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Can you tell at least one reason why history of the English language might come in useful for a ESL student?

I've just spent 22 minutes of my life (which I will never get back again) watching an English teacher on Youtube explaining how the English language has developed over time and how many percents of Latin or French words are in English, and Germanic words as well of course. I then started thinking what use is there to know this? She spent 22 minutes of her life explaining all these days and events and I've spent the same time trying to understand, but what was the purpose of it and where I would use this knowledge? Maybe one day I would go to the UK and would tell the clerk at the store something like...hey did you know that the word Android actually came from the Greek language in the 8th century or something like that? 


So, do you know where a learner might use this info?

Mar 25, 2017 7:27 AM
Comments · 16

(Shrug) Sorry you wasted 22 minutes. A lot of people just find this stuff interesting. I just read a whole book, Bill Bryson's The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way and found it fascinating. I would recommend it highly--if you were interested--but you aren't--so I won't. Not all, but many language learners do want to learn a little bit about history, geography, and culture along with the language.

I don't want to oversell it, but I'll give one specific example of how this can be useful.

You are trying to learn English, and you notice that many words have many synonyms and you are trying to figure out which one to learn and use. Perhaps you are using a dictionary to translate a word and you see several choices for English. "Start" or "commence?" "Belly" or "abdomen?" "Body," "corpse," or "cadaver?" "Buy" or "purchase?" "Baby" or "infant?"

Perhaps it is not very helpful, but it is a little helpful to understand that these pairs are the result of the Norman conquest, and that because the French-speaking Norman invaders were higher in social rank, the shorter word is probably Anglo-Saxon derived and tends to be stronger, more direct, and less formal; the Latin-derived word tends to be more dignified, more formal, and more often used in a medical, scientific, or other technical context.


March 25, 2017

It is called culture.

And may be you don´t mind,but it´s useful,and enjoyable,to learn.

In fact,may be you don´t need to study to send sms and whatsapp texts, and to send emojis you only need one finger.Don´t  waste   your brain.

March 25, 2017
As a teacher I have used many times what I have learned in my historical linguistics courses to answer students every time they ask, "But why is it like that?"  Why do we have to say it like that?"  I have read and thoroughly reviewed several times the excellently written Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter which outlines the history of the English Language from the earliest versions to today's English.  If you ever wanted to know why we use "do" in questions and negatives and the Present Progressive to say what we are doing now, which no other language in the modern world uses, then you might want to read this book.  I got questions I couldn't answer so I read the book.  Well, to be honest, I also read it because I was curious.  Then I realized how useful it could be.  Knowing why could be helpful to you.  
March 25, 2017
It's something to complain about on discussion boards.
March 25, 2017

P.S. With regard to "android," certainly, it is directly useful to know that the "anthropo-" root means "having to do with humans," and thus helps us guess at, learn, and remember the meaning of the words "anthropoid," "anthropic principle," "misanthrope," "android," "androgyny," "anthropocene," "anthropogenesis," "anthropogenic global warming," "anthropocentrism," etc.

Medical students actually take a semester of "Medical Greek and Latin" in which they learn the original meanings of the Greek and Latin roots, and how they are combined to form hundreds of medical English words.

March 25, 2017
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