Why Is English So Hard to Learn?

17 June, 2014

Image shows a black and white photo of a row of students at work.

It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn.

Given the fact that many of the words we use in English stem from Latin and Ancient Greek words – in common with many other European languages – what is it about English that has attracted this reputation for being so fearsomely difficult? And is it really even that difficult, when so many other countries adopt it as their second language and speak it a lot more fluently than we Brits speak other languages? We’ll leave you to make your own mind up…

It just makes no sense!

Image shows a pineapple.

This makes no sense.

One of the reasons why English is known for being difficult is because it’s full of contradictions. There are innumerable examples of conundrums such as:

  • There is no ham in hamburger.
  • Neither is there any apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
  • If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
  • “Overlook” and “oversee” have opposite meanings, while “look” and “see” mean the same thing.

As native speakers, we rarely stop to think how illogical many of the things we say really are – we’re just used to them. Unless you’ve been brought up speaking English, how can you possibly begin to learn all these oddities? It’s little wonder that people trying to learn English end up feeling confused. But it gets worse.

Image is a button that reads, "Browse all EFL and English Culture articles."Exceptions to rules

One of the hardest things about English is that although there are rules, there are lots of exceptions to those rules – so just when you think you’ve got to grips with a rule, something comes along to shatter what you thought you knew by contradicting it. A good example is the rule for remembering whether a word is spelt “ie” or “ei”: “I before E except after C”. Thus “believe” and “receipt”. But this is English – it’s not as simple as that. What about “science”? Or “weird”? Or “seize”? There are loads of irregular verbs, too, such as “fought”, which is the past tense of “fight”, while the past tense of “light” is “lit”. So learning English isn’t just a question of learning the rules – it’s about learning the many exceptions to the rules. The numerous exceptions make it difficult to apply existing knowledge and use the same principle with a new word, so it’s harder to make quick progress.

The order of the words

Image shows the Big Book of Cupcakes.

This, on the other hand, is a big, interesting book.

Native English-speakers intuitively know what order to put words in, but this is hard to teach to those learning the language. The difference between the right and wrong order is so subtle that it’s hard to explain beyond simply saying that it “just sounds right”. For example, we often use more than one adjective to describe a noun, but which order should they go in? We would say “an interesting little book” not “a little interesting book”. Both are technically grammatically correct, but the first “just sounds right”. It’s a bit of a nightmare for those who are trying to learn, and it may prove one nuance too much. (In fact, there is some method to this particular English madness – but it’s quite involved, and beyond the scope of this article to explain it.)

Pronunciation

As if the spelling wasn’t hard enough, English pronunciation is the cause of much confusion among those trying to learn English. Some words are very low on vowels, such as the word “strengths”, which is hard to say when you’re not accustomed to English pronunciation. What’s more, words that end in the same combination of letters aren’t necessarily pronounced in the same way. Why is “trough” pronounced “troff”, “rough” pronounced “ruff”, “bough” pronounced “bow” (to rhyme with cow) and “through” pronounced “throo”? There are silent letters at the start of words, too. Why are there so many words that begin with a silent “K”, such as “knife”? Or even a silent “G”, such as “gnome”? If it’s not pronounced, what’s the point of including that letter in the first place, if it only adds to the confusion of both native speakers and learners? And don’t get us started on the number of hapless tourists who don’t know where to begin with pronouncing a town name such as “Worcester”. Sadly, many English learners have to learn the hard way when it comes to our confusing pronunciation; if you pronounce something incorrectly, most Brits will demonstrate the correct way to you – but not without a little chuckle at your expense.

Emphasis

Image shows a red British postbox.

Another option: I sent him a letter – he wasn’t the one who sent a letter to me.

To make matters even more complex, the way in which you emphasise certain words in a sentence can subtly change its meaning. For example, consider the different ways of emphasising the sentence below:

– I sent him a letter – a plain statement.

I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter – someone else didn’t send it (or “you didn’t send it, I did”).

– I sent him a letter – this could imply “I sent him a letter, but I’m not sure he received it”.

– I sent him a letter – used to imply that you sent him the letter – you didn’t send it to someone else (perhaps even “you weren’t meant to read it”).

– I sent him a letter you sent him a letter, not anything else.

When you’re not used to speaking English, these may all sound the same to you. It’s only by constantly being exposed to English that you start to pick up on these subtleties.

Homophones

Image shows delicious-looking fruit meringues.

You probably wouldn’t want to desert this dessert.

Confused yet? If not, you will be after this next point. English is absolutely full of homophones – words that sound the same but have different meanings or spellings. We’ve already dedicated an article to homophones, but if you don’t have time to read that, here are a few examples…

  • A bandage is wound around a wound (“wound”, pronounced “wowned” is the past tense of “wind”, as well as an injury when pronounced “woond”).
  • The door was too close to the table to close (the first “close” is pronounced with a soft “S” and means “near”, while the second is pronounced with a hard “S” and means “shut”).
  • I decided to desert my dessert in the desert (the first “desert” means “abandon” and has the emphasis placed on the second syllable; “dessert” is pronounced the same but means a pudding; and the second “desert” means the dry, sandy environment with camels, and is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable).

Homophones exist in the English language that has no fewer than seven different meanings – namely words that sound like ‘course’ and ‘raise’. Most have only two or three meanings – such as “there”, “their” and “they’re” – but that’s still enough to add an extra level or two of complexity for those trying to master the English language.

Synonyms aren’t necessarily interchangeable

Image shows a swimming swan, reflected in a lake.

Other synonyms for elegant are cultivated, discerning and decorous – none of which can be used to describe a swan’s neck either.

Flick through a thesaurus and you’ll see countless groups of words that supposedly mean the same thing. You’d think that this would mean that they were interchangeable – but you’d be wrong. Even words whose definitions are seemingly in the same ballpark differ subtly – or apply to something completely different, because English words can have multiple meanings. You can’t always swap words with the same meaning, and this means that it’s easy to end up using a word in completely the wrong way. For example, you “watch” television, and you can either “watch a film” or “see a film” – but you don’t “see television”. But you’re not a “watcher” when you’re doing this – you’re a “viewer”, even though you don’t “view television” or “view a movie”. To take another example, I could talk about a swan’s elegant neck, but I couldn’t swap the word “elegant” for the word “classic” or “chic” (both suggestions I found in the thesaurus when I looked up “elegant”) because these are words that apply to fashion, not birds! If you were learning English, though, you wouldn’t necessarily know that.

Idioms

English is a very old language, and over the course of many centuries, interesting sayings have been incorporated into everyday language that make little sense if you haven’t grown up with them. “Barking up the wrong tree”, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and “raining cats and dogs” are all examples of idioms that add colour to the English language. If you find yourself starting to use idioms when you speak English, well done: you’ve mastered it!

Traces of archaic English

Though English does ‘move with the times’, there are still plenty of archaic words floating around that you may well encounter (and they may not be in your English dictionary). “Alas” (an expression of grief or pity) is one of the more common ones, but language of the sort traditionally used in the Bible is also still commonly understood, such as “Thou shalt not kill” in the Ten Commandments. This means “You will not kill” in modern lingo, but the Ten Commandments usually retain this old language. Old-fashioned words such as “apothecary” (someone who prepares medicine) and “shilling” (an old form of English currency) will crop up in historical dramas that you watch on television. You’ll also see old literary and poetic references cropping up in popular culture, such as Shakespeare’s “To be or not to be” or Burns’ “My love is like a red, red rose”.

Regional dialects

Image shows a view of the city of Glasgow.

The Glaswegian accent is famously hard to understand.

We’d imagine that all languages have regional dialects, but when you add the bizarre pronunciations and unique additional vocabularies of the UK’s many regional dialects, they don’t exactly help the poor folk trying to learn English. It’s bad enough for us southerners to understand people from Glasgow, or even for people from Edinburgh to understand people from Glasgow. There’s a broad north/south divide in the pronunciation of certain words, a good example being “bath”, which is pronounced with a short “A” by those “up north” and a long “A” (“barth”) by those “down south”. Of course, every English-speaking country also has its own way of speaking the language; the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa all have their own distinctive way of pronouncing words. Which you end up using when your native language isn’t English probably depends on whereabouts your English teacher is from, or whereabouts in the country you’re learning.

Is it really the hardest language?

Image shows Japanese prayer boards.

Japanese’s complicated writing system is one of the things that makes it so hard to learn.

As we’ve seen, then, English is pretty challenging. But it’s not the only contender for the World’s Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky languages include Finnish, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin. Mandarin’s tone system, for instance, is famously tricky (but when you look at the ‘Emphasis’ section above, you’ll see that English can be just as bad!). Finnish is held to be difficult because of its numerous cases; Arabic because, among other things, its script has four different variations for each letter depending on where in the word it sits. Written Japanese differs from spoken Japanese, and there are three different writing systems – including 2,000 to 3,000 kanji characters that must be learned by heart. It makes English sound easy in comparison!

Ultimately, though, it’s down to the individual whether or not a particular language is difficult to learn. Some people have a natural aptitude for languages and pick them up quickly; children, of course, absorb new languages much more easily than adults. The difficulty of a language also depends on its similarity to your own language. You’ll probably find it easier to pick up French if you’re Italian, because these languages use many of the same roots, and the same alphabet. If you’re used to the Roman alphabet then you may struggle to learn oriental languages that rely on symbols, such as Japanese. English isn’t so bad once you get used to it, and it’s probably only commonly talked about as being hard because so many people are trying to learn it. If you want to take your English to the next level, join us at Oxford Royale Academy for a summer of turbocharging your English skills.






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Image credits: banner; pineapplebig book; postbox; dessert; swan; Glasgow; Japanese

102 Responses to “Why Is English So Hard to Learn?”

  1. January 10, 2015 at 10:19 pm, Leon said:

    In my opinion, German is much more difficult than English, although it belongs to the same language family. in German, it is for example more difficult to form the plural of a word as in English. In English, you simply add in most cases an s behind the words , whereas a word in german has many different endings. For example: house houses / Haus Häuser , Drink Drinks / Getränk Getränke , pizza pizzas / Pizza Pizzen , airport airports / Flughafen Flughäfen , table tables / Tisch Tische , chicken chickens / Huhn Hühner …. and so on . Another difficulty of german are the three genders : Der Die Das ; this genders can be changed into : Der Des Dem and Den

    Reply

    • January 25, 2015 at 3:15 am, Ariel said:

      > I simply can’t agree more with you. I’m still studying German now, and to be honest it’s really confusing to learn the new vocabularies in German. In English, you can learn the English and the meaning of it, and be done with it. But in German, you gotta study the German vocabs, the meanings, the genders, and the plural forms all at the same time. Which often can really make you struggle to even memorize all four of them from just only one word.

      Reply

      • November 19, 2015 at 6:55 am, Birmy International English said:

        > am a 14 year old Chinese student and I am currently studying at Birmy International English Academy in Xiamen. I have been studying English for 4 years already, and I can say that I still have so many things to know and to learn. I love English, but I also think that it is very difficult to learn. There are so many vocabulary to remember and grammar is tough, too. My teachers at Birmy always encourage me to read English books and watch English movies. Our class is always very interesting, so I can practice speaking a lot. Although English is difficult to me, I will do my best and I will be good at speaking English like my teachers. 🙂

        Reply

        • May 27, 2016 at 4:38 am, Steven said:

          > Your English is very good! Rest assured that your hard work has paid off.

          Reply

      • May 09, 2016 at 4:51 pm, English Word Snuuuurd said:

        > The New ‘Vocabulary’ in German. Vocabularies should be used when referring to multiple different languages.

        Reply

      • November 23, 2016 at 10:28 pm, Lorenzo said:

        > German is harder than English only in the beginning. Once you learned the grammar you are all set, then you know how to use every word. For the cases and the gender just speak German and they will become natural, you will know that is sounds either right or wrong. German is way easier than English. After more than 15 years of learning English I still have to pay attention to spelling and how to build tenses!

        Reply

    • March 22, 2015 at 3:40 pm, georgian said:

      > german french russian turkish and other languages are hard when you start but then becomes easy,,,
      but english, english is easy when you start but then it becomes hard and hard,,,,,,,,
      english grammer is easy but english is hard
      english people are thinking very differently that is th real problem
      one day I hope I’ll speak english well,,,,,,,,,,amin 🙂

      Reply

    • June 11, 2015 at 6:43 pm, L said:

      > Dude.. plural of chicken is chicken…

      Reply

      • October 10, 2015 at 8:16 pm, aeriadne said:

        > No it’s not….? I saw 20 chicken? There’s a group of chicken over there? The plural is chickens.

        Reply

      • December 06, 2015 at 4:24 pm, NapoleonMidnight said:

        > The plural of chicken would be chickens only if you are speaking about chickens that are alive. Once they have been slaughtered and are used for food, all of the multiple pieces of chicken that you might cook are always referred to as chicken, no matter how many pieces you use. Unless you specifically cooked whole chickens and somebody specifically wanted to know exactly how many of them you were cooking, you would refer to them as chicken, no matter how many you were cooking. Is this confusing enough?

        Reply

        • December 06, 2015 at 4:29 pm, NapoleonMidnight said:

          > To say it another way, you would never say, “We are having chickens for dinner tonight.” It would always be, “We are having chicken for dinner tonight,” no matter how many chickens it required to make the chicken. I hope this makes it clear. LOL.

          Reply

        • December 06, 2015 at 10:49 pm, John said:

          > That’s because the word chicken goes from being a noun naming the type of animal to an adjective describing the food – or if you prefer into a category of food. You wouldn’t say we’re having chickens for dinner any more than you would say that we’re having beefs for dinner.

          Reply

        • October 03, 2016 at 8:19 am, Anonymous said:

          How about deer, cod or shrimp? >

          Reply

      • May 27, 2016 at 4:31 am, Steven said:

        > No, it’s chickens. Don’t confuse people who are trying to learn.

        Reply

        • May 11, 2017 at 10:38 am, R. J. Murray said:

          Yes, advanced English can be very complicated. In the case of chicken (the meat, not the animal (dead or alive – you can have “dead chickens”!) the singular is indicated by saying “a piece of” or “a slice of” before the word chicken. [A slice may be thick or thin but in either case it is usually not a huge amount of chicken…….unless the chicken is absolutely enormous! A piece of chicken, however, can be anything from “less than a mouthful” to “a (whole) piece of” chicken – i.e. a leg, or a thigh etc, or other large “cut” of meat.¨

          Reply

    • February 28, 2016 at 2:42 am, RAFABAK said:

      > At least you can read German without knowing what exactly it means, but when you find a new english word, you aren’t sure if you are pronouncing it right or not….

      Reply

    • May 27, 2016 at 4:50 am, Steven said:

      > I just want to point out that bow has different meanings. I thought the article said “bow” as in bow and arrow until it said it rhymed with cow. They meant to bend over as a formality.

      Reply

    • February 20, 2017 at 8:57 pm, Lily said:

      > That is the case with almost all european languages. I know Italian, Spanish and French and it’s the exact same case with those languages.

      Reply

    • May 23, 2017 at 4:04 am, Roy Fenimore said:

      > I see what he means by saying native speakers know what order words should be in, and when to use ‘a’ or ‘the’ even though there isn’t any hard and fast rule to guide them. For future reference: “you simply add in most cases an s behind the words” should be “in most cases you simply add an ‘s’ to the ends of words.” I’ve never managed to attain fluency in a foreign language, but for me English ain’t foreign!

      Reply

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:28 am, CD said:

      > German seems hard at first, but gets easier and easier when you learn proper vocab.
      English however, it starts easy but gets harder.
      I speak English Spanish and German, and I’m telling you English is so hard 😛

      Reply

  2. January 26, 2015 at 2:52 am, Lawri said:

    5 Reasons Why English is Easy to Learn

    1: No genders (they are so annoying)
    2: No accents on letters (also annoying)
    3: Popularly spoken by well-known entertainers
    4: Pretty forgiving and uniform (plurals and especially conjugation: I have, you have, she/he has, we have, you all have, they have)
    5: 26 consistent letters (sure Hawaiian has only 12, but doesn’t German have more than that?)

    Reply

    • May 21, 2015 at 5:35 pm, Anonymous said:

      You would think that the accents not being included is a good thing but that means anyone learning a new word has to learn how the vowels are spoken in the word since the letter ‘e’ has multiple was of being said as does the others. By including an accent it pinpoints a specific sound and actually makes it much easier to speak, it is a little tricky to learn accents at first, when I was learning French it was difficult at first. Also learning the ‘ö’ in German started off more tricky, but when you understand it you realise it is much easier than if there wasn’t the umlauts above the letter and meant you didn’t have to remember what sound to make when reading a word.

      Reply

    • May 08, 2017 at 7:50 am, Gwendalina Carrera said:

      > Another reason why English is easy to learn: the verb has four (yes 4!) forms. It can have five forms if it’s irregular. For example: clean, cleans, cleaned, cleaning (regular verb) or go, goes, went, gone, going (irregular verbs) How many forms do verbs have in Italian, Spanish and French? Indicative mood: present tense 6, preterit 6, future 6, imperfect 6. Subjunctive mood: Present 6, imperfect 6, Conditional mood: present 6, past 6, + all the forms of the verb that are not conjugated like the gerund, present participles, past participles, infinitive, etc. Now multiply that by 3 because there are 3 conjugations. How many forms of the verb do you come out with? That is compared to the FOUR you have for the English verb.

      Reply

  3. February 02, 2015 at 9:13 pm, Jerry Rogers said:

    Alan Greenspan – I guess I should warn you, if I turn out to be particularly clear, you’ve probably misunderstood what I’ve said.

    English is extremely easy to learn and very difficult to advance past a 6th grade reading level. Politicians talk to the cameras on a level that ‘everyone’ will understand and write laws that only a handful can comprehend. The duality of English is one of the greatest accomplishments the world has ever seen.

    Reply

    • May 08, 2017 at 7:51 am, Gwendalina Carrera said:

      > So very well put!

      Reply

  4. March 11, 2015 at 8:18 am, Steve Jones said:

    I had little trouble learning German. Russian was much more difficult. Icelandic…forget about it. Sigh

    Reply

  5. April 11, 2015 at 8:46 am, Michael Green said:

    Let us exclude the English language for a moment and concentrate on a variety of languages. The languages such as French, Spanish, Japanese, Manderan, etcetera can all be difficult to learn. Nothing falls on the right side of a silver coin. But, if a person wants to truly learn a language rather be English or Spanish they have to practice. What is the old fashioned saying? Practice makes perfect. Hope my English is not too horrible. I pray to God that you all have patience with learning new languages. May God bless you all. Goodbye.

    Reply

  6. May 01, 2015 at 9:46 am, Aaron Franke said:

    To be honest, English is a pretty loose language. To address your points specifically:

    1. Hamburgers came from a German town called Hamburg, whose inhabitants were called Hamburgers, and so, gradually, the food that they brought with them was called a hamburger. In French it is also called “un hamburger”.

    2. To be honest, I’d say that a preacher would have preached (never praught), but I’d perfectly accept your sentence if you said “teached”, or if you used regular conjugation with other words. Heck, some people in the southern US used the word “learned” not even 100 years ago.

    3. About the “cei/ie” rule… yeah, come and ask anybody at my town, you’ll find that the majority doesn’t consider it a rule, since it makes no sense to have a rule with so many exceptions.

    4. The order of the words… if I had to guess what the “rule” would be, it’d be that the adjectives that are “more like” verbs go first. You’d sooner find a book “being interesting” than you’d find anything “being little”.

    5. Pronunciation and Homophones… yes I agree this is very dumb, though I think this can be “fixed” easily… in my #2 point, I said that I’d accept “teached” if someone told me a sentence. Well, I’d probably accept “winded” instead of “wound” too.

    6. Emphasis. To be honest, this one logically makes sense. It’s basically asking for clarification but with a tone of voice. Other languages have this too. “J’aime glace. Pardon, tu aimes quoi? J’aime glace“.

    7. Synonyms… yes this is weird, but it isn’t vital to get this right. If you said someone was seeing or viewing the TV, I’d understand what is going on.

    8. Idioms and Synonyms. All languages have these silly expressions of thought using references, and some are worse than English. I dare you to translate “Il pleut comme vache qui pisse.”

    9. Dialects don’t matter too much, people can still understand you if you live in one region and you visit another one that speaks English too.

    10. Simplicities of English: No accents, no changing accents when conjugating, no word gender, no gender conjugations, no word combinations based on vowels, simple present-tense conjugation, and even though some words past/future tense have special conjugation, the non-special form is still acceptable.

    And yes I am a native speaker.

    Reply

    • May 01, 2015 at 9:51 am, Aaron Franke said:

      > #7 is supposed to be about homonyms, not synonyms, sorry

      Reply

    • March 27, 2016 at 6:27 pm, HJCK said:

      > In relation to the last point you mention, it’s just so much simplicity that makes this language so unprecise. Even more the absence of stress marks. There is not an organised structure as there is in latin languages for exapmple,to make the verbal and written communication really effective, easy and precise. Finally, a question. How can a language keep up “sane” and “healthy” if their native population don’t study it at school, if nobody controls so much “pollution” coming from so many foreigners speakers that misform the pronuntiation and grammar? More mess to this caos? We need to distinguish between “contribution” and “pollution”.

      Reply

      • April 05, 2017 at 1:08 am, jeff said:

        > you speak the truth, but forgot one thing. We have just as much, if not more pollution getting into our language strictly from the uneducated and lazy speakers born here. Our own have created a basic form of gibberish.

        Reply

  7. May 08, 2015 at 6:50 pm, Isa Eufrásia Alberto Vasco said:

    I think english is not so difficult to learn,it some one is interrested to learn a language,he must spend his most time studying it,and not only,the most important is to practice more.

    Reply

    • May 16, 2015 at 5:18 am, Billy said:

      > You, sir, have proven the point of most of the posters above. You might think it’s not so difficult, but your post sounds like an 8 year-old or a semi-intelligent robot typed it.

      Reply

  8. May 16, 2015 at 6:53 pm, Martyn Gaynor said:

    I studied Spanish and became quite fluent in relatively short space of time and I have a good working knowledge of French. I thought I was quite talented as regards languages, then I tried Polish after three months apart form the usual pleasantries dzien dobre and other simple things like whats your name etc, I could not put a decent sentence together. So as far as Im concerned the difficulty of English is a Myth. Ok there may be a few oddities but the the amount of verb terminations genders noun cases etc in other languages means that the native english person has got to commit to memory a is collosol in comparison with what foreigners have to learn when studying English.

    Reply

  9. May 27, 2015 at 9:15 pm, Marc C said:

    American English speaker here (native)… I’m surprised no one mentioned phrasal verbs (ex. stand by, shut down, give in, pass out, look after, tee off, etc.). They may be an afterthought with native speakers but these word combinations number in the hundreds, if not thousand, and can’t usually be understood in terms of their separate parts. Verbal phrases are unique to English and can wreak havoc on someone learning English as a second language, even more so than say, the order of multiple adjectives before a verb.

    I’ve been studying Spanish for 5 years now and it was weird at first trying to express action without using phrasal verbs… (Example – saying “cállete” instead of “shut up”), but with a little practice I realized it’s not that hard to do. We can even express a lot of things in English without using them – like say, “Silence!” or “be quiet” in place of the phrasal verb “shut up!” However, in order to truly be fluent in English one will have to learn these many combinations eventually.

    As for me, the hardest part about Spanish by far is trying to comprehend native speakers (especially individuals from some South American countries). As with English, some accents are heavier and faster than other.

    I also struggle with Spanish tenses. In English we only have three. Spanish has several. It’s bad enough having to conjugate Spanish verbs with sex, formal/informal and number in mind, but then you have to consider other factors other than just past, present, and future. It becomes very confusing quick but with practice I’m slowly getting there.

    Reply

    • May 27, 2015 at 9:34 pm, Marc C said:

      Sorry I meant “the ordering of multiple adjectives before a NOUN… Not a verb.

      Reply

    • August 06, 2017 at 12:55 am, Xu Zu said:

      And it gets even more complex…pass out, for example, can mean to lose consciousness or to hand things to people.

      Please pass out the tests.

      Susie’s drunk and passed out in the corner..

      Reply

  10. June 06, 2015 at 6:21 am, George said:

    Nobody here has ever tried to learn Greek, although all of you use greek words(!!), most of you don’t knowing it. I’m sure you all know the expression “it looks Greek to me” and what it means, so I think you should reconsider as to which language is really difficult to learn. For us, Greeks, Chinese is a really hard language to learn, that is why we use the above expression as “it all looks Chinese to me”……

    Reply

    • December 06, 2015 at 11:15 pm, NapoleonMidnight said:

      > I took almost 2 years of Koine Greek in college. This is the language that was used for the New Testament of the Bible. The best I could do was to remember enough of it to pass the tests. Within 2 or 3 weeks after the course was over, I had forgotten 98 percent of it.

      Reply

  11. June 08, 2015 at 5:31 pm, Nikola said:

    I am a teacher of English although I am not a native (my mother tongue is Serbian). While many people use English only a bare handful of them ever reaches proficiency level. English is assumed to be an easy language to learn because it is the most widespread language in the world.
    I agree with what Jerry Rogers has said:
    “English is extremely easy to learn and very difficult to advance past a 6th grade reading level. Politicians talk to the cameras on a level that ‘everyone’ will understand and write laws that only a handful can comprehend. The duality of English is one of the greatest accomplishments the world has ever seen.”

    Reply

    • June 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm, Louis Kim said:

      Still, English is freaking hard. Especially if one wants to speak and write it in an academical level. Many of us do know English, but only a few people have a good command of English.

      Reply

  12. June 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm, Harry said:

    As a native English speaker learning Japanese, I can honestly say that it is a pretty easy language: no genders, no plurals, no conjugation, easy sentence structure that is easy to get used to. The only thing that is hard is the writing structure. Learning Hiragana and Katakana is easy, but every Kanji (complicated letter) is an effort, and considering the sheer amount used every day, its ridiculous. Latin lettering is so much easier to learn. Take modernising Turkey, going from the Arabic writing system, to latin letters, and in 2 years the literacy rate went from 10% to 70%

    Reply

  13. August 15, 2015 at 2:54 pm, carol said:

    In regard to the first comment, English is a perfect example of how complicated it is when making a noun a plural. It is NEVER just adding an “s”, many times it is “es” or sometimes a completely different word. For example, goose /geese, mouse/mice, chicken/chicken (no change), child/children. There are many more like that. Many people believe that English is easy, because they are surrounded by English music, film and culture, as well as English expressions used in there own language. So it’s a matter of listening and repeating. However, it is a language often butchered and spoken incorrectly by those who do not know the lack of rules or changes.

    Reply

    • December 06, 2015 at 11:11 pm, NapoleonMidnight said:

      > Are you implying that the old expression should be, “Don’t count your chicken before they hatch?” No way. The plural of chicken is always chickens IF you are referring to individual chickens. If you are only referring to chicken as food, for example, no matter how many chickens you cook, the most you can eat is a lot of chicken.

      Reply

  14. August 24, 2015 at 9:20 am, Phanes said:

    “The door was too close to the table to close (the first “close” is pronounced with a soft “S” and means “near”, while the second is pronounced with a hard “S” and means “shut”).”

    Really? I pronounce the “S” in the second “close” with a “Z” sound. I always have. The first “close” would have a softer “S” sound than the second.

    Reply

  15. October 06, 2015 at 4:46 am, C O O A said:

    This article is based on cliches and stereotypes. All human languages have things that don’t make sense or are “illogical”. Why is it in Spanish “bebo” means “I drink” but “gusto” doesn’t mean “I like”? Or “el tiempo” means both the weather and the time? Hamburger is named after German-American immigrants who invented the dish, and many languages also have idioms that may not make immediate logical sense… but often have a sound historical or metaphorical meaning nonetheless. I reckon it’s just cliches to say English is hard to learn.

    Reply

  16. October 21, 2015 at 2:19 am, John Smith said:

    Different words with the exact same pronunciation but different spelling may also be difficult as well. Such as, “they’re”, “their”, and “there”.”Two”, “too”, and “to”.”Your” and “you’re”. “Pair”and “pear”. “Where” and “wear”. “Hair” and “hare”. Etc.

    Reply

  17. October 22, 2015 at 5:55 pm, John Smith said:

    “Here” and “hear”

    Reply

  18. October 27, 2015 at 11:20 pm, Khai said:

    I understand these parts of why english is hard, but the thing that really knocks me off is organization patterns. How in the world do these make sense? It’s like “cymbals, and drums are percussion. This goes with pencil, paper and eraser are school supplies.”. Is it Compare and contrast or listing? This is what I mean

    Reply

  19. December 04, 2015 at 2:25 am, Kiwi-Ian said:

    Most of the article applies to pretty well every language. The order of words, synonyms, homophones, emphasis. I get the distinct impression that the author has not learned a foreign language to any degree of proficiency.

    The first example of complicated English given is the rule “i before e except after c” followed by exceptions. Except that the last bit of the rule was missed out – it often is. “When the sound is ee” whipes out all the given exceptions except for seize – which is one of only a very few exceptions.

    Every language that can cope with an academic science paper or a philosophical treatise is going to have complications. You can have simple languages but then you will only have simple use.

    Reply

  20. January 03, 2016 at 1:23 pm, D said:

    Hi, I have been learning english for all my life. This is only because I was born in England and I attended english schools through out my life. I was able to speak fluent english till the age of 14 but then my ability to speak started to drop. At the moment I am finding it so hard to talk and communicate with my friends and so on. I came up with a few theories myself to this crisis. I have not lost hope completely but my aim is now to seek help from a professional who has delt with similar situations. One of my theories is that my family speak a different language and maybe I got drown into that instead. Another is that, I am trying to make myself sound intellectual by using extended vocabulary and maybe I got carried away and lost all my ability of speaking. Please I need help as soon as possible.
    Thank you.

    Reply

    • October 31, 2016 at 9:39 pm, Matt said:

      > “as for me English is the easiest language in the world.because it has just 26 letters and reasonable grammar rules.we may say it has same pronunciation for many different spelling words, silent spelling,many meanings for single word,above 4 lakhs words,..etc.but it it can be learned easier than other languages if we understand basic nature of English.English is the best language in the world.as for me world is wrongly teaching English grammar. for example our english teachers say past participle will come as main verb to all passive voice sentences.it is correct.but they dont teach why only past participle verbs come as main verbs to all passive voices.but it has right reason why it comes.then sentence formation is taught s+v+o. it is correct.but why only s+v+o? why not o+s+v? and anything?. in english all grammar rules has right reasons. unfortunately our teachers only teach the structures only, not the reasons of structure. if we know reasons of english sentence structures,we will speak like native english speakers but without native pronunciation.because native pronunciation can be achieved only by native people. i knew all reasons of english grammar rules by spending 7years.”

      I want to point out that this is an excellent demonstration of the best comments on this thread, in my opinion. (Apologies to the individual who pounded out this comment. I can’t even approach writing in you native tongue, most assuredly.) I can understand most of what this individual intends to say, and this individual may also have learned to write this with some amount of ease, but this is very poorly-structured, written English. I think it may be a strong point to say that English is easy to learn, but difficult to master. Most native English speakers I know are not very good writers. Likewise, a few of them are terrible at speaking it.

      Reply

  21. January 03, 2016 at 8:04 pm, ridwan said:

    In my opinion the of the English language is very difficult to learn when it comes to pronunciation (my mother tongue is Dutch).

    Example: heart/mean/earth/dear: the pronunciation of “ea” is completely random.
    Incapacity/incapable: the first “a” is pronounced in two different ways.
    A consequence of the lack of accents is that a large variety of tones has to be represented by relatively few vowels.

    In French it is much easier, only some difficulties at the end of the word.

    Reply

    • January 31, 2016 at 1:36 pm, Opijwan said:

      The stress pattern in ‘capacity’ is defined by the Latin rules, so there is no need to indicate it.

      Reply

  22. January 31, 2016 at 11:36 pm, Karl Dehm said:

    English is very difficult. It takes children about two more years to learn to read and write compared to more phonetic languages. English spelling is a real dog’s breakfast and has been acknowledge to be so by English societies in England and the US. The following are some of the problems discovered in the US:
    1. Increased use of typewriters, computers, and phonetic spelling in the
    teaching of writing. Convincing evidence that when writing is taught before
    reading, the ability to read comes naturally, as a by-product: A child learning to
    write is also learning to read.
    2. The fact that many of our children, even some of the brightest, find their
    sense of logic unable to cope with the illogic and disorderliness of English spelling.
    Acknowledgment that remedial efforts for adults reach scarcely five percent
    of those in need.
    3. Astonishment of most literate American adults upon learning that only
    in English-speaking schools is it necessary to teach spelling. As explained by a
    Spanish student: “In Spain the teacher tells us the sounds of the letters and then
    we can write or read anything we can say.”
    4. Surprise at finding that pronunciations (pra.nun.se .’shanz) always
    found in English dictionaries are generally omitted from foreign language
    dictionaries – omitted because foreign spellings adequately represent pronunciation.
    5. The pressing demand for a much higher level of literacy in the United
    States as we move from a manufacturing economy into a sophisticated hightech
    economy of services and communication.
    6. Growing awareness of the connection between illiteracy and our mounting
    social problems: dropout, crime-in-the-streets, hard core unemployment,
    and poverty. It is not by chance that half of our prison inmates are illiterate.
    7. The largely overlooked but very serious fact that illiteracy is a real threat
    to democracy. Those voters who depend on the spoken word alone – who live,
    as it were, in a perpetual twilight – are easily deluded and manipulated.
    8. Widespread acceptance of English as the emerginglingua franca of international
    communication. It is also the cornerstone of legislative efforts by
    “U.S.English” and “English First” to establish an official United States language.
    Whatever helps immigrants and foreigners to write and speak our language
    without needless frustration works for the good of all. A reduction in language
    barriers can open diplomatic, commercial, civic and societal doors that are now
    scarcely ajar. It may well broaden the avenues toward peace.
    9. Recognition of the fact that traditional spelling tends to promote the
    mispronunciation of English, and that a regularized spelling would tend to do
    the opposite. A better fit between sight and sound should not only reduce illiteracy
    but lead to greater stability of pronunciation, to less chance of misunderstanding,
    and to more reliable communication overall.
    10. An awareness that we have already accepted various alternative spellings:
    ax! axe, taboo/tabu, hijack/highjack, forgo/forego, dript/dripped, and many
    others. Applying to more words a principle that has proved fully successful
    with some is not breaking new ground; it is sensibly expanding what already
    works.
    11. The prospect that a new spelling mixed with the old (even in the same
    sentence) need not be disruptive if it is introduced as an optional alternative
    for use by those, and only by those, who prefer it. Respectability for the new
    spelling can be anticipated by labeling it “American” in the U.S., “British”
    (with minor changes) in the U.K., and “Australian” in Australia.
    12. The present availability of “American”—a no-new-letter system designed
    to be compatible with traditional spelling. This system is supported by a computer
    translating program currently being perfected for typesetting machines,
    word processors, desk top publishing, personal computers, and computerized
    typewriters. It is an extension of the “spelling check” programs often used today.
    It will automatically translate traditionally spelled input into simplified
    “American” output, thus answering the concern of authors, reporters, editors,
    copywriters, keyboard operators and others who, understandably, would resist
    a change that threatened to alter their customary writing habits.

    That was just the problems with spelling and reading.

    The fact that English has no real future tense and the numerous verb tenses especially the ones such as the present perfect, present perfect continuous, and past perfect continuous make for a real mess.

    So English might be easy at the start, but if you really want to learn it beyond grade 5 is quite the challenge.

    Everyone says Germany is difficult but once you know the alfabet – new English spelling, you can quite easily pronounce most words.

    Reply

  23. February 10, 2016 at 7:59 am, savadamuthuindia said:

    as for me English is the easiest language in the world.because it has just 26 letters and reasonable grammar rules.we may say it has same pronunciation for many different spelling words, silent spelling,many meanings for single word,above 4 lakhs words,..etc.but it it can be learned easier than other languages if we understand basic nature of English.English is the best language in the world.as for me world is wrongly teaching English grammar. for example our english teachers say past participle will come as main verb to all passive voice sentences.it is correct.but they dont teach why only past participle verbs come as main verbs to all passive voices.but it has right reason why it comes.then sentence formation is taught s+v+o. it is correct.but why only s+v+o? why not o+s+v? and anything?. in english all grammar rules has right reasons. unfortunately our teachers only teach the structures only, not the reasons of structure. if we know reasons of english sentence structures,we will speak like native english speakers but without native pronunciation.because native pronunciation can be achieved only by native people. i knew all reasons of english grammar rules by spending 7years.

    Reply

    • September 11, 2016 at 3:32 am, Eileen said:

      > English is definitely not the easiest language in the world to learn. For example, your sentences and grammar are after spending 7 whole years learning English ( you’ll get there, just keep working on it).

      “in english all grammar rules has right reasons.unfortunately our teachers only teach us the structure only, not the reasons of structure.”

      This should be: “In English all of the grammar rules have reasons. Unfortunately, our teachers only teach us the structure, not reasons of the structure.”

      This a prime example of just how difficult English can be. As a native speaker, I know most other native speakers find English easy. This is mostly because it’s the language we grew up with, read, and communicate to each other in everyday. We have the grammar and spelling down because it’s the only thing we’ve ever heard since the day we were born. A majority of the time the people who don’t think English is hard have never tried learning another language besides English and, haven’t noticed how much more simple the language could be by observing the simplicity of other languages compared to English.

      Reply

      • September 11, 2016 at 3:35 am, Eileen said:

        > *For example, look at your sentences and grammar after spending 7 whole years learning English.

        Reply

  24. March 24, 2016 at 12:15 pm, Ahmad Zaky said:

    I’m Indonesian.
    I learned Japanese, Chinese, and Korean… and English.
    And then I realized that English is the hardest language ever exist.
    Even the most fluent native english ( the most educated one ) has difficulties when was reading classic novel… they called it as a passive reader or something.
    English is about the way you thought, not the way you wanna to say.

    Anyone that think English is easy, please read classic novels… then you would realized that you are a complete idiot.

    Reply

  25. March 27, 2016 at 9:42 am, Dennis Tura said:

    Good Morning;

    I loved this article and want to reference it. Could you please send me author’s name?

    Thank you

    Reply

    • March 28, 2016 at 9:48 am, ORA Admin said:

      Dear Dennis,

      Thank you for your comment. We’re so glad you enjoyed the article! Our articles have come from a number of different writers over the years, and when referencing any of our articles it is best just to credit Oxford Royale Academy as the author. I hope that helps.

      Kind regards,

      The ORA Team

      Reply

      • April 05, 2016 at 7:29 am, Dennis Tura said:

        > Thank you, ORA.

        Reply

  26. March 27, 2016 at 5:54 pm, HJCK said:

    I find English a caothic language. That’s it. There is not any official body that “oversees” and puts a sort of order in spelling and pronuntiation. Hence, so prosperous business. What you learn in the classrooms has nothing to do with the english that natives really speak. Most of them don’t have a good command of english, don’t vocalise when speak and misform the language with their lazy way to talk and because they don’t learn grammar in the school. Moreover, think of the contribution of thousands of immigrants that fumble the language because they don’t like english but they need to communicate….it’s horrible!! that’s why english teaching is a flourishing business…in addition, any native can do a 1 year course to get a certificate as a teacher…..think twice or three times before paying for an english course.

    Reply

  27. April 12, 2016 at 6:32 am, kiwi-ian said:

    Basically the only problem with English is the link between spelling and pronunciation. It’s a big problem but not unassailable. Other languages (notoriously French) also have a lesser form of this.

    There are rules, many are not used which result in words like monies (it’s moneys, a vowel before the y takes s as plural, like donkeys), some have been misquoted (i before e except after c WHEN THE SOUND IS EE, yes I’m shouting the bit that no-one learns but knocks 95% of the exceptions off the list), others just ignored. But they do exist and it’s amazing just how many words comply.

    Sometimes the problems are caused simply because people pronounce the word wrong. They’re and there/their have subtle differences. Vacuum has a double u which should be pronounced, it is not vacume. Likewise library has a 2 Rs. Regularly should be pronounced regular then ly, yes there are 2 Ls, reguly is wrong. The classic is pronunciation. It’s not pronounciation with an OU in the middle (OK this is one you just have to learn).

    Every language has it’s idiosyncrasies like hamburger. Pomme de terre and aard appel both translate as “earth apple” in French and Dutch but mean potato. Pomodoro in Italian translates into golden apple but a tomato is neither an apple nor golden.

    Most languages also have dialects, accents, idioms etc. While we talk about British and American having differences, one might look at Luxembourgish, a language spoken by only 250,000 people but which has very different dialects, indeed people from the Grund speak differently from those from d’Stad even though on a map they right next to each other (the Grund is in the deep gorge, it was where the poor lived while the rich lived at the top in d’Stad) only 50m away as the crow flies. Even Spanish, so famous for it’s phoneticism, is only phonetic for Castillian, it’s written the same but South Americans sound very different. Castillian is bit like British Received Pronunciation.

    We only have 2 words for the, and the difference is thuh, or thee before a vowel. French and Spanish have 4 words, German 6.

    There is no declension in English except for the genitive (John’s book) and the occasional accusative/dative (whom). Everything else is just singular or plural (usually pronounced differently unlike French, personne and personnes are pronounced alike). There is no gender that you have to learn, and there is no logic. Sun and moon are masculine and feminine in French but feminine and masculine in German. Why is Madchën (maiden) a neuter word when it’s a girl? Why is Auto neuter in German but feminine in French?

    Conjugation is ridiculously easy, a regular verb has only 4 forms (e.g. walk, walks, walked, walking) while French, Spanish and Italian have over 20 (40 for irregular verbs). Even to be, the most irregular verb in English, only has 8 forms. The use of auxiliary verbs (have, will, be) means essentially the only irregular tenses are the past perfect and past historic and you only have to learn one form each. So an English verb can be defined by its infinitive, its past participle and its past historic, thus “walk, walked, walked” for a regular verb and say “sink, sunk, sank” for an irregular verb. The “Nouveau Bescherelle” is a book on French conjugation that most French students have, it’s not a thin book!

    Word order is easy (subject, verb, objects direct and indirect) as using articles (the, a, an) and prepositions (to, for, by, with, from etc.) help define what words mean.

    The reason that English has become the lingua franca of the modern world is 2-fold. First, the British then the Americans dominated the commercial world so English has been the major commercial language for 200 years. Second, and very importantly, you can reach competence in English very quickly, far quicker than most other languages. It is only trying to master English that there are problems, but that’s the same in all languages that have grown from a culture (as opposed to artificial languages).

    So is English difficult? Essentially no. The spelling/pronunciation link is very difficult. The rest is easy. If you think English is hard, just try learning another language.

    Reply

    • April 03, 2017 at 2:35 pm, bruh said:

      > way to write a whole article in a comment

      Reply

  28. April 13, 2016 at 5:07 am, kiwi-ian said:

    I forgot to add that there is no formal grammar teaching in most anglophone schools which has resulted in several generations of essentially grammarless bad spellers. Usually one only learns grammar if one is going to learn a foreign language. In Spanish, French and German schools grammar is just part of what one has to learn at intermediate school (ages 11-14). Dictation up to age 14 is the norm in France but almost unheard of in England. This is partly because of conjugational forms for verbs and agreement of adjectives to the nouns they describe (that’s something else we don’t have in English) which students often have to deduce from the context.

    The fact that Americans and Brits, native English speakers, can communicate with so little formal grammar teaching is testament to the simplicity of English grammar.

    I only have to mention the subjunctive for most anglophones to give a quizzical “what is that” look while other Europeans show fear of a difficult concept.

    I am a native English speaker who went to an English grammar school where I studied French, Latin and Spanish. I then spent 4 years at school in France becoming officially bilingual (and passing the French Baccalaureate). I then lived in Luxembourg and had to learn German. I have therefore had to learn 4 foreign languages (and been in English class in France!). That doesn’t make me a linguist but I do know what learning another language means.

    Reply

  29. April 13, 2016 at 11:07 pm, Halette said:

    Does anyone else think it’s ridiculous that a British website would use “Hamburger” as trying to show how hard English is to learn? Hamburger is a German word and English doesn’t even pronounce it right…Germany isn’t that far from England they should know where a word is from before trying to use it as an excuse for why English is hard to learn. And the word I know of ham in German is “Schinken” so they’re obviously talking about the town hamburg, not actual ham.

    Reply

  30. April 17, 2016 at 5:16 am, Eq said:

    “A bandage is wound around a wound” does not demonstrate a homophone, even by your own definition. “Wound” is two different sounds with one spelling, NOT two spellings with the same sound.

    Reply

  31. April 23, 2016 at 4:50 pm, Souzana Raphael said:

    Whether a language is difficult to learn depends in great part (or so it would seem) on what your native tongue is. German speakers seem to learn Greek, for example, more easily than English speakers, due to similarities in grammar, or so they tell me. Another really important factor is how much one speaks the language one is learning, if one does so on a very regular basis, and if one has the opportunity to speak with native speakers of the language (also on a regular basis).

    Reply

  32. May 06, 2016 at 10:10 am, tho nguyen said:

    I think it’s not difficult if you don’t try the best , i have creat a blog for myself to learn , i hope i will be successful.

    Reply

  33. May 08, 2016 at 10:18 am, JJ said:

    Great article and I really enjoyed reading the comments. I’m a native English speaker and I learnt Arabic in Cairo, even after nine years I never reached the level of feeling completely comfortable communicating beyond a basic level. In contrast whilst there I worked with the deaf and I picked up the local sign language very quickly by attending a church for the deaf once a week, after a few months I felt comfortable enough to sign at the front of the church without a translator. Sign language does not have the difficulties of verb conjugation, plurals, tenses … etc.

    A previous comment noted that the Arabic writing system is difficult. On the contrary I picked this up very quickly, there are different ways of writing letters depending on of they are at the beginning, middle or end of a word but the rules are consistent and written Arabic is phonetic (of course leaving out the vowels is a bit of a problem!)

    Reply

  34. August 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm, MAJADIYA B. MAPANDI said:

    Sometimes I ask myself, Why English is a big deal to us Filipinos? Why is it necessary to us? That if someone commits mistat we often laugh. but since English is our second language it is necessary for us to study it and use it as a medium of communication and even in our studies. But sad to say not all of us are fluent enough to speak or even write it. I admit I also have difficulties on it. But as long as you’re willing to learn, you’ll find it interesting..

    Reply

  35. September 06, 2016 at 12:49 am, Juan Martin Spain III said:

    My observation just from the comments is, people who speak English believe it is not too hard to learn. Of course other languages are going to be hard to learn if you are out of adolescence, and speak English. I think alot of people forget to put that into the equation. Is English harder for someone to learn? For the most part, yes. From what I have read, the Chinese have lots of channels to learn English, so I believe it would be easier for them than other nationalities. I’m a fairly intelligent person(this could be up for discussion, but MENSA believes me to be intelligent), and to me, Mandarin is by far the hardest. Then again, I grew up speaking English. Yet, I am no master of the English language… TBH, I think there are to many variables to actually know which language is the hardest, unless the science community wants to go to the extremes.

    Reply

  36. September 10, 2016 at 2:50 am, Tyler said:

    English it hard but it can be learned thought through tough thorough thought.

    Reply

  37. October 18, 2016 at 8:04 pm, Mark Levy said:

    Interesting article and subsequent discussion 🙂

    Reply

  38. December 13, 2016 at 10:54 pm, jorge said:

    Lets not even get into grammar. To think a few marks and dashes on a page can change the entire meaning of a sentence!

    Reply

  39. December 22, 2016 at 3:35 pm, Nag said:

    The points mentioned are correct to the learner of English as second language, Worth of reading.
    Thanks

    Reply

  40. December 22, 2016 at 10:24 pm, Kimy Pual said:

    English is the easiest langrage to learn. Spanish is very difficult.

    Reply

  41. December 22, 2016 at 10:49 pm, Diyanaka Anuska Jamram said:

    Althrough living in a English speaking country. I think english is difficult to learn because their are lots of rules. For instead is,are, were,was …
    etc you have to know when to use it , you can just automatically put it a sentence and say it’s correct.

    Reply

  42. January 07, 2017 at 7:47 am, Anthony said:

    Most non-native commenters who have said English isn’t that hard to learn very clearly demonstrated it is hard to learn. They have also shown that they don’t truly understand all of what the article was saying. Native speakers who say English is easy have likely not learned another language above a 6th grade level.

    I know English, French, Spanish, and Japanese to varying degrees. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that all the things we think are easy about English are major contributors to what this article describes as the reasons for why it’s so hard.

    Another major cause for English being so difficult is the sheer number of options we have to express a thought, emotion, or idea. These options come from the reasons many people have cited for English being “easy”.

    As a native speaker living in the states I see how difficult English is on a daily basis. Nobody knows most of the language. Everyone speaks it improperly in different ways. Everyone writes it improperly in different ways that differ from the ways they improperly speak it. Everyone reads differently than they write, and they write differently than they speak. Everyone has their own set of rules to drop when being informal vs formal.

    English is a language that the entire world has heavily influenced through out it’s existence. I think the simple fact that English has too many cooks in the kitchen with little regulatory oversight is enough to make it the hardest language to learn in general.

    Finally. Everything I have written can (and will) be interpreted differently by every single person that reads it. No matter your literacy. No matter your location. This very paragraph had infinite ways of being formulated and has an infinite number of ways to be interpreted. Hell, I accidentally left out that last “an” in the previous sentence. I had to go back and restructure the entire sentence for 1 word. That’s because our tenses and conjugations are few in number but extremely nonsensical and difficult to predict. That’s because intent of response (emotionally or in the form of a direct communication) makes what form is used different. Additionally I can choose if the past is really the past or if it’s the present almost always.

    I know that every language has some of these difficulties. Every language has its quirks. English has them all. The fact that the entire world and it’s languages have greatly influenced English make it extremely hard to learn. Anything missing that native speakers see as an advantage (no genders, accents, little conjugation, etc) actually exist in the background and it makes English much harder to learn.

    That all being said, it’s extremely easy for someone to learn enough English to be able to communicate almost anything to a native speaker. The simple fact that we can’t agree on what it means to learn English also illustrates the point. Some instinctively think in terms of bare minimum to communicate. Others think in terms of fluency. This is a product of the way we think because we are interacting through English. Thinking in English is so difficult. For anything complex you’re required to constantly interpret and cycle through 100’s of meaning of a sentence due to it’s absurd level of ambiguity.

    And a quick note about Japanese Kanji. Many cited it as a major difficulty to of learning Japanese. Guess what! Reading English is very similar to Kanji. We have so many exceptions to rules and influence from non-English sources that for many words you’re basically just memorizing the whole word as a single entity.

    Good night 🙂

    Reply

  43. January 12, 2017 at 5:53 am, Matthew Walton said:

    To put it simply: English is all messed up. There are some words that just don’t make sense between spelling and pronunciation, which to be honest really gets me worked up. If a new dictionary were published to fix these errors and replace all the old English textbooks in schools around the world, that would be amazing. Noah Webster has already got us started, but unfortunately not all his ideas made it through. As an example, he attempted to change the spelling of the word “ache” to “ake”. A dictionary with spelling and pronunciation consistency would help future generations and those interested in learning it tremendously. I want to be the one to publish this new dictionary, for the sake of humanity. It just doesn’t make any sense why “standardize” is spelled with an “ize” but “advertise” is not. Consistency is what this language needs, not a bunch of rules that don’t make any sense. My list has already begun, including spelling “controlled” with one “l” and doing away with “colour/rumour/endeavour/etc.” once and for all. It’s for the better, UK and all British territories (areas previously or currently under rule of the Crown).

    Reply

  44. January 16, 2017 at 11:51 am, Muna kunwar said:

    My name is muna kunwar I’m from nepalises. I think english is difficult to learn but it’s very interesting. Great article and I really enjoy reading,writing,speaking and listening. So english is hard and easy both my life.

    Reply

  45. February 05, 2017 at 5:31 am, Nancy said:

    I think one of the things that makes English both difficult and interesting is that it’s based on two different languages with a third one thrown in just for fun. Old High German eventually gave us Anglo-Saxon with its differnt dialects and stylistic quirks, with a few Swedish pronouns if I’m remembering my class in graduate school. The language had a few centuries to kick around and change before the Normans added French to the mix.

    Reply

  46. February 15, 2017 at 4:05 am, Kay said:

    I have been learning English for more about 20 years. That being said, I can tell that I’m still struggling to master this language. It’s an easy language to begin, but not to excel. Oh my English.

    Reply

  47. February 25, 2017 at 8:46 am, wolfe said:

    i’m a native english speaker living in the us learning german and one big thing about english that i’ve seen that it is screwed up to hell and back. it just does not make sense a lot of the time, and as before have stated people often say things wrong (like don’t you dare for example, as don’t is a contraction for do not, people don’t say do not you dare lol) and the spelling is weird, there are so many rules and so many different ways to say words that often times people get them messed up, even when they’re native speakers themselves!

    english is one of the most difficult languages to learn hands down but really once you’ve mastered it, it’s a real advantage since it’s so widely used.

    Reply

  48. March 09, 2017 at 12:45 pm, Maxis said:

    I’m trying to learn German at the moment and learning to appriciate English in the process.

    You argue that English is difficult to learn, citing the problems with English, which granted, there are many.
    What you don’t do but should, is compare English to other languages. I imagine every language has idoms, homophones, spelling anomolies, inconsistant pronunciations etc. etc. etc.; does English have more or less of these than other languages? How does English grammar compare? Is English’s word stock larger or smaller? Do contractions make English easier or harder to learn?

    After struggling with German for 6 months now English seems like Anglo-Saxon 2.1 compared to German, which is Anglo-Saxon 1.0 – at best.

    Reply

  49. March 12, 2017 at 12:11 pm, Filip said:

    English hard? Hahahahaha. It’s one of the easiest languages in the world, that’s why so many people speak the language.

    Reply

    • April 04, 2017 at 5:23 pm, cs2019 said:

      > Everyone speaks the language because they want to live in American and we don’t like speaking other languages. Immigrants have to learn English. You don’t see people moving to Germany for the German Dream.

      Reply

  50. April 05, 2017 at 4:51 pm, JoMo said:

    One should question also whether English is a single entity? There are several norms (US, Irish, British, Australian etc to name but a few). Which of these should be the standard? The language is evolving in scope, and in multiple domains – like science, diplomacy, internet, business, literature. It is a language in constant development that makes it difficult even for the English speaker in some respects. Whether it is easy or difficult depends on what you want from it. To say enough to be able to travel, understand the spoken word in order to talk and make friends, the written word to read the literature or the news, the language of business to trade and so on. For each of these, the English is different, and has differing levels of difficulty.

    Ultimately it is probably no more or less difficult than any other language – as “linguistic distance” and “exposure” have significant influence. So most Dutch kids learn it easily as the languages are close and the exposure is high

    Reply

  51. April 08, 2017 at 2:17 pm, cho said:

    i’m from Korea and people around me refer english to as the studied-hard evidence. (I’m afraid if i’m saying right.) this situation drives student in Korea worried and anxious about learning english because if their proficiency in english is lower than other people around them, Korea may think they haven’t studied hard school subjects including English.(in Korea, English is essential subject ALL OVER 10agers)

    Reply

  52. May 01, 2017 at 12:00 pm, Adûnâi said:

    “Homophones exist in the English language that _has_ no fewer than seven different meanings…”

    I’ve found a mistake! It should have been “have,” not “has.”

    No offence, I just have a natural inclination to proof reading ^^

    Reply

  53. May 13, 2017 at 4:54 pm, Ametist said:

    How phrasal verbs can be learnt by non native speakers?

    Reply

  54. June 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm, dfgh said:

    no spek engls

    Reply

  55. June 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm, dfgh said:

    i don spek engli

    Reply

  56. June 19, 2017 at 3:16 pm, Pirulilolai said:

    Well, I think english is really easy, all or at least most of these rules you’ve said above are either present or worse in portuguese and other languages. I’m gonna talk about portuguese because that is what I know the most.

    Exception to rules
    That I don’t even have to give an example, every language has rules and exceptions, noting unique to english here.

    The order of the words
    Order is a question of learning the language, you’d be confused to learn the order in portuguese as much as I was when I started learning english.

    Also, the “just sounds right” I’d imagine a lot of languages have them too. in portuguese all of these are grammatically correct for “an insteresting little book”:
    “Um interessante pequeno livro.”, “Um livrinho interessante”, “Um livro interessante pequeno”, “Um interessante livrinho”, “Um livro interessante pequeno” and more…
    Even though all are grammatically correct not all of them “sounds just right”. (All of them have the exact same meaning also, but some you would use for different emphasis, for example you want emphasis in interesting(interessante) you would say “Um interessante livrinho”, emphasis in little(pequeno) “Um pequeno livro interessante”, but simply giving adjectives you’d use “Um livro pequeno e interessante” more, but if you want emphasis on the adjectives “Um pequeno e interessante livro”)

    Pronunciation
    I’ll give that to english, although portuguese do have some weird pronunciations now and then it’s nothing like english. But we do have sounds that, really, only a native can speak of all people trying to say the nh, lh, ã and õ sounds. I think I’ve heard one russian girl (oddly she had been learning portuguese for only about a year) saying it properly. It is usually very easy to tell if someone was born a portuguese speaker or learned it as a second language.

    Emphasis
    I think you can do this to almost every language…
    (the examples you gave fit perfectly in portuguese too)

    Homophones
    “We’re talking about politics about half an hour, and the party only started about an hour ago”
    “Estamos conversando acerca de política a cerca de meia hora, e isso porque a festa começou há cerca de uma hora.”
    acerca – about something
    a cerca de – approximately, close to
    há cerca de – It is past time, since+approximately
    But there is also “cerca” which means fence, “cerca de” which means around.

    “Eu cedo este lugar para a professora.” / “I give this place to the teacher.”
    “Cheguei cedo para a entrevista.” / “I came early to the interview”
    Those are called perfect homophones they sound the same and write the same.

    Several others exists, by far not an english unique “failure”.

    Synonyms aren’t necessarily interchangeable
    Portuguese has them also, “Adicionar” and “Aumentar” both translates to “to add” or “to raise”

    “adicionar o salário” means “add the salary”
    “adicionar ao salário” or “aumentar o salário”, both means “to add to the salary” or “to raise the salary”
    But you can’t use “aumentar” for it to mean “add the salary”

    if you want to interchange you have to learn how to change the sentence to fit the word (when it is possible). Which, at least, in my opinion, makes it much worse than english (being able to interchange but you have to change the sentence to fit the new word) because sometimes you could get a sentence that makes sense but carries the wrong meaning, which makes the conversation hard.
    And I wouldn’t be surprised if spanish and French had the same “problem”.

    Idioms
    Every language has it, that is not even close to unique to english.

    “Tirar o cavalinho da chuva” means “Don’t even wait for it”, literally translates to “Take the little horse from the rain”
    “Café com leite” means “To be irrelevant”, literally translates to “Coffee with milk”
    “Falar pelos cotovelos” means “talk too much”, literally translates to “To speak by the elbows”

    Regional dialects
    People say here in Brazil that the southerns speak a different portuguese from the northwesterns, and it is indeed quite different, in fact I can understand portuguese from portugal better than I understand a speaker from a northwest state (I’m from the southwest).

    This alone shows that english, by what you’ve mentioned is not even close to be the hardest language, but in fact is quite easy because you don’t have to learn that and declensions, conjugation (not even close to the other languages), etc… All you have to do is learn the words and the right way of speaking them will come naturally with time.

    I’ll give you an example of a regular verb conjugation in portuguese: “Estudar” which means “To study”.

    Presente do indicativo:
    (I) estudo; (you) estudas; (he/she) estuda; (we) estudamos; (you) estudais; (they) estudam.
    Pretérito imperfeito do indicativo:
    (eu) estudava; (tu) estudavas; (ele/ela) estudava; (nós) estudávamos; (vós) estudáveis; (eles) estudavam.
    Pretérito perfeito do indicativo:
    (eu) estudei; (tu) estudaste; (ele/ela) estudou; (nós) estudamos; (vós) estudastes; (eles) estudaram.
    Pretérito mais-que-perfeito do indicativo:
    (eu) estudara; (tu) estudaras; (ele/ela) estudara; (nós) estudáramos; (vós) estudáreis; (eles) estudaram.
    Futuro do presente do indicativo:
    (eu) estudarei; (tu) estudarás; (ele/ela) estudará; (nós) estudaremos; (vós) estudareis; (eles) estudarão.
    Futuro do pretérito do indicativo:
    (eu) estudaria; (tu) estudarias; (ele/ela) estudaria; (nós) estudaríamos; (vós) estudaríeis; (eles) estudariam.

    These are only 6 of the 33 in total time tenses. There should be around 100 ways to write the verb “to study”. Although in pt-BR we do make it easier by changing the second person in singular and plural by “você” and “vocês” which have the same conjugation as “he/she” and “they” respectively, we still learn to conjugate in “tu” and “vós”. Also, they don’t have the same meaning, every single one has a different meaning, like
    “Eu estudava” translates to “I used to study”
    “Eu estudei” translates to “I did study”
    “Eu estudara” it translates to “I had studied”
    “Eu estudarei” translates to “I will study”
    “Eu estudaria” translates to “I would study”

    And remember this is a regular verb, a irregular is even worse, for example, the verb “ir” which means “to go”
    Present, eu vou
    Past,eu ia/ eu fui/ eu fora
    Future, eu irei/ eu iria

    Reply

  57. June 19, 2017 at 3:25 pm, Pirulilolai said:

    People say here in Brazil that the southerns speak a different portuguese from the northeasterns, and it is indeed quite different, in fact I can understand portuguese from portugal better than I understand a speaker from a northeast state (I’m from the southeast).
    just correcting the Regional Dialects part

    Reply

  58. June 23, 2017 at 2:50 pm, Zimbolaktus said:

    So hard to learn ? For any people in the world maybe, but for a french, thanks to William (who has never been able to speak english) which in those times was far most closer to german, it’s easy as easy can be…

    Reply

  59. June 23, 2017 at 2:56 pm, Zimbolaktus said:

    I would like to precise english is easier to learn for a french as french for an english for many reasons. the only one which is against french is the pronunciation….!

    Reply

  60. July 10, 2017 at 8:27 am, Cody said:

    I learned Spanish and when I was in Spain the second time I got mistaken for a tour guide I spoke it that well. Learning it was an experience though first day of class the teacher said forget everything you think you know about language because it is wrong and she was right. Spanish has two past tenses in English where we would say something like “I was cleaning…” that is one word in Spanish. They have two words for to be, they have a familiar and formal version of you and a singular and plural of those. In most cases the noun is included in the verb so they don’t say it and most native speakers don’t pronounce the s at the end of a word unless it’s plural. Adjectives must agree in gender and number with what they are describing and must go after the noun, to this day I find that strange. There is a certain order the adjectives must go in when speaking Spanish and if you put them in the wrong order you might offended someone. English is probably noted as the hardest language to learn because it is classified as a Germanic language and most of the world speaks Romance languages although a lot of English comes from Latin and we have bits of Greek in there aphrodisiac for example is Greek and then there are words and phrases like C’est la vie which is French and while the understand the idea they don’t know what it truly means.

    Reply

  61. July 10, 2017 at 8:37 am, Cody said:

    Under the exceptions to the grammar rules in English you should include superlatives, where it is grammatically acceptable to break grammar rules, in some cases mae new words to provide emphasis. Spanish actually has a special bit they add to the adjective or adverb to do that in English we just intentionally break the grammar rules which is grammatically acceptable.

    Reply

  62. August 06, 2017 at 1:27 am, Xu Zu said:

    I’m a native speaker of English and teach it as a second language. Others have said that it is easy to begin and difficult to master.

    Quite true. It’s learning curve is almost the opposite of German which is excruciating to begin but then easy because there’s not much more to it.

    English is much more subtle and nuanced than can really be explained.

    For example, adjective stacking order, which was touched in the article. As native speakers, we do it automatically but for a learner, it’s confounding. Why is it the ugly big red house and not the red ugly big house?

    It’s because English has a very complex mandatory order we all know without having ever even been taught. It was literally never mentioned to me.

    The order in this is example is: quality, size, color.

    This is simple to us but to learn it is difficult and this is a simple example. There are lots more categories of adjectives. A simple list is

    Evaluation
    Size
    Shape
    Condition
    Human propensity
    Age
    Color
    Origin
    Material

    But it’s really even still more complex than that because sometimes the order is shifted intentionally to change the meaning.

    This is see as complex but there’s things that seem so simple to me that stymie learners of English. For example, contractions. Learners avoid contractions like the plague. They’re afraid to use them and when they read them, they’ll often read it as two words. They’ll see, “he’ll” and will read he will aloud. Give them this:

    He wouldn’t’ve been late if he’d’ve made the bus and they’ll have a stroke.

    Reply

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