MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

English, the baffling language March 22, 2012

Poster available from

I’m reading The Mother Tongue – English & How It Got That Way, by Bill Bryson. I keep bursting out with laughter as he describes the quirks of English. Here is an excerpt from the first page:

Imagine being a foreigner and having to learn that in English one tells a lie but the truth, that a person who says “I could care less” means the same thing as someone who says “I couldn’t care less”, … that when a person says to you, “How do you do?” he will be taken aback if you reply, with impeccable logic, “How do I do what?”

With our youngest daughter in Spanish Immersion School, and thus learning to read and write in Spanish, it is interesting for me to see how she is transferring her knowledge of reading from one language to the other. This has happened to our older daughter too, although the other way around: after learning to read in English, she can now read Spanish and Afrikaans too. I think that in Spanish the words are spelled much more phonetically, just like in Afrikaans. English spelling just doesn’t make sense to me. So when our youngest tries to read words like island, thought, ache, and which, it is no wonder that she is having difficulty!

How did you learn to read another language than your mother tongue? Did you have difficulty with it?


%d bloggers like this: