People who started learning a second language, how has it made you aware how broken English is ?

submitted by x4740N edited

Clarification Edit: for people who speak English natively and are learning a second language

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Its taught me all languages are broken in some way. Romance languages have words that have arbitrary gender needing conjugation. Some have two genders, some three! Then the Romanian language comes in with its own tricks.

Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) lack an alphabet so words are conjunctions of smaller words, or sometimes worse *the phonetics of smaller words without the meaning of the word*.

Starbucks (the coffee company) in Mandarin is 星巴克. 星 is the literal translation of Star. So far so good. However 巴 can mean "to hope". 克 can mean "to restrain". The reason they use 巴克 for the second half of Starbucks is that when you pronounce them they vaguely sound like "bahcoo" (buck). So the first half is the traditional use of direct translation ignoring what it sounds like phonetically, but the second half ignores direct translation and instead uses the phonetics of the second two characters to sound like "buck".


I mean that makes sense because that's kind of how it is in english too. "Star" makes you think of a star, but "bucks" at the end of the word doesn't make you think of anything specific, it's just a sound


Oddly enough, "starbuck" has nothing to do with stars. It comes from some Old Norse meaning "sedge river". This became the place name Starbeck, a town in northern England. People then took that as a surname, and the spelling changed to Starbuck at some point. Herman Melville then gives a character in Moby Dick the surname Starbuck, and eventually the founders of the coffee chain picked it for no particular reason other than that they liked the sound of it

So the "buck" part is, I guess, "river". Or "brook", to pick the more closely-related English term. This doesn't change anything you said, of course, as nobody actually thinks of it like that, I just found the winding path it took kinda interesting


"buck" is a common slang for a US Dollar. Its also a male deer. These are both very common words in American English. The "buck" in Starbucks doesn't use either of these meanings, and thats fine, in this case you're right that that part of Starbucks doesn't carry any meaning from English...HOWEVER neither does "star" in Starbucks. The modern Starbucks logo has no star shapes in it, and nothing referencing astronomical stars. Its equal to "bucks" in that it is just a set of sounds. Yet in Mandarin, the "star" is *literally translated* as "star" like the astronomical body and spoken it sounds close to "sheen", while the "bucks" sounds close to “bahcoo” for a total pronounced word of "sheenbahcoo". So literal for the first part, phonetic for the second part. Essentially using two completely different sets of rules *inside* one word.


Somebody who was aware of all this once invented a language that was supposed to fix all the problems. He called it Esperanto.


Esperanto isn't the only constructed language, and I think it is more Western-oriented, for good or ill. It does do a lot of things right within that framework, though, with certain rules that make everything explicit while removing other rules for structure that are no longer needed due to the explicit nature of the language.


Which has its own myriad of issues

Reject language features, o kama toki pona


When you start a new language, you learn "The Rules" first, and wonder why your first language doesn't have such immutable "Rules."

Then when you get fluent, you realize there are just as many exceptions as your first language.


Or do Japanese: There are two main types; the one where you and everyone else neatly follows the immutable rules which you speak to superiors and to strangers by default, and the one where everyone blurts out whatever words in whatever order they come up in their brain, aka what's spoken between friends and to acquainted inferiors

x4740N [OP] , edited

I'm doing Japanese and I beleive you are referring to polite and impolite (or formal and informal) Japanese


That's correct, 敬語 perfectly follows the rules, but while there are rules for 普通体 (ある instead of あります), people mostly just talk in whatever way they want that does not follow any rules.

It's quite shocking to me as a Dutch person, we hardly have such a big difference between formal and informal Dutch


It isn't broken. It's quirky, and they all are.

What I appreciate about Spanish over English is the ease of spelling and pronouncing new words. What I appreciate about English over Spanish is the ease of creating new words.

I have some limited ability/understanding in other languages, but not enough to judge. Except for French.


If you want to create new words, boy am I excited to tell you about German

Pronell , edited

And what's the word in German that means everything you just wrote?




Neologismuskreationsvorfreude would fit too

BudgetBandit , edited

"Verschlimmbessern" is the best one I've read somewhere. It's the result of trying to fix it but you fail and make it worse.

Oh, and it's read as in red, not read as in rede


At this point "creating new words" is faster to say and to write


Truly unbelievable language. I love it. So easy to start, then you hit that wall of 25-letter words.


No you hit that wall of der, die, den, das......


The only ability you have in French is to judge. It's what the language is for.

Darkassassin07 , edited

English is the language that beats up other languages in dark alleys then rifles through their pockets for loose phrases and spare grammar.


That sounds suspiciously like Pratchett ;)

Corr , edited

Perhaps other people have said it but this is the quote I'm familiar with:
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

James Nicoll


Cheery! Stop playing with your lipstick and go down to Cable Street. Igor's potatoes have escaped again and Washpot can't find Fred and Nobby.


Ok, I'll pick up some Dwarven Battle Bread in case we need it!


Right. Good ma-, er, dwarf


Don't forget that there once was a time when smart people just added letters to words that don't do anything - like the b in debt, which was called det before. Or when America got rid of Britains U after O because newspapers charged per letter.


British newspapers were only able to subsidize the use of the letter 'u' through taxes levied on the colonies, which led to the revolution. So who's so smart after all?

Nah, seriously, the Normans added the 'u' to French-derived words after they invaded. English orthography wasn't standardized, though. Johnson kept the 'u' out of a sense of tradition when compiling his British dictionary, and Webster elided it in his American dictionary because we don't pronounce it. Neither spelling, -or or -our, derives from the other.

x4740N [OP]

I don't know about "debt", I always pronounce a very subtle b when I say it and saying det just sounds like the "det" in "detrimental"

leftzero , edited

Seriously, other languages at least adapt loanwords to their own grammar, orthography, and whatnot... English just grabs them as they are and runs away without looking back.

That's why you end up with the plural of radius being radii, or stuff like fiancé or façade (seriously, how are people who only speak English and have never seen a ç before in their lives supposed to know how to pronounce that‽)...

Of course it all comes from English being really three or four languages — (Anglo-)Saxon, Normand(/old French), and Norse — badly put together, so sprinkling bits of other languages on top didn't make much of a difference, when there were already about five different ways to pronounce, for instance, oo, and the whole vowel shift debacle didn't exactly help with this mess... but while other languages which may have had similar (if maybe less spectacular) growing pains eventually developed normative bodies, mostly from the eighteenth century onwards, that define and maintain a standard form of the language, English seems to have ignored all that and left grammar and orthography as a stylistic choice on the writers' part, and pronunciation as an exercise for the readers...


+1 for the interrobang

x4740N [OP]

Yep I'm learning Japanese and hate how they spell "maccha" as "matcha" in English because the English one doesn't sound correct to me and annoys the fuck out of me

The one with the t has a subtle t sound to it while maccha sounds correct


On the contrary - it has made me appreciate how many different traditions the English language draws from and how flexible it actually is.


It certainly does show how many traditions, with their own sets of rules, English pulls from. That said, watching my poor kid learning how to spell and read has been painful. All the rules only exist to be broken. An example today was him trying to pronounce AMC. A fun word for spelling that came up recent was skool.

rufus , edited

Hehe. I don't think English is that broken. I mean it's definitely broken. But still one of the easier languages to learn. It's my second language, so my perspective might be a bit different. But I also had French in school. And oh my, that's a proper hassle to memorize all the articles, specifics and numerous exceptions to every rule there is... English was way easier (for me.)


When I started learning Japanese I was impressed by how reliably phonetic their alphabets are, with only a few exceptions (and even the exceptions are phonetic, just by a different set of rules). I was like damn, would be real nice if English's letters were like this. Then I found out that Japanese wasn't always this way; prior to the 19th century reading it was a huge pain, with a lot of "i before e except after c..." rules to memorize, no diacritics to distinguish pronunciations, etc. At some point they had a major overhaul of the written language (especially the alphabets) and turned them into the phonetic versions they use today. Again I was like damn, would be real nice if English could get a phonetic overhaul of its written word. But it's a lot easier to reform a language only used in a single country on an isolated island cluster with an authoritarian government and questionable literacy rates... Can you imagine the mayhem if, say, Australia decided to overhaul the English language in isolation? It would be like trying to get all of Europe to abandon their native tongues in favor of Esperanto.


I love archaic inconsistent Japanese. 今日 (obviously きょう) used to be pronounced the same way but spelled... けふ. There's a Wikipedia page on historical kana orthography and the example the use on the page's main image is やめましょう spelled as ヤメマセウ. The old kana usage sticks around in pronunciation of particle は and へ. There also used to be verbs ending in ず that turned into じる verbs like 感じる. Here's a post on Japanese stack exchange where somebody explains verbs that end with ず, づ, ふ, and ぷ.
Honestly I'm glad I don't have to learn historical inconsistent spellings, but part of me thinks that it's really cool and wishes it was still around.


ITT: Loads of monolingual native English speakers who has no knowledge of linguistics or even how their own language is not unique in all the ways that they think it is.

GBU_28 , edited

Actual itt: "internet experts" clash with casual passing commenters


Well, I suppose it made me realise how useless articles are in a statement.

«где здесь кинотеатр?» (where here movie theatre?)

"where is the movie theatre around here?"

Without articles the point comes across in a much simpler form. that being said, a lot of other languages also have a terrifyingly complex case system or pointlessly gendered language or both. I don't think any language is "broken" but they all definitely have quirks.


Learning Japanese (especially colloquial Japanese) also gives me a strong "why waste time say lot word, when few word do trick" vibes. Articles? Don't exist. Prepositions? Only if you want to sound like a dweeb. Subjects/Objects? Used unnecessarily you'll change the meaning of the sentence.

"Went" is a complete sentence in Japanese.


My friend told me that a whole lot of Japanese sentences are literally just exclamations of an adjective or adverb and apparently that's enough for most Japanese folks to intuit an entire sentence of meaning.


That's a funny way to put it but pretty accurate. Like, you see a cat walk up to you and you exclaim かわいい! (= cute). You wouldn't say "that cat is cute!" or "what a cute cat!" like you would in English. Because if you did say the word-for-word Japanese equivalent あの猫がかわいい it implies something like "that cat is cute, unlike all the other cats," because why would you go through the trouble of saying all those words that were obvious from context unless you were trying to call out this cat specifically?


I think about how some languages like Japanese are like this, and then I think about how stereotypical “caveman” grammar in English is kind of structured like those languages, and I get a little uncomfortable at the implications…


We do that in English as well in some cases.

q: "Where's the beer?" a: "fridge".


Sure, but "fridge" is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence. 行った ("went") is a complete sentence. You don't need a subject or an object in Japanese, whereas you need at least a subject in English (e.g. "He went")


It's made me aware of how much I appreciate reliable consistent pronunciation in Spanish (at least compared to English). And it's given me a huge amount of sympathy for people who are learning English and trying to speak to native English speakers :)

But I wouldn't say it's shown me how broken English is. I mean, I think it's more broken than Spanish, but that could just be a comment on how much I still have to learn about Spanish :P


Same with consistent pronunciation in Indonesian - it's so much better. I feel sorry for little kids learning to read English and getting told to 'sound it out'. Sure thing, which of the five to nine sounds shall I use for the letter 'a'?


That could just be a comment on how much I still have to learn about Spanish :P

Gotten into verbal tenses yet..? 😉

But, hey, at least it doesn't have [weak pronouns](,different%20element%20of%20the%20sentence.) as we do in Catalan... Those can be confusing even for native speakers! 😅


All languages that are used are kinda broken, except the synthetic ones, like Esperanto.

The amount of exceptions and weird rules in non-English languages I speak (Lithuanian and Swedish) and kinda know (Russian) proves it.


Yeah, if humans use it long enough, any language becomes bastardized. Every generation comes up with new slang with only minor regard for the rules. Some of that slang becomes permanent.


This post kind of ignores basics of grammar instruction that we've known for centuries. Some people try to teach grammar from a prescriptive fashion. They tell us what the rules are, they have us memorize them, and then we can speak perfectly.

The problem is, that's not how language works in reality. Even if you had a perfect language to begin with, something with no exceptions of any kind, after 20 years people would have added their own changes. So then the original instruction that you gave, that wouldn't prepare future language learners for reality.

This is why we have to teach grammar and spelling descriptively. We're talking about what actually happens in the world when people actually speak and write in English. Of course it's nice to point out common customs and conventions, but we don't get to ignore all of the irregular things just because they're irritating to memorize.

And this is true for all languages that are used by even a medium-sized population over time. You cannot avoid it, you'll find it in every language, sorry.


I learned Latin and in the process learned that quite a lot if what makes English fucked up was a movement a couple of hundred years ago to make it more like Latin.


Well, and also one to make it less like Latin. And the same with French.

People have been beating this thing with a stick for many centuries. It's part of the charm. And now it's doing the same to every other language. That's maybe less charming.


Can you give an example?


Debt used to be spelled dette or simply det. We spell it with a useless silent “b” today because meddlers decided to bring it back to its Latin roots of debitum. This happened in French as well, even though neither language ever pronounced the “b” and had no business adding it. The same happened with words like doubtplumbersubtleindict, and island. French was sensible enough to reverse this through modern spelling reform, but I think English is stuck with it for the foreseeable future.

Glowstick , edited

Who had the power to unilaterally decree that the spelling of multiple existing words must now be spelled differently?


The links i found all just refer to "scholars in the middle ages" being the cause of this


Yep. It’s a bit hard to fathom today, but in the Middle Ages few people had the ability to read and write, mostly either learned monks and clergy, or those wealthy enough to be taught by them. With such a small pool of people, it’s comparatively easy to influence the prevailing spelling through the actions of a few.

PhlubbaDubba , edited

It isn't broken, it's just preserved

Languages with phonetic writing in the modern day likely achieved that through a language standardization process that included spelling reforms.

English's changes in spelling and grammar are mostly legitimized through influential works of the language, hence why you all gotta learn Shakespeare in highschool, you're being taught the history of how the language we speak today evolved.

There is no centralized academy of English grammar, and official dictionaries in English for the most part add words descriptively to reflect how the lexicon is changing in real time.

Put together this all means that the English language isn't remotely broken, it's just old, older than most modernly written languages by a couple of centuries actually.

Funniest part is if you study immigrant settlements in the Americas from all those countries that underwent standardizations, they're all about as "broken" as English looks too, because they're forms of those languages preserved from before standardization came to their homelands.

Japanese and Italian are especially funny since the standardization came into enforcement recently enough that native speakers from Japan and Italy will be bewildered by speakers from the Americas because the speakers from the Americas speak in a way that sounds like their grandparents or great grandparents if they recognize the dialect at all to begin with.


Languages with phonetic writing in the modern day likely achieved that through a language standardization process that included spelling reforms.

Not Arabic. It is pronounced as it is written. Except a handful of words that have a different transcription to make them easily distinguishable.


As someone who is learning Arabic right now this is the vaaaaastest oversimplification I have ever seen on that subject in particular.

For starters, dialects


We only refer to MSA when talking about Arabic. Most Arab speakers consider dialects side languages to Classical Arabic. They have never had a transcription throughoutout history. People started writing in their dialects only recently with the arrival of SMS and the internet.

I get that as a new comer to Arabic you probably have come across learning materials for dialects like Egyptian and levantine. But in reality you won't find uni courses for those dialects because academics don't consider them to be proper languages with clear grammar and an established vocabulary.

PhlubbaDubba , edited

Actually I chose to learn dialect first because literally everyone who knows anything about the language cautions that native speakers will swear up and down that you should learn MSA and then be completely incomprehensible to you because of how little anyone actually uses it in the Arab world.

I've been working with my teacher for a year and a half now and she agrees that MSA is basically pointless unless you intend to start consuming arabic language news or listening to arabic language political speeches.

BTW this is from a professional cultural expert who's literal job is to prep government workers and businessfolks to be able to engage successfully with the Arabic world, something she's been doing for 20 years now, so I'm pretty sure she knows what she's talking about.

mtchristo , edited

You do you. And you have to take into consideration what your goal is by learning Arabic.

Dialects are definitely easier to learn and more rewarding as it allows you to converse with people and test your advancements. But you won't be able to easily transition to another dialect. Because MSA is the glue that make the intelligible.

Learning MSA will take you triple the time. And I imagine your teacher is both proud of his dialect. But also doesn't want you to drop learning if you were to have chosen MSA


With Japanese, it's more-so that the standardised version is widely used in politics, to strangers, to acquainted superiors, and just in general by default

It's only between friends, within most families (and to acquaintances who regard you as their superior) that you speak... Whatever, really.

philthi , edited

I noticed how many of the verbs in English can mean different things depending on what word comes next, e.g.

  • Put
  • Put down
  • Put up
  • Put upon
  • Put on (wear)

English has so many words that mean the same thing, it's amazing, astonishing, bewildering and flabbergasting, there was a thief, mugger, robber, bandit... Who stole, robbed, nicked, thieved from me... I don't know how anyone ever learns all the English words for stuff, I honestly don't know how I have.

It also made me reflect on how languages are just noises we've all agreed to make at each other. The rules try to match the language and fail, not the other way around.

Recently I was also thinking about how interesting it is that some words we use are SO OLD, and we just... use them like it's no big deal, but if we we're transported back thousands of years, people were still calling vanilla something very similar to vanilla and arteries something very similar to arteries, and that is super cool to me.


English-learning books call those phrasal verbs and there are entire chapters focused on them. I remember them as the most hated part of English lessons.


Phrasal verbs can often feel weird and arbitrary.

Many of them are more or less intuitive: - Put down - Put in - Put on

But then there’s: - Put up (with) - Put out - Put off

Putting out the fire is pretty strange taken literally. Out where?

The fact that they’re the exact opposites of the above doesn’t help.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is what is known as a leading question.


It's so broken it's the current meta.

Devs, English is OP, please nerf.


I started Russian Duolingo a while back. You can make English sentences that would take five or six words in two words under first impressions the language doesn't f*** around it gets right to the point.

But then I started getting to conjugations and it turns into a dumpster fire real quick.


If you think that's fun, just wait until you get to the verbs of motion.


The language has its issues, but the Cyrillic alphabet is great. Being able to sound out any word phonetically makes it easy to pronounce anything


Yeah that's seriously like a super power, just reading names on social media feels so good


Learned English as my second language instead.

Yeah it's broken, but y'all have tenses that sorta make senses (in Estonian we have present and past - future is implied by context!) and you don't need 14 noun cases because y'all have prepositions.

At the same time, English borrows words from over 9000 different languages, nothing is pronounced the way it's written, and to be quite honest, I never bothered learning any of the rules in school. The rule for ordering adjectives so they wouldn't sound off was impossible to remember, but because I've been terminally online since I was like 7, it just came naturally.

TL;DR: English is a great language to just know natively, horrifying one to learn systematically.


Learning Mandarin. The stereotype of a Chinese person saying "Me no English" makes sense now considering the word is literally 我(Me)不(No)英文(English)


"Do you speak English?"

"I profusely beg your forgiveness, old chap, but my linguistic skills do not reach to the Anglican sphere and thus I am unable to converse in anything but my native language, Mandarin."

"So... yes or no?"

" 甚麼?"


I don't feel it's particularly broken honestly. Some languages are more consistent with their rules and therefore easier to learn but English is surprisingly consistent in practice/sound throughout the world. You also don't need to memorize the gender of a washing machine...


I don't feel it's particularly broken honestly.

There are five (5) ways of pronouncing oo, if you people haven't added a sixth one since the last time I looked.

Radii, fiancé, and façade are apparently perfectly cromulent English words that native English speakers who've never seen an ii, an é, or a ç are supposed to be able to pronounce correctly...

Your words for food animals come from completely different and unrelated languages depending on whether the animal is alive or dead (since the people who tended to the farms and the people who actually ate their meat spoke different languages)...

There are probably more irregular verbs than regular ones... (again, probably because of English really being three different languages in a trenchcoat)...

At some point in the sixteenth century you apparently just up and decided to randomly switch the pronunciation of all your vowels... without changing how you wrote them...

While most languages have developed some form of standard and regulative body, English seems like it'd rather leave the whole grammar, orthography, pronunciation, and whatnot situation as an exercise for the speaker, writer, or reader...

Yeah, no, not particularly broken at all... 😒


You forgot naïve. Why does it have a fucking umlaut?????


It's a dieresis, to let you know that the i is to be pronounced separately from the a.


Are there any other words that have it though? Also if the english spelling were consistent you would not need the dieresis


The New Yorker's style guide requires markers for coöperate, coöpt, etc., but it's non-standard outside of that one particular publication.


I have seen coöperate, but it is certainly uncommon.


1) Not sure 2) 100% agree


I honestly wasn't aware naïve had a dieresis in English.

I mean, it makes complete sense for it to have one in languages that use them, but I wasn't aware it was a loanword (from French or Normand, I assume).


It's from french although naive is also a valid spelling.


Honestly it pisses me off that autocorrect adds all the beauty dots to it when I just try to write "naive"


I'm just pointing out the consistency in spoken form. Your criticisms are valid from a technical perspective, the best kind of correct...


There are *five* (5) ways of pronouncing *oo*

That's a good thing. Vowels are enormous in the range of ways they can be pronounced. Any vowel can become any other vowel before it's done being pronounced, and then you can chain that effect. You can tell where people are from by their vowels. Vowels convey analog information whereas consonants convey digital. Vowels therefore have bandwidth to carry extra information. And so not only do we have lots of vowel pair sequences with their own rules for pronunciation, we have tons of rules for how surrounding consonants change those vowels. And then finally we have all sorts of cultural understandings about how altered vowels indicate mood and intent.

It's good we don't try to pretend there are only a handful of vowels.

leftzero , edited

That's a good thing.

Nah, man. That's the abused justifying the abuser. That's pure Stockholm syndrome.

There's no world in which the oos in moon, book, door, blood, brooch, and cooperation (I had forgotten about this one. There are six. SIX! 😩) representing SIX different sounds is a good thing. There simply isn't.

A sane language would replace some of those with u, ø, ō, ô, ö, õ, whatever, make some rule so that the poor sod attempting to decipher the written word could begin to know how to pronounce it... but not English. Not English. 😞


You don't really need to memorize the gender in Spanish either. The gender is signaled by the word ending. It's a maquina; that's a feminine noun. As you're speaking you can see "maquina" coming up and arrange for the gender without having to memorize the word's gender.


Someone learning Spanish as a second language will have to remember that it's máquina and not máquino when speaking or writing it, though (and will then probably be quite confused if they ever meet some guy nicknamed El Máquina, which would somehow be a perfectly cromulent nickname in Spanish).

Confusing genders when speaking or writing is one of the most common mistakes amongst people new to the language, because while everything else has some form of rule, this doesn't (sure, when reading or listening you can most of the time use the word ending, and you'll probably have an article, too, but when you are the one speaking or writing you have no option but to just know a word's gender, or how it ends, which is the same thing).


For what it's worth, you don't memorize the gender of things. It's just difficult, when you learn another language that does it differently. And that's true for every language you learn, the difficulty lies in how it's different of your own.


I mean, you do memorise them, you just don't realise you're doing it because you're a baby or toddler and babies and toddlers are language sponges, and not very aware of how their own minds work.

When learning a gendered language as an adult you definitely have no option but to memorise what gender each word uses, since there's generally no specific rule, just how the language happened to evolve. (And this can be particularly hard if your native language is gendered, but you're trying to learn one that genders words differently, for instance when learning German coming from a Romance language, or vice versa.)


No, you don't memorize it. You memorize the words and how they sound, then based on how their endings sound, you know their gender. You don't have to maintain a dictionary of words to their gender. There are a few exceptions and you memorize those, but for the most part all you need to memorize is a few rules.


you don't memorize it. You memorize the words and how they sound

Potahto potayto. 🤷‍♂️


Not really. In case you’re not catching the implication, it means there is no more memorization of words’ gender in Spanish than there is in English, for instance.

You simply do not need to memorize gender as it can and is derived on the spot from other memorized info, ie the word itself.

01011 , edited

Teaching English to non-native speakers will fully open your eyes as to how broken and outright ridiculous the English language is. "To" and "too". "Through" and "threw"....


English is a difficult language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought though.

silly goose meekah

Learning a second language hasn't made me think English is broken. I already thought English was messed up but know a little of it's history so have a general idea why. Learning Spanish means learning the flaws of a second language. I thinking all languages are flawed, but English just goes the extra mile.

Brickardo , edited

Conversely, when we Spanish have to learn English, the thing we hate the most is that words are not pronounced the way they're written. In Spanish, however, we've got some weird rules with irregular verbs and articles, but the former is common to both languages


Learning a second language AND professionally teaching English to speakers of said language. English is not broken. English is actually much better than many alternatives. We don’t need to worry about noun gender. We don’t have to worry about tones. We have precise ways to indicate number and time. Formality levels are not baked into word construction. The pronunciation of words can generally be inferred from the spelling, despite learning this skill being a little complicated— but that complicated nature even has its usefulness.

We rag on English, but it is *by far* not the worse out there, not even close. It’s just contempt for the familiar.


The pronunciation of words can generally be inferred from the spelling

Definitely *NOT*. English is among the worst languages in that regard.


This definitely.

Exceptions on exceptions on exceptions, on top of grammar rules that vary based on what language the word you're using was originally from, except even then you can't know because it can be a word came to English from French even though it's originally Latin and then the way the French pronounced it carries over to the English.

As someone who's native language is Finnish and you literally know how a word is pronounced when you see it. If you know how to use the phonetic alphabet, then you basically know how to pronounce Finnish. Compare English words and their IPA to Finnish words and their IPA:

hevonen = [ˈheʋonen], hernekeitto = [ˈherneˌkːei̯tːo]

VS English

'geography' = ʤɔ́grəfɪj, explanation = ek.spləˈneɪ.ʃən/

Dearest creature in Creation, Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse. It will keep you, Susy, busy, Make your head with heat grow dizzy;

Tear in eye your dress you'll tear. So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,


You know the fun thing about "The Chaos"? It was written by someone who had English as a second language. Most native speakers simply don't get how chaotic their language is.


This I can fully believe.

Here's Lindybeige, a native speaker, talking about the extra R-sounds (between a word which ends in a vowel and another which begins with one) and why Brits don't hear them

And here's Dr Geoff Lindsey's channel, excellent videos about the English language. (And in regards to being deaf to features of one's own language, it took a native speaking English professor for me to realise just how much vocal fry there is in my native language, Finnish.)


As a native German speaker, I really dislike the formality levels and hope someday everyone uses the informal level. In a big company it's really annoying to start with the formal level and then awkwardly switching to informal level when contacting someone for the first time.


It seems to me that you’re making a strange argument throwing bugs and features into the same pot. The fact that other languages have different complexities does not make one language more or less broken.


Gotten the hang of Southern Sotho at this point, and one thing that strikes me is how exact I can be with English and how I've always taken for granted how much access we have to things that allow us to give our words different meanings and implications. It just doesn't exist to that extent in many other languages. It's like when you hear the Eskimos have 50 words for snow or whatever. I don't know if it's true or not, but those words would describe different states or types of snow that speakers of that language recognize as distinct.

Also I watched this recently:


Are you sure this is not just your perception depending on fluency in a language? Your native will always feel more comprehensive than any second language.

A while ago, my dad (native german, fluent english) said something similar to me, that he believes german has so many more words to describe and to give different meaning to the things we say. I do disagree with that too. Now I always have to think about this, when coming across something I have more means to express something in english or german. And there are many examples in both languages.

Even if you are fluent in a second language, you probably always have more words and more nuance in your native language.


Great point! I considered that when I started learning and have spoken to it with my colleagues here who are also learning the language as well as Basotho- native speakers. Basotho who speak English fluently mostly agree that English has a broader vocabulary.

I've observed that Sesotho relies on tone and emphasis on parts of words more than English. There isn't a whole lot of writing in Sesotho so I can imagine that the language hasn't needed to develop ways to be descriptive that couldn't be delivered with one's voice.

Moreover, when I speak with Basotho that aren't very proficient in English, I notice they very freely use words that a native English speaker would consider extreme, such as "perfect," for mundane things because there is no explicit difference in Sesotho between "perfect" and merely "very good."

The video I linked gets into it a bit that English is helped by being an amalgamation of several languages, and thus inherits multiple ways of describing a concept.

shikitohno , edited

For native speakers, there is also the level of education and the contexts they use it in that can influence their vocabulary. I know a lot of Spanish speakers, both heritage speakers and those who grew up in Spanish a speaking countries. Heritage speakers often are educated in English and mostly use Spanish at home and in social situations, but are more comfortable in English for other topics. Lots of my coworkers who grew up in Spanish speaking countries have pretty limited formal education. In either case, they often don't know the Spanish terms for technical, scientific or political contexts, and will just use the English word, even in Spanish.

This doesn't mean that English has a richer political or technical vocabulary than Spanish, but it does create a chicken and egg situation in certain contexts. Why bother to learn and use the Spanish term if the English term is already more widely known, especially if it isn't a topic that would lend itself to popular publications and discussions outside of industrial or academic contexts? Even in Spanish speaking countries, the increasing dominance of English internationally can result in highly educated people in these countries being pressured to publish in English, further reducing the number of occasions one might have to use these terms in Spanish.

x4740N [OP]

For me it was the inconsistency with sounds in the English language

🇰 🔵 🇱 🇦 🇳 🇦 🇰 ℹ️ , edited

I started learning Japanese 2 weeks ago but I already knew how fucked English was because I learned English first.

Japanese seems weird and hella foreign at first because the alphabet it uses, but it's way more straightforward than English. What's weird is being at a point where I know *most* of the alphabet, but barely any words or grammar. So I can sound out entire sentences and say them aloud but not know what it actually says lol

Not that it doesn't have its own problems... There are over 60 characters in the Unicode standard that, apparently, *nobody knows the meaning of.* And it's because there would be small communities or areas that have their *own* characters for things that have fallen into obscurity and also caused by things like photocopier artifacts, etc. So far 12 have been identified as meaning *nothing at all.*


say them aloud

Wait 'till you learn about pitch accent :)

At least most things are pronounced like they are written but not all.

n -> m is a common one such as in 新聞 because Japanese doesn't have standalone m.

Japanese also has 7 vowels: standard aeiou and devoiced i and u. It's the reason people say です (desu) like 'des'. A fun example of this playing out is 靴下 (kutsushita - socks). My wife (native Japanese speaker) didn't even realize this until I was watching a video about it.

🇰 🔵 🇱 🇦 🇳 🇦 🇰 ℹ️ , edited

I had wondered if it was just the text to speech engine sounding weird sometimes or if certain things get pronounced differently when put together in a complete sentence.

Like "hi to" hella sounds like "shito" on that thing sometimes, but not always. And "desu" sounds like "des" or "desu" just depending on which voice is speaking.


Can you post or link to some of those obscure characters?

🇰 🔵 🇱 🇦 🇳 🇦 🇰 ℹ️ , edited

Well, I can certainly link the video I learned this from!


Learning German taught me how messed up *non-English* languages are. Having to memorize if every noun is either male, female, or neuter just so you can use the right form of "the" with it is *crazy*.


As a German myself who tried to learn French a while ago, I gave up because that language has the same issue, but the genders for nouns are different and I just can't be bothered to memorize two different genders for every noun 💀


And then you also have different meanings depending on pronunciation, here some examples:

  • umfahren: to drive around something or to run over something

  • Montage: the act of assembling or the plural of Monday

  • übersetzen: to ferry across a river or to translate into another language

  • umschreiben: to rewrite or to paraphrase

  • durchschauen: to look through something or to understand

  • unterstellen: to place something underneath or to imply or accuse someone of something

  • unterhalten: to hold something underneath or to support or to converse with someone or to entertain

  • wiederholen: to fetch something back or to repeat something


I was learning Japanese and became aware how broken Japanese is

credo , edited

Consider these terms vs words:

Site / look

An overlook / overlooked

An oversight / [provide] oversight


It’s 3 languages stacked up in a trench coat. The annoying thing about Gaeilge, it uses all the same letters but everything is pronounced differently

stinerman [Ohio]

I'm learning French so I'm not the best person to ask.

Call me Lenny/Leni

I know a few languages, English not being the first one. But I too have learned that not only might English be broken, but so might my mental and cultural skills with it. Though I figure priority one is whether what I say follows grammatical rules. Political manifestos, which this place is all too familiar with, don't even have that, yet people seem to understand what they're saying if people are going around saying how wise they are.



Call me Lenny/Leni

Something wrong?


Even after repeated attempts, I'm failing at understanding your point

Call me Lenny/Leni

Case in point.



quite simple: I learned english


I say “correct” more frequently now when in agreement instead of “right.” 🤷‍♀️


Learning English taught me how broken English is knight or phone is a good start.


English's biggest problem as a language is the efforts to break it even further. This idea that popular things push that state of the ever-evolving language is why we have 'mid' and 'based', which are completely detrimental no matter how fetch they seem. People who find apostrophes hard to use should not be driving the evolution of a language on some famewhore channel.

Skua , edited

That sort of change is how we got every version of the language at every point in history. Whichever version of English you think is the best, it was made the same way.


I knew English was broken well before I learned a second language

jet , edited

English could really benefit from non-sexual pronouns.

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