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January 17, 2009

Simple Does Not Mean Easy

Hello Friends,

In many ways, English is a very “simple” language. But simple does not mean easy. The English language has only 26 letters. You'd think a language with so few characters would be easy to master. ...

...nope, not English. Perhaps like any area of work, if you only have a few tools, they better be extremely adaptable; sort of like a small tool kit with detachable pieces.

That just might sum up English. Yes, there are a few basic spelling rules (with a slightly longer list of exceptions). There are a few punctuation rules (some can be confusing - but mastery can contribute to nuanced writing).

And then there is the English of the future; especially texting and abbreviations.

I'll deal with texting later, but let me start with some of the abbreviations that make English rich, dynamic and confusing.

Instead of spelling out entire words, we use short versions. Some of these are extremely common; TV for television, USA for the United States of America, CD for compact disc and hundreds of others. The most difficult ones, however, might be those pesky informal short-cuts that you might run into in a typical conversation. PJ's for example is the shortened version of pajamas (originally a Persian word) - not to be confused with PB&J (peanut butter and jelly - as in sandwich) or PVC (poly vinyl chloride – a common plastic component in a variety of household products).

It is easy for an English language learner to make an embarrassing mistake using these shortened terms. I would recommend focused listening or even confirming with a native speaker before using these common but easily confused terms.

After all, you certainly wouldn't want to offer someone a PVC sandwich!

Morf

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About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and unlikely and ridiculous situations. Learn more about Morf HERE.

Posted by mmorf at January 17, 2009 03:39 PM

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