Mind Your Language Season 1 Episode 1 – The First Lesson (Eng Subs)
(ESL Links) ♦ Selected Links for Students A short list of good places to start.
iteslj.org/ESL.html ←case sensitive ♦ Many Things
Free English Lessons
Try a free English lesson from the Pimsleur languages below. Please note that these are large files and may take several minutes to load depending on your internet connection. Please be patient and enjoy your free lesson.
English for Arabic Speakers
English for Cantonese Speakers
English for Mandarin Speakers
English for Russian Speakers
English for Spanish Speakers I English for Spanish Speakers II English for Spanish Speakers III
Resources for learning and teaching English
Germanic languages: English
English is spoken by 322 million native speakers in United Kingdom, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa etc. In addition to these, English is the official language of many former British colonies.
Do You Speak English?
One of the consequences of the French influence is that the vocabulary of English is, to a certain extent, divided between those words that are Germanic (mostly West Germanic, with a smaller influence from the North Germanic branch) and those that are “Latinate” (derived directly from Latin, or through Norman French or other Romance languages). The situation is further compounded, as French, particularly Old French and Anglo-French, were also contributors in English of significant numbers of Germanic words, mostly from the Frankish element in French (see List of English Latinates of Germanic origin).
The majority (estimates range from roughly 50% to more than 80%) of the thousand most common English words are Germanic. However, the majority of more advanced words in subjects such as the sciences, philosophy and mathematics come from Latin or Greek, with Arabic also providing many words in astronomy, mathematics, and chemistry.
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By an extension, the term “etymology (of a word)” means the origin of a particular word.
English has proven accommodating to words from many languages, as described in the following examples. Scientific terminology relies heavily on words of Latin and Greek origin. Spanish has contributed many words, particularly in the southwestern United States. Examples include buckaroo from vaquero or “cowboy”; alligator from el lagarto or “lizard”; rodeo and savvy; states’ names such as Colorado and Florida. Cuddle, eerie, and greed come from Scots; albino, palaver, lingo, verandah, and coconut from Portuguese; diva, prima donna, pasta, pizza, paparazzi, and umbrella from Italian; adobe, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, apricot, assassin, caliber, cotton, hazard, jacket, jar, julep, mosque, Muslim, orange, safari, sofa, and zero from Arabic; honcho, sushi, and tsunami from Japanese; dim sum, gung ho, kowtow, kumquat, ketchup, and typhoon from Cantonese; behemoth, hallelujah, Satan, jubilee, and rabbi from Hebrew; taiga, sable, and sputnik from Russian; galore, whiskey, phoney, trousers, and Tory from Irish; brahman, guru, karma, and pandit from Sanskrit; kampong and amok from Malay; smorgasbord and ombudsman from Swedish, Danish, Norwegian; sauna from Finnish; and boondocks from the Tagalog word, bundok. (See also “loanword.”)
During his/her infancy, a child builds a vocabulary by instinct, with zero effort. Infants imitate words that they hear and then associate those words with objects and actions. This is the listening vocabulary. The speaking vocabulary follows, as a child’s thoughts become more reliant on his/her ability to self-express in a gesture-free and babble-free manner. Once the reading and writing vocabularies are attained – through questions and education – the anomalies and irregularities of language can be discovered.
Vocabulary differences between social classes in the U.S.A.
James Flynn reports the remarkable differences in vocabulary exposure of pre-schoolers between different classes in the U.S.A. Apparently, pre-schoolers of professional families are typically exposed to 2,150 different words, pre-schoolers from working class families to 1,250 words, while those from households on welfare just 620.
In first grade, an advantaged student (i.e. a literate student) learns about twice as many words as a disadvantaged student. Generally, this gap does not tighten. This translates into a wide range of vocabulary size by age five or six, at which time an English-speaking child will have learned about 2,500–5,000 words. An average student learns some 3,000 words per year, or approximately eight words per day.
After leaving school, vocabulary growth reaches a plateau. People usually then expand their vocabularies by engaging in activities such as reading, playing word games, and by participating in vocabulary-related programs.
What is collocation?
Collocation is the natural combination of words when trying to convey a message. For example if you want to say “cortina de humo” in English you probably will translate as “smoke curtain” right? Well, that combination is wrong. The right combination or collocation would be ”smoke screen”. Collocation is a key ingredient in any language. If you know the right combination of words you can make your message get across more easily.
An example of this (from Michael Halliday) is the collocation strong tea. While the same meaning could be conveyed through the roughly equivalent “powerful tea”, the fact is that tea is thought of being strong rather than powerful. A similar observation holds for powerful computers, which is preferred over “strong computers“.
Knowing and using a word
Vocabulary is commonly defined as “all the words known and used by a particular person”. Unfortunately, this definition does not take into account a range of issues involved in knowing a word.
Degree of knowledge
A word gradually enters a person’s vocabulary over a period of time as more aspects of word knowledge are learnt. Roughly, these stages could be described as:
- Never encountered the word.
- Heard the word, but cannot define it.
- Recognize the word due to context or tone of voice.
- Able to use the word and understand the general and/or intended meaning, but cannot clearly explain it.
- Fluent with the word – its use and definition.
Depth of knowledge
The differing degrees of word knowledge imply a greater depth of knowledge, but the process is more complex than that. There are many facets to knowing a word, some of which are not hierarchical so their acquisition does not necessarily follow a linear progression suggested by degree of knowledge. Several frameworks of work knowledge have been proposed to better operationalise this concept. One such framework includes nine facets:
- orthography – written form
- phonology – spoken form
- reference – meaning
- semantics – concept and reference
- register – appropriacy of use
- collocation – lexical neighbours
- word associations
- syntax – grammatical function
- morphology – word parts
Types of vocabulary
A literate person’s reading vocabulary is all the words he or she can recognize when reading. This is generally the largest type of vocabulary simply because it includes the other three, though in some cases, notably Chinese characters, as in Chinese and Japanese, where the pronunciation is not transparent, some words may be part of the oral vocabulary but not the written. For example, a Japanese speaker may not recognize that 麒麟 is pronounced kirin.
A person’s listening vocabulary is all the words he or she can recognize when listening to speech. This vocabulary is aided in size by context and tone of voice.
A person’s writing vocabulary is all the words he or she can employ in writing. Contrary to the previous two vocabulary types, the writing vocabulary is stimulated by its user.
A person’s speaking vocabulary is all the words he or she can use in speech. Due to the spontaneous nature of the speaking vocabulary, words are often misused. This misuse – though slight and unintentional – may be compensated by facial expressions, tone of voice, or hand gestures.
The importance of a vocabulary
- An extensive vocabulary aids expressions and communication.
- Vocabulary size has been directly linked to reading comprehension.
- Linguistic vocabulary is synonymous with thinking vocabulary.
- A person may be judged by others based on his or her vocabulary.
Native- and foreign-language vocabulary
Native speakers’ vocabularies vary widely within a language, and are especially dependent on the level of the speaker’s education. A 1995 study estimated the vocabulary size of college-educated speakers at about 17,000 word families, and that of first-year college students (high-school educated) at about 12,000.
The effects of vocabulary size on language comprehension
Francis and Kucera studied English texts totaling one million words and found that the learning of the most frequent words in an English text provides a comprehension of most of the words in that text:
|Vocabulary Size||Written Text Coverage|
The knowledge of the 2000 most frequent English words provides a comprehension of 80% of English words. The figures look even better than this if we want to cover the words we come across in an informally spoken context. Then the 2000 most common words would cover 96% of the vocabulary. These numbers should be encouraging to beginning language learners, especially because the numbers in the table are for word lemmas and knowing that many word families would give even higher coverage. However, the number of words needed may differ substantially between different languages.
Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition
Learning vocabulary is one of the first steps of learning a second language, yet a learner never finishes vocabulary acquisition. Whether in one’s native language or a second language, the acquisition of new vocabulary is a continual process. Many methods can help one acquire new vocabulary.
Although memorization can be seen as tedious or boring, associating one word in the native language with the corresponding word in the second language until memorized is considered one of the best methods of vocabulary acquisition. By the time students reach adulthood, they generally have gathered a number of personalized memorization methods. Although many argue that memorization does not typically require the complex cognitive processing that increases retention, it does typically require a large amount of repetition, and spaced repetition with flashcards is an established method for memorization, particularly used for vocabulary acquisition in computer-assisted language learning. Other methods typically require more time and longer to recall.
Some words cannot be easily linked through association or other methods. When a word in the second language is phonologically or visually similar to a word in the native language, one often assumes they also share similar meanings. Though this is frequently the case, it is not always true. When faced with a false cognate, memorization and repetition are the keys to mastery. If a second language learner relies solely on word associations to learn new vocabulary, that person will have a very difficult time mastering false cognates. When large amounts of vocabulary must be acquired in a limited amount of time, when the learner needs to recall information quickly, when words represent abstract concepts or are difficult to picture in a mental image, or when discriminating between false cognates, rote memorization is the method to use. A neural network model of novel word learning across orthographies, accounting for L1-specific memorization abilities of L2-learners has recently been introduced.
Pie chart showing the relative numbers of native English speakers in the major English-speaking countries of the world.
ESL (English as a Second Language) Flash Quizzes for ESL Students
Swim, Swims, Swimming, Swam or Swum (23 questions)
Multiple-Choice Grammar Questions (20 questions)
- English Vocabulary Matching Quizzes
Prefixes (2 Dozen)
Nouns from the VOA(4 Dozen)
Very Difficult: GRE Vocabulary Words (117 Dozen)
3 six-question rounds, capitalized words
2 six-question rounds, plural nouns
8 six-question rounds, singular nouns
4 six-question rounds, adjectives, etc.
4 six-question rounds, verbs
3 six-question rounds, verbs
4 six-question rounds, misc.
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English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria. Following the extensive influence of Great Britain and the United Kingdom from the 18th century, via the British Empire, and of the United States since the mid-20th century, it has been widely dispersed around the world, becoming the leading language of international discourse and the lingua franca in many regions. It is widely learned as a second language and used as an official language of the European Union and many Commonwealth countries, as well as in many world organisations. It is the third most natively spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. It is the most widely spoken language across the world.
Historically, English originated from the fusion of languages and dialects, now collectively termed Old English, which were brought to the eastern coast of Great Britain by Germanic (Anglo-Saxon) settlers by the 5th century – with the word English being derived from the name of the Angles, and ultimately from their ancestral region of Angeln (in what is now Schleswig-Holstein). A significant number of English words are constructed based on roots from Latin, because Latin in some form was the lingua franca of the Christian Church and of European intellectual life. The language was further influenced by the Old Norse language due to Viking invasions in the 8th and 9th centuries.
The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century gave rise to heavy borrowings from Norman-French, and vocabulary and spelling conventions began to give the superficial appearance of a close relationship with Romance languages to what had now become Middle English. The Great Vowel Shift that began in the south of England in the 15th century is one of the historical events that mark the emergence of Modern English from Middle English.
Owing to the assimilation of words from many other languages throughout history, modern English contains a very large vocabulary. Modern English has not only assimilated words from other European languages but also from all over the world, including words of Hindi and African origin. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 250,000 distinct words, not including many technical, scientific, or slang terms, or words that belong to multiple word classes.
The editors of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged (475,000 main headwords) in their preface, estimate the number to be much higher. It is estimated that about 25,000 words are added to the language each year.
The Global Language Monitor announced that the English language had crossed the 1,000,000-word threshold on 10 June 2009. The announcement was met with strong scepticism by linguists and lexicographers, though a number of non-specialist reports accepted the figure uncritically. However, in December 2010 a joint Harvard/Google study found the language to contain 1,022,000 words and to expand at the rate of 8,500 words per year. The findings came from the computer analysis of 5,195,769 digitised books. The difference between the Google/Harvard estimate and that of the Global Language Monitor is about thirteen thousandth of one percent.
Comparisons of the vocabulary size of English to that of other languages are generally not taken very seriously by linguists and lexicographers. Besides the fact that dictionaries will vary in their policies for including and counting entries, what is meant by a given language and what counts as a word do not have simple definitions. Also, a definition of word that works for one language may not work well in another, with differences in morphology and orthography making cross-linguistic definitions and word-counting difficult, and potentially giving very different results. Linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum has gone so far as to compare concerns over vocabulary size (and the notion that a supposedly larger lexicon leads to “greater richness and precision”) to an obsession with penis length.
- Most common words in English
- List of the longest English words with one syllable
- List of English words without rhymes
- wikt:Appendix:English words with diacritics and English words with diacritics
- Case-sensitive English words: Capitonym
- List of self-contradicting words in English
American / British differences
- American and British English differences
- List of American words not widely used in the United Kingdom
- List of British words not widely used in the United States
- List of words having different meanings in British and American English
Battle of the Tongues – American English vs. British English
“American vs. British English” the tongue match
The European Union commissioners have agreed to adopt English as the preferred language for European communication. The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which was the second possibility.
Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC, the European Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.
European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessarily difficult; for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased program of changes to iron out these anomalies. The program would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.
As part of the negotiations, the British government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as “EuroEnglish” (Euro for short).
In the first year, Her Majesty’s government disclosed that “s” will be used instead of the soft “c”. Sertainly, sivil servants will reseive this news with joy. Also, the hard “c” will be replaced with “k”. Not only will this klear up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when it is announsed that the troublesome ‘ph’ would henseforth be replaced by ‘f’. This will make words like “fotograf” 20 per sent shorter.
In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e”‘s in the languag is disgrasful, and they should go away. Therfor we kould drop them and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend.
By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps sutch as replasing ‘th’ by ‘z’ and “w” by “v”. Perhaps zen ze funktion of ‘w’ kould be taken on by ‘v’, vitsh is, after al, half a ‘w’.
Shortly after zis, ze unesesary ‘o’ kould be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’. Similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.
Und efter ze fifz yer, ZE DREMS OF ZE GUVERMNT VUD FINALI HAV KUM TRU!
Ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.
Pie chart showing the relative numbers of native English speakers in the major English-speaking countries of the world