They say the English language is a difficult one to learn and is arguably the largest language by the number of words. I've only ever spoken English – with a little Australian and American accent thrown in at different times. My wife speaks fluent German, her native tongue, as well as Afrikaans, after growing up in South Africa, and a little Zulu (no she doesn't use this on me).
Many English names and phrases don't mean exactly what they first suggest. Here are a few examples I read about recently:
- 'Baby oil' is not made out of babies and its usefulness is not restricted to babies.
- The 'cold war' was not a war.
- 'Political science' is not a science.
- 'American football' only occasionally uses the foot to contact the ball.
- A 'boxing ring' is actually square.
- The purpose of a 'wet suit' is to keep you dry.
- A 'bulldog' is not a bull and some people think its not much of a dog either 🙂
- Try explaining 'friendly fire' or 'missionary position' to a person new to the English language!
No wonder we end up with situations such as Chinglish and signs lost in translation! For a few examples of what are commonly called oxymorons, click here. If you are interested in the Oxford English Dictionary, click here to read about a man who read it through word by word in one year – all 21,730 pages!
SO … let's be very patient with our immigrants as they try to learn one of the most difficult languages in the world … English.