Being one of the top five most commonly and widely spoken languages in the world, it is no surprise that the desire to learn English as a second language is strong around the world. Having English, both spoken and written, is seen as essential for many commercial settings and it can also help individuals into many varied careers and it opens up many opportunities. However, there is no denying that this bright future comes at a premium, because most experts will tell you that academic level English is one of the most difficult languages to learn and acquire as a second tongue. This essay is going to briefly examine some of the key reasons why exactly this is the case.
Chief among the reasons why English is such a difficult language to learn for non-native speakers is that fact that, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t actually make much logical sense. Although it is one of the oldest modern languages, English is filled with contradictions and quirks that seem to go against all of the rules that it sets itself. For example, there are dozens of objects that are have names which can’t necessarily be broken down into appropriate logical parts. Hamburgers do not contain ham, there is no pine in pineapple, you are taught by a teacher but not praught by a preacher and whilst vegetarians clearly eat vegetables, humanitarians are not individuals that eat people in their diet, nor do cannibals only eat tinned food.
As native speakers of English, we do not tend to consider these illogical conundrums, simply always having known them from the very beginning, but to a foreigner who is attempting to add rules and structure to apply to the learning of the language, there are entire sections of English that don’t seem to adhere to guidelines. This exception to rules continues not only in the peculiar naming of objects and phrases, but also in the grammatical and spelling details of many words in the language. For example, it is beneficial for somebody learning a language to understand that I goes before E, except after C. This is a memorable rule that all young people have seared in to their minds, yet there are still dozens of words that do not follow the rules that have been set. Science, seize, weird … these are just a few examples of words that make it even harder for a non native speaker to pick up on the intricacies and rhythm of the language.
Another incredibly difficult element of the English language is the different pronunciations for words that are sometimes spelt exactly the same. Why isn’t the word trough pronounced the same as the word though? Why does the word bow sound the sound the same as cow if you are talking about leaning over, but not when you are alluding to the tied fabric on a gift parcel? How can sow mean a female pig and also to stitch with a needle – because they are pronounced differently (sow as in ow and sow as in sew) Only somebody who has grown up speaking and surrounding by English will naturally pick up on the subtle differences in these words.
In conclusion, it would be fair to say that English is one of the most difficult languages to acquire as a secondary tongue simply due to the fact that is it so contradictory in its rules and regulations. It seems as though the course of thousands of years’ worth of language evolution has left native English speakers with a peculiar and specific form of spelling, writing, reading and speaking. Its beauty is in its unpredictability.