Friday, June 21, 2024
From My Front Porch

Learning English as a second language seems close to impossible


We are fortunate to have a young woman working in our office who relocated to Texas last year from the Ukraine. She and her family were minding their own business and living a happy life when suddenly they found themselves and their country under siege from invading Russian forces. She taught at a university and, prior to the start of the war, never considered living anywhere else but her homeland. To make a long story short, the young woman and her family made their way to the United States, and she is now working at the newspaper. She is very smart and a good worker, but understandably has a few struggles with speaking English.

Let me be clear, Oksana’s English is pretty darn good for someone who has had to totally immerse themselves in a vastly different foreign language. She is conversive and does a much better job speaking English than I would be speaking Ukrainian after such a short time. I admire that she works at her language skills and wants to be the best she can be. Oksana’s language journey got me to thinking how hard I would have it if I were in a similar situation. Have you ever imagined trying to learn English as a second language? Think of the challenges:

Change can mean “to alter” or it can be the money you get back after you make a purchase.

Fall is what happens if you do not watch where you are going, or it could be a season of the year.

Light can help you see in the dark or it can make fireworks explode.

Lead means to go to the front or it is a heavy metal.

Wind is a gust of air, or it is what you do to an old clock.

A dove is a bird related to a pigeon, but dove is what you did in the pool last summer.

A minute is 60 seconds, but something minute is very tiny.

But wait, there are more issues to confuse a beginner. Then there are homophones; words that have the same sound as another but are spelled differently.

The horse trainer was hoarse from calling out commands all day.

The savings from the ads add up over time.

We could all see the ship sinking into the sea.

The crews on the cruise ship worked hard to make sure everyone enjoyed their experience.

If that isn’t enough to confuse any linguist, then there are negatives without positives:

“Inert” means lacking any chemical reactions. There is no “ert” to indicate the opposite.

“Inhibit” means to prevent or discourage from doing something. There is no “hibit.”

There are a number of disgruntled people, but you will never meet a “gruntled” person.

Then there are contranyms, which are words that have two contradictory meanings such as:

Bill, a payment or an invoice for payment.

Custom, a common practice or a special treatment.

Dust, to add fine particles or to remove them.

Fast could mean either quick or stable.

Overlook is to supervise, or it can be to neglect.

Trim: to decorate or to discard something

Poor Oksana. Trying to learn all the idiosyncrasies of the English language must be a tremendous challenge. To make things worse, she has settled in Texas, so she is going to have to learn two new languages: English and Texican. I reckon y’all can appreciate anyone fixin’ to accept that challenge. God bless her heart!

Thought for the day: “England and America are two countries divided by the same language.” — George Bernard Shaw

Until next time…I will keep ridin’ the storm out!