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Kevin Rea
  • Kevin Rea
  • Menomonee Falls, WI
  • United States

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Using the most logical and simple language versus one as complicated and illogical as English.

I am trying to teach my 10 year old son the ins and outs of the English language. I am math-minded, so everything must have rules with no ifs or buts. So when I run into the "i before e EXCEPT after c" rule, it really bothers me. Explaining silent letters like the "k" in "know" seems ridiculous to me.
And as a comedian once explained, why does "one" sound like it should have a "w" in it, while "two" HAS a "W" but probably doesnt need it?
From what I know, the Chinese language (Mandarin) seems very logical and simple.
I feel it would be better to move the World towards this (or a similar) language for two reasons:
1. It would make computer algorithms based on language and sounds a lot easier.
2. I would assume it would take less time to teach our children.
I grew up in the 1970s, and it took until the 8th grade until I learned most of what I needed to know about the English language. If teaching them an easier language could be accomplished by, lets say, the 4th grade, then we would have a lot more time to teach them skills relating to new technology.
What do my fellow TEDers think?

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  • Mar 4 2012: English is baffling because it is a conglomeration of all the other languages. Pedi and Podi both mean feet because they came from different languages originally - one is Greek, the other Latin. English, like any living language, takes on useful words where it finds them. English also tends to make up new words as needed. You can strip away all the things you find confusing, and in a few years new confusing elements will arise because that is the nature of a living language.

    If you can't explain to your son why a podiatrist might recommend a pedicure, visit the dictionary where the root origins are explained. The Oxford English Dictionary is a wonderful resource, available online, at your local library, and in condensed form for a few hundred dollars. It is worth every penny to a word lover like me. Other dictionaries are less extensive, but will probably cover every word a school child will encounter. Unless he reads Heinlein and comes across occifloccinihilipilificatrix, which is how I met the OED!

    English has a specific word for anything you can imagine. The level of precision possible in English isn't possible in a simpler language and the level of complication in English exists because it serves the needs of its users. Someone else responded saying English is widespread because the Brits and Americans spread out so much. Actually, English was complicated 1000 years ago. Angles, Saxons, Normans, Vikings, Celts, and even Romans kept invading Britain. That is where English got its habit of taking useful words from other languages and where it developed the complexity that you find frustrating today.

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