4 Challenges of Learning English as a Second Language

Numerous language schools throughout Los Angeles offer courses specially designed to help you with all difficulties you may encounter while learning English. But, have you ever thought about what actually makes English so complicated for foreigners?

Well, second language acquisition is a different process from a mother-tongue acquisition. It includes more conscious effort, and students need to master rules that sometimes seem unfathomable. In the following article, we list some reasons why English is so confusing for foreign students. Read on!

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Why is English hard for foreigners?

Students from all over the world struggle with English for many reasons. Let’s look at some of them.

1. Spelling and pronunciation

English isn’t a phonetic language. If you know how to pronounce the word, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to spell it, and vice versa. This means you should practice both spelling and pronunciation while learning new vocabulary. And to make matters worse, there are homographs and homophones. 

Homographs are words that share the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation, such as the verb bear, which means “to carry or endure”, and the noun bear (a forest animal). 

Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings, origins, and spellings, such as knew and new or meat and meet. Sounds baffling, doesn’t it?

2. Rules and their exceptions

English grammar has so many rules and exceptions to rules. For example, the plural form of the noun house is houses, but the plural form of the noun mouse isn’t mouses, as you’d probably assume. It’s mice. 

Or, let’s look at the comparison of adjectives. We say: “He’s sadder today than he was yesterday”, but we don’t say: “He’s badder today than he was yesterday”. The grammatically correct sentence would be: “He’s worse today than he was yesterday.”

3. Word order

Unlike some other languages, English has a strict word order. We say: “I gave it to him.” We don’t normally say: “To him, I gave it”, as you could do in some other languages (some Slavic languages, for example). 

Also, if you want to use more than one adjective in front of a noun, you have to follow rigid rules. We say “a beautiful little girl” and not “a little beautiful girl”. 

4. Idioms

Idioms are expressions with fixed word order. The meaning of an idiom is independent of the meanings of each word within it. That’s why students need to work hard to memorize them.

For example, “it’s raining cats and dogs”. This idiom doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are falling to the ground. It means it’s raining heavily. 

Is the English language difficult to teach?

With all the above-listed difficulties ESL students face while practicing English, English language instructors may stumble upon a lot of obstacles while teaching.

Teachers need to be aware of students’ backgrounds. Students from different countries may find certain aspects of the language particularly perplexing.

For example, Chinese students may have trouble with the pronunciation of sc/sk/sp/st clusters in words (school, skype, sport, stool, etc.). Or, vowel sounds are extremely hard for Spanish students because their first language has a static vowel pronunciation system. 

For these reasons, teachers need to use various resources and teaching methods to make the entire learning process less strenuous and more logical for their students.

Enroll in one of the most famous English language schools in Los Angeles

Learning English is bewildering, we know. But with the right teachers by your side, you can overcome all challenges easily. Here at the College of English Language in Los Angeles, we strive to make your learning process more pleasant.

We don’t only explain grammar, but also share fun and surprising facts about English, introduce the history of the English language to our students, or teach them some weird English words just for fun. Visit us on your way to Santa Monica Public Library and let’s enjoy learning English together!




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