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Despite being one of the most frequently spoken languages in the world, English is notoriously difficult to learn.  But what makes English such a tricky language?  Read on to find out why English is so hard to learn and discover the tips and tricks that can make learning English so much easier:

Rules and Exceptions

Most languages have rules that you can follow, which can make it easier to learn how to speak or write in your new language.  Although English also has rules, there are just as many exceptions that you’ll need to remember too!

The ‘i before e except after c’ is a common language rule that can help with spelling, for example. However, there are numerous exceptions to this rule, such as ‘glacier’, ‘seize’, and ‘weird’.

When you encounter these anomalies without being told that there are multiple exceptions to every language rule, it’s natural to wonder why English is hard to learn!

It Doesn’t Always Make Sense

If you’re feeling exasperated because the English language doesn’t seem to make sense, you’re not alone.  In fact, most native English speakers realise that the language rarely makes sense, so don’t worry if you’re struggling to get to grips with it.

A doughnut doesn’t necessarily contain nuts, for example, while a pineapple isn’t made from apples or pinecones. Similarly, a hamburger doesn’t contain ham and a softball isn’t soft.

While you can’t always determine what an item is from what it’s called, this needn’t limit your understanding of the English language.  As your vocabulary increases, you’ll assign meanings to the wide number of words you encounter and begin to incorporate them into your speech and writing.

Instinctive Ordering of Words

Many people ask, why is English a hard language to learn’, and the instinctive ordering of words is one of the trickiest issues that non-native speakers face.  For example, English speakers may say, ‘a quaint little book’, instead of ‘a little quaint book’.  Technically, neither is grammatically incorrect but the order of the words affects how a sentence sounds and reads.

When you ask a native English speaker why the words are ordered in such a way, they’ll probably tell you that it ‘just sounds right’, which isn’t much help!  However, there are rules that determine the order of words and, once you learn them, it becomes much easier to unravel the mysteries of the language.

Frequent Use of Slang and Idioms

The English language is rich in slang and idioms, which can make it tricky for learners to determine exactly what an expression means. Furthermore, knowing which situations require more formal language and when it’s acceptable to use slang and idioms can take some time.

If someone says, ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ or they’re ‘over the moon’, for example, the meanings of these words don’t equate to the meaning of the idiom.  Essentially, the sum of the parts is different to each individual part or word.

How to Learn English Successfully

Although English is a difficult language to learn, there are steps you can take to make the process easier.  For many people, the following tips increase their enjoyment of learning English and improve their outcomes:

1. Learn from a Native Speaker

When you learn English from a native speaker, their inherent understanding of the language is invaluable.  Additionally, you can be sure that their pronunciation is accurate, which will help you to develop your speaking and listening skills.

2. Listen to Everyday Language

By immersing yourself in an English-speaking town or city, you can spend your time listening to natives speaking English all of the time.  This allows you to pick up on the intricacies of the language and understand how it’s used in a day-to-day setting.

3. Read in English

Reading can be a great way to fast-track your progress when you’re learning English.  As well as increasing your vocabulary, reading can help you to determine the order of words and the grammatical rules that should be applied to your own writing.

4. Speak English Frequently

Speaking in a new language can feel daunting at first, which is why learning with other people can be so beneficial.  Have the opportunity to practice your speaking and listening skills in a supportive classroom environment can boost your confidence and help you to converse more effectively.

Learn English with ABC School of English

At ABC School, we have a range of courses to suit your needs. From the Callan Method to Intensive English, you can combine courses to learn in a way that matches your skillset and goals.  With native English-speaking teachers, a vibrant school community, and multinational classes, learning English can be a whole lot easier with ABC School!

To find out more, contact our team today on +44 (0) 20 7836 8999 or email us at

Why is English so Hard to Learn?