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Is English Hard to Learn?


English is currently the third most-spoken language in the world, after Chinese and Spanish. It’s also spoken in many countries around the world, making it super-useful to know, even if only at a conversational level. Learning English can also make it easier for you to learn other languages later, if you want to! 

But many people hesitate to begin learning English. This may be because English is often said to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. But is this true? 

In this article, we’ll answer the question “Is English hard to learn?” We’ll also show you why you might want to learn English anyway, and how to get started. (If you’re reading this article, we bet you’ve already gotten a great start!)

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning English Table of Contents
  1. Is it Hard to Learn English?
  2. The Hardest (and Easiest) Parts of Learning English
  3. Where Should You Start?
  4. Advice for New English Learners
  5. Why is the Best Way to Learn English

1. Is it Hard to Learn English?

It depends on who you ask. English is a Germanic language, so people who speak another Germanic language will find English easier than those who don’t. 

When you begin learning English, you may find it helpful to try memorizing the most important spelling and grammar rules early on, as this will make the rest of the process somewhat simpler for you. To give you a head start, try reading these articles on 

Now, why is English so difficult to learn? Let’s take a look at the hardest and easiest aspects of learning English.

2. The Hardest (and Easiest) Parts of Learning English

Here are a few things that make English a hard language to learn for foreigners. 

Why English is Hard to Learn
Tons of rules and exceptionsUnfortunately, English has a lot of rules, and an exception for every one. Here are just two examples:
  • The “’I’ before ‘E’” spelling rule only works sometimes.

  • Irregular verbs don’t conjugate like other verbs (and we have a lot of irregular verbs).
Contradictions and inconsistencies
  • “Hamburger” does not come from pigs.
  • “Pineapple” does not have pine or apple in it.
  • The word “hike” can refer to a long walk, an increase in something, and is a term used in football.
  • There are plenty of homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings). For example: “would” vs. “wood” and “meat” vs. “meet.”
Word order and sentence structureEnglish has a relatively flexible word order and sentence structure, but trying to explain how it works is super-difficult. 

Word Order:
English word order refers to what order you place words in a phrase. For example, if you have two adjectives describing one noun, which adjective comes first? To native English-speakers, saying “scary big spider” sounds very off. Instead, we say “big scary spider,” just because it sounds “better.” 

Another factor that sometimes dictates the order of adjectives in a sentence is what type of adjectives you’re using. Typically, when multiple adjectives are used to describe something, they go in this order: 

What you think about the object -> Size or Scale -> Age -> Shape -> Color -> Location -> Material. 

For example: 
Harry enjoyed the nice (what he thinks about it), hot (scale), cup of Brazilian (location) coffee.

Sentence Structure:
Sentence structure determines the order of the major components of an entire sentence. English is an SVO language, meaning that in a sentence, the subject comes first, followed by the verb, followed by an object

For example: Sarah (S) kissed (V) Tom (O).
Word emphasisWhile English is not a tonal language, there are many times when the emphasis we place on a word (or in a sentence) makes a huge difference in meaning.

Can you tell the difference between these sentences based on which word is bolded?
  • I want to talk to her. 
  • I want to talk to her.
  • I want to talk to her.
  • I want to talk to her.
In the first sentence, “I” is emphasized. This means that the speaker wants to speak with her. It also implies that the speaker doesn’t want anyone else to speak with her. There may be a jealous or commanding tone here.

In the second sentence, “want” is emphasized. This may indicate that the speaker was told not to speak with her, and is expressing that they want to. There may be a begging or whiny tone here.

In the third sentence, “talk” is emphasized. This is how the speaker shows that they only want to talk, especially if others think the speaker has bad intentions.

In the fourth sentence, “her” is emphasized. This indicates that the speaker only wants to talk to her. Imagine there are several people in the room the speaker could talk to, but they’re only interested in talking with her—no one else.
Many varieties of EnglishThe United States, the UK, Australia, and other countries with a large proportion of English-speakers have their own differences in vocabulary, phrases, grammar, spelling, and pronunciation! 
IdiomsLike many languages, English has lots of idioms. Learning what they mean and how to use them can be difficult for new learners.
  • “Off the beaten path.”
  • “The road less traveled.”
  • “All of a sudden.”
  • “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
  • “Making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Girl Tired and Frustrated with English Homework
Why English is Easy to Learn
Small alphabetThe English language only has twenty-six letters in its alphabet (uppercase and lowercase), compared to thousands of characters in other languages (like Chinese). 
Greek and Latin rootsMany English words have Greek or Latin roots, which makes it easier for speakers of similar languages to learn it. (E.g. German, Dutch, French.) In addition, due to increased globalization, English has come to include some words from many other languages as well. 
FlexibleEarlier, we mentioned a few ways that English’s flexibility is confusing. However, these flexibilities can be helpful for learners in some cases. (No one will blame you for saying “scary big spider,” because it’s technically okay to say it this way.)
Many learning resources availableBecause so many people are trying to learn English, there are plenty of learning resources out there. Better yet, some of these resources are easily accessible wherever you are, such as EnglishClass101’s online lessons and podcasts.
Very accessibleEnglish is a prominent language in many countries, and a large bulk of media today is in English. So there are tons of TV shows, movies, songs, podcasts, and more, that you can listen to in English.
Confident Man Sitting at Desk

3. Where Should You Start?

We’ve already covered what makes English so hard to learn (and which things about it aren’t so bad). But did you know that regardless of how difficult it is, you can learn it a lot easier by beginning your studies the right way? Here are some tips:

1. Figure out your goals. Why do you want to learn English? What goals will you achieve along the way to really master the language? I recommend making some SMART goals to help you figure this out. It will make your language-learning process a lot more straightforward.

2. Learn as much as you can about the English language. You may find it helpful to begin by studying about English. Where is it spoken? What are its origins? What languages are similar to English? Doing some background research can make English seem less daunting and give you a huge head start! 

3. Start using media in your language-learning early on. If you start with thick textbooks right away and don’t supplement them with something lighter, you’re probably going to quit. Make your learning fun from time to time using media (TV, music, etc.), and you’ll actually retain more information.

4. Explore More on this later. 😉

4. Advice for New English Learners 

How can you be successful when you first begin learning English? Here are some tips!

  • Be patient. It’s important to be patient, both with yourself and with the language-learning process. It takes time, mistakes will be made, and there’s no way around this. But it’s worth the struggle!
  • Start with the basics. Don’t overwhelm yourself when first starting out. Focus on the key vocabulary, phrases, and grammar points to begin with, and don’t worry too much about the harder stuff. 
  • Focus on specific areas. Once you start learning the basics, you’ll notice areas you’re weaker in. Maybe you’re great at English spelling, but struggle with pronunciation. Or maybe you can read English, but can’t understand it when it’s spoken to you. Find where you struggle, and focus on improving those areas.
  • Find a community. You’re not alone in your English-learning journey. Once you begin learning, you’ll become part of a huge number of people doing the same thing. People who are making the same mistakes, achieving the same victories, and getting equally as frustrated as you are. Find a group of English-learners to join, and experience for yourself how much it can help. Our Facebook and YouTube pages are a great place to start!
Group of People Standing in a Circle
  • Spend time with native English speakers. By spending time with native speakers, you’ll be able to familiarize yourself with the language in a natural, real-world context. 
  • Speak more often. Many of our Facebook followers say that they regret not speaking more English from the start. It’s important to remember that mistakes are okay, and that speaking the language sooner rather than later will help you learn faster.
  • Define your purpose. Why are you thinking about learning English? What are your goals, both short-term and long-term? Knowing the answers to these questions is going to be an important part of your language-learning journey, and will help you keep going when things get hard.
  • Don’t take long breaks from learning. To effectively learn a language, it’s important to be consistent. If you stop learning for several months or years at a time, you’re going to lose a lot of the things you learned.
  • Start sooner. The longer you wait to begin learning English, the further behind you’ll be, and the more difficult it will be for you to start. If you start (or continue) learning today, imagine where you’ll be in a few years!
  • Confidence is important. Some of our followers on Facebook say that they struggle (or have struggled) with self-confidence in their language-learning. They wish they had been more confident from the start, and rightfully so. While learning a new language can be scary, it’s important to be confident in your abilities to improve and succeed. 

5. Why is the Best Way to Learn English

EnglishClass101 Image

If you’re ready to start learning English, is the best way to start—and finish—your language-learning journey. Why?

To start, all of our lessons and other learning material are practical and culturally relevant. You’ll learn vocabulary, phrases, and cultural information that you can actually put to use in the real world, starting from day one. 

We provide a variety of lessons for learners at every level. So whether this is your first time getting serious about learning English, or you’ve already been learning for a while, we have something for you. 

With EnglishClass101, you aren’t going to get dull textbooks or confusing lectures. Instead, we provide our students with lessons in many different formats. Videos, audio recordings, fun quizzes, vocabulary lists, and blog posts like this one! 

We always aim to make your learning experience both fun and informative

You can find a sense of community on our social media pages, commenting on our lessons and blog, or upgrading to our Premium PLUS plan to use MyTeacher. And we’re always ready to help when you need it. Whether you need encouragement, are experiencing technical issues, or just really don’t understand a lesson, there’s always someone you can reach out to! 

If you’re convinced, and ready to improve your English skills, sign up today and create your free lifetime account. We’ll be glad to have you join our family. 

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