How Hard Is English To Learn: 14 Reasons Why English Is Difficult

You may be considering learning the English language for fun or for other reasons best known to you. Whatever the case may be, the question of whether English is hard to learn may have popped up in your head at some point.

To many native English speakers, the English language may seem like a straightforward and easy-to-grasp language. In contrast, it’s not all bread and butter for non-native speakers.

The English language is broad and dynamic. This means that it changes from time to time and adopts new words from various sources. It is also rife with rules and exceptions. This could be tricky for those who wish to learn the language.

However, it is one of the most recognized and used languages in the world, so learning it is an idea you should not despair about. With commitment and focus, anyone who desires to learn the English language can.

This article aims to answer the question of whether or not the English language is hard to learn. Follow me.

Is English difficult or easy to learn?

English is a difficult language to learn. Just like many other languages, the English language has peculiar rules. However, what makes it more complicated than many other languages are the clusters of rules and exceptions that guide its usage.

From the use of grammar to punctuation to vocabulary, there are a lot of things that make up the English language.

Let’s take a deep look into what makes the English language so complicated.

SEE: Is Spanish Hard to Learn

What Makes English Difficult?

Here is a list of reasons why learning the English language is difficult to learn:

1. Sound and Pronunciation

One of the biggest difficulties of learning the English language is the subtle inconsistency in sound and pronunciation. Words with similarities in letters do not necessarily sound the same.

For instance, “brought” doesn’t sound the same as “dough” or “through” even though they contain the same combination of letters “ough”. Additionally, “a” sounds like “ah,” but on several occasions, it is pronounced like “ei,” as in “away,” “able,” etc.

As if that is not enough, many words have silent consonant letters. Knife, psychology, pneumonia, adjacent, and island are examples of such words. This only adds to the confusion of learners as you cannot but wonder what the use of these letters is in each word. 

Lastly, some words have weird pronunciations. For instance, “ewe” starts with a consonant |j| sound. In the end, the realized pronunciation is the same as the word “you,” the same as “European,” and “eulogy.”

2. Spelling

Many native speakers sometimes wonder why some English words are not spelled as pronounced. For example, why isn’t “tired” spelled as “tayad” or “choir” as “kwayer” not to talk of non-native English speakers who are trying to learn the language.

Also, there’s a rule for spelling words with “ie” or “ei”. The rule is that “I should come before E except after C,” as in the case of “believe” and “receipt.” But this doesn’t hold true for words like “science,” “weird,” or “seize.”

This means that you can not correctly spell many words through their sounds except by carefully memorizing them.

3. Concord

Concord is the agreement between a subject and a verb. The rule in concord states that singular subjects should go with singular verbs and plural subjects should take a plural verb. For example, “Daniel is a boy.” Daniel is a singular subject that takes a singular verb “is”.

In contrast, “you” always takes a plural verb whether you are referring to a single person or many individuals always. Also, collective nouns like “a flock of sheep, a pair of shoes” take singular verbs, even though the subject is more than one.

Furthermore, the letter “s” is added to nouns to make them plural, whereas the letter “s” is added to a verb to make it singular. This can be really confusing to comprehend for many individuals who are willing to learn the language.

4. Verbs

Verbs take many forms in the English language. The types of verbs include present tense, past tense, future tense, present continuous tense, and past participle, each with its method of application. 

What is more confusing is that they can be regular or irregular. “ed” is added to regular verbs to make them past tense. On the other hand, the past tenses of irregular verbs are unique. For instance, the past tense of telling is told but the past tense of call is called.

There is basically no logical explanation for the difference. This, in particular, leaves many learners confused. Also, it can be draining and time-consuming as you need to learn the peculiarities and application of each word individually.

5. Singular and Plural

Another challenge for English language learners is the inconsistency in plural forms of nouns. Some plural nouns take the letter “s”, and some others take the letter “es”.

But there are exceptions to some words. For instance, the plural forms of words like police and sheep remain the same as their singular counterparts.

In addition, the plural of box is boxes, but the plural of ox is oxen and not oxen, while the plural of “fan” is “fans”, and that of “man” is “men” and not “mans”. These contradictions can be a nightmare for learners to comprehend.

6. Punctuation

Generally, writing is much more challenging than speaking. Even many native English speakers have a hard time when it comes to writing in English.

Not to mention, using punctuation marks correctly can be a daunting task. The understanding of how to use the comma, colon, semi-colon, or quotation mark requires an extra level of education.

If you’re seeking to go beyond speaking the English language to writing or transcribing, then you need to gain mastery of the use of punctuation.

7. Word Order or Sentence Structure

While constructing sentences, two or more adjectives may describe a noun. The challenge this presents is that these adjectives must follow in order to be acceptable. For instance, there should be nothing wrong with saying “a black big shoe.” But, it just isn’t accepted as an English phrase. The right thing to say is “a big black shoe.”

For native English speakers, they have the natural intuition to know how to order these words. In contrast, this may prove difficult for non-native learners as there is no logical explanation for this except that it just doesn’t sound right to say “a black big shoe.”

Finally, you need to change the order of a word to ask a question in the English language. For instance, you cannot simply ask a question by saying, “You are okay?” Rather, you say, “Are you okay?” whereas this is not the case in other languages.

8. Pronouns

Pronouns are broad. And each of them has unique terms of usage. For instance, even though “I” and “me” may refer to a person, you cannot use them interchangeably. Also, they and they are not interchangeable in sentences, even though they both refer to many people. You need to figure out the right places to use them.

You cannot replace “I and my friend are going out” for “Me and my friend are going out” or “Where are they?” for “Where are them?”. Also, what could be confusing is that masculine pronouns are “he, she, and him.” But the feminine pronouns are not “she, shis, and shim”.

9. Synonyms

Many English words may have similarities in meaning. But this doesn’t mean that they can be used interchangeably all the time.

For instance, “close” and “lock” are quite related. But you cannot replace “lock” for “close” when you say, “We are closed for the day.”

Also, some words have multiple meanings and this may cause people to use them completely out of context.

10. Homonyms

Homonyms are words that sound the same as another word but with different spellings or meanings. Examples include, “heard and had,” “won and one,” “eye and I,” etc. This can be very complicated for learners.

Interestingly, some words can have more than three meanings, such as “right” and “raise”.

11. Idioms

The English language is filled with lots of idiomatic expressions. Most non-native speakers may find it difficult to grasp these idioms.

For example, the phrase “he kicked the bucket” means “he is dead.” Also, the phrase “behind bars” is not meant to be taken literally. Therefore, those who wish to learn the English language have to make the sacrifice of learning the meaning of English idioms.

12. Families of Languages

The English language is a compendium of many words borrowed from French, Latin, and Germany. As a result, it is easier for individuals from France or Germany to learn compared to Japanese or Chinese.

The fact that it is a blend of different languages also contributes to its complicated and contradictory pronunciations.

13. Emphasis

It is interesting to note that the way you stress a word can subtly change its purpose in a statement in the English language. For instance, “I am coming” is a straightforward statement. Whereas stressing on “I” in “I am coming” would imply that no one else but you are coming.

14. Change in Function of Part of Speech

In the English language, a noun could serve as an adjective in a sentence depending on its usage. For example, “whose father is at the door?” Billy’s father is at the door. Billy is a name of a person, as such, it is a noun. But due to its usage in the given example, it serves as an adjective for the noun “father”.

Furthermore, you can easily change a verb to a noun by adding “er”. For instance, teach to “teacher,” dance to “dancer,” etc. In contrast, it doesn’t work the same way for “pray or cook”.

SEE: Top 16 Easiest Languages You Can Learn


How can you learn the English language?

You can learn the language from vast sources like television shows, movies, books, etc. You can also enroll in online courses or register for physical classes to learn the language. Furthermore, a really good way to grow is to build rapport with those who speak English fluently and communicate with them from time to time.

SEE: Explore what you can do with your English degree

Is English the hardest language to learn?

No. English may be hard to learn, but it is not the most difficult to learn. Other tricky languages are Russian, Japanese, Mandarin, and Arabic. But the hardest of them all is the Chinese Mandarin language because it has four tones. This means that you can pronounce one word in four different ways, each with different meanings.

How long does it take the average person to learn English?

For many adults, the time frame for learning the basic English language is between nine months and a year, if at least four hours are dedicated to learning every day. For a complex understanding of the English language, it may take years of learning. Children, on the other hand, are quick to learn, so they may learn faster than adults.

Why is English so complicated?

The English language is difficult to master because of its contradictory rules, dynamics, spelling, and pronunciation.

Why should you learn the English language?

English is the most commonly used language in the business world. It is also one of the most popular languages in the world, spoken by about 1.5 billion people. Therefore, learning the language presents you with many opportunities for jobs, educational benefits, and global relevance.

Final Thoughts

It is true that the English language is a complex language to learn. The challenge of understanding these perplexing spellings, confusing idioms, word order, and punctuation, among others, may seem overbearing. But learning the language can open many doors of opportunity for you. In fact, it is one of the many hard skills that are needed for specific jobs.

So, if you really have an interest in learning the language, you shouldn’t feel discouraged in your pursuit. It is important to note that every language has its own complexities. Besides, native English speakers also face some challenges when learning a foreign language.

Therefore, you should enroll in a language course to begin your training. Also, be open to reading materials such as English movies, articles, books, magazines, TV shows, etc. to speed up your growth.

Lastly, if you wish to get started, you can check the article on the best platforms to learn languages here.

I hope this article helped. Thanks for reading.