Does the average Briton actually mean what he or she says or is there a something hidden in the language used? To save yourself time, trouble and effort, consult this handy Anglo-EU Translation Guide.
Does Spanish get your tongue in a twist? Are you at the end of your wits with German grammar? Are you wondering why the French bother with the last letter on every word when they don't even pronounce it?
If you think you are having a tough time learning the above languages, then have some sympathy for those learning the ten mentioned in this article. It considers the most mind-boggling and tongue-tying languages that we, as English-speakers, could attempt to learn. Whether it's the alien vocabulary of Basque, the tonal nature of Mandarin, or Estonian's fourteen cases that does it, you may find yourself thanking your deity that English is the world-language, and not one of these challenging tongues. All of them are, however, beautiful in their own way.
Click here to view the article "10 Hardest Languages To Learn For English Speakers"
Here are some tongue-in-cheek rules for writers, as written by Frank L Visco and published in the June 1986 issue of Readers' digest.
My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:
1. Avoid Alliteration. Always.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They’re old hat.)
4. Employ the vernacular.
5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
8. Contractions aren't necessary.
9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
10. One should never generalize.
11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know”.”
12. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
13. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
14. Profanity sucks.
15. Be more or less specific.
16. Understatement is always best.
17. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
18. One word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be avoided.
21. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
22. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
23. Who needs rhetorical questions?
The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.
The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausage, and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British and Americans.
CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. It's speaking English that kills you.
No one likes to be harassed about their grammar, but you will be judged by your misuse of it. There is no other forum in which you'll be so severely punished as the internet. This, however, should be secondary to the fact that you are hindering the effectiveness of your own communication. Have a look at the below guide, put together by copyblogger, which details 15 of the commonest grammatical errors and explains how to get it right!
'10 items or fewer' (countable noun) would be correct
While some signs are simply erroneous, yet still understandable - like the one pictured on the right - others can take on a completely different meaning when language is misused or key elements, such as punctuation or common-sense, are lacking. The following examples are some humorous real-life ones, which would result in some interesting consequences were they taken seriously.
In an office:
TOILET OUT OF ORDER. PLEASE USE FLOOR BELOW.
In a laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
In a London department store:
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS
In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN
In an office:
AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD
Outside a second-hand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING - BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
Notice in health food shop window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS
Spotted in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR
Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE 1ST FLOOR
Notice in a farmer's field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.
On a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR - THE BELL DOESN'T WORK).
'To put your foot in your mouth' means saying something, often stupid, that offends, upsets or embarrasses somebody. In most cases, you should also be embarrassed yourself.
A very passionate young man addresses several such language-related foot-in-mouth moments quite humorously in the following Youtube video.
This fascinating and humorous animated video details the roots and history of our beautiful English language, a mongrel language which is comprised of words from 350 other languages.
The video chronologically exhibits the influences the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, the Vikings and the Normans all had on English. Of course, no story of the English language would be complete without considering the contributions of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible.
The story then goes on to examine the spread of English through Britain's colonisation of half the world. The North Americans get a mention here in regards to their "not English but somewhere in the ballpark" and its influence on the Brits. The last two chapters consider the influence of the internet and English as a global language.
The narration in this series is exceptional - full of all those wonderful English idiomatic phrases and metaphors. I highly recommend all native speakers and advanced non-native speakers take the time to watch this brilliantly done animated video.
Consider the following examples and decide which you think are correct.
Example I - Luke's plan for the evening
Me and Hannah are going to a bar.
Hannah and I are going to a bar.
In this example, the second statement is correct. Confusion often stems from the inclusion of more than one person. Luke would never say, for example, "me is/am going to a bar". Although, that probably depends on how much he's had to drink already.
The easiest way to remember this structure is to try saying the sentence without the other person/animal/thing. If the result is incorrect or strange-sounding, as above, then you should be using 'I' rather than 'me'. It's also worth remembering, as a matter of politeness if you like, that the other person/animal/thing should always come first. Don't be an egoist! Say, "Hannah and I" not, "I/me and Hannah".
Example II - A knock at the door
A: Who is it?
B: It's me!
B: It is I!
In this situation, as strange as it sounds, the latter answer is correct. The verb to be is not acting upon an object, rather, it is expressing a state of being. So, the subjective pronoun 'I' is grammatically correct. Most native speakers, however, use the idiomatic expression 'it's me'. This is acceptable in everyday speech but using it in a formal context may result in a few furrowed brows. Should someone telephone you at work and ask for you personally, e.g. "I'd like to speak to Russell Sprout, please", it would be wiser to answer with, "this is he" - or, "this is she" if you are female. To avoid all confusion you could simply say, "this is Russell Sprout speaking".
Example III - Misbehaving children
Mother: Which of you little devils broke my vase?
Son (pointing at his sister): It was her!
Son (pointing at his sister): It was she!
The reasoning in this example is much the same as Example II. The full sentence would be: It was she who broke your vase.