English – Its Value & Its Quirks

learn english

English is the most widely used language in the world for trade, commerce, politics, international relations, entertainment and music. It is also quickly becoming the standard language of science.

Certain industries, such as the shipping and airline industries, have made English their standard and official language. This makes English a near-mandatory requirement for critical jobs such as airline pilots and naval officers.

Success in business often hinges on one single important skill – communication. And most businesses primarily rely on executing this skill in English. Without the ability for businesses to effectively communicate in English, there would be major daily challenges as well as no globalization of tasks and resources. The outsourced call centre and outsourced software development world could and would not exist, be welcomed or thrive.

The importance of English in modern business

Having an excellent knowledge of business English is vital for the success of every individual career.

English – the Language of Economic Power

Around the world, there is an estimated 1 Billion people learning English. In order to get ahead in most professional careers it is necessary to be able to comprehend concepts, understand conversations and express oneself – verbally and in written formats – would be near impossible.

Note:

  • Three-quarters of the world’s mail, telexes and cables are in English.
  • More than half of the world’s technical and scientific periodicals are in English.
  • English is the medium for 80% of the information stored in the world’s computers.
  • English represents 80% of the available Internet web content.
  • English is the language of navigation and aviation.
  • Five of the largest broadcasting companies in the world (CBS, NBC, ABC, BBC and CBC) transmit in English, reaching millions and millions of people all over the world.

With English being the language of choice in the global business community, it is necessary for every working person to continually develop and improve their communication skills – or  run the risk of being left behind…..Far behind…..

Having a good grasp of business information, data and business terminology makes it critically important to have a good English language skills.

Career Growth Depends on the #1 Soft Skill – Communication

Soft skills are essential when building a successful career with communication leading the way. Whether English is one’s first, second or third language, having a solid command English on the job can make the difference between one’s ability to be heard, recognized, respected and promoted.

Excellent Business English quickly becomes evident when one –

  • Makes phone calls or participates in conference calls
  • Makes a presentation
  • Takes part in meetings
  • Becomes involved in negotiations
  • Writes emails, reports or contributes documentation

Having developed English communication skills certainly equips an individual to both perform with confidence and have the ability to clearly express themselves. Even more so, it helps develop effective working relationships and build teams. Effective communication skills are a significant advantage when interviewing for jobs, justifying or enhancing starting salaries and securing future earning potential.

English is an international language that is spoken as a first language by about 360 million people. There are another 380 million more people who use English as their second language.

Conversational English vs. Business English

There are probably more similarities than differences between conversational language and business language. They both require the development of core skills in fluency, reading, writing and listening, the application of language principles and a lot of hard work.

Often people with English as a second language perform better and become more successful than native speakers because of their deep commitment to improving their performance. Native speakers, unfortunately, often take their only language for granted.

Test your English skills 

Being fluent doesn’t necessarily mean good business language skills are automatic or proficient.

Is English an easy language to learn?

englishNo doubt, English can be pretty challenging however it’s not the only contender for the World’s Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky languages include Finnish, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Mandarin.

Many non-European languages dominate the top of the difficulty list of The World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS) . Other languages in the Indo-European family with English include German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, Spanish, Kurdish and Kashmiri. All of these rank as being “weirder” than English. English actually places number 33 of 239 languages in the “weirdness index”. (For tricky methodological reasons, the WALS study had to limit itself 21 features. The languages that have the least “normal” values of these 21 features are defined as being the “weirdest”.)

In search of the world’s hardest language.

The English language is wonderfully bizarre and can at times be somewhat frightful. It is a composite of the best and worst that ancient languages have to offer.

One of the reasons why English is known for being challenging to learn is because of it’s multiple contradictions.

  • There is no ham in hamburger
  • There is neither an apple or pine in pineapple
  • A vegetarian eats vegetables. What does a humanitarian eat?
  •  “Overlook” and “oversee” have opposite meanings, while “look” and “see” mean the same thing
  • A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig
  • Quicksand only works slowly
  • A bandage is wound around a wound
  • The door was too close to the table to close
  • A house can burn up as it burns down
  • One fills in a form by filling it out

Have some fun playing with this quiz Quirkiness of the English language.

In Closing

I have two recommendations for everyone – native English speaker or otherwise
  1. “Faites attention” – pay attention to your language. Business English is an extremely important skill. Do not overlook its value. There are several online and classroom courses available to advance English. Speak to your HR Department -many employers sponsor programs for their employees.
  2. What is most important is the willingness to devote oneself to the process of learning a language AND maintaining daily contact with it while incorporating it into one’s lifestyle and personal life. Watch English news, listen to English radio and help your kids with their homework.
For your enjoyment, the following article was published online last year and it provides  interesting learning and some history on how the English language has evolved to its state today. Enjoy!
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10 Reasons Behind The Quirks Of The English Alphabet

Elizabeth S. Anderson

The English alphabet, along with every other Western alphabet, originated from the Roman (Latin) alphabet. The Roman alphabet itself originated from the Etruscan alphabet, which originated from the Greek alphabet. The Greek alphabet is a modified version of the Phoenician alphabet. The Greeks formed their alphabet by adding vowels to the existing vowel-less Phoenician alphabet. With that kind of a history, it’s no surprise that our modern English alphabet is filled with oddities.

There Used To Be A 27th Letter

 EnglishThe ampersand (“&”), used today by the likes of Barnes & Noble and Dolce & Gabbana, was once the 27th letter of the alphabet. Its invention dates to the first century. Roman scribes, who wrote in cursive, joined together the e and t in the Latin word “et,” which meant “and.”The character was introduced into the English alphabet in the 19th century. Although its pronunciation remained “and,” its name changed thanks to school pupils. The pupils, reciting their alphabet, ended with “XYZ and per se and“; per se means “by itself.” Just as “et” was slurred together to form the & character, “and per se and” was slurred together to form “ampersand.”

Aside being used as a replacement for “and” and joining names together, ampersand also still replaces et. For example, et cetera (“etc”) can also be written as “&c.”

EnglishWhy ‘U’ Always Follows ‘Q’

Can you think of an English word with a letter q not followed by a letter u? While English language contains some words like that—qibla, niqab, qigong, qawwali—they all derive directly from other languages. The only true English exception to the rule is “QWERTY,” and it is debatable whether that’s even a word at all.Q is always followed by a u because we always use q to denote the sound /kw/. The /kw/ sound is a diagraph, which means that two letters come together to form a single speech sound.

Before the Normans invaded England in 1066, there was no letter q in the English language. Words like “queen” and “quick” were spelled “cwin” and “cwic” respectively. It was the French-speaking Normans who began the practice of using qu to represent the /kw/ sound. The Normans themselves had copied the use of “qu” from Latin, which used it for the /k/ sound if it appeared before w. If it did not appear before w, they used c instead.

Why ‘W’ Is Called ‘Double-U’

 englishW is the only letter in the alphabet with a polysyllabic name. It is also the only letter whose name in no way tells how it is phonetically used. W is called “double-u” because that is how it used to be written—“uu.”Originally, u and v represented the same sound. U was used in the middle of a word, while v was used in the beginning. So “upon” was written as “vpon,” and “save” was written as “saue.” When Latin was used in Old English early in the seventh century, it became imperative that a character had to be created for thew sound.

Two u‘s (“uu”) were adopted to form the /uu/ sound. It was called “double-u.”

In the eighth century, “uu” was removed from the alphabet and was replaced by another character called the wynn (“ƿ”). W was reintroduced in the 11th century after the Normans conquered England. The Normans joined the two u‘s together and made the bottom sharper to form the w we know today. The look of the character changed, but the name did not.

Even with its reintroduction, w took time to become a common letter. Early printers used two v‘s (“vv”).

Benjamin Franklin Tried To Replace The Alphabet

 EnglishFounding father Benjamin Franklin is often misquoted as lobbying for the turkey as the national bird over the bald eagle, but other stories of his quirky nationalist reform are entirely true.Franklin created his own alphabet in 1768 to set the Americans apart from the British. Some schools even used it. The new alphabet modified the English alphabet, preferring sounds formed by breath without the use of the tongue, teeth, or lips. He removed the letters c, j, q, w, x, and y, which he believed were not useful. The hard-c sound was replaced by k, while s replaced the soft-csound.

He also introduced six new letters. One denoted the /o/ sound in words like “folly” and “ball.” One replaced the /sh/ sound in “ship” and “function.” Another replaced “um” and “un.” He also created a letter to represent the /ng/ sound and two to replace the /th/ sound.

Benjamin Franklin believed that his new alphabet would be easier to learn and reduce poor spelling. But it found few fans and soon faded away.

Why Washington Has No J Street

EnglishPhoto credit: Ben Schumin

Streets in Washington, D.C. are lettered alphabetically, from “A” to “I.” Then comes “K.” Urban legend says that city planner Washington-Pierre L’Enfant deliberately left out “J” because he held a grudge against Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay. Pierre also didn’t include a courthouse in his plan for Washington, forcing Jay’s Supreme Court to meet in the basement of the capitol building between 1801 and 1810.

This rumor is false. There is no J Street in Washington because back then, J wasjust another form of letter I. J started off as a design of I, and it was also used to show the end of a Roman numeral—“XIII,” for instance, was written “XIIJ.” In 1524, Italian grammarian Gian Giorgio Trissino differentiated between sounds /i/and /j/, but the two were still used interchangeably in the 18th century.

Why ‘X’ Is Used In ‘Xmas’

XmasSome Christians take offense at how the letter x replaces “Christ” in “Christmas.” They think that x is used in its capacity as a placeholder for an unknown quantity, in an attempt to secularize Christmas. They are wrong in this belief.The origin of x itself is bizarre and muddled, which is why it represents the unknown in both English and mathematics. X began as the Phoenician lettersamekh, which means “fish.” The Phoenicians used it to represent the hard /s/sound. When the Greeks borrowed it, they renamed it chi and used it to represent the /ks/ sound. The Romans later took the x from the Greek alphabet and paired it with the /x/ sound from the Chalcidian alphabet.

The x used in “Xmas” comes from the Greek chi. Chi is the first letter from the Greek word Χριστoς, which means Christ. As a result, “Xmas” has been used since the 16th century by religious people, and it has been common since the 19th century.

Uppercase And Lowercase

englishOurs is one of the few alphabets that has uppercase and lowercase letters. Their origin can be traced back to the Latin and Greek alphabets, from which the English alphabet was derived.The Latin and Greek alphabets initially had only capital letters. Small letters were formed when scribes, who had to copy and recopy text, began adding upward or downward strokes to make writing faster. The change in writing surfaces from rough rock to smooth parchment or vellum also led scribes to write in small letters, as they were now able to make single round strokes instead of multiple strokes.

By A.D. 9, small letters had become established, and capital letters were used for emphasis. While some pairs of capital and small letters—Cc, Ff, Ll, Hh, Xx, Oo—look alike, and their origin can be easily guessed, others—Aa, Ee, Gg, Rr—look different.

Take r, for instance. The Greeks invented a small r that resembles our present one. Medieval scribes later formed a small r that looked like the capital R. They called it “r rotunda.” The “r rotunda” was later dumped for the Greek small version, which was easier to write and more easily distinguished from the uppercase counterpart.

Why Keyboards Use ‘QWERTY’

EnglishIt is commonly said that Christopher Sholes, the inventor of the typewriter, used the QWERTY layout because commonly used letters jammed the machine when set close to each other. This claim hasn’t been confirmed.The first typewriters looked like pianos, with the letters arranged alphabetically. Researchers at Kyoto University found that alphabetical arrangement was changed to QWERTY because telegraph operators found it confusing and inefficient when translating Morse code. Back then, telegraph operators were usually the first users of new typewriters. In fact, Sholes almost inserted the Morse dot in the place of the r key, making the “qwe.ty” keyboard.

Sholes and his associates reached an agreement with gunmaker Remington to help them mass produce the QWERTY typewriter. Remington trained typists, and any organization that wanted to hire them would need to buy Remington QWERTY typewriters.

The five largest typewriter companies—Remington, Caligraph, Yost, Densmore, and Smith-Premier—then merged to form the United Typewriter Company. This made the QWERTY system so popular and successful that even Sholes himself could not change it when he wanted to. When computers came along, they simply adopted the already popular QWERTY keyboard layout.

There are typewriter and computer keyboard layouts apart from QWERTY. Dvorak, a typewriter keyboard layout invented by August Dvorak and William Dealey, requires less finger movement than QWERTY so allows faster typing. Other alternatives include “Colemak” and “Capewell.” When the crew at Mashable tested various layouts, they found that QWERTY is the least efficient.

How We Began Writing From Left To Right

english

Unlike Egyptian and Indian hieroglyphics, which used shapes to represent objects, the cuneiform writing system used letters to represent sounds. Cuneiform began to appear around 3500 B.C. It led to the formation of the Phonemic alphabet, on which all modern alphabets are based. Cuneiform was written from left to right.While unconfirmed, it is said that the scribes writing with cuneiform wrote from left to right because they were right-handed and would mess up their work if they wrote from right to left.

When Greek first appeared, it was written from right to left. This was later changed to boustrophedon, meaning “ox-turning.” In boustrophedon, the direction of writing changed with every new line. If the first line started from the left, the next would start from the right, the third would start from the left, and so on. Boustrophedon was confusing because individual letters also changed direction as the lines changed. If a word looked normal in one line, it would look inverted in the line directly above or below it, as if viewed through a mirror.

Thankfully, boustrophedon soon became obsolete. Writing from left to right became the standard with Greek and Latin alphabets. This was later passed down to the English alphabet.

The Elimination Of ‘Z’

englishIn 2010, the Internet was awash with rumors that the English Language Central Commission (ELCC) had agreed to remove z from the alphabet starting in June. The commission said that it had decided to remove the letter so that pronunciation would be simplified and British and American spelling would be similar. All words that began with z would have x in its place, and those with zelsewhere would gain a new s. So, we would have “xoo,” “xodiac,” and “xero”and “materialise,” “analise,” and “visualise.”The English Language Central Commission had really suggested nothing of the kind. The whole thing was just an April Fools’ Day prank. But there actually was a time when z was removed from the alphabet.

Around 300 B.C., Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus removed z because it was hardly used and had become archaic. Its pronunciation /z/ had become /r/, a process called rhotacism.

The letter z was later restored to the Roman alphabet, but it was used only for words borrowed from Greek. Since it was rarely used, it was placed at the end of the alphabet, where it remained even after the English alphabet formed.

This list was written with letters from the English alphabet.

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The Problem with Speaking English

  • Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  • Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  • Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  • Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.
  • Germans drink beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than us.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.


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