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dumitus's avatar

Is English a flexible language in word choice?

Asked by dumitus (634 points ) November 7th, 2012

By word choice I mean a range of words or expressions you can choose from when writing, speaking.

I felt this way because however much I spend time reading books or writings on the Internet written by native speakers of English,
I don’t really get a feeling that they are speaking in the same language, or get the hang of English in general.

Each individual’s linguistic style differs so much so that I almost feel like they are speaking in different languages.

And so many words are adaptable to so many cases that I feel like each word in English has more uses than I realize, or no limited use at all.

If you can relate to this writing, than perhaps I could be right.
If you can’t, it all happens just because I’m standing on a standpoint of a foreigner whose first language is not English.

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7 Answers

trailsillustrated's avatar

Very. Especially the slang.

elbanditoroso's avatar

English, and particularly American english, is an agglomeration of dozens of languages, meaning that there are – for practically every word – three other options how to say it.

MY view is that having that sort of choices lets you, the speaker, decide exactly what nuance you want to place on a thought. You are not saddled with one amorphous word, but you can tweak your thought or expression to a particular level of detail or ‘spin’ depending on the exact word that you use.

So a non-native English speaker has lots of choices – sometimes too many – but each word has its own nuanced and subtle meaning, so you need to mindful of the message that you are sending.

dumitus's avatar

@elbanditoroso yes that is really important in learning English I guess.. The problem is that non-native speakers of English, especially those not living in English-speaking countries do not have a way of understanding that particular nuance in a word since such an understanding comes from experience and situational context, which is not happening on not-speaking-English land, and which demands linguistically empirical knowledge that’s only possible when one is living in that culture.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@dumitus – that’s correct. And it makes things much more difficult, I understand. In the absence of people and situations, about all you can do is listen to American TV programs (it is hard to believe that I am saying that), and read contemporary American fiction.

The reason I say contemporary fiction is that language and nuance changes so much from decade to decade. Gone with the Wind, written in 1939, is not how people speak today.

dumitus's avatar

You are absolutely right. Watching TV( but I’ve never watched actual American TV, just some radio programs) and reading stories(I like works of Stephen King) is how I managed to just get by and sound like natives speakers to some degree at least…: – )

zensky's avatar

Its’ a great big beautiful wonderful incredible super spectacular language.

Sunny2's avatar

You are so right. English is very difficult for many reasons. Multiple meanings of many words and, as you say, the nuances. Pronunciations vary because of multiple word origins and where people lived when learning the language. Just try to relax and let it flow as you understand it. If you need help, ask English speaking friends whom you trust. Good luck!

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