Home > Blog > English is Fun > Why English is NOT an Easy Language to Learn

If you have been learning English for some time now, you would have come across some ‘intricacies’ of this language, which can drive people mad. There are several reasons for that. Let’s start with the first one:

 

English is NOT a phonetic language!

A phonetic language is a language, where you can look at the spelling of the word and the pronunciation is represented by it.  This means that the way you will read it is the correct pronunciation. It also works the other way around. In a phonetic language, you will be able to correctly spell a word, when you hear it. Unfortunately, English does NOT fall into this category. Look at the example of  ‘ough’. There are seven!! different ways of pronouncing it.

though (like o in go)

through (like oo in too)

cough (like off in offer)

rough (like uff in suffer)

plough (like ow in flower)

ought (like aw in saw)

borough (like a in above)

How are we meant to guess the different ways of pronouncing these words solely from the spelling? Sadly, you can’t.

Consult this man for some ‘ough’ pronunciation tips:

Irregular verbs

We all know and hate that awfully long list of irregular verbs. We can say: Yesterday, I played football. BUT we cannot say: Yesterday, readed a great book. WHY?? Just to make our lives more difficult when learning this language. Once we have learnt the irregular verb list by heart though, it will stay in our memory forever.

 

The vocabulary

English is known to have an extensive vocabulary. Some people might even claim it has the biggest! But let’s stay away from that claim and stick to its almighty big range for now. Some of our words and expressions don’t seem to quite make sense. Why are people who ride motorcycles called bikers and people who ride bikes called cyclists??? Why? Another example is the plural form of some nouns. The noun ‘house’ has a regular plural form of ‘houses’, so we would naturally assume that the plural of ‘mouse’ is ‘mouses’. But oh god, no! How could we just assume regularity in this language! Of course it has to be ‘mice’.  But what about ‘foot’ and ‘feet’? Does this regularity then also apply to ‘book’? Shouldn’t it then be ‘beek’? Nope. We are going back to being regular. Oh glorious English language!

A writer is someone who writes, and a baker is someone who bakes.  But fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham. Try and figure this one out..

english

 

Exceptions, exception, exceptions!

Every time you learn a new grammar concept and you think you have finally understood it, this thought will get crushed by the hard reality that every rule has an enormous list of exceptions. A great example is he rule for remembering if a word is spelt ‘ie’ or ‘ei’:

“I before E except after C.”

Hence ‘believe’ and ‘receipt’. But what about ‘science’ or ‘weird’? The great number of irregularities makes it difficult and more importantly frustrating for the learner. Sometimes there is no explanation for these exceptions and we just have to accept that the English language is a little bit ‘weird’.

 

Homophones

If you are not confused yet, here is another challenge. Homophones are words that are spelt differently or have different meanings but are pronounced the same.  

eye and I

bare and bear

ate and eight

buy and bye

cell and sell

pea and pee

This ties in with the first point of this article: the pronunciation can be a nightmare! Most homophones have two or three meanings (the most ‘popular’ being: Their, there, they’re), which is more than enough to complicate things!

 

Idioms

When learning English, idioms are one of the least favourite things students have to study. Expressions such as: “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Or “cut the mustard” are not necessarily things that will make sense to non-native speakers when they hear them for the first time. Since English is quite an old language, it has acquired interesting saying over the years and incorporated them into the everyday language. Once you have started using them yourself without wondering why cats and dogs are falling from the sky, you have mastered the language!

 

As these examples have shown, the English language is quite strenuous to learn, but learning a language always requires a lot of work. It also depends on your personal skills. Some people have an aptitude for learning languages, others for science (or is it science? ‘I’ before ‘e’ or the other way around?). Young learners will pick up on things easier and quicker than adults, too. Once you have wrapped your head around it (English, oh why?), it won’t seem as bad and you will also be proud of yourself and your achievements.

 

 

“A different language is a different vision of life.” 

Federico Fellini