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Why is it Hard to Learn English

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A lot of people struggle when they decide to study English.  In fact, even when they’re done studying and they utilize the skills they’ve learned, they still commit errors in some areas of the language.  Though it can be a lot of fun learning a new language, the English language is not as easy and simple as you think.  Many Filipinos, and all those who are still learning English as a second language (ESL), find it extremely frustrating when learning English.  To help you understand the language better, and have a better chance at improving your English, here are ten reasons why English is such a pain in the neck, sometimes.

  1. The order of the words (Subject – Predicate/Verb)
    Many other languages have their own order of words and do not follow the standard structure the English language follows. The English language follows the Subject – Verb Agreement whereas the subject of a sentence is followed by the action it is performing. For example, The boy eats fruits. In this sentence, the boy is the subject and eats is his verb. Many languages like Filipino (Tagalog), the language of the Philippines, do not follow this format; the verb is usually followed by the subject. People who speak languages which do not follow the subject-verb or subject-predicate structure will really have a hard time learning and adjusting when they learn English.
  2. Homophones.  Words sound the same but are completely different
    Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meaning and sometimes, spelling. There are many homophones in the English vocabulary and almost all can be used in the same sentence.  People trying to learn English may have a hard time when they come across these kinds of words.  A bandage is wound around a wound, is an example of homophones.  The first wound is pronounced as wowned and its past tense is wind. The second is woond, which is an injury.
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    Idiomatic expressions
    There are many idiomatic expressions in the English language, and using them add color and depth to your writing or piece of literature. As a very old language, people have developed phrases and words that mean something else.  You must read between the lines is an example of an idiomatic expression. What this means is that you should understand something more than the words themselves, that it has some deeper meaning rather than what you see.  Practice and be familiar with idioms and witness your transition from a normal, average speaker to an eloquent Shakespearean public speaker.

  4. Word connectors
    Prepositions and conjunctions are the word connectors in English grammar. There are rules which are somewhat different from other languages in usage. Prepositions on, at, and in are all different and are used differently depending on what type your objects are, which makes it hard to know which ones to use when learning the language.  For example, do we say, “I am visiting my friend at the hospital or in the hospital?”  There are so many prepositions in the English language, but in Filipino, we usually use only one, sa, and we say sa dulo, sa tabi, sa ilalim, and so on.  In English, we could say, at the end, in the end, by the end, on the side, at the side, under, underneath, and so on.  When it comes to conjunctions, there are the coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, and that is another problem all together.
  5. Synonyms are not always synonyms
    We were all taught that there are words which have the same or close to that meaning and are called synonyms.  From then on, we knew that we can interchange certain words in order to avoid redundancy and dullness. But did you know that synonyms are not always interchangeable?  Some of them may have meanings that are almost the same but they still aren’t interchangeable. Let us use ride a bike as an example.  Ride has synonyms; move, proceed, travel are a few of its synonyms. Would people understand if you told them to “proceed a bike?”  Would that be the same as ride a bike?
  6. Emphasis (different meanings)Emphasis is relevant in both written and stated English.  Including stress in a sentence can strongly emphasize what you really mean to say. But putting emphasis on different parts of the sentence can change its meaning, completely.  For example, let’s look at the sentence, I gave her flowers.I gave her flowers – no emphasis, plain sentence.I gave her flowers – this means that you were the one who gave her flowers, no other person gave her flowers.
    I gave her flowers – emphasis implies that you gave her flowers, did nothing more.
    I gave her flowers – flowers were given to her, and not to anyone else.
    I gave her flowers – flowers were the thing that were given, not any other thing.Putting emphasis or stress on certain words changes the intonation of the sentence, and it can completely change the meaning of a sentence, so be sure to study it well and to use stress and emphasis properly.
  7. Spelling and Pronunciation
    English has a wide range of vocabulary from A-Z, but how accurate is the spelling relative to its pronunciation?  There are certain words in English that do not quite sound the way they look. Rendezvous which is pronounced as rahndahvuh  is one of its many words because it has a French origin.  Many English words have an etymology, which means they come from different languages and cultures.  The spelling can be a bit of a problem but practice and a handy dictionary can guide you accordingly.
  8. Borrowed words
    There are a lot of borrowed words in the English language and some may confuse you whether it is an English word or not, which might be a problem if you are studying because you will not be able to incorporate it well in a sentence.  An example is the word sushi, which was only welcomed in English in the late 1890’s and is obviously from the Japanese.
  9. Culture, the environment, and lack of practice
    If you live in the United States, UK, Canada, or Australia, you will definitely have a lot of practice.  Learning the English language can become more efficient when you have the right environment, especially when everyone around you is speaking English.  Not everyone, however, has the luxury of traveling to other countries to improve their English and communication skills.  Many Koreans and other foreigners actually travel to the Philippines to improve their English.  Filipinos, however, do not travel to the US to learn English, and they must do with what they have here in the Philippines.  Sometimes, it becomes even more difficult when other Filipinos mock others who are using or trying to practice the language.  As a result, many Filipinos are afraid to practice their English in public, and they end up not improving or not speaking very well even when they have finished college.
  10. Education system and English school
    Most Filipinos have studied English in their elementary, high school, and even college days.  However, many believe that the quality of education, in terms of English subject, was not satisfactory.  Yes, there are several schools in the Philippines that are very good when it comes to teaching and learning English, but in many schools, students found their classes boring, while some found their teachers incompetent.  There are also many English schools in the Philippines, but many just don’t seem to provide the kind of learning that students should be experiencing.  One of the best English schools in the Philippines is the American Institute for English Proficiency, which has branches in Makati and Quezon City.  They are very popular because they provide a progressive, non-traditional style when it comes to learning English.

Don’t get frustrated.  When learning the English language, patience is a virtue.  To our students at The American Institute, learning English has become a ve

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ry fun experience.  They enjoy the different modules and love how they interact with their classmates and Specialists.  The right atmosphere can truly help when it comes to learning, speaking, and thinking in English very well.

English is definitely a hard language, and thus it is an art.  And once you master it, it will empower you to do many many things, as it is the international language.  Your confidence will soar, your career will grow, and your opportunities will definitely expand.  Despite these many challenges in English, there are so many more reasons why you should study English.  Happy studying!

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    • That’s right! It is also a lifestyle. If you only do it in class, then you wouldn’t truly master it.

    • I agree. The best immersion is going to an English speaking country, but the alternative is to enroll at an English school and surround yourself with English speaking friends.

  • I highly agree with #9 Culture, the environment, and lack of practice and #10 Education system and English school. When I was young, I didn’t speak at all, but fortunately, I was able to change my culture, my environment, and had more practice. You see, I moved to the US, and that has made all the difference. However, there are still many of those in the US who do not speak well because they still had really poor environment and lack of culture, meaning, they didn’t really use their English in more difficult settings like debate, sales and marketing, and public speaking.

  • Leah Armada-Aiep

    I agree with #10. The English that they teach in the schools is very limited. It will take years to study English in the university where I came from. If you will not self-study, you’re progress is very slow. Also, I noticed here in the Philippines that when you speak English in public, they will think that you are “pasosyal”

  • Mike Rowland-Aiep

    I find that most of my foreign students have a hard time with spelling. This is because the English language is not pronounced how it is spelled.

    • Reggie Meriales Aiep

      This reminds me when I was very young and I entered a spelling bee. I lost because of the word: “prerogative” HAHA!

  • Mike Rowland-Aiep

    I think many of these points could apply to almost any language, not just English.

    • Reggie Meriales Aiep

      Agreed. A lot of problems encountered in English are just problems in learning a language. But this entry is good because it shows us what to expect when it comes to learning a new language.

  • That’s because there are so many prepositions in the English language. In Filipino, however, we usually use “sa” with another word. For example, we say “sa dulo,” which could mean many things in English: IN the end, AT the end, BY the end, and so on an so forth.

  • I do agree that English is taught academically. What is even worse is that there are many schools who teach it poorly.

  • Reggie Meriales Aiep

    I like #5. I find it funny because I always teach my private students how to build their vocabulary all on their own by finding the synonyms and antonyms of a given word. Then, they end up asking me why is the synonym for hard is difficult but the antonym is soft.

    • Neysa L Custodio

      Hard: synonym = difficult; antonym = easy Reggie’s tests are difficult/easy.
      synonym = firm; antonym = soft Reggie’s abs are firm/soft.
      synonym = heartless; antonym = sympathetic Reggie is a heartless/sympathetic teacher.

      🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Wyn Inocentes-Aiep

    These difficulties can be fun if you have foreigner friends who you can have conversations with.

  • Reggie Meriales Aiep

    What also adds to the fun is when you begin to realize that you understand more about pop culture simply because you know the language better!

  • Reggie Meriales Aiep

    Prepositions has always been my Waterloo in English. So many rules, but then again there are a few exceptions, and that makes things very confusing.

  • Reggie Meriales Aiep

    Also idiomatic expressions. It’s usually harder to teach to beginners because they take most words literally.

  • Mohammed Abbas

    its good article for anyone wants to learn english

    • Liz Orale Aiep

      Yes, so better be exposed to English speakers, or better yet, engage in social activities, events, and games! Learning is a never-ending process. 🙂

  • Mike Rowland-Aiep

    Tolerance for ambiguity is a big one. Sometimes, you just need to accept the fact that that’s just how English is!

  • Al Dane Dumpit

    Well, it really takes time to become fluent in english language but everything could be learn and American Institute is the platform to that matter. Thanks to AIEPRO.

    • Liz Orale Aiep

      You’re most welcome, @aldanedumpit:disqus! Thank you for being part of the AIEPRO Family! Keep up the good job! 😉

  • سعيد محمد

    Despite that English is hard but keeping up the hard work makes it easy in my opinion you’ll just need to communicate more with the people and of course being in American Institute is a big thing ,so thanks ^^

  • Raed Raeis Bin Mahfuth

    It is hard to learn a new language.

  • Mariju Rosales

    Learning English is truly a process and something that would take time. The fact that even the people who have it as their 1st language still make errors whenever they speak is a proof. What’s a bad thing here in our country is when Filipinos belittle others when they cannot speak fluently in English.

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