ADVANCED - READING

As you read the story, think about the answers to these questions.
1. Why are there many words with similar meanings?
2. Why did the English spoken in London become the standard?

Why is English So Hard?
"The language spoken in London was the language that was recorded."

Look at these words for 'father.'
English - father
German - vater
Latin - pater
Sanskrit - pitr.

Why are the words so similar in all these languages?

The answer is simple. These languages share similar beginnings and influences. They are all members of the Indo-European family of languages. The British people in the 6th century spoke Celtic. Europeans brought Germanic words to the language. Around the 12th century the Normans brought Latin words. Strange things began to happen. For example, 'gentle' comes from from Latin and 'man' from European. We put them together in the word 'gentleman.' Sometimes words with the same meaning came from several languages and they all remain today. 'Wish' is Germanic and 'desire' is French. From the 16th century many Greek and Latin words came into the English. Shakespeare created and introduced more than 2000 words. Examples are 'critical,' 'majestic' and 'pedant.'

The printing press was introduced in London in 1476. The language spoken in London became the standard. The first English dictionary was published in 1604. In the 19th century the Industrial Revolution began. New words were needed to describe machinery, processes and discoveries. Many of these new words were Latin and Greek. Words like 'oxygen,' 'protein' and 'vaccine' came into the language. Global trade increased and there were more influences. Words were adopted and adapted from many different languages. 'Shampoo' and 'pyjamas' came from Hindi, 'sauna' from Finnish and 'tycoon' from Japanese.' English is still changing today.

If you have trouble with spelling and pronunciation, it is not surprising. With all these different influences on the language, there is not a clear set of rules for spelling and pronunciation. Some people want to standardise the spelling of English so that it is phonetic. Maybe it is a good idea!