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Why Learning the English language is Difficult?

Learning English is Difficult!

At first sight, nobody would think that the English language may be difficult in certain aspects because it is spoken all over the world. It is the official language in many countries, or the second official. Apart from these regions, almost everybody is using it for different purposes. Anyway, the language belongs to the Indo-European language family, which means it has common structure with the languages within the family, although its developmental path has been paved by various conquerors and historical epochs.

When it comes to words, many of them are created through the process of derivation from Ancient Greek and Latin, which is a characteristic of other European languages of the same group. The words can also be of Norman or Scandinavian origin, and some can keep the pattern from the Middle English or even Old English period. These traits of English may seem hard to accept and deal with. Therefore, we are going to analyse some in this article and thus armor the learners all over the world with appropriate knowledge which can be applied in everyday communication, in general English, English for special purposes, and even in document translation.

Some contradictions

All languages have rules to follow, and it is comfortable and understandable. They also exceptions tho the rules, which bearable and even challenging. What happens when you come across some contradictions that gives you headaches or nightmares? This is the point where learning becomes a little frustrating. The English language is rich with such inconsistencies. Here are some of them:

  • There is not any pine or apple in “pineapple”.
  • There is no ham in “hamburger”.
  • There is berry, but no straw in “strawberry”.
  • The simple past tense of teach is taught, whereas praught is not the past tense of preach.
  • If plural of man is men, why the plural of pan is pans?


Among native English speakers, these irregularities are not even thought about. This is their mother tongue and it does not seem illogical or confusing. On the contrary, English language learners suffer through learning process due to the fact that they have been taught even the smallest details.

Rules and exceptions

In every language, there are rules to be adhered to and exceptions to spice the learning a bit.

Here is a confusing rule and exception to the rule. Use ”I” before “E” except when any of the two letters is positioned after the letter “C”. In conclusion to this, the word “believe” or “relieve” will be written in this way while “receipt” will look different. The verb “seize” or the adjective “weird” is spelled with “E” before ”I”. On the other hand, science is spelled with ”I” after ”C,” which defies the above-mentioned rule.

Another exception can be found among numerous irregular verbs. We can take verbs like fight and light as perfect examples. If the past tense form of this verb is fought, logically, the past form of light should be lought instead of lit, as they have the same structure, only differ in the initial letter. But, no! The past form of light is lit. A similar phenomenon occurs with verbs make and take. Made is the past form of make. For that matter, tade is a logical result for take. The problem is it does not even exist.

Here is one more interesting example. The initial letter H is almost always pronounced, like in the following words: hospital, have, horse, home, house, horrific, hornet. Why is not it pronounced in honest, hour, heir and honor? In both cases, the H is initial and followed by a vowel.

Word order

If you are fluent in English, you immediately know the correct order of words. For learners who are not that confident in their knowledge, they must follow some rules. Sometimes, it can be difficult for them to understand why the word order is the way it is, especially if they project the logic of their native language.

The word order which usually corresponds with many foreign languages, or at least, European languages, is a simple pattern of SVO (subject, verb, object). In more complex sentences, this rule is completed with adverbs of place, then adverbs of time.

Like adjectives, words themselves can have their own patterns. This is a word order applicable to the adjectives: quantity of number, quality or opinion, size, age, shape, color, proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material), purpose or qualifier. Therefore, if a learner cannot realize if the sentence is correct or not, the rules are here. The nuances of the language are natural for the natives, but they can be acquired, at least, in large proportions, by non-natives as well.


In English, there are several ways to pronounce words which have almost the same letter combinations and positions. Such words are through, though, boughrough and trough. A thing which baffles learners is silent letters. Why are they present if not pronounced? And, not only one, but mostly two? They are present in the beginning, middle and, sometimes even in end of some words. The most common silent letter groups in the beginning are kn, wr and wh, so there are plenty of words like knock, knob, knife, knee, kneel, knight; or wrong, write, wring, wrist, wrench, wreath, or even white, where, while, whale, whip.

Words which usually have more consonants than vowels, like motorcycle, crystal, and symphony, can represent a difficulty in pronunciation.

Emphasis on certain words

Emphasis on certain words can change the meaning of the sentence. Depending on which message you want to send, you stress that word in particular. Here is a set of the same sentences but with different word emphasized.

She said she did not take his money. It was not someone else who said it.

She said she did not take his money. So I believe her.

She said she did not take his money. But someone else did.

She said she did not take his money. ?

She said she did not take his money. ?

She said she did not take his money. But she won it gambling.

She said she did not take his money. But she took someone else’s.

She said she did not take his money. But she did take something else of his


Now you can see how this matter is important and practice. Try to discover what the stressed words in the fourth and the fifth sentence imply.

Homographs and homophones

Not only that the previous characteristics can somehow discourage a learner, but there is even more-homographs and homophones. Homographs are words written in the same way, but pronounced or just stressed differently. Let’s look at some:

Alternate 1) /ˈɔltɜrnət/ means succeeding choice

Attribute 1) /ˈætrəˌbjut/ implies to associate ownership to something or someone

2) /əˈtrɪˌbjut/ indicates someone’s characteristic

Bow 1) /baʊ/ is used in terms of lowering one’s head

2) /boʊ/ when talking about a piece of hunting equipment

While homographs are the words with the same orthography, but different pronunciation, homophones are the words with the same pronunciation but with different spelling. These are the words: base and bass, ascent and assent, climb and clime, see and sea, soul and sole, wait and weight, whether and weather.

Synonyms cannot be interchanged

Although many words in English have the same meaning, it is not possible to swap them in every context. Such words are see and watch. While it is correct to say, ”watch or see a film” or ”watch TV”, one cannot say ”see television”.

When talking about a swan’s or a ballerina’s neck, a speaker can describe it as elegant or graceful, but he cannot refer to it as chic, refined or classic as much as they are all synonyms. The last three adjectives can only be related to fashion.

All the items that we have gone through this topic have not been mentioned to scary and alienate the hard-working learners of English. On the contrary, we have discussed the major points of the rules and exceptions to those rules only to give account of the things which could be a stumbling stone in the process of learning.

To summarize the topic, you probably know enough of English to communicate at higher levels, due to its popularity and presence in so many aspects of life worldwide. For that reason, do not be content with what you already know and leave it where it is. Strive for more and better, and improve. Your learning efforts will present themselves one day in full glory.

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