Friday, February 25, 2011

Rule Britannia

Ten Irrefutable Reasons Why English is Quite Simply the Best Language in the World

1. English is a rich language

We say, “Variety is the spice of life”. Well, there are at least three ways to say anything in English:

I must go, I have to go, I’ve got to go
You may be right, You could be right, You might be right
I suggest you learn this, I recommend you learn this, I propose you learn this
Sorry? Pardon? Excuse me?
Hello, Hi, Hey you!
Bye, See you, Ciao...

There are no exceptions to this useful, handy, convenient rule.

Incidentally, by the way and a propos, there is a beautiful corollary to this rule: students can usually find at least three ways of saying anything incorrectly in English:

*I must to go, *I must for go, *I must going
*I think in go, *I think on go, *I think to go...

2. English is a sensible language

We don’t have silly words like “entrecejo”, “zurdo” “tuerto” or “manco”. No disrespect intended towards people with spaces between their eyebrows, left-handers, Cyclops lookalikes and one-armed bandits. We don’t need them! I mean we don’t need silly words; there will always be a place on this earth for people with spaces between their eyebrows and the like.

baldosa -> “floor tile”
azulejo -> “wall tile”
teja -> “roof tile”
adoquín -> “pavement tile”

baldosa para el baño? -> “bathroom floor tile”
azulejo para la cocina? -> “kitchen wall tile”

Sota, Caballo, Rey. Or as we say in English, “ABC”.

3. English is a logical language

Take pronunciation, for example. Why do we pronounce the ‘a’ as /ei/ in “face”, “race”, “age” and “page” but as /i/ in “surface”, “palace”, “manage” and “image”? “Because English is a bloody stupid language” is the answer most people give, but they are wrong, of course. In fact, the rule is perfectly simple: “if a word ends in “-ace” or “-age” and has more than one syllable, the final ‘a’ is pronounced /i/.” Don’t ask why. Just learn the rule. Please.

4. English is a palindrome-friendly language

No language can match our wonderful language for palindromes: words, phrases and sentences that read the same from back to front.

Adam’s first words to Eve? -> “Madam, I’m Adam”
Eve’s reply? -> “God’s dog?”

Here are a few of our greatest palindromes:

Do geese see God?
Wow! A Toyota?! Wow!
Was it a car or a cat I saw?
A man, a plan, a canal... Panama!
Wow! Hannah! A Toyota?! Hannah! Wow!
Did I say, “Dábale arroz a la zorra el Abad”? Yas, I did!
Did Hannah say, “Esanik erruz egi bat ta bi gezurrekin ase”? Yas, Hannah did!

5. English is a musical language

It’s impossible to fall asleep when you listen to an Englishman “speaking”. It can surely be no coincidence that the greatest groups are all English – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who... Pink Floyd, Genesis, Deep Purple... – or that the greatest songs are all in English – Yesterday, Satisfaction, My Generation... Wish You Were Here, Follow You Follow Me, Puff The Magic Dragon...

Ask yourself: Why are there more English speakers than Icelandic speakers in the world? No disrespect to Björk intended. The singer, not the tennis player.

Yes, OK, the greatest composers are all German - Who but a German would have the patience to sit down for 10 years and write a symphony? -, but that’s not my point.

6. English is a mathematical language

English is mathematics -> e = m

English is mathematics, so just follow the rules!
As English is mathematics, just follow the rules!

A, so B = As A, B.

(You can change A and B for X and Y if you prefer.)

The opposite of “give up smoking” is “take up smoking”

give ≠ take
start ≠ stop
smoking = smoking
up = up

give + up ≠ take + up
give + up + smoking ≠ take + up + smoking

Quod erat demonstrandum! - as my maths teacher used to say, though I prefer “piece of cake!” (“¡chupado!”).

7. English is a regular language

So regular that even the “irregular” verbs are regular when you look at them!


But be careful with the “regular” flow-flowed-flowed!

Let’s try making some negative sentences...

The wind didn’t blow
The plants didn’t grow
The man didn’t know
The boy didn’t throw up
The water didn’t flow

Difficult, eh? Yes, I know, there was a dreaded “phrasal verb” in there somewhere, but we have to have something to maintain the myth that English is a difficult language. Just don’t tell your students that they should simply cough on the preposition when in doubt.

8. English is a punny language

No language can match English for the quantity - and quality - of its puns (plays on words).

Does your wife get hysterical when you argue?
Worse. She gets historical!

Why aren’t there any aspirins in the jungle?
Because the parrots eat ’em all (parecetamol).

Knock! Knock!
Who’s there?
Alison who?
I listen to the radio every day!

Did you find those jokes punny?

9. English is an easy language

How do you say, “Fui al cine” in English? Yes, that’s right, it’s our students’ favourite sentence: “I went to the cinema”. How about “Fuimos al cine” or “Fueron al cine”? Difficult, aren’t they? Well, let’s try changing the person and see what we get: “We went to the cinema”, “They went to the cinema”. Hey this is looking good!

OK, verbs are too easy, I agree. So, let’s try and decline a few adjectives. The man is tall... The men are, er, tall?... The woman is tall... The women are tall... Sorry, that was a dirty trick: there are no plural adjectives in English; nor do we distinguish between men and women (when deciding which adjective to use, I mean. I think the technical term is “genderless”, but that’s a very big word for an Englishman).

10. English is a subjunctive-free language

Many languages are tremendously proud of their subjunctive structures. Good for them, but we’ve found we can manage very nicely without them in English, thank you very much:

Si supiese -> If I knew...
Si pudiese -> If I could...
Si tuviese -> If I had...
¡Ojalá supiesen! -> If only they knew!
¡Ojalá pudiesen! -> If only they could!
¡Ojalá hubiesen dicho! -> If only they had said!

Said what? Who cares? And stop trying to change the subject! The rule here is very simple: ignore the subjunctive. Past simple subjunctive? Try the past simple. Present simple subjunctive? Try the present simple. Past Perfect subjunctive? Try— Well, I think you’ve got the point.

Y que te vaya bien. Or as we say in English, “Good luck” :)

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