Why Is English So Hard to Learn? How To Learn It At Home?


Embarking on the journey to learn English can be a daunting endeavor, with many learners questioning, “Why is English hard to learn?” The intricacies of the language stem from its complex grammar, unpredictable spelling and pronunciation, extensive vocabulary, and the myriad of cultural and regional variations.

For non-native speakers, these aspects can present significant hurdles, often requiring dedicated study and practice to overcome. Whether you’re grappling with the nuances of verb conjugation or trying to decipher the maze of idioms and phrasal verbs, the challenges of English learning are as diverse as they are numerous.

Despite these difficulties, the quest to master English is a worthwhile pursuit, opening doors to global communication and opportunities. Understanding the specific challenges, such as the peculiar use of articles that can confound even the most diligent learners, is the first step towards proficiency.

As we delve into the complexities of English grammar, the peculiarities of its spelling and pronunciation, and the vastness of its vocabulary, we’ll also explore practical tips and strategies to aid in the learning process. With the right approach and resources, the hurdles of learning English can be transformed into stepping stones for success.

How hard is it to learn English?

How hard is it to learn English?

The difficulty of learning English varies widely among individuals, influenced by factors such as native language and prior linguistic experience.

While English boasts over a billion second-language speakers, suggesting a high level of learnability, it also presents unique challenges that can make the learning process demanding. The language’s reputation for being tough to learn often stems from its widespread use and the sheer number of people grappling with its idiosyncrasies.

However, with English being the most studied second language globally, resources for learning are abundant and accessible, making the journey easier for those who are committed (Mango Languages).

For learners, the most formidable aspects of English can include mastering its complex verb tenses, navigating the maze of phrasal verbs, and understanding the nuances of articles and idioms. These features often differ significantly from those in other languages, requiring a considerable amount of memorization and practice.

The challenge is compounded by the fact that English does not always follow its own rules, leading to confusion and frustration. Yet, the global dominance of English and the wealth of learning materials available provide a silver lining for those embarking on this linguistic quest (The Language Doctors).

Complexity of English grammar

 Complexity of English grammar

Verb conjugation

Delving into the complexity of English grammar, verb conjugation emerges as a particularly perplexing aspect for learners. The language is riddled with irregular verbs that defy simple rules, making memorization a necessity.

For instance, the verb “to sing” transforms into “sang” in the past tense, not the expected “singed,” while “to go” becomes “went,” eschewing the anticipated “goed.” This irregularity extends to plurals as well, with words like “mouse” becoming “mice” instead of “mouses.”

Such anomalies in verb conjugation and pluralization require learners to invest time in studying each case individually, as there is often no logical pattern to follow (Mango Languages).

Moreover, English verb tenses can convey nuanced meanings about time and aspect, adding layers of complexity. The subtle differences between “Emily had cried,” “Emily was crying,” and “Emily had been crying” illustrate the intricate ways in which English handles the expression of past events.

Such distinctions are not only difficult to grasp but also to use correctly in conversation and writing. The challenge is further heightened by the need to memorize the conjugation of each irregular verb, a task that can be daunting but is essential for achieving fluency in English (Mango Languages).

Word order

Another layer of complexity in English grammar is the seemingly arbitrary nature of word order. While native speakers might effortlessly construct sentences that “sound right,” non-native learners often struggle with this intuitive aspect. The order of adjectives before a noun, for example, follows a specific but unwritten hierarchy that can perplex learners.

Phrases like “an interesting little book” are preferred over “a little interesting book,” despite both being grammatically correct. This subtlety in word arrangement is not easily taught and typically requires immersion and practice to internalize, making it a significant hurdle in mastering English (Oxford Royale).

Questions and negative sentences further complicate matters with their inversion of the standard word order. The transformation from “Ken is eating cheese” to “Is Ken eating cheese?” or “Ken does not like cheese” involves not just a change in order but also a potential alteration in verb form.

Such structural shifts are not always predictable and can be especially challenging for learners who are accustomed to more rigid syntactic rules in their native languages.

The key to overcoming these difficulties lies in exposure to a variety of English sentences and diligent practice, which helps learners develop a sense for the language’s fluid word order (Mango Languages).


The mastery of English tenses is a formidable challenge for learners, as it involves understanding a complex system of time references and verb aspects. English verb tenses are not limited to past, present, and future but include a range of aspects that indicate the duration, completion, and relation to other events.

For example, the difference between “Emily had cried” and “Emily was crying” is subtle yet significant, reflecting different temporal relationships and actions. The former suggests a completed action in the past, while the latter implies an ongoing action during a past time frame.

This level of detail in tense usage demands a deep comprehension and is often a source of confusion for those new to the language (Mango Languages).

Furthermore, the English language’s approach to tenses can be inconsistent, with numerous irregular forms that defy standard conjugation patterns. Learning when to use the correct tense requires not only memorizing these forms but also understanding the nuances of their application in context.

For instance, the distinction between “Emily had been crying” and “Emily had cried” conveys different degrees of emphasis on the continuity or the fact of the action, respectively. Such intricacies necessitate a significant investment in learning and practice to use tenses accurately and effectively in both spoken and written English (The Language Doctors).

Confusing spelling and pronunciation

Why Is English So Hard to Learn

Silent letters

Delving into the peculiarities of English spelling, silent letters stand out as a notorious stumbling block for learners. Words like “knight,” “write,” and “psychology” feature silent ‘k’, ‘w’, and ‘p’ respectively, which can bewilder those trying to connect spelling with pronunciation.

The presence of these silent letters is a vestige of the language’s history, reflecting past pronunciations that have since evolved. For learners, the key to mastering these quirks is often through memorization and exposure to a wide range of vocabulary, as there are few reliable rules to predict when a letter might be silent in a word (Oxford Royale).

Moreover, the challenge extends beyond individual silent letters to entire groups of letters that can be unexpectedly mute, such as the ‘gh’ in “though” or the ‘s’ in “island.” This can lead to mispronunciations and confusion, especially when encountering new words.

The path to proficiency involves not only learning these exceptions but also developing an ear for English through listening practice. This helps learners to internalize the idiosyncrasies of English spelling and pronunciation, turning what initially seems like a series of baffling rules into second nature (Mango Languages).

Irregular pronunciation rules

Irregular pronunciation rules further complicate the English learning journey. The language is rife with words where the same spelling yields different sounds, such as “read” (present tense) and “read” (past tense), which are pronounced differently despite their identical appearance.

This phenomenon extends to words where the same combination of letters can produce varying sounds; for instance, the ‘ough’ in “through” is pronounced differently from the ‘ough’ in “thought.”

Such irregularities mean that learners often cannot rely on phonetic consistency and must instead memorize the correct pronunciation for each case, a task that can be daunting without regular practice and exposure to spoken English (United Language Group).

Additionally, the stress patterns in English words add another layer of complexity. Words with the same spelling can change meaning and pronunciation based on their use in a sentence, such as “record” (noun) and “record” (verb). The noun form is stressed on the first syllable, while the verb form is stressed on the second, altering the word’s pronunciation.

This subtlety is not only challenging for learners to grasp but also critical for effective communication, as incorrect stress can lead to misunderstandings. Mastering these nuances requires a keen ear and a willingness to engage deeply with the language, often through conversational practice and listening to native speakers (United Language Group).

Extensive vocabulary

Synonyms and antonyms

The extensive vocabulary of English includes a vast array of synonyms and antonyms, which, while enriching, can also be a source of confusion for learners. Synonyms, words with similar meanings, are not always interchangeable due to subtle differences in connotation and usage.

For example, while “elegant” and “chic” may appear as synonyms in a thesaurus, they cannot be used interchangeably in all contexts. The word “elegant” might describe the grace of a swan, but “chic” is more commonly associated with fashion and style. This nuance is crucial for learners to understand to avoid miscommunication and to use English effectively (Oxford Royale).

On the other hand, antonyms—words with opposite meanings—also play a significant role in the complexity of English vocabulary. The challenge lies not only in learning these pairs but also in recognizing the context in which they are used. Misusing an antonym can completely alter the intended meaning of a sentence, making it imperative for learners to have a firm grasp of both the vocabulary and the context in which it is used.

The intricacies of synonyms and antonyms highlight the importance of context and nuance in mastering English, and they underscore why a deep and nuanced vocabulary is essential for fluency (The Language Doctors).

Idioms and phrasal verbs

Idioms and phrasal verbs are integral to the extensive vocabulary of English, adding a layer of complexity for learners. Idioms, such as “barking up the wrong tree” or “raining cats and dogs,” are expressions with meanings that cannot be deduced from the individual words.

They enrich the language but require learners to memorize and understand their figurative meanings to avoid confusion. Similarly, phrasal verbs combine a verb with a preposition or adverb, creating meanings that are often unpredictable.

For instance, “pick up” can mean to lift something or to acquire a skill gradually. These multi-word expressions are not only numerous but also essential for fluent English communication, necessitating dedicated practice and exposure to various contexts (Oxford Royale).

Moreover, the unpredictable nature of phrasal verbs can be particularly challenging, as their meanings often need to be learned separately from their constituent words. A verb like “pick” can form a myriad of phrasal verbs, each with a distinct meaning, such as “pick out” (to choose) or “pick apart” (to critique in detail).

This unpredictability means that learners must invest time in understanding and memorizing the various uses of phrasal verbs to navigate English effectively. The mastery of idioms and phrasal verbs is a clear indicator of proficiency, demonstrating a learner’s ability to grasp the subtleties and richness of the English language (Mango Languages).

Cultural and regional variations

Dialects and accents

The journey of learning English takes an intriguing turn when encountering the myriad of dialects and accents that vary not just from country to country, but also within regions. In the UK alone, the pronunciation of a word like “bath” can reveal whether the speaker hails from the north or the south, with the former favoring a short “A” and the latter a long “A.”

This north/south divide is just one example of how regional dialects introduce a layer of complexity for English learners, who must navigate these variations to understand and be understood (Oxford Royale).

Furthermore, the global spread of English has resulted in distinct national accents and dialects, from the drawl of the southern United States to the clipped cadence of Australian English. Each English-speaking country, be it the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa, adds its unique twist to pronunciation and vocabulary.

For learners, this means that the version of English they acquire could be influenced significantly by the origin of their teacher or the region where they study, adding another dimension to the challenge of mastering the language (The Language Doctors).

Slang and colloquialisms

Adding to the rich tapestry of English are the slang and colloquialisms that pepper everyday conversation, often bewildering those who are new to the language. Slang involves informal words or phrases that emerge within particular social groups or regions, and can evolve rapidly, reflecting current trends or cultural phenomena.

Colloquialisms, on the other hand, are informal expressions used in casual speech, which may not be found in formal writing. These aspects of language are not only region-specific but can also vary widely within a single country, making it a challenge for learners to keep up with and understand the nuances of conversational English.

For instance, the American “trash” becomes “rubbish” in British English, and the colloquial “y’all” in the southern United States serves as a plural form of “you,” showcasing the diversity within English dialects (United Language Group).

Moreover, the use of slang and colloquial language often requires a deeper cultural understanding, as these expressions can carry connotations and historical contexts that are not immediately apparent to non-native speakers.

The ability to use and comprehend these informal aspects of English is a testament to a learner’s immersion and adaptability within the language’s cultural landscape. As such, mastering slang and colloquialisms is not just about expanding vocabulary but also about gaining insight into the social and cultural fabric that shapes the way English is spoken across different communities (Oxford Royale).

Tips for overcoming the challenges of learning English

 Tips for overcoming the challenges of learning English

Improving pronunciation & how to learn English accent

Improving pronunciation and grasping the nuances of an English accent can be a formidable task for learners, given the language’s vast array of sounds and intonation patterns. To tackle this, immersion in the language through consistent listening and practice is key.

Engaging with a variety of English media, such as movies, podcasts, and music, can expose learners to different accents and help them attune their ears to the subtleties of pronunciation. Additionally, speaking with native speakers and utilizing pronunciation tools or apps can provide valuable feedback and aid in the refinement of one’s accent.

It’s important to remember that acquiring a particular English accent is less about perfection and more about clear, comprehensible communication (British Council).

For those wondering how to learn an English accent, it’s beneficial to focus on the rhythm and melody of the language as much as individual sounds. English is a stress-timed language, meaning the rhythm is based on the stress placed on certain words and syllables. Mimicking this rhythm can greatly improve one’s accent.

Moreover, practicing with tongue twisters and difficult phonemes can sharpen pronunciation skills. It’s also helpful to record oneself speaking to identify areas for improvement. Patience and persistence are essential, as mastering an accent takes time and practice. Ultimately, the goal is to be understood and to understand others, not necessarily to erase one’s native accent entirely (Cambridge English).

Expanding vocabulary

Expanding one’s English vocabulary is a crucial step towards fluency, and it involves more than just memorizing words; it’s about understanding their usage in various contexts. With over 250,000 individual entries in the full edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, the task may seem daunting (Mango Languages).

However, learners can start by focusing on the most commonly used words and phrases, as native speakers typically utilize a smaller subset of the language in everyday communication. Tools such as flashcards, vocabulary lists, and language learning apps can be instrumental in building a robust lexicon.

Additionally, reading extensively across different genres and subjects can expose learners to new words and their practical applications, thereby enhancing their vocabulary organically.

It’s also beneficial to learn words in thematic clusters or through association with images and situations, which can aid in retention. Engaging in conversations, writing exercises, and even playing word games can reinforce new vocabulary.

Remember, encountering a new word once is rarely enough for it to stick; repetition and revisiting vocabulary in different contexts are key to solidifying one’s word bank.

While the sheer volume of English vocabulary can be overwhelming, adopting a strategic and consistent approach to learning can make the process more manageable and rewarding.

Practicing speaking and listening

how to learn English

Practicing speaking and listening skills is indispensable for overcoming the challenges of learning English. Engaging in conversation with native speakers or fellow learners offers practical experience and helps in internalizing the language’s rhythm and intonation.

It’s crucial to listen actively, which means paying attention not only to the words but also to the speaker’s tone, pace, and emotion. This can be achieved through language exchange meetups or online platforms designed for conversational practice.

Additionally, listening to English in various contexts, such as news broadcasts, lectures, or everyday dialogues, can enhance comprehension and familiarize learners with different speaking styles and vocabularies.

Speaking practice should also include self-reflection and self-correction. Recording oneself can reveal pronunciation errors and areas that need improvement. It’s important to speak as much as possible, even if it’s just narrating one’s daily activities in English or thinking out loud.

This continuous verbalization helps in building confidence and fluency. Moreover, incorporating listening and speaking exercises into one’s study routine can significantly improve language retention and the ability to communicate effectively in real-world situations.

With dedication and regular practice, the barriers to mastering English speaking and listening can be surmounted.

Understanding grammar rules

Grasping the intricacies of English grammar is a fundamental aspect of mastering the language. The complexity of English grammar, with its myriad of rules and exceptions, can be perplexing for learners. For instance, the numerous verb tenses in English convey subtle differences in time and aspect, making them challenging to use correctly.

To navigate this, learners should focus on understanding the logic behind grammatical structures and the contexts in which they are used. Resources such as grammar guides, online tutorials, and language learning apps offer structured explanations and examples that can demystify these rules.

It’s also helpful to analyze sentences in reading materials to see grammar in action, which can provide a clearer understanding of how rules are applied in real-life communication.

Moreover, practicing grammar through writing exercises and seeking feedback from teachers or language partners can reinforce learning. It’s essential to remember that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and each error is an opportunity for growth.

By approaching grammar with a combination of study, practice, and patience, learners can gradually build a solid foundation in English. Consistent exposure to the language, whether through reading, writing, or speaking, will also aid in internalizing grammatical patterns, leading to more intuitive and accurate language use over time.

Overcoming fear of making mistakes

One of the most significant hurdles in learning English is the fear of making mistakes, which can hinder progress and confidence. It’s vital to recognize that errors are an inevitable and valuable part of the learning journey. Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities rather than setbacks can transform the educational experience.

To overcome this fear, learners should create a supportive environment where they feel safe to experiment with the language. This could involve participating in study groups, language exchange communities, or online forums where encouragement and constructive criticism are the norms.

Additionally, setting realistic expectations and giving oneself permission to make mistakes can alleviate the pressure to achieve perfection. It’s important to celebrate small victories and progress, no matter how incremental they may seem.

Seeking out patient and understanding language partners or tutors who emphasize the importance of trial and error can also be beneficial. Remember, even native speakers make grammatical errors and have moments of misunderstanding.

By adopting a resilient and persistent attitude, learners can diminish the fear of making mistakes and open themselves up to a more effective and enjoyable language learning experience.

How to learn English at home?

Why Is English So Hard to Learn

Embarking on the journey to learn English at home can be a convenient and comfortable way to immerse oneself in the language. With the plethora of resources available, such as online courses, language learning apps like Busuu, Elsa, Duolingo, Rocket Languages …, and a vast array of multimedia content, learners can tailor their study routine to fit their personal preferences and schedules.

Engaging with English at home allows for a flexible approach; one can practice listening skills through podcasts, improve reading comprehension with e-books or articles, and enhance speaking abilities by participating in virtual language exchanges or speaking aloud to practice pronunciation.

Moreover, the home environment provides a safe space to practice without the fear of judgment, encouraging learners to experiment with new vocabulary and complex grammatical structures. It’s beneficial to set specific goals and create a structured plan to stay motivated and track progress.

Utilizing resources in one’s native language can also offer a bridge to understanding more challenging concepts. By integrating English learning into daily routines, such as watching English TV shows or writing a journal in English, learners can make consistent progress towards fluency from the comfort of their own home.


Ultimately, while English may present its challenges with complex grammar, irregular spelling, and diverse vocabulary, the path to mastery is paved with persistence and the right strategies. Embracing the quirks and idiosyncrasies of English, rather than being daunted by them, can lead to a rewarding journey of language acquisition.

By leveraging the resources available for learning at home, engaging with the language in practical contexts, and maintaining a positive outlook on the learning process, anyone can improve their English proficiency. Remember, every language learner’s journey is unique, and with each step forward, the vast world of English becomes more accessible and less intimidating.

For those looking to accelerate their English learning, Oxford Royale’s Learn English Summer School offers an immersive experience that can turbocharge language skills. With expert guidance, a supportive learning environment, and a focus on practical usage, students can overcome the hurdles of English learning and emerge with greater confidence and competence.

Whether at home or in a structured program, the key to success in English is consistent practice, a willingness to learn from mistakes, and an unyielding curiosity about the language and its nuances.



  • Why is English the hardest language to learn?

    Most English language learners will find it challenging to learn English verb tenses, phrasal verbs, articles, spelling, pronunciation, and idioms. This is because these are features of English that are very different from most other languages in the world, or which simply require a lot of memorization.

  • What is the most difficult thing about learning English?

    The most difficult part of learning English is pronunciation. A lot of learners find it difficult to articulate sounds. Also, it’s hard for learners to find native speakers and communicate with them which can be frustrating for some.

  • Why is it difficult to speak in English?

    The factors causing the speaking problems are lack of general knowledge, lack of speaking practice, fear of mistake, lack of words usage and grammar practice, low motivation, low participation, reading laziness, shyness, less dictionary usage, nervousness, fear of criticism, and unfamiliar words pronunciation.

  • How hard is it to become fluent in English?

    Depending on the level of fluency you want to reach and how much time you have to dedicate to learning, it could take as little as a month or two to get to a Beginner level, or as much as a year or two of regular study to get to an advanced level of conversational English.

Originally posted 2023-12-03 09:53:57.

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