English and its Perception - A paper I wrote on English

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The Empirical Bogey

Robotobrain in the translatophone
Jan 24, 2020
What does English sound like? What do outsiders think of it? What are it's strengths and weaknesses? What do native speakers think of it? I gathered word and knowledge from darkest Europe to the Chinese Congo and compiled it into an answer, here you go:

You're reading the most important language of this age: an unassuming mongrel that spread from a green island to all four corners of the world, and from those to the edges and middle. It has a vast native speakers' community who rule over the most powerful and wealthy lands yet named. Chinese and Spanish may have more speakers, but when people from Shanghai and San Juan must communicate, they will use English.[1]

And so it's the language of science and medicine, trade and diplomacy, communication and discourse, culture and media. We're reaching immodest levels of glory, but it's not boasting if it's true. Being so popular doesn't make it "just English" - it gives it great purpose, and a massive body of content, of every medium, in every genre, for every audience. Size doesn't equal value, true. While half of all Anglophone media will show you what not to do or amuse or both, the other half is legendary. Ask me for English media of any type sorted by quality, and (with a search bar) I could rustle up a dizzying list of titles and surnames.
A good Anglophone work owes its success in part to its language. English has a Germanic-Romance hybrid vocabulary, which gives it a great number of synonyms. In addition to all the field-specific jargon, regional dialects, criminal argot, and youth slang this means the English vocabulary is incredibly rich. And if you still can't find the right word, just make it up. Offend all Usage Panels by cobbling together new words from existing parts, or adapting an old word to a new purpose. In modern colloquial English anything can become a noun, adjective, or verb. Just yesterday I bricked my phone. This vocabulary stands out when compared to vague, blunt languages like Arabic or Chinese.[2]
Like its Germanic cousins English has a large bank of idioms, sayings, and other linguistic devices to add flavor to text and speech. For example: the ability to insert archaisms (thy and such) to achieve that old-fashioned air. Try this in other languages and you'd only confuse. It has a high number of homophones for verse, and its spelling fosters creativity. The English paid for the whole alphabet, we're gonna use the whole alphabet, like for representing accents and tone. English is great for expression - saying what you want how you want.
All this is useful to the songwriter, but what's more useful to them is that English is a stress-timed language, rather than syllable-timed. Imagine setting a metronome to speech. With most languages (including the Romance family), the beat would be fast and fall on every syllable. In languages like English and Russian the beat is slower and falls on every stressed syllable. This means it can be easily made to fit the rhythm of a melody, and it's a reason why musicians the world over use English.[3] And the cherry on top is the enormous body of content for the creator to quote, reference, and draw inspiration from. This is less objective, but I think worldwide use and a hybrid vocabulary also give English a certain cultural versatility. It's equally at home on a grey seashore and in a sunny vineyard, in a quaint village and a decadent capital. And you can't go wrong with creativity as your power. They say French is romantic, Japanese is philosophical, Spanish is passionate... bah. Forego seduction, navel-gazing, and argument - why not speak the tongue of art?

With all these pros to English it's the most useful language for any non-speaker to learn. While a language's easiness is relative and depends on many factors, English makes some concessions to the second language learner. It's written in the common Latin script sans pronunciation marks (except in loanwords). It has a single definitive article, and no genders. It's easy to form the plural and possessive, present and past tense (with exceptions). It has no cases, which are different forms of words depending on that word's purpose in a sentence. In English case is expressed with articles like prepositions, so instead of memorizing several overlapping suffixes and affixes, the student of English learns a dozen short words (which they're in the business of learning anyways). The word order is fixed SVO (subject-verb-object), which is easier to learn and understand than freer word order (which relies on cases rather than sentence structure). English doesn't lump many small words into amusingly long ones like Finnish or Dutch, which aids reading comprehension. Without all these (often unnecessary) aspects English can be much clearer and concise.[4] The hybrid vocabulary benefits many. Learners with a Germanic or Romance background find footing in English, and for them it can be a bridge to the opposite branch. Anglophones studying languages in those two branches have a headstart.

Now English's clay foot is orthography - the relation between the written and spoken word. You can observe this before your very eyes: pick any sentence in this text randomly, read it as spelled then write it as spoken. Silent letters and soft Cs stick out when compared to highly phonetic languages like Spanish, Finnish, etc. English isn't alone in the exceptional spelling camp - the French think R-O-I spells "wah" - but it's not the illogic , it's the inconsistency. There's a method to the madness of Irish Gaelic, that's only half true for English.

Who is responsible for this? Well it can't be pinned on le stupide Americains - Those English are the ones at fault. In Dark Age Britain, when English was first scratched onto sheepskin, the monks doing the scratching didn't follow any spelling rules - as long as the word could be interpreted it was a-okay. The many dialects of Britain, each with their own pronunciations, didn't help in both the Old and Middle English periods. And in a terrible stroke of luck, as Middle English went through the linguistic puberty of the Great Vowel Shift, the printing press reached Britain. So spellings were capped while the language was still changing. Traditionalist printers like William Caxton went with old spellings for words with new pronunciations, and foreign typesetters interfered as well (Flemish typesetters are responsible for the H in ghost ). And in that time the mass borrowing of Romance words was taking place, words conforming to other spelling systems meant for other languages (cough French cough). You see this effect with modern loanwords, whose approximated spellings conflict with older conventions.[5]
This orthographic chaos has been worsened by the fact that English is pluricentric. The Italians founded the Accademia della Crusca in 1582, the French established the Académie Française in 1634, but the British never did likewise.[6] So there was no governing body in Caxton's time to standardize a neat form of English, and there isn't one today. Founding such a body would be difficult. Should the honor go to the English (the original speakers) or the Americans, who make up the majority of native speakers at 67%?[7] The losing side would feel spurned, and a collective academy of all Anglophone nations would cause both sides to seethe, and complicate the work. Once a location is chosen and the nerds are summoned and contained, they might not get anything done with all the scholastic bickering. How will the new spelling system look? Should we import accent marks and special characters? What will happen to the alphabet we know and love? Instituting a Great Spelling Reform on a language like English is a big undertaking. All at once the changes would be extremely jarring, best to conduct the Reform slowly, over a period of three or so generations. Start with uncommon words and work up to prepositions and pronouns. And all this might be called newspeak, even if those nerds are harmless souls who only want the best for English (but that's true, large changes can be politically hijacked). With all this effort why not keep spelling me with one E? The French think X is a vowel and their language is the hottest thing since the Golden Calf. Right?
Bad orthography is the largest obstacle for ESL learners - memorizing all the details and exceptions of spelling is best done in childhood. The dual vocabulary is a double-edged sword (rather poetic). If you have no Romance or Germanic background or have experience with only one branch, two or more roots for everything is going to confuse and confound, as will the multitude of things that make English great for creativity.[8] More features, more to learn. The strict word order can stifle expression, certainly in the composition of rhyme and verse. Dozens of dialects can impede understanding (ironic for the world lingua franca).[9] Imagine locking a Glaswegian, a Jamaican, and a New Zealander in a room and telling them to translate the Federalist Papers into modern webspeak.

We now move from the linguistic to the cultural. Because of its popularity and prestige English encroaches on smaller languages with less prestige. A people start to borrow words - first for new concepts like digital technology and then things they already have words for. They begin learning English for all its many uses, often with the blessing of their government which adds it to school curricula. Young and grown practice their skills by consuming the deluge of Anglophone media available and through regular Internet use. This phenomenon is strongest in the West in which lie the tongues closest to English geographically and linguistically, and it's very strong in Scandinavia and the German Sprachraum - they have the highest English literacy rates outside the Anglosphere.[10] Now in these places English is the near-universal second language: there are no native speakers who learn it from infancy. But this isn't wholly true. Young Vikings and Teutons are exposed to English much earlier and much more than their parents were, and are growing up bilingual. With time first language speakers may arise, and English may become de jure in the region, gaining these nations entry into the Anglosphere.
In other places English encroachment is less drastic. It's far from ever replacing Spanish in the Hispanosphere, yet Hispanophones often use Spanglish - Spanish with many English phrases and words.[11] Italians borrow greatly from English. They use AIDS and UFO in place of Romance SIDA and OVNI, even coining their own English words (footing to mean jogging ) used only in Italy.[12] The French Canadians have the opposite attitude towards English borrowings: forceful purism. Being besieged by Anglophones, Quebec French officially shuns English borrowings, instead using (often verbose) all-French alternatives like teléphone intélligent and fin de semaine to Metropolitan French smartphone and weekend. Unofficially a Quebecois will go on dates with their chum and hang out with their gang. [13] You must remember that all this is natural. Like the nations where they're spoken, languages wax and wane and influence each other. Like the people that speak them they live and marry and have children and die. Besides, I never cared for the sound of Danish, and that is one thing that may be a pro or a con: how a language sounds.

English is soft and quick. Everything else is subjective. Think about how French has more vowels and German has more consonants, but the former is romantic because the French make luxury goods and German is angry because it's speakers lost two big wars. You could like or dislike them based on taste, experience, etc. With this in mind, let's consult this spurious graph which places the Germanic languages on a continuum:

Icelandic - Faroese - Norwegian - Swedish - Danish • English - Frisian - Flemish - Dutch - Afrikaans - German - Yiddish • Gothic (extinct) [14]

This graph is based on all aspects of relation, including phonology. See how English is in the middle of the spectrum, closer in sound to the smooth North Germanic languages than it is to the rich German and Yiddish. This is thanks to French and Old Norse lodging in England for some time, and the Great Vowel Shift. Vowels didn't just shift - they widened and stretched and multiplied, leaving English with a prodigious twelve dipthongs (double vowels). Meanwhile consonants that survive in other Germanic languages were dropped, such as the notorious GH. This sound survives in the cold Black Forest Nacht but not the warm Hollywood night. Vikings set segl in longboats; Americans set sail on aircraft carriers, so on and so on.[5]
English is also stress-timed, remember. If it wasn't proclaimed would be pro-clai-med and not pro-claim'd. This gives it a collapsed and quickened effect that's also found in European Portuguese, Dutch, and Russian. It's spoken with the front of the mouth, which lightens its sound. Combined these traits can make English "shuffling" and "mushy" or "gliding" and "smooth."[15][16][17] For example:

"The sound itself is quite pleasing [...] But there is one thing.. CUT OFF THE FUCKING VOWEL REDUCTION. SERIOUSLY. Without that, you’d be a lot less muffled in how you sound, and so much easier to understand. And a bit of phonemical distinction added won’t hurt anyone, either."[18]

"It sounds very fluent, flowing, fast-paced, with a seamless long-and-short, up-and-down rhythm that is interwoven in such a way that it makes English sentences as if they were one huge word, but one with only a few highlighted syllables [...] "[19]

"My first impress of English came from the news reporter voice of American about four years old. I assume that sounds flexible, fast & smooth than Chinese, because of the individual word in Chinese always one-syllable [...] It [Chinese] must be slow, and the words from the mouth one by one sound do not like the fluent water, but the beans."[20]

I guess stress-timing is nice when hearing a song or poetry recital, less so when trying to understand daily speech. Beyond this point, you can clearly see stereotype and opinion creeping in:

"English with a British accent sounds fancy to most. English with an American/Canadian accent sounds standard and casual."[21]

"I do realize [...] this must seem biased and prejudiced to native speakers of those dialects, but [...] I avoid reading Cross-Atlantic literature because every sentence will endlessly reverberate in my auditory cortex with its nasal, gnawing diphthongs and its hard, blaring vowels."[22]

"Americans, Canadians and Australians sound like 'hillbillies' - [...] we have, in Brazil, accents who have an 'r' such as that of North American English, and we call them 'caipiras,' which is close to 'hillbillies.' [...] British people, on the other hand, sound like 'boring stuck-up people."[23]

"Generally, french people will say that British English sounds more noble and proud, while American English sounds very nasalized, loud and somewhat vulgar [...] "[24]

Opinions on English's sound is very mixed in the true sense - it's not all criticism. Emperor Charles was riffing on it in his quote. Russian authors have said it sounds like shrill whistling or hissing, but also like birdsong.[25] Some Asians find that English (and other Western languages) are "ugly" and "messy."[26] But other Asians think English is smooth and "musical." In fact, many of my sources called it "musical," saying that it sounds "like singing."[27][28][29] In Thailand it's called "Pleng Farang" - "foreigners' song."[30] Just like those Russian authors, the Chinese compare it birdsong:

"When I go to the primary school to study the English systematic [...] I began to recognize the different point of the foreign language. Before that, my thinking same as a lot of Chinese minds that the foreign language just one style named 'bird speak."[20]

These musical allusions likely come from the success of music in English worldwide, which may be due to it's sound - "If English did not sound pleasant, nobody would have listened."[31] Most complimented English with "beautiful."[32][33][34][35] This word's overused when praising cultures, flags, and languages, but the intention is nice. Illogical spelling, stress-timing, and many dipthongs lead to comparison with Danish (the closest North Germanic tongue to English perchance). It's said by Scandinavians that a Dane "speaks with a potato in their mouth."[36] I first thought this was just a Scandinavian expression, but so many people worldwide say this about English, even Danes themselves.[37][38][39][40] Sometimes they substitute the raw potato for a hot one, or a wad of gum, but the analogy remains.[41][42] Perhaps it dates back to some Proto-Indo-European phrase for "odd-speakers."

That reminds me: I forgot to mention accents, after all "it is not one language."[43] While the variety was often praised, it seems Received Pronunciation (BBC English) and Scottish are the most favored dialects. To Europeans.[44][22] One source even admits this outright - "I prefer british english, because the structure is more european."[45] Perhaps because they're used to those dialects? Americans should be pleased to know that Iranians, Greeks, and Romanians enjoy their accents, like those of New York and New England, and a good Southern drawl.[46][47][48] Black English, from America and the Caribbean was called "fun" and "melodious," African accents are considered very thick and "funny."[23][49] It's agreed that Glaswegian and Jamaican are amusing, but unknowable.[50] Accents are also confusing to foreigners:

"many [Germans] found [...] movies where (for example) a Brooklyn, east Tennessee, southern California, Boston and northern Minnesota accent were all being spoken in a group conversation back and forth to be overwhelming and completely unintelligible to their ears [...] no matter how well they thought they understood english."[9]

I also forgot common sounds, remember how "when we try to approximate Spanish, americans [...] put 'o' and 'ay' on the end of words, because that’s what Spanish sounds like to us."[51] Apparently in Spain:
"when they try to speak English and don’t know how, they put 'ate' (i.e., the sound at the end of 'pontificate') and 'ion', (the sound at the end of 'cognition') on their words, so I guess that’s what English sounds like to them."[51]
The suffixes -ing and -ed also come up a lot. In Germany they think of the TH sound, known as the "interdental fricative" to attendees of obscure lectures.[52] It's rare worldwide, in Europe only developing in Old Norse (and it's descendants), Greek, and English.[53] Like WH it's quintessentially English because of its near-constant use in articles. The flat A sound from cat and hat (also called the schwa) is very English and very North American, like the hard R (which has an equal only in Mandarin).[49][53][54][55] But the most common sound in English is S, and foreigners notice:

"A girlfriend of mine [...] was Vietnamese. She came to the US when she was about 7 years old, right after the end of the war. She told me that to her, at first, English sounded like snakes hissing, so many S’s everywhere, just "sss….sss…blah blah…sss…blah…sss …sss"[56]

"When I was a kid, I felt English full of 's' sounds. Any phrases from one's mouth full of sounded with "-s."[57]

Note that the S sound is rare in Vietnamese, and slightly different from the English brand.[56] It's fitting that S is so common: it's a soft consonant, between two things just like English:

"English sounded smooth and round in times(its latin root), while it also sounds arbitrary and argumentative(its germanic root). But ultimately, it was a beautiful language pleasant to the ears."[33]
Even though you're (presumably) a native speaker, you can still hear what English sounds like for yourself. Because English phonology is very Germanic, one way to do this is by listening to other Germanic languages, especially Frisian and Dutch which are closest to English. Scots is another good choice (not Scottish Gaelic which is Celtic, Scots , which is a dialect so thick it can be considered another language). What you hear of these languages won't entirely match English's sound, but could someone from an Andes village tell the difference between them? I and many others confuse Portuguese and Spanish and Italian. More accurate simulations exist online, which take English sounds and mix them into mock words in mock sentences, the most well-known probably being Simlish from The Sims games. Apparently it can fool non-Anglophones very well: "[...] English sounds like the Sims. I really thought as a kid that they were speaking English."[28] My favorite simulation is the song "Prisencolinensinainciusol" by Adriano Celetano (the Elvis of Italy). It's designed to mimic American English, using only one real word: "alright."
And to close this section with: "it's not bad to listen too."[18]

What comes to mind first for foreigners is the spelling (or orthography if we read our thesaurus today). This is seen in many posts I've read on English. It's been called "worse than Chinese characters."[58] Some have said English has "no pronunciation rules," and that "so much of English is totally illogical, breaks its own rules and has to be learnt by rote and memorized."[59][60] This person was more succinct: "In one word: CHAOTIC."[61] I must comment on that first quote - learned Sinologists agree that nothing is worse then Chinese characters. David Moser wrote a great paper on the subject.[62] English orthography can be troublesome in unexpected spheres, like competition:

"English hit me like a blast when I started grade school, about 2 years after leaving Hungary for the north woods of Canada in 1956. Especially the pronunciation, which often was inconsistent. Nevertheless, I learned fast, and became involved in the local spelling bee. In the finals [...] I was asked to spell something that sounded like "naybor" [...] Then the "WRONG" buzzer sounded, and I lost the competition. For days after, I simply could not bring myself to believe that [...] was spelled (in Canada) as "neighbour." I complained to my parents, I complained to my teacher - all to no avail! This marked my early struggles with English, a language of archaic spellings."[63]

Another reaffirmed consensus is that English is "very concise, succinct and expressive" for the reasons mentioned earlier like "distinct ideas through words without the unnecessary details" and "greater understanding through synonyms."[64][4] Here are two specific comparisons with Spanish and Thai:

"In formal, unscientific, written Spanish, it is considered unsophisticated to repeat a word more than once every two or three paragraphs, unless it is [...] a type of word that one simply cannot avoid repeating [...] English flows much more nicely because the main point of English is to make everything clear and concise, instead of a flowery work of art."[11]

"There is no Tense in Thai. In Thai, there's no elegant way to distinguish among "I eat", "I ate", "I have eaten", "I have been eating" with such few words. Words in English are very specific. Thai isn't as much. For example, look, see, eye, stare, glance, contemplate are all the same word in Thai [...] Plurality is specific and compact in English. In Thai we have no way to say, "She has pencils", we can only say, "She has a number of pencils" which sounds wrong in Thai. We could say "She has some pencils." But in English that is different from saying, "She has a few pencils" and "She has few pencils." In Thai, these three are said the same way that, "She has some pencils" which is less clear. English's Passive Voice is awesome! It allows you to communicate just the point and that is it. Passive voice doesn't exist in Thai [...] For example, to say "She's drowned" in Thai you have to say something like "She is overwhelmed by water". The problem is it is not always water (e.g. lung fluid) but we have to say water anyway in Thai which is wrong factually and it takes away from the point that the poor woman is just drowned."[65]

There seems to be an idea circulating that English (especially American) is informal and "casual."[21] This can be a bonus:

"My mother tongue is Romanian and I have learned English as a foreign language. I love it as a language and found it relatively easy to learn and become fluent in English. I find it friendly and pleasantly direct and informal."[66]

"American English is the ideal language to teach or learn anything. [..] Most languages are too formal. You have to create an atmosphere where it is clear you are allowed to make mistakes, without being ridiculed or corrected.This says something about America as well as its language. German and French, and their culture, are way too formal. [...] There are a number of subjects I first learned in Spanish or German which I never really understood until I re-learned them in American English. It was like going from memorizing algebra or Shakespeare to finally getting it."[67]

As the latter quote hints, this could be both cultural and linguistic. English does lack the complex formalities of Japanese and even the dumbed-down version found in the Romance family. These differences can bewilder. "Articles are often considered useless by Finns because they are not used in Finnish," much like how we might scoff at things like grammatical gender.[8] "In Slovak, the meaning is carried by derivation of the words. In English the meaning depends on [...] word order. That is confusing for us at first."[40] The same Slovak comments on articles - "There are none in my language so i didn't understand their use." Phonology can be tricky as well, say if you trill your Rs. "I had to teach [...] the 'r' sound [...] by telling my students to think of the way the pirates in movies say 'Arrgh,' since there is nothing similar to this sound in Spanish."[11] What about cultural opinions on English? Here are three examples from Finland, Austria, and Costa Rica:

"English is a very beloved language in Finland, and maybe too much. English is the only language many young people learn seriously. English is considered so fancy and cool that many slogans and company names are in English (often without any good reason if you ask me). On the other hand, that's why many people are bored with English: American (and British but not as many) TV series and movies are shown and a good many of new (and often unnecessary) loan words are taken from English. That's why people sometimes write letters to editor or comment on internet conversations that English is a threat to our language."[8]

"Associated with youth, modernity, progress, and poor education. The latter is mostly due to the fact that English loanwords and phrases are liberally used for advertisements in German-speaking countries (meant to seem youthful and modern, but not targeted at [...] educated audiences). A pop music radio station will talk about "top hits" and "charts" and try to be "cool"; a high-brow classical music programme will use [no] English words [...] Also, everyone learns English as a second language, but only the more educated people know a third language."[58]

"Because of how widespread English is, most Costa Ricans know some basic words, and many of them speak in Spanglish [...] every once in a while. This is thought of as very unsophisticated and presumptuous, but at the same time fun to use. There is a word in Costa Rican Spanish, "polo," which describes the sentiment associated with Spanglish perfectly, but I have yet to find a suitable translation [...] People usually think of Spanglish this way because most of the people who speak it cannot pronounce the English words correctly."[11]

In terms of negative perception, English has unique factors going against it. The commercialization of English is one of those threats. People learn English - not to attend a Thanksgiving dinner or go on an American road trip or read Tolkien in its original language - but to make money:

"Some people distinguish between English and "Globish". English is the literary language, which is quite nice, not too difficult to learn compared to other European languages, not too interesting grammatically compared to other languages, but has a rich culture and literature, and very powerful descriptive abilities. Globish is the language spoken by businessmen to communicate around the world. It has to stay basic, at the lowest common denominator, it is as much a tool for easy and shallow comprehension as an obstacle to more in depth cultural exchange[...]"[68]

"[...] English is extremely limited, which may be useful as you can learn it faster, but also limits expressiveness. English sounds like barking dogs, pronunciation wise. [...] Finally English provides little to no extra bonus when learning it (compared to Japanese’s ideographs). I would have dropped English learning and deemed worthless, but most technical manual are in English."[69]

This reminds me of Japanese, and how Westerners learn(ed) it solely for pop culture's sake. Only here it's worse as there's no cultural respect or admiration. Sometimes foreigners are forced to learn it - for a green card or a passing grade. In their off-hours they're exposed to annoying songs and bad media:

"When I was a child, my family and sister often watched TV programs in English, and I hated them. Especially Cartoon Network got on my nerves, I only liked Tom&Jerry, because they didn’t speak in it, but my younger sister loved all the shows, so it’s not universal. For me though English sounded like you forced yourself to speak as unnatural and annoying as possible, and completely gibberish."[44]

Not to mention the types of Anglophones they encounter:

" [...] Millenials and Boomers from Northern America sound OK to me. They kinda have a little potato stuck inside throat, but that's it. I actually have to imagine a potato inside my throat to speak English. When it comes to Gen Z, they sound like spoiled brats and I completely dislike it. For some reason they want to speak like the Kardashians… the way they say “OMG!,” “Could you believe it?, “She's so basic,” “Luv you bae,” etc, annoy me."[42]

Popularity is good for bragging rights, but to much can make something be seen as bland and "standard." Politics might compel someone to hate English, out of hatred for the British and American Empires, or out of patriotism for their country and its small language being replaced by English.[26][21]
Despite all that, feelings on English are mostly positive. Praise came from all throughout the world. See:

"English, to me, is a very beautiful language. The sound of it has always been music to my ears. I learned English out of pure passion for it! I learned English in a country where it is not even spoken; at a time when the Internet and the many other technologies aimed at making the learning process easy didn’t even exist. But that was some great, enjoyable journey!"[70]

"I am Chinese, and I regard English as "practical" [...] With it I make a living. That doesn't mean I couldn't appreciate the beauty of it, though. I love to find out stories behind different expressions and could appreciate a nice prose when I see it. Different from my mother tongue in that it's less pictoric but it has a dry sense of humor that Chinese doesn't have."[2]

"I personally love it! (My native tongue is Swedish) I've lived in the U.S. for 11 years and will no doubt continue to improve my English skills & vocabulary until the day I die. English is varied, lush, inventive, fun, has had huge historical and cultural impact, lends itself extremely well to singing, and makes little sense in certain ways previously pointed out in this thread."[71]

"My native language is Russian. For me, English has always been easy to learn* and logical. No conjugations, no genders, no cases, no adjective-noun agreement. Every type of tense has its purpose and is used in the past, present and future. Of course, there are a lot of oddities in pronunciation, but they are something you just memorize as you learn. I love English. It is universal, flexible and beautiful." [72]

"My native language is Turkish. I learned English and French during my teenage years, and am currently studying Spanish. To me, out of all these languages, English was absolutely the easiest one to learn [...] I love writing in English more than I love speaking English, though I definitely love speaking too."[73]

And what about the written language - its literal image? The Nørdic tøngues and that O, Dutch aas spooken in De Neederlaands, German Und its Cäpitalz... I could only find two comments on English's appearance: it has "lots of short words that all look alike" and someone else said "I love how English words look on paper."[59][73] Perhaps not using accent marks gives it a basic look. Still, foreigners likely skewer parts of written English like the silent E, GH, apostrophes at the end of words, and letter clusters like -ing and -ed. And of course the orthography.

There isn't much, because the language envelops us Anglophones at all times, whereas outsiders look in from afar and gradually enter the Anglosphere. If our spelling is the bane of ESL learners, it's a thorn to native speakers. It's a stock joke for our comedians and it trips us up in school sometimes, nothing more. Only as I was writing this paper did I realize that we always ask "Spell it." when hearing a new word.

Perception can be subconscious however. Recently I saw a rerun of Star Trek: Enterprise featuring a primitive race, who put common words together to refer to higher things (like go-before for ancestor ), to show their simpler state.[74] And I've seen that Anglophones are always amused to learn that in German the words for television and hydrogen literally mean farseer and waterstuff. This is because English uses short Germanic words to speak of simple things, and appropriated tri-syllable words from Latin and Greek to refer to complex matters. The fact that German and other tongues use native compounds seems delightfully childish and faintly backward to us. Ironic, because not only do we use Germanic-style compounds (understand ) but this is how the Romans and Greeks formed words. Comprehend could be rendered in English as wellgrasp based on its etymology, and this is likely how the Romans perceived its ancestor.[75] You just can't notice this due to layers of distance.

And that's my next point - distance. Anglophones don't see themselves as speaking a West Germanic language, and are often surprised to learn they do - "But I can understand more of Spanish than Dutch!" See, even though most English words come from Latin, it's still Germanic because that family provides its backbone.[76] But really what they're asking is "What does English have to do with horned helmets and cheese and bad politics?" They have a point: culturally, English is no longer Germanic or even European, but whether it belongs to the world or to America is up to debate. There are still some links: tradition, folklore, custom, ethnicity.

Maybe our perception would increase if le stupide lazée Anglophone learned other languages, but the cost outweighs the benefits for the average person. In Zurich it's practical to know French, German, Italian, English, and brush up on your Russian; in Sydney it's not. Let expats and hobbyists wield copies of Rosetta Stone - learn some language history and you'll be fine. Besides, native speakers have a gift - they get to perceive their language in its true form. Their world is their world and fire is fire, and it isn't tinged by memories of trashy media or airheaded tourists or your first ESL teacher. Light is light , for now and forever.

"How does English sound to people who do not speak English at all? I don’t just mean words. How does the structure of the language sound? Is the sound harsh, smooth, rapid, irritatingly, or slow?" Quora.com (Thread 1), retrieved August 8th, 2021, from: https://www.quora.com/How-does-Engl...sound-harsh-smooth-rapid-irritatingly-or-slow

"What do non-native English speakers think of the English language?" Quora.com (Thread 2), retrieved August 5th, 2021, from: https://www.quora.com/What-do-non-native-English-speakers-think-of-the-English-language?share=1

"What does English sound like to foreign ears? Is it a pleasant language to listen to?" Quora.com (Thread 3), retrieved August 8th, 2021, from: https://www.quora.com/What-does-Eng...n-ears-Is-it-a-pleasant-language-to-listen-to

"Summary by language size" Ethnologue, retrieved August 15th, 2021, Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20190312060544/https://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size

"Which countries are best at English as a second language?" World Economic Forum, retrieved August 15th, 2021, Link: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/countries-that-speak-english-as-a-second-language/

Ryan, Camille (2013) "Language Use in the United States: 2011" American Community Survey Reports, retrieved August 16th 2021, Link: https://web.archive.org/web/20160205101044/http://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/acs-22.pdf

Moser, David (?) "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard" retrieved August 1st, 2021, from: http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.htm

Karlinsky, Simon (1980) "More Piercing Than a Whistle: Notes on English Sounds in Russian Ears" The State of the Language, University of California Press, Link and Archive: https://books.google.com/books?id=JoyccK0TAdAC&pg=PA532&lpg=PA532&dq=english to russian ears whistling&source=bl&ots=EmaQlb0Hl5&sig=Biwch7Tt3KTemFlq2nKBKIF4zEU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiNqZmbopDeAhXP0VMKHdVoCKoQ6AEwE3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=english to russian ears whistling&f=false

LangFocus, "Why Is English Spelling So Damn Weird?!" , Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EqLiRu34kWo

LangFocus, "How Similar Are Québec French and Metropolitan French?" Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A9rh3lqdtT0

LangFocus, "The Danish Language" 1:22, Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gHlEOsM5jtA

LangFocus, "Is English Really a Germanic Language?" 1:45-2:12, Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2OynrY8JCD

NativLang, "What English does - but most languages can't" Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LQEzTcLH27U

"Star Trek: Enterprise" S1EP6 (106) "Terra Nova"

Winchester, Simon (1998) The Professor and the Madman, HarperCollins Publishers, New York City. ISBN 0-06-017596-6

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2006), 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. ISBN 0-395-82517-2

1. Ethnologue
2. Vick Chao, Thread 2
3. Steven Haddock, Thread 1
4. Saifullah Khan, Thread 2
5. LangFocus, "Why Is English Spelling So Damn Weird?!"
6. Winchester, pg 87
7. Ryan
8. Joonas Vakkilainen, Thread 2
9. Art Abshire, Thread 3
10. World Economic Forum
11. Couloir Hanson, Thread 2
12. Enrico Zani, Thread 2
13. LangFocus, "How Similar Are Québec French and Metropolitan French?" 3:12-5:08
14. American Heritage Dictionary, pg 2075
15. Alex Pérez, Thread 1
16. Darwin Payne, Thread 3
17. Vadim Ingwall Baranovsky, Thread 3
18. Alessandro Piccirilli, Thread 3
19. Ygor Coelho, Thread 1
20. Shaw Hein, Thread 1
21. Andi Si, Thread 1
22. Matjan Tutul, Thread 3
23. Marcelo Vieira Cruz, Thread 3
24. Nicolas Duhaut, Thread 3
25. Karlinsky
26. Michelle Rose, Thread 3
27. Jaime Esparza, Thread 3
28. Elisabeth Fortineau, Thread 3
29. R.J.Allain, Thread 1
30. John Bickel, Thread 3
31. Aleksey Malyshev, Thread 3
32. Mona Sabbat, Thread 3
33. Tim Wood, Thread 3
34. Cheung (Samuel) Li, Thread 3
35. Nasanine Bakht, Thread 3
36. LangFocus, "The Danish Language" 1:22
37. April McCool, Thread 3
38. Eli Pasternak, Thread 3
39. Tamara Markovic, Thread 3
40. Kristína Mikušátová, Thread 2
41. David Snider, Thread 3
42. Eric Nicholls, Thread 3
43. Mikael B, Thread 2
44. Anna Szusy, Thread 3
45. Simon Esselpe, Thread 1
46. Nasanine Bakht, Thread 3
47. Vanessa Foudouli, Thread 3
48. Ana Angel, Thread 3
49. Markus Kajo, Thread 3
50. Ben Waggoner, Thread 1
51. Jeff Robdine, Thread 3
52. David W. Vogel, Thread 1
53. NativLang, 6:10
54. Elissa Marcus, Thread 3
55. Frank R. Chappell, Thread 3
56. Mike Condron, Thread 3
57. Kim Jinwon, Thread 1
58. Anonymous, Thread 2
59. Antonio Dolan, Thread 2
60. David Stewart, Thread 2
61. Kaushal Hooda, Thread 2
62. Moser
63. Laszlo B. Tamas, Thread 2
64. Luis, Thread 2
65. Norsez Orankijanan, Thread 2
66. Anonymous, Thread 2
67. Fred Landis, Thread 2
68. Pierrick (ព្យែរិក) Jaouen, Thread 2
69. Fernando Farias, Thread 2
70. Boris Ndong, Thread 2
71. Daniel Ruffin, Thread 2
72. Olga Fyodorova, Thread 2
73. Anonymous, Thread 2
74. Star Trek: Enterprise, Terra Nova
75. American Heritage Dictionary, pg 379
76. LangFocus, "Is English Really a Germanic Language?"

Sorry for any formatting errors. It seems wise to post this here because there are so many ESL Kiwis, it should make for good discussion.


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Haim Arlosoroff

We all failed to secure the existence of Linconia.
Jan 27, 2021
"pluricentric" hmm, I'll remember the word. Thank you, it expresses quite a bit of my views on political history and the comparisons between successful nations of trendsetters and nations of centralized bureaucracy. A monocentric language, which has only one formally standardized version are like Japanese and Russian, and pluricentric are like pre-unified German and modern English.


The Yellow Rose of Victoria, Texas
True & Honest Fan
Feb 1, 2015
It is galling when the authoritative text on some decidedly non-anglophone topic is invariably written and published in English these days, but I suppose it is difficult to argue with the convenience of having authoritative text be in the lingua franca of the modern era.

Seventh Star

hungry burger fan
Nov 17, 2020
  • Generally short words.
  • Non retarded sentence structure.
  • Offers neutral pronouns so faggots don't cry too hard.
  • Decent for singing.
  • Weak ass insults and foul language (Italian and Spanish heavily emphasize insults with P and C letters, Dutch chains insults with K's, etc, insults using sounds like F and SH are always going to sound faggy).
  • Has one of the most cucked regulating bodies in the world (RAE by comparison is extremely conservative).
  • The British accent sounds treacherous, further reinforcing the idea that no nation should ever trust the English.
  • Not good for wordplay or poetry. Enough inbreeding with other languages means words aren't related close enough to have common phonetic sounds.


Dec 27, 2020
Weak ass insults and foul language (Italian and Spanish heavily emphasize insults with P and C letters, Dutch chains insults with K's, etc, insults using sounds like F and SH are always going to sound faggy).
Puto and Cazzo are the faggiest fucking swears I’ve ever heard. Fucking Niggerfaggot Cunt is by far the most satisfying string of obscenities you could ever say.


Jan 12, 2019
It is galling when the authoritative text on some decidedly non-anglophone topic is invariably written and published in English these days, but I suppose it is difficult to argue with the convenience of having authoritative text be in the lingua franca of the modern era.
Do you think Afrikaners have a similar attitude to French Canadians in respect to English?

The Empirical Bogey

Robotobrain in the translatophone
Jan 24, 2020
  • Weak ass insults and foul language (Italian and Spanish heavily emphasize insults with P and C letters, Dutch chains insults with K's, etc, insults using sounds like F and SH are always going to sound faggy).
  • Not good for wordplay or poetry. Enough inbreeding with other languages means words aren't related close enough to have common phonetic sounds.
I did say how English is the language of creativity (including insults). Our swear words are so good every language is borrowing them. But we do need a ( good) regulatory body and RP can sound really faggy.
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Seventh Star

hungry burger fan
Nov 17, 2020
I did say how English is the language of creativity (including insults). Our swear words are so good every language is borrowing them. But we do need a regulatory body and RP can sound really faggy.
Maybe its cultural because English is principally a Germanic language and I am mostly surrounded by Latin languages. But I wouldn't say every language borrows them. Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Italian don't unless you're talking about the upper class. The insults dont really have punch to them imo; no strong consonants at all. Maybe you haven't heard swears from anything but Mexicans and Spainards which do decidedly sound autistic, but Spanish swears can get really colorful in ways English can't purely through phonetics.

The RAE will always be extremely based though. The X thing didn't take off and has been in decline mainly because of how they put their foot down.

The Empirical Bogey

Robotobrain in the translatophone
Jan 24, 2020
Sandwich post because you can't add new quotes to a post.

Strengths: Only language that sounds like a language
Yeah, I've noticed that too, English is versatile. Imagine talking about nuclear war and brain cancer in Italian, or writing a sci-fi epic like Dune in Polish. That could be because English is applied to everything tho

I mention this song in the essay, did you read it? :lol: It's actually a flattering imitation because it slaps

Mossad Facade

Veni Vidi Vici
Oct 4, 2021
English (and german languages in general for the matter) are really good for describing things. It's not great for things such as poetry and art. English as a language can sound really beautiful if used correctly. Better than fag dutch.

t. bilingual