How’s English different to my mother tongue?

Nine of our students reflect on how their first language contrasts with English and how this affects their English learning in their course at EC Oxford English Centre.

EC Oxford IELTS class Aug 2017
The IELTS class at EC Oxford, August 2017

As you know, learning English as an Arabic speaker is one of the most difficult languages to learn because there are huge differences starting from the script and going through all aspects of English and Arabic. For instance, while we write from right to left, English people write in the opposite direction.

I’m going to talk about the biggest difference between Turkish and English. From my point of view, the biggest difference is tenses. Turkish sentences are built with adding affixes. For instance, English grammar has many ways to talk about time periods. There are four forms of the verb in English (do, did, done, doing) but in Turkish there are lots of suffixes to express tense.

Belonging to two different language families, English and Chinese have many significant differences which makes learning English a serious challenge, such as learning grammar. English uses a different tense system which makes it clear which is the first activity in a sequence. Another major difference is that Chinese writing uses a character system, rather than an alphabet.

In Spanish, when you try to learn English, you think it might be easy because we have similar words and the same alphabet, but with time you start to know that it’s not as easy as you thought it would be. For examples, some vocabulary looks exactly the same but has a very different meaning and pronunciation. So, for example, when you try to tell a story you use Spanish words using an English accent and you don’t know that you are wrong and nobody understands you! It’s embarrassing, so you have to prepare your vocabulary and your ideas before you talk. Also, Spanish is not such a formal language, so the polite way to speak in British English is difficult to learn.

My mother tongue is French and I’ve studied English since school and now at EC Oxford English Centre. After all these years of studying, there is one difference between English and French that is still difficult for me: pronunciation.

At first sight, a lot of words are the same between French and English but even if the spelling looks exactly the same, the pronunciation will be different. Because despite sharing the same written alphabet, our phonetic alphabet is completely different. Because of this, it can be difficult to be understood by other people because French people often have a strong accent. People often guess that I’m French just because of my accent; actually, almost every time!

At EC Oxford English Centre, we’re committed to helping you overcome these barriers so that you can gain fluency and confidence in your language learning.