As you know, many people love to complain about Dutch. The language would be illogic and inconsistent, that is what many foreigners complain about. Also, according to many Dutch people, Dutch is one of the hardest languages on this planet to learn, as it lacks a logicial system and one language is absolutely easy and simple. It is surprise, surprise: English!
Sure, certainly if you are reading this article, chances are high that you find English logical and consistent. The only question is: is it really true?
Believe it or not, there are many inconsistencies in the English language. Therefore, let’s have some fun and dive into English and discover with an open mind what makes sense in English and what does not really make sense, if you are willing to look at it objectively 🙂
Here are 7 things that are quite inconsistent of the English language. Some may surprise you and chances are high that you will not find them strange at all… that is what happens if you use a language again and again. But… if you are really open to it and if you think again then who knows? You might smile and say: indeed! It does not really make sense!
Please, read it in a lighthearted way… don’t be too serious about it and… just to make things clear from the very first start: English is a great language! It just acts a little strange sometimes 🙂
1 Does English spelling have a spell?
Many languages such as Dutch, Spanish and Turkish are pronunciation driven. It simply means that if you see a word written, you exactly know how to pronounce it.
Not in English, because even if you see the word written, how you say it, is often a surprise.
Just have a look for yourself:
Fruit – fluid
Break – peak
Babies – lies
Weird – deceive
Can you see that you can pronounce all those letter combinations in different ways?
Just have a look at this:
Deceive – belief
Don’t you think it is strange that you have two different ways of writing for representing one sound?
Here is another strange thing. You don’t always pronounce the letters that you pronounce:
Knee – Debt – Know – Doubt
And then, why would you write egg with double g, but not leg?
There are many words that have to write with double l: will – bell – hill
You have full and beautiful. Why can’t you write beautifull (with double l)?
Here is a funny thing…. How would you pronounce the words if they had only one l?
wil – bel – hil. Probably it would not sound different, right?
Here is another strange thing. If a word ends with a k-sound then you write ck:
Clock – trick – prick
If you liked, you could also write: clok, trik or prik, right?
Here is another nice one: house – hour – our
Sometimes you pronounce h, but not always. And why would you write h if you do not pronounce it? Sure… hour looks more like hora in latin, but… pronunciationwise, it does not make sense!
Can you imagine that English spelling could look like a mess sometimes? So now it is time for a well meant compliment for all those people that speak English as a foreign language: if you can write, read English and if you know how to pronounce it, you have done an amazing job!
2 Are you sure?
In comparison to other languages, English has a weird construction for questions and negations.
Let’s compare English, Dutch and Spanish:
Do you work? – Werk je? – ¿Trabajas?
Do you drink? – Drink je? – ¿Bebes?
Instead of just saying: work you? or drink you? you must put do you in front first. English is quite unique with that. But then… you do say: are you, which is strange, if you think about it. It should be – if you like to be consistent: do you be?
The same thing is true for I am not. I don’t be should make perfect sense. But… now all of a sudden English starts to look like Dutch and Spanish. Ik ben niet – no soy.
Here is a provacative question: why not treat all verbs like to be in English? If I am not makes sense to you, then why not say: I work not and I drink not… Sure, it might sound wrong or primitive to you, but… if you like logic it makes more sense and after a long time, you might even get used to it!
3 @#$! What happened with the order of the sentence?
Sometimes you change the order in the sentence for no good reason. All of a sudden in English you put the verb in weird places. Just have a look:
What is the problem? ⇒ I want to know what the problem is
All of a sudden, English starts to look like Dutch! ⇒ Ik wil weten wat het probleem is
Then have a look at the following sentences:
Here comes the rain again
Now comes that awful feeling
There goes my baby
Also here, English starts to look like Dutch, where the verb is most often second element. Once again, you should say: here the rain comes, here the awful feelings comes and there my baby goes, right?
4 How you do things is sometimes strange in English.
Just have a look at these two sentences:
English is easy and therefore I easily speak English
You probably understand the difference between easy and easily. You use easily if you describe verbs, if you show how you do certain things.
All right then, it is time for the next step:
Arabic is difficult and therefore I mmmmmmm speak Arabic… ooops… you can’t say difficultly, right?
My work is hard and therefore I hardly work…. ?@#
So now, you see the problem… in most cases you would add – ly, but not all the time.
You say: I go wild, not I go wildly, right?
And what if you do things rightly, do you do them right, then?
You see? Describing how you do things in English is not always that easy….
5 What does it own exactly?
Let’s talk about possions now… Let’s have a look again:
The advice of my mother = my mother‘s advice
The view of my fater = my father‘s view
You do understand the function of ‘s, right?
All right then, what is: it’s? Probably you will not say of it, but it is…
Therefore its color is supposed to mean: the color of it… Sure, it is something that you accept and you may even defend it. But… once again… does it really make sense?
6 Can you always count on English logic?
Here is a simple question. Can you read the following numbers out loud?
16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23….
Did you notice anything?
If not, let’s do it in Dutch: zestien, zeventien, achttien, negentien, twintig, eenentwintig, tweeëntwintig. Did you notice that in Dutch, when you count you always start from the back?
Let’s count in Spanish now… dieciséis, diecisiete, dieciocho, diecinueve, veinte, veintiuno, veintidós, veintitrés… Can you see that in Spanish you always start from the left?
But then in English you say sixteen and then twenty one. It is a mix between Dutch and Spanish now!
7 Finally, this is also strange!
Finally, if you look at the word finally, is there anything that gets your attention?
Probably not, but… let’s have a look at Dutch and Spanish first.
Dutch: einde (end) – eindelijk (finally)
Spanish: fin (end) – finalmente (finally)
Can you see that in Dutch and in Spanish the words for end and finally are quite similar?
Here is another example:
Dutch: de duur van het programma is een uur en het programma duurt een uur
Spanish: la duración del programa es una hora y el programa dura una hora
English: the duration of the program is one hour and the program lasts one hour
Lasts does not really seem to have a relation with duration, don’t you think? Can you see that somehow both Dutch and Spanish are more consistent?
Here is one thing that often happens in English…. You often jump between Germanic words and Latin words. One more example: in Dutch zien is to see, helder is clear and we have the words helderziend. For some reason, it does not work if you combine clear & to see. You’ll have to speak French first… clearseeing does not make sense to the English mind, but clairvoyant does!
Should we change the English language?
You might think that the next logical answer would be whether we should change the English language and this is a great question indeed…
One answer could surprise you…
Can you guess what the answer is? Yes…. that is right…. the answer is no! The English language is great in the way that it is. Sure, if you really dig deep it may look inconsistent sometimes, but… there is no problem what so ever! Millions of people have already overcome these inconsistencies, they speak great English already and English is a wordwide language that people love and use for any thinkable activitiy in life…
But… what is important is that we simply accept that languages do crazy things sometimes. It does not really matter, as long as you accept it…. The funny thing is that when it comes to speaking English you did not notice many things that you found in this blog. So here is the secret: if you just dive into it, if you start using a language again and again, everything will make sense to you, even if objectively it does not really make sense. The keyword here is acceptance and go with the flow.
Therefore, if you learn a new language – which could be Dutch – then do not immediately bitch and complain if something looks weird to you… Just start playing with the new language, use it, speak it, feel it and own it! It does not really matter whether a new language is always logical and consistent or not… once you open your mind, anything is possible!