American English is one of the hardest languages to learn. So many words have multiple meanings that it is difficult to know which words to use in which situations. In contrast, many words sound the same but are spelled differently.
If English is not your natural language, you can experience confusion and even embarrassment while trying to learn it.
Too many native English speakers feel English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Throw in dialects of the South or the Northwest (or any specific region) and English becomes an even harder language to master.
One non-native English speaker who has done tremendously well with learning this language is Farnoosh Brock. She makes a living with her use of the English language by her writing at ProlificLiving.com.
One of her articles identifies 19 common errors of the English language. These are words many of us have suffered with since our earliest years. Check it out here.
Farnoosh also has published a manifesto on speaking English well. You can get a copy of it here.
Here on intentionalemployee, I’ve also identified several disfluencies we experience with our speaking and writing.
A couple of these articles are as follows:
Between Farnoosh’s article and the two other articles listed immediately above, 35 errors of the English language are identified. To prove English is one of the hardest languages to learn, six more common English errors are identified below:
1. Could care les
“I could care less how much they like me.”
Really? “Could care less” does not accurately represent what you’re trying to say. Instead, it should be “couldn’t care less.”
“Couldn’t care less” means you care the least amount as possible. This is the proper way to use the phrase.
2. Let me
How often do you say, or does someone say to you, “let me” say such and such?
Do you have to let someone say what they want? They control what they say, not you. The same goes for you.
“Let me” is used frequently as a way to show respect or be nice. However, it’s not needed in conversation in most cases.
It especially is not used when said by a public speaker. In those cases, the speaker is specifically there to tell you and the audience has no ability to “let” the speaker speak.
3. Themself and ourself
These two words do not exist. I guess you can say they are non-words. “Them” and “self” are contradictory in number. So are “our” and “self.” The first part of the word is plural and the second part is singular.
The proper use of these pronouns should be “themselves” or “ourselves” since both parts of each word is plural.
4. They say
It is common for someone, when talking about something that is common knowledge, to say, “They say that…” Unfortunately for the speaker, it’s evident that who “they” are is not known. Acting smart and being smart are two different things.
I had an interaction with a substitute teacher my senior year in high school about this exact phrase. We were in Advanced Placement Biology. This substitute, who was awarded a substitute teaching job almost every day simply because his mother was a tenured teacher at the school, tried telling us, “They say.”
After this many years I do not remember what it was he was attempting to pass off as fact. I kept rebutting him and asking who “they” were. I just kept getting the same answer….they.
The rule, here, is to never use a pronoun without first using the antecedent, unless, of course the antecedent is understood.
In this case, the substitute teacher had not used the antecedent and I kept asking what the antecedent for “they” was.
At this point in my life, I know I was a know-it-all teenager who should have kept his mouth shut.
5. Granite vs. granted
When many people say “granted,” they pronounce it so it sounds like “granite.” This bothered me for years.
I gave the benefit of the doubt, however, and figured it was just a pronunciation issue. They had to spell the word correctly, right?
It was shocker when I read a friend’s college paper and discovered he used “granite” where “granted” should have been used.
When I told him about it, he was shocked. He truly thought he used the correct word. I’ve seen this more and more as the years have passed.
To be clear, “granite” is an igneous rock; “granted” is a verb meaning to give, agree or admit.
6. Intensive purposes vs. intents and purposes
I’m going to admit something here. Until a few years ago, I believed the proper phrasing was “for all intensive purposes.” Thankfully, this was not a phrase I used often.
The original phrase was “intents and purposes;” however, upon further research, I’ve discovered these two phrases are an eggcorn.
What in the world is an eggcorn? According to our friends at Wikipedia, “an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker’s dialect …”
For more on eggcorns, go here. It’s actually pretty fascinating.
Clear as mud
We knew at the beginning of this article that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Provided here are six tips for speaking more better (yes, I write “more better” on purposes… Ha!).
Add those to the 35 other common errors identified in the other three articles and you have a great start to better speech/
Question for you: What issues do you frequently see made with writing and/or speaking that makes English one of the hardest languages to learn?