.The past and future of the past tense.


The world is slowly becoming a global village, and as such, a majority of languages are recognized as international languages. Of the words recognized internationally, English, German, Portuguese, French, and Chinese are amongst styles that are included in different educational curriculums or offered as academic short courses separately. The significance of these languages is that it allows for an individual to become multilingual if they choose to study multiple languages. Multilingual people are very much at an advantage in comparison to people who are bilingual or who speak only one language. Most short courses take a small period to complete; however, the fluency of a person is dependent on how much they talk. While being multilingual is beneficial, many challenges come with understanding a language that is not similar to one’s native language.

Some of these native languages have connecting roots, and therefore there is a similarity in their pronunciations, which makes them easier to learn in comparison to others. For example, a French-speaking individual can quickly learn Spanish or Italian due to similarity in their syllables, sentence structure, femininity, and masculinity of verbs, pronunciation, and meaning of words. On the other hand, a Chinese speaking individual may have a challenge studying Portuguese or German because while he is accustomed to characters, Portuguese would require examining the alphabet, the parts of speech, and learning how to join the sentences (Marchman, 1993).  Challenges in speaking arise from differences in pronunciation of syllables, tenses, the meaning of words, or simply the language is differently structured all together. For example, Arabic speakers write from write to left while other languages write from left to right, and others use characters or pictorials. The difference in structure and how the alphabets are written can confuse an individual and create challenges in mastering the language.

It is easy to learn basics such as greetings in a language; however, when a person seeks fluency, there is a need to learn the advanced level of a language that involves mastering a word in written and spoken form. Often this involves joining sentences, holding comprehensive conversations, and writing in different tenses. In the case of why German speakers face a challenge while trying to learn English is because of how speeches are structured in the present tense and how they change in the past tense (Kratzer, 1998).An address involves joining many parts to form a coherent sentence that can be understood or responded to. One of the eight parts of speech in any language is verbs. Without these doing words, like eat or drive, it is impossible to formulate full sentences. Verbs are involved because the nature of how the verb will be said or written varies from one tense to another. The word may even change in some languages, while in others, sentence structure changes.

The tenses in the English language are very simple to understand and are patterned in a way that rarely does the words entirely change, and neither do sentence structures change. On the other hand, German speakers have a different type of tenses all together. German present tenses and past tenses differ, and sentences end up looking different altogether. The challenge speakers face, therefore, is that while they are accustomed to their complex type of past tense, they are also used to it changing the structure of the sentence. On the other hand, in English, it is easy to maintain the structure of the word and spelling. In some instances, German displays different characteristics where the present and past tense seem not to correlate. It also has irregular omissions and inflections that do not exist in the English language (Pinker & Ullman2002). Therefore it is difficult for a German speaker to understand English past tense because they are generally wired to expect the past tense to be very different from the present tense, which isn’t the exact case that happens with English.



Kratzer, A. (1998, October). More structural analogies between pronouns and tenses.In Semantics and linguistic theory (Vol. 8, pp. 92-110).

Marchman, V. A. (1993). Constraints on plasticity in a connectionist model of the English past tense. Journal of Cognitive neuroscience5(2), 215-234.

Pinker, S., & Ullman, M. T. (2002).The past and future of the past tense. Trends in cognitive sciences6(11), 456-463.


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