English learning tips

Wait… Is it fun, funny or ‘funny’?

Ahhh… confusing words…. Sometimes, I think that’s the real reason we learn languages – just to see how messed up other languages are.

So far, I’ve studied five languages:

  1. German (at school)
  2. Spanish (at school)
  3. Korean (in Korea)
  4. Japanese (at university)
  5. Mandarin/Hokkien Chinese (in Taiwan)

My most successful language learning experiences were when I  learnt the language in order to communicate with someone… So, as a result, my German and Spanish is pretty dire. I learnt them at school because I had to. My skills are more basic than a toddler’s.

But my Japanese? It’s pretty good. I can chat.

My Korean? I can read, write & speak. I can survive there.

My Taiwanese? It’s slowly improving.

Now, every language I’ve ever studied seems to have had something to trick, fool or trap you.

For example:

German and Spanish have grammatical genders – meaning words are either masculine or feminine (or neutral). For example, in German there are three words for ‘the’ ‘der’ ‘die’ and ‘das’.

Chinese (Hokkien and Mandarin) have different vocal tones (like intonation) which all sound the same to an untrained ear. If you have a Chinese speaking friend, ask them about ‘ma ma ma ma and ma’.

Korean is probably the easiest, but it still has a few nuances… One being the honorific system. You need to use a different verb ending with different people depending on their status. Generally, it’s not too difficult to learn when you focus on situations rather than the grammar.

Finally we come to Japanese. Now, out of all the languages I’ve studied, I’ve put the most hours, effort and sweat into Japanese (thanks Pokémon and Dragonball Z). And let me tell you, Japanese is difficult, but only to begin with.

> Yes, there are three writing forms.

> Yes, there are many different verb forms.

> Yes, there are many different counter forms (ex. in English we say one bottle, one apple, one shrimp – in Japanese each of these has a different counter form).

But it’s still not too hard if you want to learn it.

But… English?

English is a different beast entirely (and I’m often glad that English is my native language).

There are many reasons why English gets a reputation for being difficult…

  • Word order / sentence structure
  • Phrasal verbs
  • Homophones (like rein, reign and rain or there, they’re and their)
  • Pronunciation (‘ghoti’ lol)
  • Stative verbs (verbs that give a state rather than an action – ex. live or be)
  • The perfect tenses (the past perfect continuous, anyone?!)

and the list can go on and on.

One of these English language ‘traps’ came up in a lesson the other day.

Here’s the story:

Right now, I’m getting ready to go to England (from Taiwan) with my wife and son for Christmas, and I was talking to my student about going home for the holidays.

I said:

“I like flying, but long flights always make me feel funny.”

And my student thought I meant ‘flying makes me laugh’… Actually, I meant that flying makes me feel not normal (and not in a good way).

Interesting, right?

So, I taught her about three ways we (English speakers) use the words fun and funny.

And that’s the topic of today’s audio lesson.

Listen To Today’s Audio Lesson


What Next?

So, you’ve listened to the lesson. You’ve taken some notes (hopefully). Next you have two tasks (if you choose to accept them).

  1. Share this lesson. Either in one English learning group that you are a member of OR with an English learning friend/student.
  2. Answer these sentences…

Was the movie fun or funny?

Was the party fun or funny?

Does flying make me feel fun or funny?


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