Learn English    

English Language Silliness

April 13th, 2010

In the many languages spoken in the world there are sometimes practices that may be challenging to language students. There are some aspects of English that may seem pointless, silly, or redundant for language learners. The truth is that many of the world languages would benefit from a modern update. Language has been an organically evolving process and few modern languages have had an opportunity for a global agreement on language improvements. Those who have already learned a language may also not want to change their language, even though it may make the language better in general. Here are some of the challenging things students of English should watch for and be careful of.

Many of the words in English sound the same or similar. The words may have very different meanings and a word’s meaning may only be understood when spoken in context. Although the words sound similar, they may be spelled in different ways. To an English learner the difference in spelling may seem rather silly and it possibly is. The way to spell the various words is also basically arbitrary to a student of English. Using a different spelling can mean very different things when writing English. Here is one common example. The word meet and the word meat are common words that are spelled almost the same. The words sound the same, but the two words mean very different things.

Another common issue students of the English language may find is the classical spelling of some of the words. There have actually been petitions to update the classical spelling of some of the language. Certain words have already changed slowly over the years and some are actually in the process of changing today. The word synaesthetic is now being accepted when spelled synesthetic. This is an advanced word for English students, but the spelling update is a sign of English language progress to make it easier. A more common word that has already changed to an easier spelling is the word music. The word used to be spelled musick. This update reportedly happened as a result of Noah Webster’s dictionary in the past 200 years or so. Such updates are often the result of common misspellings by users of the English language. It is possibly an update made by the majority. If the majority tires of a challenging spelling, it appears to change.

Much of the issues are a result of a difference in spelling of British and American English. The American spelling is generally a more modern update and British spelling is apparently slower to change. The amount of words can be surprising and there are different ways to spell the same words in different dictionaries. The use of the letter ā€œLā€ doubled in certain words is one example. In American English the word dialed is spelled with one ā€œLā€ and in British English the word is spelled as dialled. This would be automatically corrected one way or the other by a program such as Microsoft Word, depending on which dictionary the software is using.

One look at the supposed tomb of Shakespeare shows how much English spelling can change. The word friend is spelled frend on the sign above the tomb.