English Language Materials

Interested in some topics about the English language? Here are some of the general posts that I have written on the English Language and teaching it (in alphabetical order):

The English language is weird

The English language is an old language that decided to conglomerate with other languages. After being allowed to develop for several hundred years, the result is Modern English. While many argue that it is an easy language to learn, there are still many idiosyncrasies. My response has always been that English is an easy language to start learning but very difficult to master. I mean look at the following poem and tell me it is easy:

English plurals really are difficult!

Or look at this one about pronunciation:

It isn’t all bad though. Similar pronunciations lead to amazing puns, such as Watt is Love, Baby don’t Hertz me, don’t Hertz me, no Morse.

But why is English like this?

Well, a big reason is The Great Vowel Shift. This is a time when grandparents and great-grandchildren may have not understood each other very much. Well, they probably did not live long enough, but still.

Also, What is the Plural of ‘You’? Is it y’all, youse, yous, you guys? Why isn’t there a clear cut answer?

There is then also The Most Important Word in the English Language and Its History, which itself is a conglomeration of several words. And we use it every day without even realising it. Scary!!

And it is not just pronunciation and plurals. There are many more. What about the French Phrases in English the French Wouldn’t Understand? They are as common as water in English but the French would be sitting there scratching their heads. What exactly is a bathroom en suite?

And what about the Portuguese? Two of them had a great idea to translate a Portuguese phrasebook to English via French. The result is English as She is Spoke, a book that is both hilarious and incomprehensible.

Or how about English directly contradicting itself by using one word to mean two things that are exact opposites. Those are called Contronyms.

On top of all this, there are all the tenses in English. Need a review? Here is an all-encompassing one: Active Tenses in English. If you prefer, you could focus on Past Simple, Present Perfect, their differences under Past Simple vs Present Perfect or looking at the differences between the “Will” vs “Going to” vs “Shall” Futures.

But that isn’t everything. Those are just the main tenses in the active voice. What about when we start getting creating with time in a sentence. Well, you may need to use Future in the Past. Or maybe even Reported Speech.

Then there are the five types of Conditional Sentences, Past Habits, and even Modal Verbs (will/would, can/could, shall/should, must/must not, may/might). Also what are the differences between can vs may?

To make things even more complicated, there are even Semi-Modal Verbs (had better, need, dare, have to) that do exactly the same thing. But do they really? Here are some differences between should vs ought to vs had better. Here are some differences between must vs have to.

English for Specific Academic Purposes (ESAP)

Feeling confident with English? Let me introduce you to the more codified versions used for specific purposes. Take Legal English for example. “Cease and desist”. This is called a Doublets (and More-lets) in English and you have to know/be comfortable with them in Legal English.

If you are more of a science nerd, you may be more interested in The Basic Characteristics of Scientific Language or The History and Use of Scientific English, which is also a separate (sub-)language.

A big factor is grammar. You can read about some of the aspects under The Grammar of Scientific English: Spaces in all the Right Places and Verbs/Voices and Abbreviations/Acronyms

Teaching culture and the English language

Sometimes you just want something different when teaching. Language is great but usually, you need to teach cultural things as well. For example did you know that St George is the patron Saint of England and the day is still celebrated? Did you know that Saint George is also the patron saint of other places as well? One of those places is Catalonia. This becomes a great teaching opportunity to compare national holidays: Saint George’s Day vs Sant Jordi (Catalonia)

Translating and linguistics

A great way of writing English is not actually the alphabet. So many letters have many different pronunciations. This does not make studying it easier. On the other hand, there is IPA. India Pale Ale, you say? No! IPA = International Phonetic Alphabet. Not sure what that is? Here is Guide to the International Phonetic Alphabet and Phonemic Alphabets. It is a lifesaver! I am going to campaign to replace our current alphabet with something like IPA sooner or late.

Translation is also very closely related to linguistics. Often though it can be confusing. Terms like translation, interpreting, localisation and transcreation and thrown around but what do they mean? The differences are actually very important in the field/industry: Translation, interpreting, localisation and transcreation – what are they and what are the differences?


I have also been somewhat active on Quora in the English as a Second Language section. Here are some of my answers to Quora questions: