Is English really hard to learn?

We learn a language for communication purpose. Language is a universal key vehicle to socialization and integration.

Among the 195 countries of the World, 67 countries use English as their official language while 55 use it as a second language and spoken by over 1,5 billion of people.

It is good to know whether English can be ranked as a hard language and why.

If you are studying English at the moment, or if you probably want to take your English to the next level, the following should be of interest.

Is English hard to learn?

English is one of the most common official languages in the World. It is ranked as such before French, Arab and Spanish which are used as official languages in some 30 countries around the world.

Despite being the most common official language in the world, English is rated as the most difficult language to learn compared to romance languages like Spanish and French.

It is admitted that English has a lot of tough elements that make it pretty hard to learn especially as a second language.

However, it is admitted that even if English is somehow difficult to learn, it remains a language that can be embraced with passion.

Some common challenges for English Learners

There are several common challenges in learning any new languages one may have to face. We believe those who rate English as the most difficult language to learn have to meet up one or more of the following personal challenges:

  1. Lack of confidence in personal abilities.
  2. Lack of practice and exposure to an English-speaking environment.
  3. Fear of not being understood when speaking with strangers.
  4. Loss of Motivation.
  5. Psychological barriers: Expecting it to be easy.

There are some more technical challenges one might experience when taking up English courses.

English is not a phonetical language

One of the first difficulty, non-native English speakers will mention is the difficulty to match the pronunciation with the spelling of words.

The letters of the English alphabet do not match a standard sound when they are spelled. E.g: the “s” in sea and the “s” in sure. This can be confusing for beginners.

The variations are not easy to grasp unless there is regular practice.

Pronunciation in English can be challenging

English is a Germanic language by origin. It has evolved throughout the time and history.

English, as all Germanic languages, easily combines strong consonants and vowels which may be hard to pronounce. However, pronunciation challenges are faced with any new idiom learning.

The hardest part being tied to regional accents and pronunciation.

It worth noting that there are several and fantastic spell check software available to ease the learning of any new language.

Structure and grammar challenges

English trainees will be required to pay specific attention to the following aspects of English grammar:

1. Phrasal verbs:

Phrasal verbs are common to Germanic and Slavic languages. They will be found in English, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Romani …etc. In English one verb can have up to 30 phrasal verbs just by adding a preposition that will give a specific meaning to each statement depending on the context.

2. English has three main groups of tenses: the Past – Present – Future.

These 3 boxes are spread into 04 subdivisions each: the simple – the continuous – the perfect and the perfect continuous.

It is not always easy to find a match of these tenses in other languages. For example, in Arabic or African languages where there are only 03 tenses, using up to 12 tenses can be a real challenge.

Nevertheless, there are languages, like French, that counts up to 17 complex tenses compare to English.

3. The articles used in English language

English uses three articles (a, an, the) to clarify the meaning of the noun in a sentence.

The challenge here comes from learners whose primary language does not contain any articles all or has less than the three articles used in English.

Did you know that Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Russian are examples of languages that do not use any of the articles above, but still, they are clear? Arabic only has a definite article (al) but no indefinite article.

Latin is also spoken without articles, and it is considered as a precise and clear language.

Ten most difficult languages for English learners

LanguageOfficial Language Speakers
1. Mandarin China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore1.28 billion
2. Arabic
Algeria – Bahrain –  Chad – Comoros – Djibouti – Egypt – Iraq – Jordan – Kuwait -Lebanon – Libya – Mauritania – Morrocco – Oman – Palestine – Qatar – Saudi Arabia – Somalia – Sudan – Syria – Tunisia – UAE – Yemen

+ 300 million
3. TeluguIndia+75 million 
4. JapaneseJapan120 million
5. PolishPoland50 million
6. TurkishTurkey70 million
7. RussianRussia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan +150 million
8. VietnameseVietnam95 million
9. FinnishFinland – Sweden 5 million
10. KoreanSouth Korea – North Korea75 million
Most Difficult languages for English Learners

Read more on languages spoken by African people.

Tips to overcome some challenges in learning English

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