Most difficult aspect of your native language for foreigners

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Cathbad
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Post by Cathbad »

For English, definitely phrasal verbs... and unpredictable pronunciations.

Many of my Slovene friends also have problems with aspects and articles, although I've never had problems with this myself (probably due to my excessive mileage in idiomatic usage through reading).

And German word order is easy - it's gender that's difficult for learners, primarily because you have to master it "through use" (since most people are excessively lazy in learning languages, believing that they will succeed in it without Actual Use).

For Slovene, I couldn't really say. Probably the 5 different declensions, the dual, and idiomatic use of particles (such as pa) and the subtleties of turn-taking devices in the spoken language.

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Post by Travis B. »

Viktor77 wrote:
Silk wrote:A lot of Russians have trouble with the use of articles in English and will either leave out "the" when it is necessary, or insert it when it is not needed.


Czechs do this too. They do it all the freaking time haha. They also forget to use contractions and mix up strong verb forms in my experience.


Actual English dialects have even more variation in strong verb and irregular weak verb forms than does Standard English, to make things even worse for learners. This ranges from simple cases such as using the preterite form as a past participle or vice versa, to having -(e)n past participles where Standard English lacks them, to having variation in the vowels in certain principle parts, to forming new past participles from the preterite plus -(e)n, to having irregular weak verb past participles that have had -(e)n tacked onto them after the weak ending...

(Oh, and I am not talking about strange rural dialects that one is unlikely to come into contact with unless one spends time around rural areas of the British Isles, either. Even speakers of varieties close to Standard English have much more variation in their forms for strong verbs and irregular weak verbs in everyday speech than written Standard English would indicate.)
Last edited by Travis B. on Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Viktor77 »

Cathbad wrote:For Slovene, I couldn't really say. Probably the 5 different declensions, the dual, and idiomatic use of particles (such as pa) and the subtleties of turn-taking devices in the spoken language.


From my experience living with a Slovene, it's vowel reduction. :x

Travis B. wrote:Actual English dialects have even more variation in strong verb and irregular weak verb forms than does Standard English, to make things even worse for learners. This ranges from simple cases such as using the preterite form as a past participle or vice versa, to having -(e)n past participles where Standard English lacks them, to having variation in the vowels in certain principle parts, to forming new past participles from the preterite plus -(e)n, to having irregular weak verb past participles that have had -(e)n tacked onto them after the weak ending...


True, true, but in my experience it was even simple things like: I come there this morning. I drink it always when in Czech. Etc. Although I didn't know advanced speakers, most had little experience with English so this may explain it (though it was a consistent mistake throughout two Czechs and a Slovak).
Last edited by Viktor77 on Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Cathbad »

Viktor77 wrote:From my experience living with a Slovene, it's vowel reduction. :x


Oh, and that. :P

dab ti loh reku [dap ti lOx reku] from da bi ti lahko rekel [da bi ti lax"ko rek@u_^], etc. (People from Gorenjska, ie. Kranj and further north/west, have even crazier reductions.)

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Post by Travis B. »

Viktor77 wrote:True, true, but in my experience it was even simple things like: I come there this morning. I drink it always when in Czech. Etc.

What that almost sounds like is that they are having trouble with English tense and aspect, which actually are quite formidable for many learners of English (being, for instance, far more complex than tense and aspect in other non-Anglic Germanic languages).

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Post by Viktor77 »

Travis B. wrote:
Viktor77 wrote:True, true, but in my experience it was even simple things like: I come there this morning. I drink it always when in Czech. Etc.

What that almost sounds like is that they are having trouble with English tense and aspect, which actually are quite formidable for many learners of English (being, for instance, far more complex than tense and aspect in other non-Anglic Germanic languages).


Yea, I edited my post to clarify that these were not advanced speakers of English, it was simply that this mistake was common in three different speakers, that's all.
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Post by Magb »

We had a "difficult things about English" thread recently, and I'll reiterate that one of the hardest parts is the tense/aspect system. Hopefully I will someday merely have been being confused by it. The spelling is obviously a nightmare, but even natives struggle with it so much that you never really feel too bad about it. I've heard it suggested that learning spoken and written English is akin to learning two distinct languages. Another thing is that English really does have a massive, massive vocabulary. I'm pretty sure I know far more English words than Norwegian words.

The hardest part of Norwegian is probably the whole [i] vs. [y] vs [ʉ] vs. [u] thing, and the pitch accent. V2 word order can be funky, but Dutch and German are even weirder in that respect. Most other things that could be said to be difficult about Norwegian can be answered with "Oh yeah, Icelandic has that too, and these five other things."

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Post by Io »

Viktor77 wrote:
Silk wrote:A lot of Russians have trouble with the use of articles in English and will either leave out "the" when it is necessary, or insert it when it is not needed.


Czechs do this too. They do it all the freaking time haha. They also forget to use contractions and mix up strong verb forms in my experience.

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Last edited by Io on Fri Aug 13, 2010 3:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Travis B. »

LOL.

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Post by Guitarplayer II »

jal wrote:and modal particles. Especially the latter.

Oh yes! Definitely in German as well.
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Post by Kai_DaiGoji »

Viktor77 wrote:
Silk wrote:A lot of Russians have trouble with the use of articles in English and will either leave out "the" when it is necessary, or insert it when it is not needed.


Czechs do this too. They do it all the freaking time haha. They also forget to use contractions and mix up strong verb forms in my experience.

I heard a comedian talking about this once, and an exchange she had with her Russian boyfriend:
He: Please pass remote.
She: It's the remote, maybe if you'd learn to say the remote you'd have a job.
He: Please pass the remote.
She: Here you go.
He: Thank you, the bitch.
[quote="TomHChappell"]I don't know if that answers your question; is English a natlang?[/quote]

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Post by prickly pear »

On the surface, the hardest thing for most Persian learners is the phonetics. [G\ G] seem to particularly difficult, as does the /{ A/ distinction and [h] in the coda (take the butchering of Ahmadinejad's name for example). Second is the spelling, because so much of the vocabulary is borrowed from Arabic there's so telling which graphical representation of /h s z t <etc>/ to use without memorization.

The thing that tends to trip up people the most though is the verbage: eynak zadan "to apply glasses" rather than eynak pushidan "to wear glasses"; zamin khordan "to run into the ground" rather than zamin zadan "to hit the ground." I even have problems with this sometimes.

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Post by Beli Orao »

In Serbo-Croatian, pitch accent. This is something that most second-language speakers (I don't know many, so I'm only guessing) probably never master. After going from native->near-native->barely fluent->non-fluent/conversational, I still maintained most of the pitch-accent system. After re-learning the language to fluency, I'm very glad that I didn't have to also re-learn pitch accent.

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Post by Nortaneous »

Vocabulary. Definitely.
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Post by the duke of nuke »

Everyone hates English phonology, but to be more specific the worst bits seem to be the complicated vowel system and the horribly unpredictable stress accent. Native Chinese speakeers especially seem to have a hard time with the latter.

Also, lolz at that cartoon. :P
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Post by Terra »

horribly unpredictable stress accent

But this isn't unpredictable once you realize that some words are native English and others are Latin ones. Then you just have to learn the Latin stress rules. Of course, this would be a major problem for Chinese speakers who don't have a large influx of learned Latin words in their language like say French does.

Anyways... /I U { T D r/ (A Finnish girl I knew couldn't say /r=/, which lead to difficult because she'd say "parse" for "purse", "narse" for "nurse", etc.), phrasal verbs, articles.

to having -(e)n past participles where Standard English lacks them, to having variation in the vowels in certain principle parts, to forming new past participles from the preterite plus -(e)n, to having irregular weak verb past participles that have had -(e)n tacked onto them after the weak ending...

Ah "-en", everybody's favorite still sorta-productive suffix.

And German word order is easy - it's gender that's difficult for learners, primarily because you have to master it "through use" (since most people are excessively lazy in learning languages, believing that they will succeed in it without Actual Use).

I too must hate on German for this. English gets by without any gender on most all words, and without so many declinations for each noun, so WHY DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH!?!? (It's superfluous! Trust me, you can really get by without it!) And why is there so many ways to form the plural? In English, adding "-s" works for most nouns, but in German it seems completely random. I shouldn't have to memorize 10 different ways for doing something as simple as forming the plural of a word. =( =( =( (On that note, why did English regularize the plural form of most of its words?)
http://german.about.com/library/blplural01.htm

Io wrote:
Viktor77 wrote:
Silk wrote:A lot of Russians have trouble with the use of articles in English and will either leave out "the" when it is necessary, or insert it when it is not needed.


Czechs do this too. They do it all the freaking time haha. They also forget to use contractions and mix up strong verb forms in my experience.

Image

I was under the impression that British English was taught in Europe. Also, is that supposed to be a rope around Britain's neck in the 4th panel?

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Post by Guitarplayer II »

FinalZera wrote:English gets by without any gender on most all words, and without so many declinations for each noun, so WHY DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH!?!? (It's superfluous! Trust me, you can really get by without it!)

OK, let's replace any definite article with "de", any indefinite one with "en", get rid of pronoun declension except for possessives, and make inflection English style, with plural regularized as -en (since that's more common than -s, cf. Dutch). And while we're at it, let's get rid of noun capitalization, ß, and write compounds as two words:
Walter Moers wrote:Als es dunkel wurde, stach Gustave in see. Er zog es vor, während de nacht zu reisen – da er sowieso nicht wusste, wohin de fahrt gehen sollte, schien de sicht verhältnissen neben sächlich zu sein. De himmel war von tintig wolken überzogen, nur ab und zu lugte en stern oder de krater narbig gesicht von de mond dazwischen hervor und spendete gerade genug licht, um de steuer rad in sein handen erkennen zu können. Gustave hatte gelesen, dass es möglich war, sich auf de meer an de stand von de sternen zu orientieren. Er wollte sich dies kunst von ein tag gefügig machen, aber in de augen blick musste er sich auf sein instinkten verlassen.
"Hart backbord!" brüllte er über de deck und riss de steuer rad nach links. Befand sich backbord rechts oder links? Fuhr de schiff nach rechts, wenn man de steuer nach links drehte oder war es umgekehrt? Gustave wischte de fragen vorläufig zu de seite und kurbelte energisch an de hölzern rad, um sein mannen de eindruck wild entschlossenheit zu geben.
"Wir werd es nicht entkommen, Käpt'n!" Dante, sein treu und ein äugig steuer mann, war hinter er getreten. De stimme von de erfahren seemann bebte vor furcht. "Wir könn es unmöglich entrinnen, nicht wahr?"
Obwohl er erst zwölf jahre alt war, blickte de mannen von de Aventure zu Gustave auf wie zu en gigant – auch wenn sie sich dabei hinab beug musste. Dante knetete sein mütze in de grob fausten und sah de jung kapitän mit sein übrig geblieben auge hoffnung voll an.
Last edited by Guitarplayer II on Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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[size=84]And! [url=http://bit.ly/9dSyTI]Ayeri Reference Grammar[/url] (upd. 28 Sep 2010)[/size]

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Post by Yng »

:( German is more fun with cases and full gender distinction. Otherwise, what stops it being Dutch? :P

*ducks*

Anyway, I'm also interested - what happened to gender in English? The case system, as we know, was declining even before 1066, and early Middle English retains dodgy case declensions that sort of resemble modern German's (although not on the article - nominal declensions, this is) which then die out pretty quickly, probably because they're not really that marked... but...
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Post by Guitarplayer II »

FinalZera wrote:Also, is that supposed to be a rope around Britain's neck in the 4th panel?

I thought it'd be some kind of electric chair? As for me, I was primarily taught British English, and the first two volumes of our English textbook concentrated on Britain and its parts. The latter two volumes covered the US and Australia as well. My first English teacher had an awfully posh RP accent.

Also, the list of plurals you linked exaggerates things by its orthographic approach. If a word ends in -e you only append -n or -r, because -eer or -een would look weird. Also, words ending in -en, -el or -er already don't get another -e, -en or -er tacked on them; *-elen is simplified to -eln. The last two classes only apply to loan words, and AFAICT -s is most common with loan words as well.

French: The bajillion of verb conjugation classes. And subjonctif.
giˈtaɹ.plɛɪ̯ɚ‿n dɪs.ˈgaɪz • [b][url=http://sanstitre.nfshost.com/sbk]Der Sprachbaukasten[/url][/b]
[size=84]And! [url=http://bit.ly/9dSyTI]Ayeri Reference Grammar[/url] (upd. 28 Sep 2010)[/size]

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Post by finlay »

FinalZera wrote:I was under the impression that British English was taught in Europe. Also, is that supposed to be a rope around Britain's neck in the 4th panel?

American English is the variety with the largest number of speakers, so they're actually more likely to learn that. There doesn't seem to be a pattern apart from who one's been taught by. The other thing is that there's far, far more American telly in Europe than British telly.... and many pick up their accents from that.

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Post by AnTeallach »

Articles (especially the).

Tense/aspect.

Mispronunciations caused by irregular spelling.

[T] and [D] (especially if replaced by [s] and [z]: other options are better)

Vowel system (especially pronouncing TRAP as [E])

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Post by Echobeats »

YngNghymru wrote::( German is more fun with cases and full gender distinction. Otherwise, what stops it being Dutch? :P

*ducks*

Anyway, I'm also interested - what happened to gender in English? The case system, as we know, was declining even before 1066, and early Middle English retains dodgy case declensions that sort of resemble modern German's (although not on the article - nominal declensions, this is) which then die out pretty quickly, probably because they're not really that marked... but...

As I understand it, reduction to [@] of all vowels in unstressed final syllables (where all the affixes were) is what did for the case system. The same thing probably took out grammatical gender as well.
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Post by TaylorS »

YngNghymru wrote::( German is more fun with cases and full gender distinction. Otherwise, what stops it being Dutch? :P

*ducks*

Anyway, I'm also interested - what happened to gender in English? The case system, as we know, was declining even before 1066, and early Middle English retains dodgy case declensions that sort of resemble modern German's (although not on the article - nominal declensions, this is) which then die out pretty quickly, probably because they're not really that marked... but...
English losing gender is really, REALLY weird. Other Germanic languages have very reduced noun inflection, but still have gender, at least on their articles.

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Post by Salmoneus »

Tense, aspect, and also mood. Where I find errors from those I know whose second language it is is usually in finding the right periphrastic construction, particularly with subordinate clauses.

Complex relative clauses - but that might just be a general complexity issue for learners, rather than English-specific.

Vowels.

Borrowings from other languages: when they take the original-language's pronunciation and when they're to be anglicised. And changes in meaning. Particularly bad if they speak French!

Prepositions - particularly the specific combinations that have to be used with different verbs.
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Post by Echobeats »

TaylorS wrote:
YngNghymru wrote::( German is more fun with cases and full gender distinction. Otherwise, what stops it being Dutch? :P

*ducks*

Anyway, I'm also interested - what happened to gender in English? The case system, as we know, was declining even before 1066, and early Middle English retains dodgy case declensions that sort of resemble modern German's (although not on the article - nominal declensions, this is) which then die out pretty quickly, probably because they're not really that marked... but...
English losing gender is really, REALLY weird. Other Germanic languages have very reduced noun inflection, but still have gender, at least on their articles.

Now I think about it, I've heard of a theory that it was thanks to waves of incoming Normans, or possibly the Vikings before them. Some versions call English (as spoken at the time gender etc. were lost) a semi-creole, which I think is going a bit far. However, it doesn't seem far-fetched that when two languages which differ as to which words are in which gender come into frequent contact, they might pidginise a little and lead to loss of gender. It might not happen with two Romance languages, since knowing a noun's gender in one Romance language will tell you the gender of its cognate in another, but with one Romance language and one Germanic language there'd be hardly any clues.
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