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Learning English in a classroom can take many years, but a student will be able to become fluent in Ungglish in less than a year.

Ungglish will be like English, but an independent, planned language. It will be dramatically easier to learn, so students of English can make progress faster and have more fun. Help is wanted to finish the design and write dictionaries.

Note: Why “Ungglish” with two Gs and not “Unglish”? Because Ungglish is phonetic, NG makes a sound like ng in “sing”. Therefore, an extra G is required to add a G sound.

Introduction to Ungglish

Ungglish is a teaching language and international auxiliary language being developed based on English. It is intentionally different than English, but it is similar enough that English speakers who have never heard of Ungglish can understand a lot of it.

Ungglish is much easier than English, so one can quickly learn to speak it fluently while learning many English words. There are a few things in Ungglish that do not exist in English, but if you avoid using these things then English people will be able to understand most of what you say. These things reduce the vocabulary; for example “des” means “opposite of”, so “deshot” means “cold”. Ungglish also has much more regularity, consistency, clarity, and simplicity than English. These factors let people learn Ungglish much, much faster than they can learn English.

Important: Only one person is designing Ungglish right now, and it is not finished, but I hope to find help to finish it and write software tools for it. I’m looking for people interested in using the language, discussing its design, creating inter-language dictionaries for it, teaching it, discussing strategies for teaching it, discussing strategies for marketing it, and discussing human psychological factors that could influence whether people learn it and how they use it.

What is Ungglish for?

1. To help people learn English

Many people have noticed that if you learn a second language, then you can learn a third language faster than you learned the second one. The interesting thing is that it doesn’t matter if the languages are related. If you learn Russian, it will help you learn Japanese, even though Russian is not related to Japanese.

The great thing is that the same effect also happens if the second language is easy. In 1887, a new language called Esperanto was published, which is about ten times easier to learn than most naturally-occurring languges. In the next century, an interesting fact was discovered: students could learn Esperanto and another language (such as English) faster than they could learn only English by itself.

In the Paderborn Esperanto experiment, German-speaking students wanted to learn English. Professor Helmar Frank divided the students into two groups, one group that studied only English for six years, and another group that studied only Esperanto for two years, then studied English for four years. After two years, they were fluent in Esperanto. At the end of the six-year period, students that studied English for four years had better English skills than students that studied English for six years!

This became known as the Paderborn method for language teaching, and similar experiments elsewhere had similar results.

However, most people do not use this method because it is counterintuitive. A typical person might say “Why would I study Esperanto if I want to learn English? That makes no sense!”

On the other hand, learning Ungglish before you learn English makes perfect sense. Ungglish is very similar to English, so it serves as a stepping stone. If learning English is like wading through a river, then Ungglish is like a series of rocks you can stand on to cross more comfortably. After learning Esperanto, you would not understand English at all, but after learning Ungglish, you can understand many spoken English sentences and some written sentences, too.

2. To help create multi-lingual documents and web sites

If you don’t have money to hire translators, it is nice to have automatic translation. Unfortunately, automatic machine translation is unreliable; it often produces output that is impossible to understand.

Nonsensical output is usually caused by ambiguity: the fact that one word or phrase can have two or more completely different meanings. The computer doesn’t know which meaning was intended and simply makes a guess, which is often wrong. Because Ungglish is more specific and less ambiguous than other languages (especially English), a computer can (in principle) translate it more reliably to other languages.

Since translatability is a secondary goal, Ungglish is not entirely unambiguous, but it is less ambiguous than English, and software could (theoretically) warn you when you have written something ambiguous.

A common ambiguity in Ungglish is the same as in English: a noun phrase that has at least two nouns in it. For example, consider “black car factory”. Is the factory black, or are the cars black? Many other languages would clearly distinguish between the two possibilities, but English doesn’t. If you write “black-car factory”, with a dash, then it means the cars are black; but many English writers don’t include a dash, so when you see it with no dash, you cannot tell whether the factory or the cars are black. Ungglish partly solves the problem by allowing an extra suffix “o” to signal “tighter binding”. So “black caro factory” means that “car” and “factory” should be treated as a single unit, meaning that the factory is black and not the cars. You can also say “blacko car factory”, meaning that the cars are black and not the factory. The translation tool should warn writers when they have said something like “black car factory” that is ambiguous and has multiple possible translations, and it should suggest clearer phrasings.

Also, all languages have limitations - there are always things that are easy to say in one language and hard to say in another. It is therefore unavoidable that some words and phrases will not translate perfectly and must be approximated in the target language. But by using Ungglish, the translation should remain comprehensible, unlike translations from English that are often nonsensical. However, translation software has not been written and until it is, we won’t know exactly how well Ungglish works for translation.

3. To reduce the importance of English

Native English speakers have a large advantage in the world because their language is so dominant. English learners have a disadvantage because English is difficult. Nevertheless, people that want to communicate internationally usually choose to learn English instead of a language designed for international communication, such as Interlingua or Esperanto.

We hope that, someday, a large community of Ungglish speakers will develop that will speak Ungglish instead of English. Hopefully, by using tools that automatically translate between English and Ungglish, these people will have less need for English in their lives, which will make life easier for them. In the best case scenario (which is unlikely, admittedly), the community will become so large that many English speakers will learn Ungglish, which could cause the simplifications in Ungglish to bleed into English (although the reverse situation, that Ungglish gets new words from English, will also happen).

What makes Ungglish easy?

Few synonyms

English has many, many synonyms, which are removed from English. For example, “big” and “large”; “huge”, “humongous”, “collossal”, “gargantuan”, “enormous”, “massive”, an so on; “happen” and “occur”; “choose”, “decide”, “select” and “pick”; “hit”, “smack”, “slam” and “slap”.

Usually, the most common synonym is kept and the less common ones are removed, but the decision can also be influenced by

No irregular past or plural

Many common English words have an irregular past tense and/or past participle, e.g. think => thought, find => found, get => got => gotten, eat => ate => eaten, sing => sang => sung, foot => feet, child => children.

Almost all irregularities are gone in Ungglish. The only irregular verb is the one for “to be”.

Consistency and predictability

English is very inconsistent, and has very few reliable patterns among pairs of words that are related in the same way. Consider law/legal, base/basic, science/scientific, death/mortal and automobile/automotive. The relationship between the two words is the same in these examples, but if you only know the first word, you cannot guess the second word. Ungglish solves this problem largely by expecting a consistent suffix “ic”: law => lawic, baes => baesic, scieens => scieensic, car => caric.

You can also simply use a noun as an adjective. For example, a “car factory” (or “car maekerria”) is a factory that makes cars, but a “caric factory” is a factory that makes things related to cars, such as car parts.

You’ll see this predictability throughout the design of Ungglish. Exceptions are tolerated only ocasionally; for example, the normal suffix for a “language” is “eez” (Vi-etnameez = Vietnamese, Franseez = French, Spaineez = Spanish) but a special exception is made for “Ungglish” and “Ingglish” (English) so that they are pronounced the same way as they are in English.

Marked verbs make sentences easier to decipher

All Ungglish verbs end in “a” (pronounced [ə] as in Mona Lisa), so it is easy to tell where the verbs are in a sentence.

The -a ending also serves to separate several pairs of words that sound the same in English but have completely different meanings, such as where/wear, hear/here, right/write, break/break, like/like, point/point and fair/fare. In Ungglish, these pairs are visually and audably separate.

At the same time, the words “a” and “an” are eliminated and merely implied. So the sentence “Ie hava car” coincidentally sounds the same in English and Ungglish, even though in Ungglish the word “a” is missing and only implied. Other sentences sound different, like “I hava the car” or “I sita in sittool.” (I sit in a seat.)

Affixes

Ungglish has more than a hundred prefixes and suffixes, which is fewer than English has, but there are a few that don’t exist in English or that have a less specific meaning in English. Here are a few examples:

Compound words

Many, many words in English have a simple meaning which can be expressed by putting two or three other words together.

Unglish allows compound verbs that contain a preposition, which is not possible in English. Consider these English sentences:

They blew the building up.
They blew the building down.
They put up with him.
They put down their guns.
They sorted the issues by priority.
They sorted the issues out.
They took him out for dinner.
They took him out with a rifle.
They took him in and raised him.

In all these examples, the verb has two parts (blew-up, put-up…) and the second part may appear later in the sentence. Ungglish works differently: it merges the preposition into the verb, and only does so when it makes sense. For example, “take out” becomes “taekouta” in Ungglish. It can have a logical meaning, as in “He took it out of the fridge”, and the more figurative meaning “bring someone outdoors” is also permissable, as in “He took her out for dinner”, because this style is common in English and because “bring” and “take” have similar meanings. However, the meaning “to kill” is too far away from the ordinary meaning of “take”, so “take out” cannot mean “to kill”.

Merging the particle with the verb allows new compound words that are impossible in English. For example we can talk about “take-out-ij” things in Ungglish, or a “blow-up-ist” whose profession is, apparently, blowing things up.

Fewer gaps in vocabulary

Notice that the opposite of hie-chans-ly, loe-chans-ly (low-chance-ly, with a low probability) does not exist in English. “unlikely” is an adjective, not an adverb, so it must be used in a different way. So the low-probability version of “He probably did it” must be rephrased in English as either

It is unlikely that he did it.
He probably did not do it.

For native speakers this change is easy, but if your native language has a word that means “loe-chans-ly” then it can be frustrating that English does not.

Freedom

A fun thing about Ungglish is that people can create new words (like “loe-chans-ly”), as long as the new word makes sense logically. Native English speakers sometimes say things like “I like the multi-colored-ness of that balloon-ish thingie”; Ungglish just takes this freedom further. For example, it is perfectly normal to say something like “In the cookroom, the teecher shoeda hiz lernists how to caekdishifiea the foodparts.” (In the kitchen, the teacher showed his students how to cake-ify the ingredients.)

Minimal word senses

As much as possible, each word root in Ungglish has only a single range of meaning. This reduces ambiguity (phrases with multiple meanings), which makes Ugglish easier to understand, and it also makes computerized translation more reliable. For example, the word “hard” in English has several meanings, and the two most common meanings, “difficult” and “opposite of soft” are used at similar rates. By using “des-soft” for “opposite of soft”, “hard” can be reduced to one meaning, “difficult”.

If the opposite decision was made, to keep “difficult” and “hard” (meaning “opposite of soft”), then the word “soft” could have been eliminated from Ungglish. But “difficult” is a long word, so removing it makes Ungglish shorter.

Separated affix senses

In English, suffixes often have multiple meanings. The most common example is -er/-or, which can mean:

In Ungglish, these meanings are expressed in several separate ways:

  1. -er: a person who does the attached verb (a “dishwosher” is human)
  2. -or: a machine or mechanism that does the attached verb (a “dishwoshor” is a machine)
  3. -ool: a manual or passive tool that does the attached verb (a “reflectool” is a mirror or reflector; a “cutool” is a knife or scissors.)
  4. -ur: something that does the attached verb but cannot be described by one of the above suffixes (-er and -ur sounds the same in Ungglish, but the distinction provides extra clarity in written text.).
  5. -eer: a person associated with the attached noun or adjective root, especially if it forms part of their identity rather than being a temporary state: enjineer, prizuneer, comuneer, phi.losopheer, foodeer (foodie), gaemeer (gamer).
  6. -mor: to a greater degree (hotmor, fatmor, greenmor, hardmor).

Simplified pronoun system

Ungglish’s pronoun table balances similarity to English against simplicity. Therefore, the most common pronouns sound the same in Ungglish as English, while less common ones have been changed to fit a pattern. Notably, “I”, “me”, “my”, “you”, “it”, “he”, “she”, and “they” all sound the same.

English Subject Object Possessive
I/me/my ie mi mie
We/us/our wi us us’z
you/your yoo yoo yooz
it/its it it it’z
he/him/his hi him hiz
she/her/her shi shim shiz
they/them/their they theym theyz

In addition, Ungglish has a gender-neutral pronoun zey/zeym which is meant to resemble the word “they”, the word most often used for gender-neutrality in English.

The possessive is marked with ‘z, where the apostrophe represents a short “uh” sound. Possessive nouns are formed the same way, e.g. the animul’z legs = the animal’s legs. The apostrophe adds an extra syllable (except after a vowel), which makes the Ungglish possessive sound different than the plural marker so that listeners can more easily tell plurals and possessives apart.

Easier sounds and spelling

The hardest thing about Ungglish is its system of sounds, which is only slightly easier than English. It has 23 consonants, which is one fewer than English, plus 7 “essential” vowels (compared to 9 in English), plus the same diphthongs as English.

The spelling system is phonetic in the same way as Spanish: if you know all the spelling rules, you can pronounce any word that is written down. The spelling rules are more complicated than Spanish, but simpler than English. All the spelling rules are based on English and can help students learn English later.

Software

In the Ungglish repository on GitHub, we hope to create the following tools:

  1. The first priority is a picture-based course so you can learn Ungglish regardless of your mother tongue. (Ungglish will also need separate, specialized lessons to train English speakers not to use English words, English meanings, and idioms that do not exist in Ungglish).
  2. An editor to help Ungglish learners write Ungglish text by suggesting translations. For example, you could write “clear” and the editor would suggest the Ungglish translations “under.stand’bl”, “see-in-‘bl” and the verb “git-past-a”.
  3. Automatic tools to translate Ungglish text automatically to English (and eventually, to other languages).
  4. Interactive tool to translate English text to Ungglish.

A free course

Free online lessons will be provided that teach sounds, words, and sentences, with a variety of exercises, quizzes and tests. The lessons assume knowledge of the latin alphabet, but they require no knowledge of English, Spanish, or other world languages.

A clear progression of study

Ungglish word roots are divided into three categories:

  1. Minimal roots: less than 200 essential words for rudimentary communication
  2. Basic roots: about 1000 more roots, which is sufficient for expressing almost any idea easily. You’ll be fluent in under six months if you learn 10 roots per day and practice speaking and writing increasingly complicated thoughts.
  3. Extended roots: about 1000 more roots to assist communication with English speakers. These include words like cold, which is written deshot in the basic vocabulary, girl (= shikid), and ship (= bigboet). Extended roots are not needed for communicating in Ungglish, but may help to shorten sentences. A neat thing is that a computer will be able to automatically transform web pages and text files to eliminate (or introduce) extended roots.

Note: Ungglish is incomplete and in-progress, so these numbers are guesstimates.

Ungglish courses should teach the minimal roots first, then use an immersion teaching style to help the student reach fluency with the basic roots, then teach the extended roots, before finally moving on to teach English.

Note: a small number of words, such as “bad”, are classified as basic words even though they have a synonym (bad <=> des-good), because they are short and used often, or because the synonym is well-known internationally. Note: do you speak Interlingua? You could help pick extended roots based on their presence in Interlingua.