Saturday, January 22, 2011

You don't know a word until you know how to pronounce it!

About 80 percent of the entries in any English dictionary are borrowed, mainly from Latin. Over 60 percent of all English words have Greek or Latin roots. In the vocabulary of the sciences and technology, the figure rises to over 90 percent. About 10 percent of the Latin vocabulary has found its way directly into English without an intermediary (usually French). For a time the whole Latin lexicon became potentially English and many words were coined on the basis of Latin precedent. Words of Greek origin have generally entered English in one of three ways: 1) indirectly by way of Latin, 2) borrowed directly from Greek writers, or 3) especially in the case of scientific terms, formed in modern times by combining Greek elements in new ways. The direct influence of the classical languages began with the Renaissance and has continued ever since. Even today, Latin and Greek roots are the chief source for English words in science and technology.

So this is great for Italian students of English because right at the start they already know almost 80% of the entire English vocabulary (wink wink!). So then why is it that when they speaking with English speakers they understand almost nothing and are totally not understood?

That is because the English pronunciation of Latin words arecompletely different from the Italian. Take the example of psychology pronounced as /saɪˈkɒlədʒi/ ( rather than /'psɪkolo'dʒia/ as in Italian. So when a student who doesn't know the correct pronunciation of the English word hears it from a native speaker   will not recognize it although he knows the word perfectly well from his/her own language.

You don't know a word until you know how to pronounce it! Use  online dicitionaries such as the one in the above link to always check and double check, listen to and repeat a word, until you know it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Words or Grammar?

Currently in Italy, where I live, a huge emphasis is put on teaching grammar in English classes in high schools. Apart from the fact that most often the teachers themselves don't really get all the intricacies of English grammar let alone their students, this approach is also hugely counter-productive. Let's see the following example.

Two Italian tourists, Giulio Grammatica, and Vittorio Vocabolario go on vacation in the US. Giulio Grammatica has a full grasp of English grammar, knows all the rules but absolutely no words in English. Vittorio Vocabolario, on the other hand, has no idea about grammar, can't even tell a verb from an adjective, but has 1500 words safely tucked away in his grey brain matter. (He also has two arms, hands as well as an expressive face with which to help along comunication.) So which one of these gentlemen will find a reasonably priced hotel room first? Or the local disco and nice people to have a drink with?

Guess you got it.

Words speak louder than grammar. It is more important to speak with errors, than be silent and make no mistakes.

So if you don't have a lot of time but need to speak fast, learn ten words a day. Of course,learn those words with their correct pronunciation.You don't know an English word until you know how to pronounce it CORRECTLY. See next blog.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

learning english is easy

Hi Reader,

howdy! Today's topic is learning English as a foreign language is easy. Whether you need this language for work or pleasure or both, you should think about it like any other skill indispensable for modern life such as driving, knowing how to use your cell phone or PC or riding a bike. Mastering English or any other foreign language has two stages: the actual learning phase - going to English class, doing your homework, studying grammar, vocab, etc,. -  and the maintenance phase - practicing with English speakers, in other words, using the language in real life situations.

here's a funny video advertising berlitz, about why you should learn English: