What Makes English Difficult to Learn?

I spent the entire summer living with relatives and preparing to move nearly 2,000 miles to my family’s new home. The situation made blogging and continuing to tutor English to speakers of other languages difficult. Now that I am settling into a new home and routine, I am excited to return to tutoring and writing on a more regular basis.

In order to find compelling topics in English as a Second Language to write about, I started with the question: what frustrates English language learners most?

Remembering the conversations I’ve had with my students over the years, I immediately thought of spelling, both on its own and in relation to pronunciation. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these two stanzas of Gerard Nolst Trenite’s poem, “The Chaos,” (chronicling 800 inconsistencies in English spelling and pronunciation):

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
   Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
   Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
   Blood and flood are not like food,
   Nor is mould like should and would.

*The full poem can be found at: http://ncf.idallen.com/english.html

While spelling probably constitutes a reasonably safe answer as to why English can be so frustrating, it is certainly not the only one. The Oxford Royale Academy points out that English vocabulary often makes no sense and the grammar is full of exceptions (the full article can be found here).

Over the next few weeks, I will choose a few examples of what causes frustration when learning English and I will provide some tips and explanations that should make English just a little bit easier for those who are currently studying it.

If you have any suggestions frustrations you’d like to see me discuss, please let me know what they are!


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