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    What makes the English language so hard to learn?

    Most people agree that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. But what makes the English language so hard to learn? We take a look at some of the things that trip people up when trying to learn English.

    Rules that have exceptions

    Like most languages, English follows a set of rules. However, there is almost always an exception for each rule. One example is the spelling rule: “I before E except after C.” So the correct spelling of the following would be “believe” and “receipt.” However, there are numerous exceptions such as “weird” and “science.”
    This makes it difficult to learn the correct way to spell, phrase or say something. Not only do you have to learn the rules of the English language, but you have to learn the exceptions too. This slows down learning and can limit progress.


    In English, a lot of the words that are spelt the same and look the same, aren’t pronounced the same. For example, “trough” is pronounced “truff” whilst “through” is pronounced “throo.” Unfortunately, there is no quick way of learning these. It’s simply trial and error.

    There are also silent letters in the English language. Which are letters that, although they are part of a word, are not pronounced? For example, the G in “gnome” is not pronounced and the K in “knife” is not pronounced. Why are they included in the word? Just to make learning English that little bit more difficult!

    Metaphorical language/idioms

    Because English is such an old language, there are a lot of unusual phrases that have become part of everyday speech. Native English speakers will be completely used to them and will slip them into a conversation without a second thought. However, if English is your second language, you may find them completely confusing. For example, when someone says “it is raining cats and dogs” they don’t really mean that animals are falling from the sky. They just mean that it is raining hard. If someone says they have been “barking up the wrong tree” they don’t literally mean they have been outside barking at a tree. They just mean they have completely misunderstood something. The better your English becomes, the easier they will be to understand.

    Regional differences

    Even when you think you’ve mastered the English language, informal conversation varies from region to region. You could hear words you’ve learnt used in completely different ways to what you have been taught. For example, you may be surprised to hear someone in Newcastle refer to someone as “pet” (which is just a friendly way to refer to someone and not talking about an animal). In Manchester, when someone describes something as “mint” they don’t mean the flavour, they simply mean it is good.

    Every region has a different accent that you have to get to grips with too. So words and phrases will sound differently depending on where you are in the country. The only way to learn these is to immerse yourself in each region’s culture.

    These are not the only pitfalls within the English language, there are many more. But don’t be deterred. With a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn, you’ll master the English language. Of course, if you’re looking for an English language school to help you through your learning, contact us at New College Group.

    Get a FREE consultation to study General English by contacting NCG!