Sometimes the difficulty of English can be exaggerated. As a native English speaker who is a language learner, I want to try to answer whether or not English is as difficult as some people make it out to be.

Of course, the difficulty of any language depends on your starting point. If your first language is French or German, English will be not as much of a challenge. Let’s not take that into account as much.

I am going to give my answer to just how difficult is English.

There are two parts of English that are difficult. These are spelling and syntax. Let’s go over syntax first.

Syntax

This means how words are put together in a sentence. English can do some pretty strange things with syntax. My personal favorite example of this is that the word had used 4 times in a row can make grammatical sense like so: The food the man had had, had had no nutritional value. This is not the most common use of the word had, but it makes grammatical sense. Another thing that is common in other Germanic languages is the use of the subject in questions like so:

You are in the house versus: are you in the house? Notice how the word you changes places. This can be confusing for people learning English.

Spelling

Spelling is by far the most difficult part of the English language, even for native speakers. Let me show an example: the words, though, thought, and through are all pronounced differently. Here is another example: rhythm the first h is silent. These are just two of many different examples of the incredibly strange system of spelling that English uses.

One of the main reasons this is the case is the debate between traditional and new spellings that occurred in English. Many of the more established traditional spellings won. You can read more about that and the reform movements regarding English spelling here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2010/09/english_spelling_reform

The spelling system of English has an unfortunate parallel problem. In English, letters and letter combinations can often times have varying pronunciations depending on the context. This does not make actually pronouncing the sounds any more difficult, it just means that knowing which sounds to make where can be more of a challenge.

Intonation

There is one other thing that I want to mention, intonation. This is not unique to English. Look at these two sentences.

Do you want a drink? What about her, does she want a drink?

in the sentences above, the last she would be given a special tone to emphasize who you are referring to. English, like many other languages, uses tone of voice to emphasize certain meanings

Now, after all that, don’t be discouraged, Here are some ways in which English is not that tough.  

There are no accents when writing.

There are no noun cases.

There is no grammatical gender.

All the verb conjugations are relatively logical.

Changes in meaning are done by moving, adding or removing words, not modifying words to the extent of languages like Polish.

English has its complexities and challenges, but don’t let the over exaggeration of how difficult the language is stop you from carrying on.

Every language has challenges and can be mastered, English is no different.

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