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40                  The Loom of Language
attempt, (b) endeavour^ (c) test., (d) judge Another very common English
verb, ask) can mean (a) question, (&) request, (c) invite So an English-
Swedish or English-French dictionary will not give one equivalent for
try or one for ask If you look up these words you may find for the first
four and for the second three foreign substitutes which are not true
synonyms. The moral of this is* do not include such words as ask or
try in the English column of an essential word-list In place of them
put each of the more explicit words given above
A foreign language may have a fixed word-order like our own, or a
fixed word-order which is quite different If the order of words is
very different from what we are accustomed to, rules of word-ordar
are among the most important rules of its grammar; and it is impossible
to get confidence in reading, in speaking, or in writing till we have got
used to them. In the initial stages of learning an unfamiliar pattern of
this sort makes the task of reading much more difficult than it would
otherwise be. That is why German and Dutch, though closely related
to Engksh, offer greater difficulties to an Englishman or an American
than French. A tnck which helps to fix rules of this kind is to make a
habit of twisting an English sentence into the Germanic word-order
without translating it The results are often funny, and that makes it
easier to learn them In German word-order, the last few words would
be * and that makes it easier them to learn
In the chapters which follow we shall first look at the way languages
differ from and resemble one another. This will help us to get dearer
about the best way to begin learning any particular one, We shall then
be in a position to judge whether it is best to concentrate on speaking,
writing, or reading in the early stages, and to decide what course to
pursue in writing or speaking in order to fix the minimum vocabulary
and grammatical rules we have to use In so doing we shall also recog-
nize defects which we ought not to perpetuate, and merits which we
should incorporate, in a language of world-citizenship
Among other things, The Loom of Language aims at giving the
reader who wishes to learn the languages spoken by our nearest Euro-
pean neighbours, a working knowledge of the indispensable elements
* of grammar, with a basic vocabulary for self-expression. Much of the
material relevant to the subject-matter of the two chapters (VII and IX)
primarily devoted to this is in tabular form The tables illustrate aspects
of the natural history of language discussed elsewhere. To get the best