The aim of this blog is to serve as a meeting point to those who study or have studied English philology and, more broadly, to all those who love literature and language.

26 Jan 2009


I have always found oral understanding in English the hardest skill for a learner, at least for people studying it as a foreign language, i.e. living in a country where English is not spoken and getting knowledge mainly from lessons and books. If I compare a similar situation when learning other languages, I’d say that the difficulty lessens in the case of languages with longer words. I think that speech in languages with a large number of monosyllables goes faster and demands a bigger effort on the part of the non-native speaker.

I remember a mnemonic technique used by a teacher in a summer course I attended in Bournemouth years ago. It was the first day and she asked us, the students, to try to find words in English which sounded close to our names in order to help her remember them. Although it could seem a difficult and silly task, it turned out easy, fun and effective for its goal. In fact, I still remember the answers provided by some of my classmates or my own. These are some examples: ‘each arrow’ (Itxaro), ‘me? well’ (Miguel), ‘car men’ (Carmen), ‘in a key’ (Iñaki), ‘my tea’ (Maite). I cannot imagine doing this kind of exercise in the other languages I know, probably because it is harder to find so many short lexical items.

A different question is that of spelling. Short pronunciation does not always correspond to little writing, as it can be seen when reading about the the longest one-syllable English word. Taking that into account, pollysyllabic items can really stretch along our paper or screen. We ca find some impressive examples when trying to learn about the longest English word.


  1. I was in Bournemouth too in a language course... phew, must have been 1980!

  2. One of our teachers in our Bournemouth course told us about the two main industries in that town: tourism and English teaching.

  3. In my opinion those spanish-speaking students were't very smart.
    Nor the phonetics or stress of Carmen, Iñaki, Maite or Miguel are similar, at all, to the phrase they provided.
    This is what they said in Spanish: Camen, Inaki, Maití and Migüel. Nonsense but funny anyway.

  4. Of course! Neither the phonetics nor the stress could have been similar (too many different phonemic realizations in these two languages, just to start with). It was a game used with a mnemonic purpose that worked all right to help the teacher remember the students' names by recalling gestures, funny meanings and approximate sounds.

  5. Yes, you are right, Anónimo. Recent scientific studies have proven that speakers with other-than-english first languages are not very smart. May God allow that someday everyone knows The Language!