Is English Hard to Learn for Foreign Language Speakers?

Man questioning

Why is Learning English so Difficult for Foreigners?

There is no denying that English is a complex language to learn for foreigners. There are several reasons why this is the case. For one, English has complex grammar with many exceptions to the rules. This can be very confusing for learners who are used to languages with simpler grammatical structures.

In addition, English has a large vocabulary with many words with multiple meanings, making it difficult to know which word to use in which situation.

Finally, English is spoken at a fast pace and often uses slang or idiomatic expressions that can be hard to understand. These factors contribute to why learning English can be quite challenging for foreigners.

With persistence and perseverance, it is possible to overcome these difficulties and master the English language.

Which Native Speakers of Other Languages Find English the Most Difficult to Learn?

Which native speakers of other languages find English the most difficult to learn? This is a question that has been debated by linguists for many years. There are several factors that make English a challenging language to learn, including its complex grammar rules and large vocabulary. However, some experts believe that the difficulty of learning English depends on the individual’s first language. For example:

  • Germanic languages such as German or Dutch often find English grammar relatively easy to understand
  • Romance languages such as French or Spanish may struggle with the use of irregular verbs.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to this question. Different people learn languages at different rates, and what is difficult for one person may be relatively easy for another.

The Genesis of English as a Language

It is widely accepted that English is a Germanic language, deriving from Old English, which in turn descends from Proto-Germanic. However, the exact origins of English are somewhat disputed.

Some linguists believe that English also has roots in Celtic and Romance languages, while others argue that its development was more complex, with influences from a variety of sources.

What is certain is that English is a highly diverse language, with words borrowed from many different languages over the centuries. This borrowing began even in Old English when words from Latin, Norse, and Anglo-Norman French were incorporated into the lexicon.

The process has continued throughout the history of the English language, with words being borrowed from every corner of the globe. As a result, English is now one of the richest and most varied languages in the world.

Butterfly English App

12 Most Difficult Parts of Learning English


Grammar is the system and structure of a language. The rules of grammar help us decide the order we put words and which form of a word to use. When we use the wrong grammar, our sentences can sound strange, or we may not be able to understand what someone else is saying.

There are different types of grammatical rules, including:

  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Phonology

Each type has its own set of rules that dictate how words can be used and how they should sound. Grammar can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice, it becomes easier to understand and use. By learning the basic rules of grammar, we can communicate more effectively and effectively learn other aspects of a new language.

Spelling Rules

There are a few spelling rules when learning English. Although not all English words follow these rules, learning them can help when trying to spell words correctly.

One spelling rule is that words with the letter “i” before “e” usually take an “e” at the end, such as “believe” and “relief.”

Another rule is that adding an “-ed” or “-ing” to a word usually means doubling the final consonant before these endings, such as in the words “stopped,” “dropped,” and “planning.”

There are exceptions to both of these rules, but knowing them can be helpful when trying to spell English words correctly.

Rules and Exceptions

In linguistics, a rule is a sequence of elements in a language that form a pattern. The term can refer to different types of rules, such as those that govern phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics.

Rules are often declared as exceptions to other rules. For instance, the rule “Subject + Verb + Object” is typically broken into questions, which follow the pattern “Subject + Auxiliary Verb + Main Verb.”

In general, learners of a language need to be aware of both the rules and the exceptions in order to use the language correctly. While rules provide a helpful way to learn and remember new vocabulary, they also need to be applied flexibly in order to communicate effectively.

Word Order

Most languages have a fixed word order, which means that the Grammar rules determine the order of the words in a sentence.

For example, in English, the usual word order is Subject + Verb + Object. This means that if you want to say “I eat an apple”, the correct order is “I” (the subject), “eat” (the verb) and then “an apple” (the object).

However, there are some languages, such as Latin, which have a different word order. In Latin, the usual word order is Object + Verb + Subject. This means that if you want to say “I eat an apple”, the correct order would be “an apple” (the object), “eat” (the verb), and then “I” (the subject).

Because English has a fixed word order, it is very important to learn the correct word order when you are learning English. If you put the words in the wrong order, it can completely change the meaning of what you want to say. For example, if you say “Eat I an apple”, it means something completely different from “I eat an apple”!

Synonyms usage is often confusing for English learners

Synonyms are words that have similar meanings. They can be very helpful in making your writing more interesting and varied. However, synonyms can also be confusing for English learners because they may not be aware of the subtle differences in meaning between words.

For instance, the words “happy” and “glad” are often used interchangeably, but there is a distinct difference between them. “Happy” implies that you are content or pleased with something, whereas “glad” suggests that you are happy about a specific event or situation.

When using synonyms, it is important to be aware of these subtle nuances in meaning in order to avoid confusion.

Pronunciation and Homophones

English learners often have difficulty with pronunciation and homophones. Pronunciation refers to the way words are spoken, while homophones are words that are pronounced in the same way as other words but have different meanings. For example, the word “they’re” is a homophone of “their.” As a result, English learners may misunderstand what someone is saying if they mispronounce a word or use the wrong homophone.

To help improve pronunciation and avoid confusion, English learners can practice by reading aloud, recording themselves speaking, and paying attention to how native speakers pronounce words. With enough practice, English learners will be able to understand and be understood more easily.

Emphasis of Words Syllables

When it comes to learning a new language, pronunciation is key. When English learners focus on syllable emphasis, they are able to improve their speaking and listening skills. Syllable emphasis is the stressing of a particular syllable in a word. In English, we typically stress the first syllable of a word.

For example, the word “table” would be pronounced as “TA-ble.” However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, the word “photograph” is stressed on the second syllable: “pho-TO-graph.”

By focusing on syllable emphasis, English learners can improve their pronunciation and communication ability.

Idioms and Slang

Idioms and slang are an important part of any language, and English is no exception. For English learners, they can be especially difficult to understand and use correctly. Idioms are expressions that don’t mean what they literally say, and they often involve metaphors or other figures of speech.

For example, the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs” doesn’t mean that actual animals are falling from the sky! It’s just a way of saying that it’s raining very hard.

Slang is a type of informal language that is used in certain situations, such as when you’re hanging out with friends. It’s often seen as more casual or relaxed than regular language. Learning idioms and slang can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort. Not only will it make you sound more like a native speaker, but it can also help you to better understand the spoken language.

Illogical Expressions

There are a number of expressions in English that may seem illogical at first glance, but which are actually quite useful for conveying meaning. For example, the phrase “I could care less” is often used to mean “I couldn’t care less.” While this may seem like a contradiction, it’s actually a way of emphasizing how little interest or concern one has for something.

Another common example is the expression “that’ll be the day,” which is used to express skepticism or disbelief. In other words, it’s equivalent to saying “that will never happen.” These and other expressions may take some time to get used to, but they can be handy ways of communicating in English.

It often makes no logical sense with so many contradictions

English learners often find it difficult to master the language because of its many contradictions. For example, the plural of “foot” is “feet,” but the plural of “boot” is “boots.”

In addition, there are many words that are pronounced differently than they are spelt, such as “ough” which can be pronounced in a variety of ways. These contradictions can make it difficult for English learners to become fluent in the language. However, with persistence and practice, they will eventually be able to overcome these challenges and master the English language.

Regional Dialects

Many people choose to learn a regional dialect in addition to standard English. There are several reasons why someone might want to do this. For one thing, it can be useful for business or travel. If you’re doing business in a region where a certain dialect is spoken, it’s important to be able to communicate with clients and customers in their own language.

Similarly, if you’re planning to travel to a region where a particular dialect is used, learning the basics of the dialect can help you to get by.

In addition, some people simply enjoy learning about different languages and cultures. By learning a regional dialect, you can gain a better understanding of the people who speak it and the history of the region.

Whether you’re looking to boost your career or simply expand your horizons, learning a regional dialect can be a rewarding experience.

British English vs American English

While there are many similarities between British English and American English, there are also some important differences. One of the most noticeable differences is in the pronunciation of certain words.

For instance, the word “tomato” is pronounced differently in each dialect. In British English, the emphasis is on the first syllable, whereas in American English, the emphasis is on the second syllable. This difference can also be heard in words like “advertisement” and “laboratory.”

Another noteworthy difference is in the use of certain words and phrases. In British English, common phrases include “I’m just popping out to the shops” and “what’s your postcode?” In American English, these phrases would be translated as “I’m just going to the store” and “what’s your zip code?”

Despite these differences, both dialects are perfectly understandable to speakers of the other. Ultimately, whether you choose to speak British English or American English is a matter of personal preference.

book stack

Top 6 Easiest Things About Learning English


For many people, learning English can be a difficult and frustrating experience. However, one of the best ways to improve your English skills is by reading. Not only is reading an enjoyable activity, but it also exposes you to a wide range of vocabulary and grammar usage.

In addition, reading is a great way to learn about new cultures and gain different perspectives on the world. So if you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable way to learn English, pick up a book and start reading today!

Subjunctive Clause

It is often said that English is a difficult language to learn, especially for speakers of other Romance languages. This is largely due to the fact that English has a complex grammar system with many rules that must be followed. However, one way to make learning English easier is to focus on subjunctive clauses. These clauses are used to express doubt or uncertainty, and they are relatively easy to understand and use.

With a little practice, anyone can master the basics of subjunctive clauses and start using them in their daily conversations. In addition, learning about subjunctive clauses can also help readers to better understand the structure of English sentences. As a result, studying subjunctive clauses is an easy way to improve your English skills.

Verb Tenses

One of the most difficult things about learning English is mastering verb tenses. There are so many different verbs to learn, and each one can be used in a variety of ways. For native speakers, verb tenses come naturally. They learn them through exposure to spoken and written English. But for foreigners, verb tenses can be a real challenge.

The good news is that there are some easy ways to learn English verb tenses. One is to focus on one tense at a time. Start with the present simple tense, then move on to the past simple tense, and so on. Another is to use resources like books, websites, and apps that provide clear explanations and examples of how to use each tense. With a little time and effort, anyone can master English verb tenses.

Easy Access to Ample Practice Material

While a certain amount of grammatical knowledge is necessary for any language, English is especially reliant on proper verb tense usage and intricate sentence structure. As a result, learners need to be able to practice using these structures to become proficient.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of online resources that provide ample practice opportunities. From online exercises to interactive games, there are endless ways to gain exposure to the English language. In addition, many of these resources are free and easily accessible, making them an ideal way for learners to get the practice they need.

English Practice Partners Are Easy To Find

For many people, learning English is a difficult and challenging task. However, it is often made easier with the help of a practice partner. Practice partners can be found in many different places, such as online forums, language exchange programs, and even in your local community.

The important thing is to find someone who is willing to help you practice your English skills. A good practice partner will be patient, supportive, and attentive. They will also be able to provide feedback that can help you improve your language skills. With the help of a practice partner, learning English can be a much easier task.

Large Selection of English Learning Software & Apps

Many people who want to learn English face the same problem: there are so many different English learning software programs and apps available that it’s hard to know which one is right for them. Do you want a program that is focused on grammar? Or one that emphasizes conversation skills? And then there’s the question of cost – some programs are free, while others can be quite expensive.

The good news is that there is a wide selection of English learning software and apps available, so you’re sure to find one that is a good fit for your needs. And if you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of online reviews and comparisons to help you make a decision. So don’t let the options overwhelm you – with a little research, you’re sure to find the perfect English learning program for you.

Blog Icon

Advice for Anyone Learning English

For anyone who is learning English as a second language, there are a few pieces of advice that can be useful in helping to make the process a little easier.

First of all, it is important to remember that everyone learns at a different pace, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t seem to be progressing as quickly as others. Just focus on your own goals and keep putting in the effort, and you will eventually get there.

Secondly, it can be helpful to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible by listening to English-language media and spending time with native speakers. This will not only help improve your understanding but also give you some insight into the culture.

Finally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – everyone makes them, and it’s all part of the learning process. Just keep trying, and you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many foreigners learn English?

It is estimated that there are over one billion English speakers around the world, and the majority of them are non-native speakers. In fact, English is now considered to be the lingua franca of the world, and it is estimated that two-thirds of all communication in the global marketplace is conducted in English.

There are a number of reasons for this, but one of the most important is that English is the primary language of business and technology. As a result, many people who want to succeed in these fields must learn at least some English.

In addition, English has become increasingly important as a tool for international communication. With the rise of the internet and globalization, more and more people are communicating with people from different parts of the world, and English has become the common language that they use to do so. As a result, learning English has become essential for many people who want to be able to communicate with others on a global scale.

How long does it take for a foreigner to learn English?

It is difficult to estimate how long it will take a foreigner to learn English because there are many factors to consider. The individual’s native language, prior exposure to English, and motivation for learning all play a role in the amount of time it takes to become proficient.

In general, however, it is estimated that it takes about two years for a foreign student to reach an intermediate level of English proficiency. This means that the student is able to understand and use basic grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure.

However, becoming completely fluent can take much longer, often five years or more. The best way to improve English skills is to practice regularly through conversation, reading, and writing. With time and effort, anyone can learn English.

How do foreigners learn English?

There are a number of ways that foreigners can learn English. One of the most popular methods is to take an English language course at a language school. These courses typically last for several weeks or months, and they provide students with both group and individual instruction. Another popular option is to take an online English course. These courses often allow students to work at their own pace, and they often include a variety of multimedia content.

Finally, many people choose to immigrate to an English-speaking country in order to immerse themselves in the language. While this method can be difficult, it is often considered to be the most effective way to learn a new language.

Is English hard to learn for Asians?

One of the most common questions linguists get asked is whether or not English is a difficult language to learn. The answer, of course, is that it depends on the individual. However, there are some generalities that can be made.

For example, research has shown that Asians tend to find English more difficult to learn than people from other parts of the world. This is likely due to a number of factors, including the fact that Asian languages are often very different from English in terms of structure and grammar.

In addition, many Asian languages use different writing systems, which can make it difficult to decipher English text. As a result, it is not surprising that Asians often find English to be a challenge. However, with hard work and dedication, most people can overcome these difficulties and become proficient in the language.

Why is English so difficult to learn for Indians?

There are a number of reasons why English can be difficult for Indians to learn. One reason is that Sanskrit, the Indo-Aryan language from which many Indian languages are derived, has a very different structure than English. This can make it difficult for Indians to grasp the basic rules of grammar and syntax.

Additionally, the pronunciation of English can be tricky for Indians, as many of the sounds are not present in their native languages.

Another challenge is that English vocabulary can be very confusing, as there are often multiple words with similar meanings. Finally, the use of idioms and colloquialisms can be difficult to understand for Indians who are not familiar with them.

Despite all of these challenges, however, many Indians have managed to become proficient in English. With dedication and practice, it is possible to overcome difficulties and master this important language.

Is it difficult for Germans to learn English?

While it is true that German and English are both Germanic languages, they have evolved in different ways over the centuries. As a result, it can be quite difficult for speakers of one language to understand the other.

For German learners of English, one of the most difficult aspects can be mastering the verb tenses. In German, there are only two main verb tenses – present and past – whereas English has a much wider range of tenses. This can make it very confusing for German speakers when trying to form sentences in English.

Additionally, the two languages have different word order rules. In German, verbs always come second in a sentence, regardless of the tense. However, in English, the verb order can vary depending on the tense. This can make it difficult for German speakers to know where to place the verb in a sentence.

While learning English can be challenging for German speakers, it is certainly not impossible. With time and practice, most German learners of English are able to overcome these difficulties and gain mastery of the language.

Why is English such a complex language for immigrants to learn?

English is widely considered to be a difficult language for non-native speakers to learn. This is because English has a number of unique features that can make it challenging to master. For instance, English has a large vocabulary, with over 170,000 words in common use. This can be daunting for learners who are trying to build up their lexical knowledge.

In addition, English has complex grammar, with a range of rules that can be difficult to remember and apply.

Furthermore, the pronunciation of English can also be tricky, as there are many different sounds that do not exist in other languages. As a result of all these factors, English can be a challenging language for immigrants to learn. However, with time and effort, it is possible to develop proficiency in English and enjoy all the benefits that come with being able to communicate in this global language.

Learning App

Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! She is a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating! 

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings compared to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

…it’s a whole new story!

Do you want to improve your English? Visit

Follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning

Related Articles

Improve your English Faster with Lilly!
An Artificial Intelligent Tutor!

Latest Posts


How long will it take you to improve your English?


Design, write and practice your own phrases or learn 3,500+ premade English phrases with Lilly!