Is English the Hardest Language to Learn?

Posted on July 16, 2019

By Emily Stallard, owner and trainer at Orchid English

Is English the hardest language to learn? This is something that a lot of people wonder.

When I was at secondary school, I remember a teacher telling us that English was the hardest language to learn for foreigners. Then I lived in France and Japan, where people also told me their own languages were the hardest to learn for foreigners. Wait a second, I thought. Everyone thinks their own language is the hardest!

There is a certain amount of linguistic chauvinism, which means having a superior attitude to one’s own language. I can see amazing richness and difficulties in English that I can’t see in other languages I speak because English is my native language. After teaching English for ten years sometimes students would ask me a question about English and I would have to check it. So is English the hardest language to learn? It would be tempting for me to believe, but I just can’t see the intricacies in other languages.

The most difficult language to learn largely depends on the languages that you already speak. As a native English speaker it’s much easier for me now learning Spanish than when I was learning Japanese. My Japanese former colleague in Tokyo once told me he was going to start learning Korean, because it would be easier than English. I had to laugh because to me Korean seems very difficult! But it’s quite similar to Japanese so it would be easier for him.

The more similarities English has to your native language, the easier it is to learn. If you’re interested in learning more about the development and history of English, there is a brilliant article on English Club here.

Here is a brief list of what I consider to be the biggest difficulties in English, plus some more straightforward features of English.

Difficulties

  • Spelling correspondence to pronunciation: rules and irregularities.
  • Volume of phrasal verbs.
  • Primary and secondary word stress – unless your language has this too, like Spanish or Chinese.

Easier Features

  • The Roman alphabet is shared across several languages, with only 26 letters.
  • Conjugation is more straightforward in English than many other languages.
  • High volume of media in English means you can expose yourself to a huge amount of films, music and books in native English.

So, is English the hardest language to learn? It depends. Probably not, unless your first language is extremely dissimilar to English. If you can read this article you’ve already reached a good standard of English.

What do you find difficult about English? Our English teachers can come to your company in London and you can get tailored classes that focus on your particular needs. This may be speaking, grammar, writing or something else. Get in touch today for a free demo class.

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