Why Is English So Hard To Learn?

Why Is English So Hard To Learn?

There are more than two billion people that speak English, making it the largest language by the number of speakers.

It is also the third largest language by the number of native speakers.

However, there’s a lot of people who find English hard to learn. Since you decided to read this article, you’re probably one of them.

In this article, we’re going to give you five main reasons why English is hard to learn. Who knows, maybe it turns out to be easier than you thought. 

Read the following paragraphs and decide for yourself.

Challenging Pronunciation

Pronunciation and spelling are the areas that make English quite challenging. English spelling system may be confusing, not only for students but for natives as well.

Many words that are spelled almost the same don’t have the same meaning, nor are pronounced the same. 

For example, ‘trough’ is pronounced  as ‘truff.’ And while you would think that the word ‘through’ is pronounced almost the same way as the previous word but no; it is pronounced as ‘throo.’ 

And then there are some words such as ‘bough,’ ‘rough,’ or ‘tough’ with the same spelling pattern, but different pronunciation.

Let’s not forget about the silent letters. Those are letters that exist in a word, and you have to spell them of course, but you don’t pronounce them. 

One of the most familiar examples is the word ‘knife,’ but there is also the word ‘knight,’ ‘daughter,’ ‘wrist,’ ‘half’, and so on.

To show you how pronunciation can be tricky for everyone, even native speakers, try reading the famous ‘English pronunciation poem’ ‘Chaos’ by Gerard Nolst Trenité

It’s a classic poem, written in the 1920s, which contains all the irregularities in spelling and pronunciation. 

In the following lines, you’ll find a part of the poem, and if you want to check yourself, click on the link above.

“Dearest creature in creation

Studying English pronunciation,

I will teach you in my verse

Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy

Make your head with heat grow dizzy;

Tear in eye, your dress you'll tear;

Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,

Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

Just compare heart, hear and heard,

Dies and diet, lord, and word.”

Complicated Idioms

English is an old language, not ancient, but quite old. Therefore, it is normal that many phrases seem pretty unusual but are a part of everyday speech.

Native English speakers are used to them since they use them regularly. However, this can be tricky for foreign speakers to acquire.

For example, if you are an intermediate or advanced English learner, then you understand what it means to say ‘it is raining cat and dogs.’ 

However, a beginner can get confused, no matter if they know the meaning of each word from the idiom. Of course, animals don’t fall from the sky. It means that it’s raining quite a lot.


Every language has idioms, therefore, we could say that this part is generally a bit challenging for any language, not just English.

But English is definitely the champion of idioms.

Phrasal and Irregular Verbs

Yes, there are plenty of phrasal verbs in English.

And yes, they can give language learners a headache.

Let’s take a look at the verb ‘to run.’ By adding different prepositions, you can change the meaning of the verb such as ‘to run in,’ ‘to run over,’ ‘to run something by someone.’

Other languages use phrasal verbs, so to their native speakers, it is not a challenge to understand them and learn in English.

But, languages like Spanish and French do not have the phrasal verbs, so their native speakers will have to give an extra effort to learn to use them properly.

Diverse English Vocabulary 

English is a German linguistic relative. 

Naturally, there are many German words in English. According to linguists, almost 28% of the English vocabulary comes from German. 

Other languages can be even more ‘recognized’ in English than German. There are many French words that are used in English. Besides French, Latin also shares 30% of its vocabulary with English. 

For some English learners, this can be an advantage. But sometimes, it can be quite hard to remember all those different words from different languages.

More Exceptions Than Rules

Like every language, English has its own rules. And like any other language, English has exceptions, too.

For language learners that wouldn’t be a problem. They can follow the rules, learn some exceptions, and Voila! 

But, in English, that’s not the way things work. 

It seems like for every rule there is an exception.

For example: always use the letter ‘I’ before ‘E’ because that is the main rule. However, don’t use it when the letter is positioned after the letter ‘C,’ because, then, you will write ‘believe’ or ‘relieve.’ But, pay attention to write the word ‘receipt’ differently. 

Confused a bit? Take a breath and read again.

Final Thoughts

So, now you know all the tricky parts of learning English.

It might be hard, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s impossible to learn. Every language has its challenging and easy parts. 

If you struggle with learning English, or you only want to improve your conversational skills, then you don’t need to wait anymore. Book your first lesson with an English tutor on Preply

And, after this post, what would you say? Is English the hardest language to learn, or perhaps not?

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Why is English considered one of the hardest languages to learn to read?

Because of its spelling. Other European languages have easier systems and they are easier to learn.

What is the most difficult part of learning English?

Sentence structure, exceptions, latent letters, vowels, idioms.

Why is English hard to foreigners?

It's the combination of its orthography, pronunciation and vocabulary.

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