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Friday, Sept. 17, 1999
Ten reasons why English is an evil language
By AMY CHAVEZ
English is an evil language. If it wasn't, all Japanese people would speak fluent English upon graduating high school. After all, seven years of English study should be enough.
My students gave the following reasons why English is an evil language. I have followed each reason with a bit of history of the English language I learned in college. I should stress, however, that college was a long time ago and my memory may not be entirely accurate.
1. There are so many different accents in English. Can't you people decide on one accent and just stay with it?
The English language was invented in England, which is where the term "the Queen's English" comes from. The English language belongs to the queen and she holds the copyright in England. Many people agree that the only correct pronunciation is British English. The only people who disagree are those from America, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, India, Africa or anywhere else.
2. The Roman alphabet doesn't reflect the true pronunciation of English.
The reason for this is that English has gone through great changes over the years, such as The Great Vowel Shift, and many other important, but terribly boring events that have rendered English practically incomprehensible. As an ESL learner, you may be interested in joining a group called "Victims of The Great Vowel Shift," who have been trying to apply Darwin's Theory of survival of the fittest to the English language to do away with useless silent e's, and i's before e's.
3. English has confusing tenses such as "have been." Why do we have to say "I have never been to England?" Why can't we just say, "I no go to England yet?"
According to the theory of Communicative Competence in ESL teaching, "I no go to England yet," although grammatically incorrect, is still correct. As long as the other person understands you, it should be counted as correct. Unless you're taking the Eiken test, the TOEFL test, the TWE test, the TOEIC test or any other test of English competency.
4. English has woopi, coopi, shoopi.
I think my student Sachiko Akamatsu means "would be, could be and should be." You have to realize that the English language was invented by England's Defense Department as a secret code to keep important information from spies. Therefore, confusing grammar was adopted such as, "I could be wrong, but I think we should have launched that attack while we could have. I shouldn't have wanted to wait so long, would you?" The Japanese, no matter how much they had studied English would immediately retreat screaming, "No, not woopi, coopi, shoopi! Let's get out of here!"
5. English has those pesky articles "a" and "the."
"A" and "the" were not originally in the English language and were inserted only after the Meiji Restoration to make the English language as difficult as possible for Japanese people to learn. "A" and "the" are new, modern-day hurdles for the younger generation. This is why when older Japanese people speak English, and I mean really old Japanese people, they don't include "a" and "the" in their speech.
6. English uses singular and plural. Japanese language doesn't use singular and plural, so why do you think you need it in English?
If we wanted English to be an easy language, we would have thrown out singulars and plurals long ago. But, as every Japanese teacher of English will tell you, there is something very valuable (no one knows exactly what) in having to write a sentence all over again to reflect the change of the subject from singular to plural.
7. English has many difficult sounds such as l, r, v , th and z.
These difficult sounds were put in the English language to help distinguish native speakers from nonnative speakers.
8. English has the unconditional "it," as in "It's raining." What does "it" mean?
No one knows. It's just a fact of life.
9. Writing is hard because English has so many spelling rules. This leads to spelling rules I can never remember, such as "i before e except after d." Or was it, "i before e except after he"? Or "i before e except after pee"?
The rule is "i before e except after c and except in words like weigh and neigh." Heigh, it's not so hard.
10. The biggest evil of the English language is that we need it.
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