Is English a Really Hard Language to Learn?
December 19, 2018
English is the third most widespread language, so it’s no wonder why so many international students decide to enrol on an English language course in the UK. It has been said though, that English can be a hard language to learn, whether you’re new to it, or even if you’re a native speaker!
From it’s complex grammar to its unpredictable spelling, we wanted to explore some of the factors that make English a hard language to learn?
The rules frequently change
The rules of the English language can be particularly confusing and sometimes contradictory. Also, there seems to be just as many exceptions to the rules as there are rules, and some of them can turn out to be largely incorrect.
One particularly contradictory example is the rule for words spelt with an “ie” or “ei”: “I before E except after C”. While this rule is correct and applicable to some words, there are actually more words that don’t follow it. For example, “ceiling”, “receipt”, “weird”, “science” and “receive.”
There’s also a lot of irregular verbs in the English language as well, like “light”, which is the past tense of “lit”, while “fought” is the past tense of “fight”. The varying exceptions can make English more difficult, so it’s important to make sure you’re learning the exceptions as much as you’re learning the rules themselves.
It often makes no sense
Unfortunately the English language can be confusing when it comes to the ordering of words, or what words are used to make a phrase make sense. Certain every day phrases and sentences spoken by native speakers can often be completely illogical. For example, saying “I put my clothes on” can be quite confusing to a non-native speaker, because you would never say, “I put my clothes off”, instead it would be “I took my clothes off.”
Saying the phrase “an interesting little story” would be preferable to “a little interesting story.” Even though both are grammatically correct, the ordering of the first phrase just sounds better. Any native speaker will intuitively know what order to put words in, because they simply sound right, but those learning the language would have to train themselves to recognise these subtle differences.
Lots of words mean the same thing
In English there’s an abundance of words that actually mean the same thing. These are called synonyms, and whole groups of these words can be found by reading through a thesaurus. However, even though the words can mean the same thing, they aren’t always easily interchangeable, which can lead to some confusion.
Even words with the same definitions, can have multiple meanings, so it’s all too easy for someone to end up using a certain word in the wrong way. For example, “received” and “welcomed” can be synonymous, but you would never say “I welcomed a present”, as opposed to “I received a present.” So when learning English, it’s important to focus on the context of the words used, even when those words can have the same meaning.
There’s a lot of strange sayings
Over the centuries the English language has developed lots of strange and quirky sayings, which have become ingrained in everyday speech. These interesting idioms will often leave a foreign speaker baffled as to their actual meaning.
Of course all languages have idioms, but the sheer variety and unpredictability of English idioms is quite exceptional. Examples include, “turn a blind eye”, “once in a blue moon” or “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Even most native English speakers don’t really fully understand or know where these sayings came from, and often just say them without thinking.
With idioms it’s important to learn that the literal meaning of the saying is not what’s actually meant.
Pronunciation can sometimes be a problem
Learning how to actually say certain words, and how they should sound can cause a lot of confusion. Some words are quite difficult to know how to say, especially when they end with the same combination of letters. For example, “through” is actually pronounced “throo” and “rough” is pronounced “ruff.” Both words end with the same four letters but sound very different.
Many English words have silent letters in them as well, such as the letter k in “knife” or g in “gnome”, which only adds to the confusion. Regional dialects can also make certain words sound completely different, and a word could take on a whole new meaning depending on where you are in the UK.
These factors and more can make English a really hard language to learn, however, with the right tuition, combined with plenty of practice and preparation anyone can master English just like any other language.
We’ve helped thousands of international students enrol on a English language course in the UK, whether they simply wish to improve their knowledge or prepare for their IELTS exam.
For more information, please contact us at IEC Abroad today.