Was English hard for you to learn?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by wordoflife, Jul 18, 2012.

  1. wordoflife macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    Just a bit curious to know how learning English was, to non native speakers.

    I like to study languages and sometimes it feels like many other languages are much harder than english. I do realize that this is just a matter of perspective, so I thought it would be an interesting topic.

    Was just wondering what non native speakers think of English. Even if you are a native speaker, you can write how you think it compares to other languages you know, if you like. :)
  2. Starfighter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 17, 2011
    We started to learn English pretty early in school, and I loved it then as I love it now. I find it to be a wonderful language, which probably is why I always got the highest grades back in school. English is, in many cases, pretty similar to Swedish - sometimes it's just a matter of pronunciation.

    I watch all movies, series and documentaries without subtitles because I can't ignore all the translation errors. :)
  3. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    English is difficult due to the difference between how it's written and spoke.

    If you look at Bosnian for example it's said how it looks!
  4. twietee macrumors 603


    Jan 24, 2012

    The very same for me, except those highest grades..I was somehow absent (minded) during most of my school-time. A beautiful language, I'm still learning and exploring every day something new (thanks to MR), and I very much prefer the english type of humour..besides that, I like swedish because of it mixing different languages quite obviously. As for written and spoken languages: (For me) there is nothing as the sheer and pure beauty of Italian.

    I too watch and (try to) read almost everything in its original language, except Proust - which is just impossible. I collect good movies, so the first time watching is normally with (english) subtitles and the following, repeated sessions without, to concentrate on framing and composition.
  5. Happybunny macrumors 68000

    Sep 9, 2010
    English has been the second language of the Netherlands since the 1970s. All films and TV is shown in the original language with sub-tiles.

    English is a very flexible language, even if you make mistakes to can still be understood.
    One point here in Europe we all use the standard British spelling of words in school.

    Writing is slightly more of a problem as English is not a phonetic language, but hey that's why they have spell checkers.:D
  6. MorphingDragon macrumors 603


    Mar 27, 2009
    The World Inbetween

    Though It didn't help that I didn't speak coherent sentences until I was 4.
  7. Heilage macrumors 68030


    May 1, 2009
    I don't really remember. I learned my first few English words when I was around five or six, and we had English classes since second grade. Also, we only had a LaserDisc player at home, which only had movies in English, with no subtitles. So I watched those.
  8. golf1410 macrumors 6502a


    May 7, 2012
    San Francisco, CA
    English has past , present and future form. Some languages such as Thai does not have them that way. They just say I go to school yesterday. But in English, I went to school yesterday. Now, you see how complicate it is.
    Go went gone
    Set set set
    Eat ate eaten
    Run ran run
    Drink drank drunk
    Know knew known
    This list has never ended. Some do speak English as first language has no idea what some words mean.
  9. Zachzach macrumors member

    Jul 19, 2012
    I don't think I ever had hardships in learning English...
    I started learning English back in the third grade.
    Grammar lessons, TV shows, movies, games and the Internet helped to improve it (and still do).
    Hebrew is my native language and it's way harder to learn than English...
  10. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    For beginners, English is actually surprisingly easy to learn. Nouns have no gender (unlike many other languages), and cases and case endings are a lot more simplified when they are compared with how other languages use cases and case endings.

    Moreover, the tenses themselves are also fairly straightforward.

    However, at an advanced level, the language is quite difficult. This is because it is a very nuanced and subtle language, with an extraordinarily rich vocabulary, and it is constantly changing.

    In addition, as has already been pointed out, phonetically, it is something of a challenge, as the spelling, by and large reflects how the language sounded when the spelling was standardised several centuries ago, when English became the language of law, commerce, Government and eventually, ecclesiastical affairs around the time of the 15th and 16th centuries, replacing, respectively, Norman French and Latin, as both a spoken and written language. These developments were further accelerated by the introduction and widespread use of the printing press, and the increasingly wide availability of paper, which replaced parchment. Above all, there was the influence of the Reformation, which, by encouraging the use of local languages both spoken and in print, allowed for the codification of same as formal, written texts, texts (such as the Bible) which inevitably, would be widely read, and disseminated.
  11. jahoys macrumors regular

    Jul 6, 2011
    grew up on sesame street and most classes were taught in english while i was in grade school. so it was easy to learn. love to read as well :)
  12. ChristianVirtual macrumors 601


    May 10, 2010
    I struggled in school to learn English. I never really understood why I should speak a different language while living in Germany. Of course teacher told is it's important; but hey, what does a teacher know ? :rolleyes:

    Later while working I realized: opps, I need English and took private lessons. While it was helpful the real kick came once I had some project in Texas. I was damn nervous but they gave me the confidence that all the mistakes are not soo bad and they still understood me.

    Today I dream in English. (still clearly I'm not a native speaker and the autocorrection from iOS is not helping either).

    next challenge: 日本語
  13. twietee macrumors 603


    Jan 24, 2012
    Dreaming in a different language is just fantastic. I had that some years ago while living in the Italian part of Switzerland. I miss that actually.:(
  14. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    English has far and away more words of any language, German is next. Ive heard that if you don't speak it it sounds even more harsh than German.

    So many words are context-dependent. Then you have 'cleave' which even context doesn't always make clear. I'm glad it was my first language. I'm not bad in German, but Have trouble speaking it as good as I can read it.
  15. NZed macrumors 65816


    Jan 24, 2011
    Canada, Eh?
    I started learning english in kindergarten. My parents put me into an international school and I cried the first few days as I didn't understand anything the teacher instructed and said. But we had some helpers, which were extremely helpful. As someone mentioned above, Thai language, which is my mother's tongue, is completely different.

    Anyways, I seemed to forget my own language now, as I dont study in my home country anymore. And my thoughts are pretty much English based.
  16. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Agreed. It is an amazing experience, actually.

    It has, because it allows for words to be added to the core language, rather than simply replacing the core vocabulary, or prohibiting the use of new, not necessarily native terms. This means that the language allows for a greater degree of nuance and exquisite precision in how it is then expressed.

    A really interesting example of this is the way that Norman French interacted with the native Old English after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Normally, when an invading new elite obliterates its predecessor, one would expect this to be reflected - very drastically - in language.

    And indeed, it is true to say that Norman French became the language of law, the Court, business and bureaucracy for a few centuries, until it was eventually supplanted by a fascinating and mutated form of English. But rather than replacing English, or dying out completely, in essence, large elements of Norman French became grafted onto the English language, allowing for the expression of additional layers of meaning.
  17. wordoflife thread starter macrumors 604


    Jul 6, 2009
    Yeah, I agree. It's just a matter of perspective though. Czech is similar in that nature to Bosnian, but the lack of vowels in many words may be hard for nonnative Czechs - but second nature to a native ... such as English in your example. Though, that'll easily come in time for someone who lives in an English speaking country.

    zmrzlina - icecream

    But I understand what you're saying. Sometimes in English, I wish we used ä,ü,ö, (among others) because for example there is a difference in the way the "a" sounds in the word "make" and "cat" for example. Also it would reduce the number of letters required in some words if we had more letters - but that's just primarily me being lazy. Additionally, that would just make many things more difficult. I guess it would just be easier to get used to the pronunciation than to have and learn more alphabets.

    I have to go to claß
    I have to go to class.


    Also another interesting I wanted to point out is that I have a friend who can read and write English fluently via the internet, papers, etc ... but in real life he has a hard time understanding and speaking it. I guess that's the same with other languages for me. I can read more than what I can speak/hear.
  18. Simplicated macrumors 65816


    Sep 20, 2008
    Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
    I am a non-native speaker. English is hard if you ask me. I'm constantly trying to memorize grammar rules, new words and idiomatic expressions but yet I don't think I can speak fluently in English, let alone writing coherently.

    (And as a native Chinese/Cantonese speaker, I find learning Chinese even harder.)
  19. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    English is consider hard for quite a few reasons.
    1. It is a dual based language,
    2. It has 3-4 times as many words in it compared to others and are daily speech uses a wider range of words.

    3. Our grammar rules which are latent based are not compatible with our base language. This is why English has so many grammar rules that are bent and broken all the time.
    4. We have 3 tenses.
  20. twietee macrumors 603


    Jan 24, 2012
    Yeah, what's that with your grammar-rules anyway? Our teacher always said: "Put those commata wherever it fits you." Well she didn't say commata, but the rest is true.
  21. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010
    When I was in Germany, people told me they thought English would be way easier to learn as a second language for them than German would be for me.
  22. juanm, Jul 19, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012

    juanm macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2006
    Fury 161
    I'm a native French and Spanish speaker. I also understand Italian and Portuguese. I took six years of English in school/high school, and ended with a very average (read: bad) level. After high school (at 17) I couldn't afford traveling or taking courses, so I decided to learn on my own watching TV shows, and I quickly saw pretty good results. In a matter of months watching Friends, I quickly got much better than what any of my former teachers would have thought possible.
    The first time I went to an English speaking country (the US), I was 24, and I was pretty much fluent. After that, I spent a year in Australia, which also helped a lot.

    The other day I took this test, and got a 22000 words result: http://testyourvocab.com/.

    Of course, it comes at the price of some serious effort: I had to watch a lot of TV! :p

    Try to get used to different accents. At first, I focused on US English, and for years, the UK accents were mostly unintelligible (and I still have trouble in a few cases)

    Compared to German (I took one year of it in HS) I'd say it's very easy (again, in HS, the teacher was very grammar-oriented, and I didn't pay much attention). Considering I can barely figure out simple things like a verb in a sentence, grammar and rules aren't the best way to make me learn.
  23. Scepticalscribe, Jul 19, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012

    Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Again, I think this is because the spelling became more or less standardised when it did around 400-500 years ago. Perhaps surprisingly, even by Tudor times, England was a country which enjoyed fairly widespread literacy, which is one of the reasons that written forms of the native language were so popular so early. At that time, the spelling reflected - pretty accurately - how the language sounded. However, above all, since the time of Chaucer (roughly 1380s-1400), but also since Shakespeare's (roughly 1590s-1610) time, the sound of how the language is spoken has changed a lot more than the spelling used to write it.

    Linguistic scholars write of a change in pronunciation which they term 'the Great Vowel Shift', which took place between the 16th and 18th centuries and altered the way in which English was spoken, and which, ultimately, led to the current striking difference between how the language is spoken and how it is written.

    Some of the older English speaking communities, those that have not been subject to huge influences from outside, (such as, say, Newfoundland) are thought to speak in a manner, according to linguistic scholars, much as 18th century English might have sounded like in some regions.

    Your examples would have been spelt - and especially pronounced - a bit differently somewhat earlier.
  24. sviato macrumors 68020


    Oct 27, 2010
    HR 9038 A
    I came to Canada from Ukraine when I was 6 and watched Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles everyday until I started school and by the end of my first year of school I was fairly fluent in English iirc.

    Many years later and my English is actually much better than that of my classmates in university and I no longer have an accent (although some people have said they've picked up on it).

    My cousin, on the other hand, came to Canada when he was 14 and although he is fluent in English, he still has a thick accent and it's easier for him to say certain things in Ukrainian rather than in English.

    Edit: (just a comparison to learning another language) I did also try to learn French and was in a French immersion program from grades 5-12 where I not only took core French courses, I also studied various subject (ex. history, geography) in French that "regular" students studied in English. I disliked the language though and didn't make a real effort to learn it but it did seem more difficult compared to English.
  25. roadbloc macrumors G3


    Aug 24, 2009
    Originally a Welsh speaker. I enjoy and prefer English and didn't find it hard at all. I never speak Welsh now.

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