TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:The "English is harder" myth? From:Janet_Swisher -at- trilogy -dot- com To:<techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Thu, 11 Nov 1999 18:02:51 -0600
Apologies, but I can't resist one more shot at this:
Every non-handicapped, developmentally-normal child learns his or her
native language with a high degree of fluency by the age of about five. In
that context, no language is noticeably harder than any other. It does
not even seem to matter whether the child is given explicit instruction.
(As in, "Look at the bird! That's a bird. Can you say 'bird'?" -- in
many cultures this does not happen.)
Everyone in this discussion has been assuming that the context is English
as second language, after the age of about five, when the native
language-learning ability starts to fade. In that context, it seems
pretty obvious to me that the relative difficulty of learning English
depends on the speaker's native language, the degree of similarity between
that language and English, and the degree of similarity between that
language and some other language that the speaker might also try to learn.
Note that similarity need not be based on taxonomic relatedness.
Furthermore, for any given speaker, the degree of difficulty may depend
partly on attributes or deficits of that individual. For example, someone
who is "tone-deaf" may have a much harder time learning Chinese than
English, as tone plays a much larger role in Chinese than in English. (The
tie-in to tech writing: remember your audience!)
All of this is sufficiently complex that I don't care to make any broad
Over and out,
Trilogy Software, Inc.