Why learning English is hard and what we can do about it

Learning a language can be tricky, challenging and sometimes frustrating. We speak to ESL teachers who explain why English is hard and what you can do to stay motivated.


The first thing Virginia Mawer will tell you is that learning a language can be difficult. She is an ESL teacher at EF Sydney.

“Learning any language is hard but if that’s what you want to do because you want to be able to communicate using this international language, then hard is OK,” Virginia says.

Ibrahim Abdullah, a senior teacher at Milner International College of English, points out that there are other languages which are more difficult to learn than English, like Portuguese or Chinese. He says he finds it funny when students from Brazil and China say English is hard to learn.

“I look at them and say: you have got to be kidding. Portuguese grammar is much more difficult than English grammar.

“The time you young people from China spent learning how to write your own language is infinitely longer than we learnt how to do A, B, C.”

Another reason why people may find learning English difficult is because they want to improve their English in a very short period of time.

Alison Foley from the University of Wollongong says some students come to Australia with the aim of learning English and think “they’re going to improve in six weeks”. She cautions that language learning is a very “time-consuming process”.

Alison also says many students often hang out with people from their own country and end up speaking their first language outside class time. This hinders their language learning.

“They think they’re using the opportunity to learn English but they can often spend, even in some cases, all of their time outside the classroom with speakers of their own language.”

Garrath Bell from the Griffith English Language Institute explains that even if learners experience the initial difficulty, they will start to notice they are getting better over time.


“Your vocabulary and your knowledge of English and your competency will grow exponentially.”

Deborah Ferris from UNSW Global says it helps to take small steps when it comes to language learning.

“Do what you can and just enjoy the process because learning a language is an adventure,” Deborah says.

This article first appeared at http://www.abc.net.au/education/learn-english/why-english-language-learning-is-hard/9672298 on April 23rd 2018

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