As mentioned in a couple of other threads I have a Mexican cleaning lady who is trying to learn English. She’s plenty bright but just cannot get a grasp on the language. A few things I’ve noticed:
I’d always assumed the lack of formal/informal and the lack of gender in English would be a welcome simplification to those learning it, but apparently it’s confusing. Maria uses the southernism y’all as an informal roughly the way a Spanish speaker might use tu instead of usted or a German might use Du instead of Sie, and she’ll sometimes say things like that table where the is appropriate and I’ve wondered if it may be similar to gender differentiation. (Unfortunately I can’t communicate well enough to ask her.)
Some Filipino students where I work who speak better English than most of the homegrown students will sometimes have a surprising mispronunciation. They’ll say southern in such a way that it rhymes with mouth-ern, or strewn in such a way as to rhyme with prune which is not incorrect but is a regionalism (down here, and IIRC in most parts of the country, it’s pronounced to rhyme with thrown). Apparently address numbers coming before instead of after the street (1234 Elm St. instead of Elm St. 1234) is a hard habit to break as well. Placement of verbs and adjectives are also hard to get used to among the non native-English speakers I’ve known.
Then of course there are all kinds of words whose spelling doesn’t even make sense to English speakers due to the number of silent letters: through,thorough, Wednesday, receipt, and catsup come to mind.
Anyone know of any of the hardest rules to grasp for people learning English as a second (or greater) language? What are some of the most peculiar features of English to those coming from another primary language?