New Book

Julia Sallabank julia at TORTEVAL.DEMON.CO.UK
Sat Nov 29 14:09:58 UTC 2003

I think it is a tenet of linguists that no language is intrinsically more
difficult to learn than any other, especially as a first language.

Some features of English may in fact make it easier to learn as a second
language, e.g. its simplified morphology, its lack of grammatical gender,
and its range of vocabulary from different roots (especially Germanic and

Some think that the degree of difference from one's first language is an
important factor in second language learning difficulty, whereas others
identify developmental factures in learning regardless of first language.
Researchers identify a number of factors in language learning success, such
as age, amount of exposure/frequency of lessons, quality of teaching,
intelligence, aptitude, and motivation/attitudes.

A relevant factor for us as people interested in minority languages is the
connations associated with the concept of 'difficulty'. It is not uncommon
for minority languages to be branded 'incomprehensible' and 'impossible to
learn' - this is not anything to do with any identifiable features of the
languages, but is due to negative attitudes towards minority languages and
the general denigration they are subject to (it is also illogical -
'primitive' languages may be quite complex grammatically).

English, on the other hand, is a sought-after language of international
communication, and so motivation for learning it is usually high.

Best wishes


----- Original Message -----
From: "Andreas Kyriacou" <andreas at KYRIACOU.CH>
Sent: Tuesday, November 25, 2003 9:35 PM
Subject: Re: New Book

> Andre
> I know it's not your own statement, but as you quoted it: would you
> care to expand on this, and maybe cite a source or two?
> >  it is a well-known and proven fact that English, within itself, is one
> > of the hardest languages in the world to learn."
> I'd be interested in what kind of measurements are undertaken in
> studies which find language x harder to learn than language y.
> Andreas

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