Trying to Understand English


If you have been following Lingua Franca for some time, you surely know how fond I am of the English language, even if it is not my native tongue.  There are so many nice things I could say about English, but it would be too long to explain them here.

As interesting and rich as this language is, it is not an easy task to learn it or for the faint of heart.  I’ve been concentrated on learning its rules since I was six, but it hasn’t been a bed of roses.  English can drive you nuts, if you understand what I mean.

I have several examples to prove my point.  Below are correct English sentences which are very difficult to grasp, unless you have a deep knowledge of the language.  Here we go.

a.  “Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.”

b.  “All the faith he had had had had no effect on his life.”

c.  “Whether the weather be fine

Or whether the weather be not.

Whether the weather be cold

Or whether the weather be hot.

We’ll weather the weather

Whatever the weather,

Whether we like it or not.”

d.  “You had just begun reading the sentence you just finished reading.”

e.  “The horse race past the barn fell.”

f.  “I sometimes read read as read, when it’s supposed to be read as read.”

g.  “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

Let’s clear up this idiomatic mess.  Buffalo, is a noun, a city, and verb which means “to intimidate“.  The sentence plays on reduced relative clauses, different part-of-speech readings of the same work, and center embedding, all in the same sentence.  Read it again and again, until you get the following meaning:  “Bison from Buffalo, New York, who are intimidated by other bison in the community, also happen to intimidate other bison in their community.”  Got it?

i.  “I see“, said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

j.  I never said she stole my money.  If you place an emphasis on one word at a time, it changes the meaning.  For example:  I never said she stole my money.  I never said she stole my money.  I never said she stole my money.  And so on and so forth.

k.  Have you ever noticed that read rhymes with lead, and read rhymes with lead.  Also read and lead don’t rhyme.  Neither does read and lead.

After reading these sentences, are you having a headache and your head is spinning round and round like a merry-go-round?  I understand.  English is a crazy language.

8 thoughts on “Trying to Understand English”

  1. It’s always fun to see my native language from your perspective. It was especially fun to see the Buffalo sentence again. That’s one I’m glad I never had to diagram while in school!

    1. Yes Linda you have seen me struggling with the English language for several years now. It’s amazing how long we have been together in cyberspace.

      Even though I’ve had my fights and reconciliations with English, I just keep on pushing. I’ve been having a love/hate relationship with English for a long, long time. It’s fun, but sometimes it can drive you bananas, if you know what I mean.

      The Buffalo sentence is absolutely weired, if you are stuyding English as a second language.

      Cheers,

      Omar.-

    1. You have also witnessed my struggles with English. Even though I study English for about four to five hours a day, there is still a lot of material to cover. Anyway, I’m hanging in there.

      Bye,

      Omar.-

  2. Haha, you are correct in that it is probably very difficult to learn English but you are doing fabulous! I really need to get started in learning Spanish but I seem to have a mental block.

    1. Learning anything no matter what, is just starting to do it. Just like learning how to drive a car or a bicycle. You will get your bruises now and then, but that comes with the territory. If there is anything I can do to help, just give me a howl. Spanish isn’t that difficult. Piece of cake. Walk in the park. 🙂

      Take Care,

      Omar.-

  3. Whenever I complain that I have a block when in comes to preterite and imperfect my maestra de español reminds me that she is learning English and it too is difficult and I need to practicar, practicar, practicar! You are doing well with the amount of time you are spending practicing!

    Karen

  4. Hi Karen:

    Being a Spanish-speaking person, born and raised in Panama; I’m fully aware that Spanish grammar is extremely complicated. On the other hand, speaking the language without even thinking about grammar is a piece of cake. For example the pronunciation of the vowels are always the same, (e.g., a, e, i, o u). Once you know them, you’re made a gigantic step forward. The rest is listening and repeating what you hear until it sinks in.

    The story in English is a whole lot different. I understand that English is so complex, because it has absorbed so many words from other languages such as Latin, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch and so forth.

    I am convinced that “practice makes perfection”, which means that I totally agree with your maestra.

    Enjoy the rest of the day,

    Omar.-

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