Interview: My Spanish teacher talks about some unique aspects of the English Language

 

I am learning Spanish, as I mentioned in my blog about setting up The Language List.  I am having private lessons with a bilingual, (French and Spanish) teacher.  

He has lived here in the UK for the last 40 and speaks perfect English too.  By my definition he is tri-lingual, but by his definition he is not, as he has a slight accent when he speaks English.

Recently he has been helping out at a local language school – teaching English to teenagers.

 

Gaynor

How do you find teaching English compared with teaching French or Spanish?  What’s good and not so good about the English Language? Can you think of any unique aspects of the English Language?

Luis

There’s a lot to say on this subject.  The first thing that occurs to me is that the same word is often used as both a verb and a noun.  I think that might be unique.  It is certainly not the case in French or Spanish.

Gaynor

That sounds like it could be confusing.  Is it helpful?

Luis

It is definitely an advantage.  For example if you don’t know the word for a verb, you might as well try using the noun as if it was a verb.

Gaynor

Can you give me an example?

Luis

Well, just looking around this office, there are many examples…. We are sitting here at this table.  To table can also be a verb, it means to put something on the agenda.  For example “to table a motion, in parliament”.  My pencil – I can pencil something in, meaning to make a provisional appointment.  You can pen something, meaning to write it.  The carpet.  You can use carpet as a verb…. I am going to carpet that room.  There are endless examples, so many that it is always worth a guess if you don’t know…. Or a try, if you like.  That is an example in itself.  Have a try at something or to try to do something.

Gaynor

You mean other languages are not like that?

Luis

No.  In Spanish a pen is una pluma.  There is no verb plumar.  You have to say the equivalent of “to write with a pencil – escribir con una pluma.”

Gaynor

It doesn’t always work though.  What about “to bark?”  Bark means the skin of a tree….

Luis

Yes but a bark also means a noise made by a dog.  Obviously there are examples where one word has many different meanings.  That is not unique to English.

Gaynor

What other comments would you make about English?  This has been very interesting, and I can imagine that some of them would make interesting articles for my website!

Luis

I’d love to carry on talking about this, but it’s four o’clock and my next student is due.  Let me give it some thought.

Do you have any comment about the English Language that you would like to share?  Send us your blog or article.

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