What makes English difficult to learn?

  • ESL Courses
  • July 20, 2023
  • 3 min read
english language school

It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. This isn’t entirely true as it actually places mid-table on the U.S Diplomatic services list of language difficulty. 

However, it can’t be denied that there are some oddities to the English language that can catch new learners out. Today, we’ll be discussing some of those oddities.

Why Is English So Odd?

Part of what has added so many oddities to the English language is the fact that it is a composition language made up of French, German, and Danish roots. 

This amalgamation of three different root languages, some of which are responsible for importing Latin and Greek words into English, is responsible for some of the idiosyncrasies that can catch out new learners.

Nonsensical Words and Contradictions

One of the reasons why English is known for being difficult is because it’s full of contradictions. Some of the more widely known examples of these, according to the Oxford Royale Academy are:

  • 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.

Exceptions to Rules

There are a lot of rules in the English language, but there are also a lot of exceptions to those rules, which can make it difficult to predict how words are spelled and sentences are constructed.

One of the more famous examples of this is the hard rule of “I before E except after C.” This rule applies to all words, except science, weird, seize, or nearly 400 other English words.

Odd Pronunciations

In English, “trough” is pronounced “troff”, “rough” is pronounced “ruff”, “bough” is pronounced “bow” (like cow) and “through” is pronounced “throo”. Are you confused yet?

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There are silent letters at the start of words, like the silent “K”, such as “knife” or even a silent “G”, such as “gnome”, and we’ve not even started to explore how to pronounce “Worcestershire sauce.”

Overcoming English’s Oddities

As anyone who can read and speak Mandarin, Arabic or Russia can tell you, learning English isn’t actually that hard. However it’s always easier to learn a language with professional support. Which is why we offer free English language courses to our students and their families.  

Experienced, Efficient, And Free For Students

The benefits of taking an ESL course are clear. By improving your English skills you gain better access to education, greater earning potential, a better social life, and even better results from healthcare. We here at Northwest Community College are committed to enhancing our students’ lives, which is why we are proud to offer our ESL courses free of charge to our students and to extend that offer to their families.

Our seasoned language teachers are experienced in working with international students from all over the world and are there to help you get the most from your classes. To help your lessons fit in with your work and home life we also offer day and weekend classes. If you are interested in taking advantage of this excellent opportunity then call one of our ESL councilors today at (702) 403-1592.

Author avatar
Fernando Herbert, B.A.
Spanish Language Consultant