "gh" in words such as foreigner or night?

-There, their, and they're, all have different meanings but sound the same. Enough said.

-I use to avoid telling people what I did in the past because it was much easier to stick to the present. Go becomes went; eat becomes ate, and depending on the subject, eaten; teach becomes taught; and so on and so forth. You realize pretty quickly that you can develop incredible memorization skills.

-Learning English in America doesn't mean that you'll be able to understand what is being said to you in Australia, England, or New Zealand.

Earlier last week I came across an article, 10 Reasons Why English Is a Hard Language, and absolutely loved reading all the things that I struggled with as an ESL learner. The article actually goes in depth about the difficulties of learning English but also explains the reasoning behind some of the wacky rules of English. I was very glad to find out that I wasn't the only one that felt this way. Very informative. Click here for the full article.

This is all to say that learning ANY language is tough, including English. Each language has it's own rules, forms, pronunciation, and culture behind it. But no matter how confusing it gets, you still learn a lot along the way and it's a wonderful feeling when you can communicate with others in your new language.

What are some interesting facts/rules about other languages you have studied/learned?

Topics: Language Learning and Culture

Rachel Reardon

Written by Rachel Reardon

Rachel works with some of the coolest marketers, designers, and writers around to help Mango look and sound its best. She loves bold colors, old books, the Montréal metro, and Star Trek. She has conflicting feelings about the Oxford comma.

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