You might hear some people say that it’s difficult to learn English, but is it?
In lists of ‘the hardest languages to learn in the world‘ that you see on the internet sometimes, English is NEVER rated as ‘difficult to learn’. You always see languages like Basque, Hungarian, Polish, Japanese, Mandarin, Finnish and Arabic classified as the ‘longest it takes to learn’, but you don’t see the English language in these lists.
There are about 400 million native speakers of English in the world, but around 1.5 billion speakers of English in total. Therefore an enormous amount of people on the planet have learnt to speak some level of English. That number of non-native speakers is more than any other language in the world, so surely that means that English can’t be that difficult to learn (in relation to other languages).
However, there are some characteristics of English that do add some degree of difficulty for learners. But if we look at these things below, you will see that it’s not so difficult to learn English overall.
Over the centuries, English has absorbed lots of other languages (see our HISTORY OF ENGLISH INTERACTIVE TOUR here), which means that it has a really rich vocabulary.
So, English has words that can mean the same thing (synonyms), sound the same (homophones) or very similar, or are even spelt the same but have different meanings (homonyms). Even though these can be annoying for English learners, there aren’t too many of these situations and they can be learnt relatively quickly.
To learn the differences between commonly confused words in English, please click here.
As mentioned above, English is the combination of lots of languages and so there are lots of various pronunciation issues, which seem to make no sense for the learner.
There is famous poem by a French man (English pronunciation by G Nolst Trenite) that highlights almost all of these pronunciation problems.
But lots of these words are really really old and not used anymore in modern English. Many of the other words in the poem are not common in everyday English. So, overall, you don’t need to worry about the complex pronunciation.
There is also sometimes the situation where you have a foreign sound (maybe something from French like ‘ough’ pronunciation) that English tries to make sound more English…
Actually, in normal day-to-day communication, many people use a small vocabulary, which is not too big for people to learn.
For example, there was a study that said that UK teenagers on social media use a vocabulary of only 800 words.
So, let’s say that you learn, know and use 1000 of the most common words of English… how many of those words will be super difficult to pronounce? If it’s 1% of the 1000 words, that’s only 10 words. It’s not too difficult to learn how to say 10 words, is it?
ENGLISH GRAMMAR IS EASY
In comparison to other languages, English has relatively easy grammar.
THERE IS ONLY ONE WORD FOR ‘THE’ – in German, for instance there are 24 different words for ‘the’
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO REMEMBER THE GENDER OF EACH WORD: In Spanish, French, Portuguese, German and many other languages, you must learn whether a word is masculine, feminine or neuter. So, every time you learn a new word, there are 3 things to consider. It’s very easy in English, it’s just ‘a’ or ‘the’, there is no gender to remember
ENGLISH VERBS CHANGE VERY LITTLE: I have, you have, he/she/it has, we have, you have, they have – that’s not very difficult, is it? Compare that to Spanish (which is considered one of the world’s easiest languages to learn): yo tengo, tu tienes, él/ella/es tiene, nosotros tenemos, vosotros tenéis, ellos/ellas tienen.
When you are a beginner in English, the grammar is quite easy to begin using, in comparison to German, for example, or some Asian language where you must first learn all the script.
MOTIVATION TO LEARN ENGLISH
Many English teachers say that the biggest secret to learning English quickly is motivation. If you have enough motivation you can do anything. But, on the other hand if you do not have motivation to learn, it is very unlikely that you will practise your English speaking, watch a movie in English, do English grammar tests or learn new vocabulary.
If you try hard at something and never give up, then nothing is difficult!
Look at this girl in the video. If you have any excuse for saying that you can’t learn English, then you can definitely learn something from this girl. She runs fast. But why does her coach have to catch her on the finish line at the end of every race? Make sure that you watch her final incredible race at 9:51.
And one last little bit of motivation…. 🙂