English Is Hard

By Joshua S. Proud


We English speakers take it for granted. Learning this language is difficult, to say the least, especially if it is your second language. There are many reasons as to why this is. I came across an article that interested me. I have learned this information about the English language thanks to Dr. Downey’s History of the English Language (HEL) class. HEL it was.

Obviously, I can’t teach you the entirety of the English language in one blog post. Well, I could, but no one would read it. Let’s keep it simple. There are contradictions in the English language. For example the rule ”I” before “E” except when either letter is positioned after the letter “C,” thus you write believe or relieve but write receipt differently. You spell seize or weird with “E” before ”I” yet science is spelled with ”I” after ”C,” which contradicts the first rule. You know what they say, rules are meant to be broken.

Another thing that is worth focusing on is word order. If you speak English you already know that the order in which words are placed is highly important. There are languages where word order does not matter. An example I have learned to gravitate towards is a Latin example.

  1. Puella canem amat. SOV (subject object verb)
  2. Canem puella amat. OSV (object subject verb)

The word order here does not affect the meaning whatsoever. It just simply does not matter, but in English it does.

  1. The Girl loves the dog. SVO (subject verb object)
  2. The dog loves the girl. OVS (object verb subject)

Now number two has a completely different meaning now. Understanding this aspect of the English language just innately comes to us, native speakers.

Another thing that makes the English language difficult is the pronunciation of words. I think the best way to exemplify this is this long quote from an article I found on why learning English is hard.

“Spelling is only one area that makes learning English difficult. The student also has to contend with pronunciation. There are languages, such as Spanish, where you pronounce the words as they are written. In English, there are several ways to pronounce words that have almost the same letter combinations, such as throughboughroughand trough. Silent letters are also present in the beginning, middle and end of some words as well. Examples include:

  • knife
  • write
  • daughter
  • aisle
  • gnome
  • psychology
  • knee
  • lamb
  • knock
  • half
  • wrist
  • plumber

The problem is compounded by words that have more consonants than vowels and vice versa. You’ll find them in these examples:

  • Photosynthesis
  • Crystal
  • Scythe
  • Symphony
  • Rhythm
  • Gypsy
  • Motorcycle
  • Chlorophyll
  • Encyclopedia
  • Lightly
  • Myrtle

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, there’s more, as there are English words (or sounds) that do not have vowels such as brr, shhh, grrr, hmmm, mmm, psst, nth, pfft, or tsk. These combinations of consonants form sounds that are quickly understood to mean something, principally an action.”

  • I thought this was really hard to put into my own words, and I think this article does an amazing job and explaining the difficulties of learning the English language. I was trying to think back to when I was learning English, is it even possible to do that? These rules of English are just something that we native speakers acquired without questioning. Compared to other languages, it is just all so very strange. My education on the subject leads me to believe that it is probably the cause of so many other languages that have influenced English.

Overall, I thought this information would be super interesting to read and share. English has been called the “language of communication” or as I like to call it the language of money, meaning it is frequently used for business. It is interesting to think about many people in the world use English, and how difficult it is to learn. It also most times just doesn’t make sense but simultaneously does at the same time.


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English Is Hard
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