The Twelve Most Useful Second Languages For English Speakers

When the world talks about science, culture, economy or politics, it speaks English. English speakers don’t really need a second language at all. So, what’s the use of a second language when the first one is enough? English speakers can look for the luxury items: cultural and linguistic enrichment. In this article, I will evaluate the world’s major languages for their usefulness to English speakers, according to three different criteria:

  1. Demographics: Opportunity to use the language actively: the number of native and second language speakers, and the chances of communicating with them in this language: use as a lingua franca. It’s not simply a matter of numbers. Mandarin is by far the most spoken language but it is concentrated in one country, China, and that reduces the impact. In the case of Hindi, educated speakers will very likely also speak English, so the opportunity to speak to people in Hindi is greatly reduced.
  2. Personal Impact: This subjective criterion looks at the impact on the learner. How does this language study increase the learner’s own sophistication regarding languages, whether English or another, third language? How does this language make the learner a more culturally literate person?
  3. Business factors: How will this language open new business and commercial opportunities?

Criterion I. Demographics: I begin with demographics because this is the criterion that first comes to mind in such a discussion. However, this factor only weighs 40 percent in the ratings, and certain entries here, such as Italian, Swahili and Turkish, will only become understandable when one sees the tables that follow.

  1. Spanish: Approx. 350 million native speakers, with many second language speakers in the Americas, North Africa and elsewhere. It is the official language of about 20 countries. (6 points). It is an important lingua franca in the Western Hemisphere and the Mediterranean, (3 points). (Total: 9 points).
  2. French: Despite a relatively small native language base of 130 million, French has a major presence internationally, with a large second language population all over the world and official language status in over 25 countries. It is the working language of many international organizations (4 points). It is also the most recognized lingua franca, after English. (4 points). (Total: 8 points).
  3. Arabic: Arabic speakers are hard to quantify. Modern Standard Arabic is a second dialect for 250 million people worldwide, but it is quite difference from the spoken Arabic in each of the 20 countries where it is official. It is an official language of the United Nations and of many international organizations. It is also the language of Islam. (4.5 points). Arabic is a major lingua franca. (2 points). (Total: 6.5 points).
  4. Russian: Estimates are as high as 185 million for the native speaking population, and it is the second language in all the nations of the former Soviet Union (3 points). Russia spent much of the Twentieth Century securing the position of its language as the lingua franca in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and it continues to serve in that capacity, in a greatly diminished way. (2 points). (Total: 5 points).
  5. Mandarin: It’s the native language of 875 million people, however, they are concentrated in one country, China. It is a second language for the rest of China, Taiwan, and for Chinese community world-wide. It has little currency beyond its ethnic boundaries and serves as lingua franca only in this context. (Total: 3 points).
  6. German: It has approx. 120 million native speakers and many second language speakers throughout Europe. (2 points). It has had moderate success re-establishing itself as the lingua franca of Central Europe, after the disastrous history of the past century, however, this role has been taken up in the meantime by Russian and English (1 point). (Total: 3 points).
  7. Hindustani: It includes Urdu at one end and Hindi at the other, with approx. 185 million native speakers in India, and 50 million in Pakistan. It is a second language for another 180 million people in these country. It has not had success as a lingua franca outside of this context, as that purpose is served by English. It has also been burdened by the reluctance of the Dravidian speaking people of South India to adopt it. (Total: 2.5 points).
  8. Swahili: It is spoken natively by 5 million people and by another 50 million as a second language along the East African coast. It’s the official language of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (1 point). Swahili is the accepted lingua franca in that area, having achieved nearly neutral “tribal” status on a continent where language is politics, but for dealings with the world beyond, it is normally eclipsed by Arabic, English and French (1.5 points). (Total: 2.5 points).
  9. Portuguese: Spoken by approx. 190 million people, it is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola and other states. It has not as yet been able to establish itself as a widely used lingua franca. (Total: 2 points).
  10. Turkish: It is spoken by 70 million people in Turkey and Cyprus (1 point). It provides an alternative lingua franca throughout the Turkic speaking lands of Central Asia, replacing the more alien Russian (1 point). (Total: 2 points).
  11. Japanese: It is spoken by 125 million people in Japan, but has little currency as a second language or a lingua franca. (Total: 1 point).
  12. Italian: It is spoken by 60 million people in Italy, it is also the official language of the Vatican. It has little or no significance as a second language or a lingua franca. (1 point).

Criterion II: Personal Impact: This is the major consideration for the English speaker. It weighs 40 percent in my ratings. How will the learning of this language help one’s understanding of English? How will knowledge of this language open up a portal to other related languages? For the first question, Latin languages hold a distinct advantage, since the prestige, erudite forms of English are all constructed out of a Latin vocabulary. The second question favors languages which are seen as leading languages in particular linguistic families, wherever they may be located in the world.

  1. French: It holds a particular position among Latin languages, in that it has been the major conduit of Latin vocabulary into English for the past one thousand years. Fully 30 percent of English words come from French, (6 points). In cultural terms, the centrality of France to European civilization cannot be overestimated, adding 6 more points. (Total: 12 points)
  2. Spanish: This Latin language has enormous influence on the English of the Americas. It has, in turn, been influenced by Arabic and the indigenous languages of pre-Columbian America, giving insight into those languages. (4 points). Spanish culture continues to move into the forefront of Western civilization, ironically, often because of the patronage of its greatest rival, North American English (4 points). (Total: 8 points).
  3. Italian: It is the direct descendant of Latin. Thus, a knowledge of Italian gives the learner an exceptionally clear idea of the classical language. By the same token, it is the central romance language, and the study of a second or third romance language is greatly facilitated when the first one learned is Italian. (4 points). Italian also opens up a store of cultural knowledge dating back two thousand years, and representing, with the Roman Empire, the Catholic tradition and the Italian Renaissance, some of the very highest achievements of European civilization. (4 points). (Total: 8 points).
  4. German: The linguistic significance for English speakers is great. German provides a clear presentation of the Germanic roots of English, and of the syntactic and grammatical logic of the basic English language. As the major Germanic language it can also be considered a portal to other Germanic languages such as Dutch and Yiddish. (4 points). German culture is also greatly appreciated in Western culture, and its philosophers and artists are key figures. (2 points). (Total: 6 points).
  5. Arabic: Although the immediate linguistic impact of the study of Arabic may be hard to discern for the English speaker, the benefits of Arabic in the study of other languages is high. Arabic has greatly influenced other languages of the Middle East and the Muslim world in religion, politics, and social life. Also, the study of the Arabic alphabet opens the way to many other languages, such as Persian, Urdu, Kurdish, etc. (3 points). Arabic culture has had major influence on western civilization but it remains largely unknown in the English speaking world. Knowledge of the language also leads to a greater understanding of Islam. (2 points). (Total: 5 points).
  6. Hindustani: In its Hindi form, it is a window on the origins of the larger Indo-European language family with its Sanskrit vocabulary. As Urdu, it gives a significant introduction to many Persian and Arabic terms. Urdu also uses the Persian form of Arabic script, opening the way to wider studies. It is a starting point for the study of other languages of the subcontinent, an area rich in languages. (3 points). India’s rich culture has become more familiar in the English speaking world, in large part due to India’s ability to project its image through English. However, Hindustani language and Hindi culture are also spread through the Bollywood film industry. Pakistan has yet to make its presence felt, but the potential is there. (2 point). (Total: 5 points).
  7. Russian: It has not had major influence in the west, given its geographical isolation. It is, however, the major Slavic language, and as such, opens the way to many other Eastern European languages. The Cyrillic alphabet, moreover, is a tremendous asset for reading many of those languages. (2 points). Russian high culture thrived under both tsarism and communism, and it has a significant place in European civilization. (2 points). (Total: 4 points).
  8. Portuguese: As a Latin language, Portuguese has a built-in significance for English speakers, even without a direct relationship with English. (3 points). The cultural significance of Brazil, one of the largest nations of the Americas, is continually growing. (1 point). (Total: 4 points).
  9. Mandarin: The official Chinese language has had very little influence on English. It has influenced other national languages of the areas, such as Korean and Japanese, and the other “dialects” of China. The Chinese written characters are the same for all of these dialects, and many of these characters are used in Japanese as well. (2 points). Chinese culture, with over two thousand years of history, is quite significant, if not directly applicable to English speaking civilization. (1.5 point). (Total: 3.5 points).
  10. Swahili: As the only sub-Saharan language in the group, it serves to introduce the learner to one of the richest linguistic areas of the Earth. It is from the Bantu family of languages, but it incorporates many words from Arabic, Persian, English and French. (1.5 points). It is the language of trade along the East African coast, and as such, is richly descriptive of the culture there. The West African diaspora into the Americas is one of the great mass migrations of the past 500 years, but because of its tragic social dynamics, it has left many millions of people cut off from African culture. Swahili, although it is East African and not West African, can help to fill that gap. (1.5 points). (Total: 3 points).
  11. Turkish: Though it has little direct relationship to English, it is the major language of a family of languages that extend eastward to the Chinese interior. It has been influenced by Persian, Kurdish and Arabic, and thus gives some introduction to those languages. (1.5 points). It also represents the culture of the Ottoman traditions, and of modern Turkey and Central Asian Turkistan. (1 point). (Total: 2.5 points).
  12. Japanese: This language has had little impact on English and it provides little insight into other languages. It does, however, include many words from Chinese, and uses numerous Chinese characters. (0.5 points). This island nation has been one of the most successful exporters of culture of the Far East during the past century. (1.5 points). (Total: 2 points).

Criterion III. Economic Impact. Is this language useful in the world of commerce and business? Certainly English is by far the most useful language for business, but a knowledge of other key languages can be a distinct advantage. Twenty percent in the ratings:

  1. French: has a long history as a language of commerce and trade. It is extremely important in the developing world, especially Africa. France itself is the world’s sixth largest economy. (4 points).
  2. Spanish: the language of commerce and trade in Latin America. Spain is the world’s ninth largest economy and Mexico is its fourteenth largest. (4 points).
  3. German: often used for business in Central Europe. Germany is the world’s third largest economy. (3 points).
  4. Japanese: can be extremely helpful in dealing with Japanese business. Japan is the world’s second largest economy. (3 points).
  5. Mandarin: China has recently become the world’s fourth largest economy, and it continues to grow. (3 points).
  6. Russian: Used in a part of the world where English is not well-known. Russia is the eleventh largest economy and is moving up in the rankings. (2 points).
  7. Portuguese: Brazil is the tenth largest economy, and continues to grow. (2 points).
  8. Arabic: the language of commerce and trade for the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. (2 points).
  9. Hindustani: is used in the world’s twelfth largest economy, however, English is often the language of business in this area. (2 points).
  10. Italian: is the language of commerce in Italy, the world’s seventh largest economy. (1.5 points).
  11. Swahili: is the language of business along the east coast of Africa. (1 point).
  12. Turkish: is used in the world’s seventeenth largest economy, and to some extent in Central Asia. (1 point).

By these criteria we can come up with a ranking of the 12 most useful languages for an English speaker to learn:

  1. French: 24 points
  2. Spanish: 21 points
  3. Arabic: 13.5 points
  4. German: 12 points
  5. Russian: 11 points
  6. Italian: 10.5 points
  7. Hindustani 9.5 points
  8. Mandarin: 9.5 points
  9. Portuguese: 8 points
  10. Swahili: 6.5 points
  11. Japanese: 5.5 points
  12. Turkish: 5.5 points

Some readers may be familiar with George Weber’s well-known piece entitled, Top Languages, which first appeared in the journal Languages Today in 1997. His study rated languages according to their influence in world affairs and world culture. It is interesting, at this point to compare them. Here are Weber’s results:

  1. English: 37 points
  2. French: 23
  3. Spanish: 20
  4. Russian: 16
  5. Arabic: 14
  6. Chinese: 13
  7. German: 12
  8. Japanese: 10
  9. Portuguese: 10
  10. Hindi/Urdu: 9 pts.

The rankings are similar, with some major differences. My criteria are based on tangible and intangible benefits for the English speaker which are not heavily weighed in Weber’s paradigm. Thus, this subjective focus skewers my results in favor of European languages due to the cultural affinity of English for the languages of Western civilization.

Heritage Languages: The most striking example of a difference is my ranking of Italian as number 6, whereas it does not figure in Weber’s top ten. My justification for Italian is the phenomenon of the “heritage language”, i.e., a language that has usefulness in our understanding and appreciation of the past, rather than in the future. Italian is the vehicle for our understanding of ancient history, the development of Latin languages, Renaissance Art and classical music. It is also the ancestral language of over 100 million people strategically placed in both North and South America. For these reasons, it is the heritage language par excellence. Other languages that benefit from this heritage factor in my listings are German and Swahili.

Point values for English? French, with 24 points, is number one in my listing. Where does English stand in relation? If rating it for usefulness for speakers of other languages, I would give it 10 points in each category, for a total of 50 points. I think that the extraordinary position of English in today’s world is indisputable, and considering it to be twice as useful as its closest competition, French, is not a great stretch of the imagination.

The only English point assignment that may require explanation is ten points for linguistic value. The value of English in this area for world speakers is quite wide reaching and significant. English is the vehicle for the spread of the classical Latin vocabulary for abstract concepts, for the Greco-Roman terms for government, science, philosophy, etc. It absorbs world vocabulary without major spelling changes, effectively spreading new terminology from a variety of sources. As the official language of international organizations, it serves as a showplace for each nation and organization to present itself to the world. Like the other “empire” languages of Western Europe, French and Spanish, English is propagated by native speakers worldwide with no ethnic, social or political relationship to its motherland. But English goes one step further, English is capable of evolving and developing completely independently of its native speakers. Second language users of English drive the introduction of new words like “informatics” and “ufology” which gain currency first among these speakers. Foreign governments keep close control of their English language nomenclature, and make changes through the United Nations and non-government organizations. These changes are therefore immediate in English, with no consultation with native speakers necessary. While some European languages are still calling the capital of China “Peking”, English made the switch to “Beijing” during the late 1980s (for proof, look at contemporary reports regarding the Tian an Men Square events of June, 1989). Recently, the switch from Bombay to Mumbai has happened before most English speakers have even noticed.

Conclusion – The status of English in world affairs puts its native speakers in a unique position. We have the opportunity of living in a provincial English-only environment in which the world comes to us, or we can take advantage of this favored position to become acquainted with other cultures right within our own language. So, is any second language really useful for English speakers? No study can ever really measure the personal importance of second language learning. That is something we have to discover for ourselves. The fact is that every language is well worth the effort to learn, as every language is a complete way of describing the universe of human achievement, and thus it’s significance is as wide and as deep as we personally make it.

Note on Statistics: The statistics that I have used (population, economic ranking, etc.) come from diverse sources: world almanacs, encyclopedias, US government studies. I make no claims about their accuracy, as they are general estimates. Their importance is in relationship to each other.

Dominic Ambrose has taught languages for over twenty years, from Middle School to Community College, from adult ed to ESL to TOEFL training. He has also traveled as a teacher educator to many Eastern European countries as well as South America, including three years with the Romanian Ministry of Education. Presently, he lives in Paris writing full time, mostly about films and fiction, but he is still fascinated by languages. To see his blog, click on the link: http://dominicambrose.wordpress.com

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Learn English! It is Your Language

Few decades back English was spoken only in England and its former English colonies like India, China, Sri Lanka, Egypt, etc. But now days, people in Japan, Korea, Africa, America are all speaking English as their second language. There are people who speak English even at their home in place of their mother tongue.

These days everyone loves to speak English as it has become a global language. People especially traders, businessmen etc learn English as it has become the language of global corporate world. Now days, if you can’t speak English, people might consider you illiterate or a less educated person.

People try to learn English, but they don’t succeed. Reason being, they are afraid of speaking correctly or they abandon their plan in the middle or they don’t know the proper and systematic way to learn English. If they can follow a systematic plan or follow few but effective tips, then they can surely learn English.

Here are the few tips that can help English learner a lot.
1. Be patient- I am myself learning English and one of the biggest mistakes that I have committed was related to my impatience. I wanted to learn English without spending time on it. But later, I realized that unlike other things it takes time.
2. Read, write and speak- Use English words in your daily life. Like furniture, switch, table etc. Make notes in English if you have any. Speak English if you can. If you can’t speak English fluently start from simple sentences like “How are you?” I am fine, How do you do? Etc.
3. Forget your mother tongue- You should not use your mother tongue for the sentences or words which you can use in English
4. Watch Movies, T.V. Channels- there are no of ways to learn English like watching English movies and T.V. channels like CNN, BBC, etc.
5. Internet- Internet is a sea of information. You can find a number of websites on English. You can learn and improve your writing skills from Internet.
6. Don’t get confused- There are lots of synonyms of words in English. People use different words to express same things. You don’t have to learn every word, although you should know their meaning.
7. Clear your doubts- There is a psychological feeling in people of former English colonies that English is a language of superiors and not every one can learn English. It is a myth and the fact is that English is a language just like your mother tongue. So learn naturally.
8. Join English speaking community- You can’t speak English with everyone, so join communities that use English as their second language.
It will take, to be very honest, few years to learn good English. Learn English naturally like your mother tongue. Have no fear, start speaking English.

I am Fahad Ali Khan and have been learning English for few years. I have improved my English a lot and now working as a content writer in a small but progressive organization in Gurgaon, India.

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The Misuse and Overuse of English Articles by ESL and EFL Students

Many languages are different from English in regard to semantics, syntax and grammar. Although there are a variety of differences, this paper researches article use, misuse and acquisition. I predict that speakers of languages other than English which lack an article system (Korean, Russian, Polish and Japanese) will demonstrate language transfer errors within the English article system, a/an, the, or zero, when learning to speak English. Research suggests that non-native speakers of English will make errors when speaking English if their native language lacks articles.

Ionin, Ko and Wexler (2003) tested the linguistic theory of L2-acquisition as it relates to article use. They predicted that Korean and Russian English language learners will overuse the article the in specific and non-specific definite and indefinite contexts. In a 2004 study, Ekiert examined the acquisition and misuse of the English article system by speakers of Polish who were studying English in ESL and EFL settings. Neal Snape, 2004, examined article use by Japanese and Spanish English language learners and proposed that due to L2 acquisition processes, all English language learners would make systematic transfer errors regarding the English articles.

In a 2003 analysis done by Ionin, Ko and Wexler, Russian and Korean English language learners were studied in regard to their English article use. Participants in this study were 50 Russian learners of English ranging in age from 17-57, with a mean age of 38 who had been residing in the United States for an average of about 3 years (3years, 2 months). There were also 38 Korean learners of English ranging in age from 17-38, with a mean age of 28 who had been living in the U.S. for an average of just under 2 years (1year, 10 months). All of these participants had been exposed to English in their home country at an early age or during adolescence, but were not completely exposed to it until they came to the U.S. during late adolescence or adulthood. There was also a control group who participated in this study. It was made up of seven adult native speakers of English. They performed as expected on all tasks.

Ionin, Ko and Wexler (2003) note that data for this study were collected in the form of forced elicitation tasks and participants were asked to complete the written portion of the Michigan test of L2 proficiency, a 30-item multiple choice test which grouped learners into ability level (beginner, intermediate and advanced). The researchers also note in the results section that there was another task which was not reported on in this study. For the elicitation task, there were 56 short dialogues testing 14 context types where the participants had to choose between a, the, and the null article (–) for singulars and some, the, and — for plurals. Ionin, Ko and Wexler’s study shows examples of the dialogue elicitation tasks on pages 250-252. Three of the context types aimed to elicit singular specific indefinites. Ex-
In a “Lost and Found”:

Clerk: Can I help you? Are you looking for something you lost?

Customer: Yes, I realize you have lots of things here, but maybe you have what I need. You see, I am looking for (a, the, –) green scarf. I think I lost it here last week.

Three context types were used to elicit singular non-specific indefinites: Ex-

In a clothing store:

Clerk: May I help you?

Customer: Yes, Please! I’ve rummaged through every stall, without any success. I am looking for (a, the, –) warm hat. It’s getting rather cold outside.

Two contexts tested plural indefinites (specific and non-specific). Ex-

Phone Conversation: (specific)

Jeweler: Hello, this is Robertson’s Jewelry. What can I do for you ma’am? Are you looking for a piece of jewelry? Or are you interested in selling?

Client: Yes, selling is right. I would like to sell you (some, the, –) beautiful necklaces. They are very valuable.

Phone Conversation: (non-specific)

Salesperson: Hello, Erik’s Grocery Deliveries. What can I do for you?

Customer: Well, I have a rather exotic order.

Salesperson: We may be able to help you.

Customer: I would like to buy (some, the, –) green tomatoes. I’m making a special Mexican sauce.

Two context types were designed to elicit definite determiner phrases (DP) in plural and singular contexts. Examples:

Singular definite:

Richard: I visited my friend Kelly yesterday. Kelly really likes animals- she has two cats and one dog. Kelly was busy last night- she was studying for an exam. So I helped her out with her animals.

Maryanne: What did you do?

Richard: I took (a, the, –) dog for a walk.

Plural definite:

Rosalyn: My cousin started school yesterday. He took one notebook and two
new books with him to school, and he was very excited. He was so proud of having his own school things! But he came home really sad.

Jane: What made him so sad? Did he lose any of his things?

Rosalyn: Yes! He lost (some, the, –) books.

Since the results of this study were separated into ability level, The Michigan Test results were given first. The L1-Korean group had 1 beginner, 12 intermediate and 25 advanced English language learners. The L1-Russian group contained 13 beginners, 15 intermediate and 22 advanced English language learners. Results show that intermediate and advanced learners generally overused the in specific indefinite contexts. Results also showed that the use of the was higher with definites than with specific indefinites and was also higher with specific than non-specific indefinites. Researchers also noted that article omission was higher with plural DPs.

Overall, it was noted that the L1-Korean students outperformed L1-Russian speakers in most categories. This performance difference was attributed to the fact that “the L1-Korean students were predominantly international students receiving intensive English instruction, while the speakers came from a variety of backgrounds” (Ionin, Ko and Wexler, 2003).

In a similar study conducted by Monica Ekiert in 2004, the acquisition of the English article system by speakers of Polish was studied in ESL and EFL settings. Participants in this study included 10 adult Polish learners of English (ESL), 10 Polish English language learners (EFL) and 5 native English speakers who served as the control group. All Polish students ranged in age from early 20s to late 30s, were given a grammar placement test and divided in to beginner, intermediate and advanced ability levels. The ESL students were enrolled in an intensive English language course at Columbia University with an average length of staying in America of one year. The EFL students were enrolled in Warsaw University whereas English was not their major and they had not been outside of Poland for more than one month nor did they use English outside of the classroom.

The task given to the students was 42 sentences containing 75 deleted obligatory uses of a/an, the, zero. The participants were asked to read the sentences, insert a/an, the, zero in the appropriate spot. Blanks were not put in the sentences because the researcher felt that if blanks were inserted, the participants would fill every blank with a or the creating unreliable data. Each student was given 20 minutes to complete the task and they were asked to not use dictionaries. An analysis of the overuse of a/an, the, zero was conducted. Unfortunately, examples of the sentences used for this task were not reported in the report.

Results for this study showed that learners at all ability levels overused the zero article. A direct relationship was shown between ability level and overuse of the zero article whereas the beginners showed the most overuse, intermediates less and advanced learners made the least amount of zero overuse errors. Results of the misuse of the a article were the same for proficiency level v. misuse. In contrast, the article was not overused by the beginners. The level of the overuse was highest among the intermediate learners.

It was noted by Ekiert (2004) that a remarkable finding of this study was that the EFL learners outperformed their ESL counterparts. This provides evidence that the acquisition of the English article system does not rely solely on exposure. One reason given for this performance difference is that all of the EFL students were enrolled in a college program, while the ESL students varied in educational background and were simply enrolled in a college level ESL class for one semester.

Another study was conducted by Neal Snape in 2004 which examined article use by Japanese and Spanish English language learners. This study proposes that although Spanish speakers do utilize an article system, due to L2 acquisition processes, that Spanish speakers of English would make systematic transfer errors regarding the English articles similar to Japanese learners. He also predicted that L2 learners would overuse the definite article the.

Participants in this study were three Japanese-speaking learners of English, three Spanish-speaking learners of English and two native English speakers acted as the control group. All participants ranged in age from 23-40 years old, with a mean age of 28. All of the English language learners had been studying in the UK for six months and had taken and scored 575 or above on TOEFL. The two groups of learners were separated into ability levels based on placement test scores.

The first task in this experiment was an oral production task and consisted of having the participants listen to 13 short stories. The stories were presented using PowerPoint slides and prompts were given to the students on each slide to assist them in the recall of the story. They listened to the story twice and recalled it using the prompts. Each recall was recorded digitally, transcribed and the checked for accuracy. Ex- story:

‘I thought the train was leaving’ the young man said. ‘they can’t find a driver.’ the elderly woman’s daughter replied.

Results demonstrated that participants had difficulty using the correct article. Ex-results: ‘They can’t find the driver.’

The results of this study also show that accuracy with article use directly correlates to the learners’ performance on the placement test whereas beginners scored the lowest with correct article use while the advanced students scored highest.

The second task in this study was a gap-filling test where the participants had to read a dialogue and fill in the gap with the correct article, a/an, the, or zero. Ex-

A: Come on! We have been in this shop for hours.

B: I can’t make up my mind. Which shirt do you like best?

C: I prefer ____ shirt with stripes.

Results from this task found that Japanese learners of English and Spanish learners of English did not overuse the definite article the. This research showed that all English language learners performed better in the written section than in the verbal by creating less article errors. In the oral section of the task, advanced learners were more accurate in their article use, but omission errors were still persistent (Snape, 2004).

In all of the studies, it was shown that speakers of languages other than English which lack an article system, use of a/an, the, or zero demonstrated language transfer errors when learning to speak English. It also showed that the most errors were omissions, because their native languages do not have an article system. Although this is true for the Korean, Russian, Polish and Japanese speakers of English, it is not true for the Spanish speakers. This leads to the interpretation of Snape’s 2004 data and results in regard to language acquisition. Perhaps it is not an issue of the other language’s lack of an article system, it is directly related to second language acquisition whereas English articles are not acquired until a later stage.

Research suggests that ESL articles are so difficult to learn and teach to ESL and EFL students because of the vastness and complexity of the rules and exceptions regarding article usage (Norris, 1992). Some teaching techniques that could be useful for ESL and EFL teachers include providing extended descriptions, meaningful learning experiences and the use of visual aides and imagery.

In May 2005, I graduated from Stony Brook University with a Masters of Arts degree in TESOL. I currently hold my Initial Certificate in TESOL. In February 2001, I graduated from Saint Joseph’s College, Patchogue with a Bachelor of Arts in Child Study, dually certified, with a minor in Spanish. Since completing my degree in TESOL, I have been working as an ESL teacher.

Bibliography Ekiert, M (2004). Acquisition of the English Article System by Speakers of Polish in ESL and EFL Settings. Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics, vol 4, no 1.

Ionin, T, Ko, H and Wexler, K (2003). Specificity As a Grammatical Notion: Evidence from L2-English Article Use. WCCFL 22 Proceedings, ed. G. Garding and M. Tsujimura, pp 245-258. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Norris, R (1992). Raising Japanese Students’ Consciousness of English Article Usage: A Practical view. Fukuoka Women’s Junior College Studies, vol 44, pp 95-104.

Snape, N (2004). The Certain uses of Articles in L2-English by Japanese and Spanish Speakers. Looking at Language Acquisition, V.

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Let Us Speak English in a Better Way – Part-2 (For Readers From Indian Subcontinent)

When we prepare ourselves for speaking English, we usually think that subject in our mother tongue, subsequently translate it to English within our mind, and then speak out in English. While implementing this three-tier process, we commit many mistakes as follows that result into imperfect speech:

• Confusing in selecting right words from vocabulary
• Missing out the sequence of words
• Fear of forgetting the sentence
• Delay in speech
• Mincing words
• Sometimes speaking a dialogue the meaning of which might be other than that we wanted to convey

Therefore, for speaking flawless sentences fluently and effectively we should think and speak in English only. We need to practice a lot for that until our mind develops a natural instinct.

English speaking is not that difficult as compared to speaking other languages including Indian languages. We need to develop expertise in providing proper sequence of words, suitably breaking the sentences in 2-3 parts and giving prominence / stress / higher pitch to a word or two; and eventually making the sentence easier to speak and adequate for understanding by the person we address.

Written language and the language we speak have basic differences about which many of us are not aware. We should not try to speak the bookish language that we read in books, newspapers, magazines and novels. The speaking English has to be quite different from written English. We need to follow the following

The various requirements for ideal speech are as follows:

• Your speech should be distinct for attracting attention of listener
• Your speech should be clear and easy for the listener to understand
• Your speech should convey the real message that you want to speak
• Your speech should be should carry your feelings and emotions that you want to convey
• Your speech should have simple and common words
• Sentences in your speech should be short for you to speak easily
• Your speech should be short for the listener to understand easily
• Your speech should have no ambiguity
• You should have correct pronunciation and accent
• You should break sentence in 2 – 3 pieces and stress / emphasize the vital words and create right expression
• You should use facial gestures and express with nodding your head wherever required
• Do not be loud in gesturing
• Keep the tone and volume of your voice controlled

Here are examples of sentences:

*Your speech:
(-) stands for breaks and
(underline) stands for emphasis / stress / higher pitch.

1. Usual sentence: He is dutiful and does not evade hard work.
*Your speech: He is dutiful – and does not evade – hard work.

2. Usual sentence: A typical Indian woman is emotional by nature.
*Your speech: A typical Indian woman – is emotional by nature

3. Usual sentence: A sensible person should not be blind to his shortcomings.
*Your speech: A sensible person – should ‘not’ be blind – to his ‘shortcomings’.

4. Usual sentence: You should not depend on an unfaithful friend.
*Your speech: You should not depend – on an unfaithful friend.

5. Usual sentence: These are imaginary fears that do not exist in reality.
*Your speech: These are imaginary fears – that do not exist – in reality.

Look at the sentences under subheads ‘Usual sentence’ and ‘*your speech’. Under ‘Usual sentence’, a sentence is written in a normal format. Whereas under ‘*your speech’ the sentences has been broken in pieces and marked for emphasis / stress / higher pitch that guides the speaker about the style of speech.

These styles of speech may differ from place to place and from person to person, depending on the local dialect spoken in that area and the persona and nature of the speaker. Styles may also differ with the occasion and environment, depending on when and where the conversation takes place.

Changing words and sentences suitable for speech:

For better spoken-English, we should use appropriate words and construct proper sentences, a bit different from the written English, for effective expression of the messages that we need to convey.

We should always remember that there is a slight difference in written and spoken English. In written English, we speak full words and sentences whereas for speaking English we speak short forms of some words and make sentences a bit more expressive as compared to that we write.

Here are some examples of written and spoken English sentences:

• Written: What is your name?
Spoken: What’s your – ‘name’?
• Written: My name is Harish.
Spoken: I am – ‘Harish’.
• Written: Yes!
Spoken: That’s ‘right’!

Whenever someone asks us, a question and we need to reply in affirmative then we say, “That’s right!” Rather than saying “Yes.”

We should better say, “What’s” in place of “What is”.

I had an Anglo-Indian friend Joe. One day I asked his son-

“What is your name?”
The child did not understand my question. Joe asked him the same question in a different way
“What’s your name, dear?” and the child looked quite comfortable with his question.

This practice of abbreviating words and reconstructing the sentences in a different way from the written language is followed in other languages also.

Expressions and body language:

Gestures and actions are inseparable part of effective oratory and it is equally followed in English speaking also. Our speech world sound dull, ineffective and would not convey the real meaning of our message if we do not use gestures. Nevertheless, we should be careful for not being loud in our gestures and body language lest we might look funny.

Our speech would sound inert if we do not synchronies our dialogues with proper expressions on our face and body gestures. We should remember that there is a big difference between interacting with somebody and reading a news bulletin on TV.

In a civilized society, we need to express our sympathy facially and verbally while conveying a sad message or offering condolences. We will have to follow this protocol in a proper way, while answering or conveying a message carrying a particular feeling or emotion like exclamation, pleasure, distress, excitement etc.

Tone and volume of speech:

You might have observed that there are different tone and loudness of speech at different places and this style differ from place to place, depending on the dialects spoken in that area, the temperament and social / cultural environment in that area. It even differs between urban and rural parts of the same area.

So is the case in English also, these styles of speaking differ in all the languages in the world. The speech of sophisticated gentry is soft and civilized where as the rural world speak loud and raw language without following protocols. Following the same principles our tone has to be soft, mild moderated while speaking face to face with someone. Nevertheless, the volume may vary with the environment, emotional situation and distance from the listener. Yet, the tone should continue to be soft, at all the time and in all the conditions.

Non-English-speaking people usually try to imitate the dialogues and vocabulary from English films produced in Hollywood and Hong Kong. By following this learning process, we usually pickup styles adapting the vocabulary and learn to speak shrieks, shouts, slang and abuses from the interactions portrayed between bad characters in the films.

We should remember that English is spoken among educated masses in non-English-speaking world. Therefore, our English speech has to be decent and civilized. If we want to learn English from films, then we should pickup dialogue delivery from the decent and intellectual characters in the English films for emulating their style of English speaking.

How To Practice Speaking English:

The more we speak using our tongue throat the better would be our English speaking expertise. English is one of the most tongue twisting languages. Many words in English are not that easy to pronounce for the first time, because it needs a proper twist of our tongue to speak them in an appropriate way.

The best ways for practicing English speaking are listed as follows and discussed subsequently:

• Interact with your siblings or friends

• Read newspapers or books aloud

• Listen to English news on TV

• Do not hesitate to clear doubts with anyone

Interact with your siblings or friends:

More and more speaking is the only way to be fluent in the language that you want to learn. We will have to speak as much as possible; it does not matter whether we speak right or wrong. Our aim has to be just keeping speaking as much as possible and there is no other way-out.

You should pickup someone who continues to be with you most of the time and have a pact with him / her to speak only in English between you people. Brothers, sisters, cousins, roommates and classmates are usually the right people with whom you can go for this understanding.

Your practice partner for practicing English need not be an expert in English. Anyone, having working knowledge of Basic English speech would be fine for you to take off on this adventure.

Read newspapers or books aloud:

All the languages carry certain tongue-twisting words or combination of words that create big obstacles in the pursuit of speaking chaste English with perfect pronunciation, accent and fluency. We usually fumble and sometimes even stammer, as our tongue does not synchronize with our mind for perfect phonetic reproduction. The tongue does not just twist to speak such words.

Therefore, we will have to get our tongue used to such typical words, by pronouncing them repeatedly, so much so that, we develop a natural instinct for speaking English as very effortlessly as we speak our mother tongue.

‘Vulnerable’ was one such word that gave me a real hard time, whenever I tried to speak as a single word or tried to use it in a sentence. I of course sometimes could speak it as a single word; yet, I fumbled while speaking it in a sentence. Then, I kept speaking this word repeatedly and tried to used it deliberately by finding opportunities to speak ‘vulnerable’ as many times as possible.

That is the best way to practice for overcoming difficulties like fumbling with these tongue-twisting words or the combinations of such words by ‘reading them loudly’. In our day-to-day academic preparations, we need to read books and we read newspapers and magazines. We need to bring a little change in reading and that is by reading that loudly and use our tongue and throat many times.

This rigorous practice will put your tongue and throat on an exercise, eventually synchronizing it with the commands released from your brain in the process of speaking English. by doing it repeatedly, our tongue develops a natural instinct to produce a desired sound and eventually pronounce it without any fumble or stammer.

Listen to English news on TV:

Even small children as young as eight months learn speaking by hearing our speech and imitate our sounds that they hear when we speak. Hence, we need to hear someone speaking perfect English if we want to learn speaking this language. When we hear them then we can try to copy them..

Speaking any language, other than our mother tongue, is not as simple as physical exercise. That cannot be performed by solitary practice, because speaking includes specific phonetic reproduction and certain specific style, grammar and accent. There is no other option for us, except listening to that sound carefully and emulating the same by synchronizing, twisting the tongue with orientation of our throats while blowing air with controlled throttle.

The easy and freely available resource of perfect English speech lessons is the news bulletins read on radios and TVs. make it a regular practice of listening these news bulletins carefully. Better, listen to Indian English news, rather than opting for CNN or BBC or any other foreign media. I think that Indian English as the best for English for Indians to learn because, people in other countries speak English with different pronunciations and accents. If we try to learn from English spoken by British, American, Australian or Canadian people than we would be rendered confused due to ambiguity and might not even learn the English spoken in India.

Let us speak English in a better way: Part- 2
(For readers from Indian subcontinent)

Please read this article on my site: http://harishjhariasblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/let-us-speak-english-in-better-way-pt-2.html.

Article Source: EzineArticles.com

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