Why is Learning English So Hard?

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Many people believe that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. 

But its difficulty really depends on the language you already speak. For example, learning English as a native speaker of another Indo-European language (like Italian) may be easier than learning English as a native speaker of a tonal language (like Vietnamese).

There are, however, several things that make learning Englishdifficult. Many concepts of the English language are confusing – the spelling, the pronunciations, the contradicting meanings, and – of course – the exceptions to every rule! 

The Spelling

In English, you can’t just “sound it out” when it comes to spelling. Spanish, in contrast, has mostly phonetic spelling. Words are spelled the way they sound. That is not true of English!

The English language has gone through many periods of borrowing words from other languages, and the 26 letters of the English alphabet have to combine to form all the sounds of these varying languages.

The Germanic word weigh and the French word bouquet rhyme with each other, but their spellings are completely different!

The Pronunciation

English learners cannot rely on just looking at a word to know how to pronounce it.

For example, you have to know that the “k” in knife and the “g” in gnome are silent.

And take the words rough and through. They have a similar spelling, but rough rhymes with “huff,” while through rhymes with “moo”!

The Intonation

English speakers place different stress or emphasis on different syllables of words.

They stress the first syllable in GARden and the second in soLUtion.

Some words with the same spelling can even change meanings based on where the stress is placed!

The noun ENtrance is an opening, while the verb enTRANCE means to enrapture.

The Homophones

Another reason why English is so hard to learn is the number of homophones in the language. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but completely different meanings.

Even nativeEnglish speakers confuse the words their, there, and they’re, so it’s no wonder English language learners have a difficult time with this concept.

The Word Order

Learning a new language is not just memorizing vocabulary words, you also have to learn how the words are put together.

The word order, or syntax, of English may be completely different from your native language.

If you “word-for-word” translate the English phrase “I am drinking water” into Hindi, it becomes “I water drinking am.” Hindi speakers have to learn a whole new syntax!

And take adjective order: “She was wearing a blue wonderful dress.

This just sounds wrong to a native English speaker. The correct adjective order is “a wonderful blue dress.”

The Exceptions

And finally, even if you memorize all the rules to the English language, you’ll quickly learn that “every rule has an exception.” And in English, there are many exceptions.

Add an “-ed” to make a word past tense? Not always – its “I bit the apple”, not “I bited the apple.”

I before E, except after C? What about science and weird?

The Challenge

While English may not be the hardest language for everyone to learn, it certainly has many difficult and confusing concepts.

If you’re willing to take on the challenge of learning the global language of English, you’ll be opening a door to new opportunities!