Correct word, wrong word, good word, bad word? [change]
Long time before now, I worked in Germany. At one time we must learn some facts from another company. We did not know enough German to ask questions. Where we were working, there was a German person who could translate our questions into German, and then translate the answers into English.
He called the other company using the telephone and translated questions and answers. But our questions contained many big words and many words about computers, and these words were hard for him to translate. After some time he got tired and it was harder for him to translate.
After some time and many questions, the person at the other company still did not know what was happening. He asked the person translating, why all these questions about computers and other things? (The translator person was not a "computer person")
The translator's face became red. He stopped talking. He looked at me and was very unhappy. He had used a wrong word.
The word was also the correct word! It means "guest worker". It is a German word that means a person from another country who comes to work here.
But at that time in Germany for some people it also means bad things. Some German people did not like that many people from other countries came to work there. Some people used the same word 'Gastarbeiter' to also say bad things.
I only smiled. The translator did not want to say anything bad. He was only tired. I did not feel bad because he had said the word. Because I knew what he wanted to say. And it was a good and correct word!
When people talk to me, I want to hear what they want to say. I hear the words and think "What do they want to say to me?" Sometimes I hear a word that is not very correct. Some of the words mean different things. But I listen to all the words and decide what they want to say. I listen to the person - not the words. That is good, correct? :)
English is hard, English is beautiful? [change]
Many years ago, I worked at a company also with many people from many countries in the world. Some people were from Turkey, Croatia, France, Vietnam, India, Japan, England, China, and many other places. I could hear many kinds of English!
One day I was talking with another worker. He was from Taiwan. He did not speak English very good. His best language was Chinese. Sometimes I could not understand when he said some words. Sometimes he could not think how to say a long sentence in English. He would have to think for some time before talking.
I said to him that I thought English was very hard for people to learn. I said there were too many words to know in English. He said "Yes, but ..."
He had trouble saying things in English, but he liked English anyway. He loved to read English poems and books. He said I was correct that English had many many words, and that one idea or thing had many words to say that one idea or thing.
But he said that each one of these words, was a small bit different, and the meaning of each word was a small bit different. That each word could say a thing differently. He liked that the poet (author or writer of a poem) could choose the one word which was best. That putting all the best words together made the poem very good.
I still think English is hard. And I still don't read poetry. But a Chinese person taught me that English could be beautiful.
Too many words? [change]
The words in my example all sound like 'to'. But the words are written differently. The words are to, too, two, and tu. Each word means something different. Some words can mean more than one thing.
When I say only the word 'too', you do not know which word I mean to say. When I say the word in a sentence with other words, a person must think about all the words to decide which word I mean. This is hard for a person learning English.
I think you know what these words mean: to, too, and two. But what is this other word, tu? You may hear this word as one of three words in a phrase, "Et tu, Brute?" These words are Latin language words from a famous old story about a Roman named Julius Caesar. Since the story is very famous, you might hear this word in this phrase.
Too many letters? [change]
Another example of English being hard is when reading. There are many words that look mostly the same, and some sound mostly the same. Three words to show this are lighting, lightning, and lightening. These words are very different, and they say different things.
Links that are useful [change]
- Wikimedia Commons main page
- Wikipedia:How to write Simple English articles - advice for your writing
- Help:Examples of simpler English - specific examples.
- Basic English 1500 Word List
- VOA Special English official web site
- VOA Special English Word Book