So many people around the world speak English…
So it must be a really easy language to learn… right?
I mean, there aren't thousands of characters to learn like in Chinese for a start.
So there we have it… English must be an easy language to learn!
And to make my case, here are 10 reasons why…
Keep scrolling to read the blog post or hit play on the video below to watch the video version of this article.
By the way, even if English is the global language, if you only speak English, you miss out on a lot of opportunities for connection.
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#1 How We Write Stuff
First up, the alphabet.
So English may not be the Rotokas language, with only 12 letters in its alphabet…
But with 26 letters to learn, English certainly makes things easy to get started.
Not such a big deal, you might think…
But then consider languages like Cambodian with 74 letters!
Would take a little longer. Or then there’s mandarin Chinese, with…er…
And you start to appreciate the relative simplicity of languages like English just to make your life a little easier
We even let you have spaces between words so you don’t have to guess where one ends and the next begins – unlike Burmese, which looks like this:
#2 How We Name Stuff
Listen, when it comes to the gender wars, the English language is way ahead of the game…
Has been since the 11th century.
We don’t gender nouns in English…
A thing is a thing, and there’s no special word ending that puts it in a gender category.
A house is a house, a poem is a poem, a lemon is a lemon.
And when you’re learning the names of these and a thousand other things, you never ever have to worry whether they’re masculine, feminine, neuter…
Unlike Portuguese, for example…
Where words ending in -a feminine, and words ending with -o are masculine.
- casa (house) – A-ending, that’s feminine
- queijo (cheese) – 0-ending, that’s masculine
Until of course, they’re not…
- tribo (tribe) – masculine? Nope, feminine!
- poema (poem) – feminine? Nope, sorry – masculine!
And you realise you have to learn the gender of Every. Single. Noun. in the language
And it’s not like other languages agree what gender words should even be.…
I mean, a bridge is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish.
Now, if you ask me, noun gender is part of the beauty of languages. But it doesn’t half make things more difficult.
Because knowing what the gender of a noun is is one thing.
You then have to apply that in a bunch of different ways – which we’ll get to later in this blog post.
#3 English Articles? Easy!
Can’t remember whether a chainsaw is masculine, feminine or neuter?
Well, with English… nobody cares!
Look, nobody minds if you want your chainsaw to be male or female. In English you’re gonna call it “THE chainsaw” either way.
Got thirteen chainsaws, just in case?
The, the, the, the, the. Easy.
IF you can SAY “the”, that is…
And it’s not just a question of gender.
In languages like German, the article can change in a whole bunch of different ways…
English keeps it simple:
- It’s just THE for definite things
- and A for indefinite things.
- Sometimes we use AN – but that’s just A with a N on the end.
(Because you really needed telling that.)
NO exceptions, these are the only articles in English, ever.
And just to put this in perspective…40% of all languages require you to know the gender of every single noun…
And these particular languages are spoken by most of the world’s population!
The English language…a bit like the English people…
Just like to do their own thing.
#4 English Verb Conjugation is Fairly Simple
- I sang
- you sang
- she sang
- we sang
- they sang
- it sang
- the band sang
- the boy band sang
You get the idea!
If you’re English, perhaps the biggest thing you take for granted is how simple our verb conjugation is.
In fact, many learners comment that English verb conjugation seems ridiculously easy compared to most other languages.
Let’s repeat that example in Spanish…
- Yo canté (I sang)
- tú cantaste (you sang)
- ella cantó (she sang)
- nosotros cantamos (we sang)
- ellos cantaron (they sang)
See, in English, the subject doesn’t change the verb, so you only have to learn one form of the verb.
With – of course – one exception.
In the present tense in English, the third person singular form changes, so you get:
- I sing, you sing, she sings
- I run, you run, he runs
But all that’s happening here is one little -S on the end. And occasionally an -ES, for the sake of spelling.
You get the idea, right?
But this verb conjugation thing is a big plus for English
As I know from teaching tens of thousands of students languages like Spanish and French, verb conjugations, especially in different tenses Is the bane of their life. So English – good job on keeping it simple
#5 The Case Of Cases
When you see how troublesome Polish is, you will finally say, “Olly, you’re right. English is easy!”
The case of a noun tells us about the position and job of that noun in a sentence.
Did the noun do something, or was something done to it?
Is it a subject or an object?
- I bought a piano – I’m the subject, Piano is the object.
- The piano fell on my rose bushes.
Now piano is the subject.
In English, regardless of what the piano’s function or case is, there’s only one way to spell it: “P-i-a-n-o.”
Well, that’s not the case in all languages, I’m afraid..
You’ve heard of verb conjugation, but here’s something you might never have heard of:
Languages like Polish make you conjugate nouns!
NO we don’t call it conjugation – this is something called declension – but it’s the same kind of idea.
In English we say:
- ”I have a caravan, This is a caravan, I’m in the caravan,”
But look at all these caravan endings in Polish:
How you talk about the object determines what case it will take.
Here’s another example to prove the point:
- To jest kot (This is a cat)
- Nie lubię tego kota (I don't like this cat)
- Jesteś kotem (You are a cat)
- Daję kotu jedzenie (I give food to my cat)
- Siedzę na kocie (I'm sitting on the cat)
Like I said, fun times with Polish!
And – I repeat – this is the beauty of the language…
And how boring would languages be if they didn’t have these features
But it don’t half make it hard! (which, by the way, is perfect grammar)
#6 How We Describe Stuff
- It’s so hot!!
- I’m hot
- you’re hot
- we’re hot
- she’s hot
- everybody’s hot…
“Hot” is an adjective here and you don’t have to change the adjective in English.
Even in the plural. Hot people, hot summers, hot chocolate.
No matter how many things are being described, and no matter who or what the subject is, adjectives are not inflected in English.
Now compare this to French…
- A black cat is Un chat noir
- A black shirt is Une chemise noire – with an E.
- Black cats is Des chats noirs – with an S.
- Black shirts is Des chemises noires
See what I mean? The adjectives keep changing!
Even though they all sound the same!
Or how about something totally different: Slovenian
But that’s nothing!
Polish has 17 forms of the word “two”!
So far, I’m sure you’ll agree that English seems to have far less overall stuff (the technical term) to memorise than many other languages.
But I’m not done convincing you yet.
#7 When Your Adjectives Go AWOL
A love story is a story about love; a war story is a story about war.
But check this out: both “war” and “story” are nouns.
But English makes it really easy to just put two nouns together to make something new – “war story”.
Now English is by no means the only language that does this.
But it’s a characteristic of the language that you can trace right back to Olde English – the fact that it’s so flexible in accepting new words into the language and adapting them into something else.
And that’s created a very flexible language in Modern English, where you can say a lot with very little often by just putting nouns together.
And learners of English really like this flexibility:
- Lunch time
- Heart ache
- Swimming pool
The list is endless…
Arsenal football club mascot.
Oh, and War story?
I have books about those ones. Check them out!
#8 The Friend Zone
Okay, I know this won’t help much if you’re starting off with Finnish or Hungarian, but if you speak French, Dutch, or many other Germanic languages you’ll have a massive head-start when you want to learn English.
Seriously, if you’re French, thanks for all the words!
You guys gave us at least 7000 words so no complaining – start building that tower of English vocabulary and enjoy all the déjà vu moments.
Words that can be understood across languages are known as cognates. Have a look at this crazy list of cognates between French and English:
There’s a lot more where that came from and if you happen to speak Latin, same story!
#9 Is It A Noun? Is It A Verb? Oh, It’s Both!
- the surf
- to surf
One’s a noun, one’s a verb.
English gives you two for the price of one with so many words, I could never write them all down for you.
Here are a few more examples:
But I can take those exact nouns and turn them into actions…
I can love you, poison you, swing you or judge you.
Now they’re verbs!
And when you’re really stuck for a verb, you can even try inventing one out of a noun and you’ll probably get away with it. Including some modern examples that I’d rather didn’t exist…
Like “diarise”. What a terrible word…“shall we diarise this?”
But yet again, English is rather flexible this way. Most people will understand you even when you’re performing linguistic contortions.
And by the way, English natives do this all the time. So there you go – just learn a tonne of nouns!
#10 It’s Raining English
TV shows, movies, videos, music, podcasts, apps, websites…books!
People learning English are spoiled for choice for resources.
And to be fair, in recent years, with the accessibility of Youtube, Netflix, and so on, there’s a lot more out there for languages in general
But if you’ve ever tried learning a less common language then you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Because not having access to the resources you need is a real obstacle.
I remember trying to learn Egyptian Arabic and Cantonese back in the day – there really was very little out there at all.
But to learn a language effectively, it’s not just any old resources you need.
You want stuff that excites you
And that’s one of the core principles we teach at StoryLearning® – learning with compelling materials, like stories, that genuinely EXCITE YOU and make you want to keep learning.
And English learners…
Well, my friends, you’re literally spoiled for choice!
And this makes learning English an awful lot easier.
But don’t despair if you’re learning other languages…
Whether it’s book, or entire courses…
Here at StoryLearning®, we make it our life’s mission to create language learning content that you’ll genuinely love, whether that’s books, or entire courses.
And we teach over 20 languages now…
There’s the usual suspects, but also new courses in languages like Turkish, Japanese, Korean…
And one language coming up that begins with the letter L.
In all seriousness…
Having just given you 10 reasons why English is so easy…here are 10 reasons why English is ridiculously hard.
I am nothing, if not consistent…