Why is English so weirdly different from other langu...
English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal. Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. There is no other language, for example, that is close enough to English that we can get about half of what people are saying without training and the rest with only modest effort. We think it’s a nuisance that so many European languages assign gender to nouns for no reason, with French having female moons and male boats and such. More weirdness? Why is our language so eccentric? Sign up for Aeon’s Newsletter English started out as, essentially, a kind of German.
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