Why is English so hard to learn?

why is English so hard

Students complain about it, the internet is full of articles about difficult English grammar and spelling, there’s even a poem dedicated to expressing just how difficult English actually is.

So why is English so hard? Many people struggle to express exactly what makes English so hard to learn. Since we deal with the difficulties of English on a day-to-day basis at Confidence Learning Services, we thought we’d outline some of the top difficulties most people have with the language.

What makes English so hard? English spelling.

As the poem points out, there are several different ways to pronounce the “ough” syllable, as in, “through”
“dough” and “cough.” But that’s not the only aspect of English spelling that is difficult to master.

Although English has 5 written vowels, (a, e, i, o, u) there are approximately 12 spoken vowels. We say approximately because these vary from region to region. That means that written vowels cannot correspond directly to spoken vowels, and we get all sorts of messy vowel combinations. For example, “oo” may represent the “oo” /u/ in “food” or the “oo” /ʊ/ in “book”. However, “ee” and “ea” may represent the same sounds, in words like “need” and “bead,” or ea may represent a different sound, as in “bread.”

english is so hard

This chart shows the tongue position for just 4 vowels.

In fact, although the English alphabet only has 26 letters, it has 44 spoken sounds. It doesn’t take a linguist or a mathematician to recognize that discrepancy as problematic.

English grammar makes English so hard.

Although English has a couple of things going for it in the grammar department – no pesky genders, no noun declensions – there are a few aspects of grammar that make English difficult.

Let’s look at the past tense. The problems begin when we recognize that the regular past tense “-ed” suffix has one spelling but three possible pronunciations. However, once we have mastered those, we realize that many verbs have irregular past tenses. Of the 18 most common words in the English language, 13 have irregular past tenses.

It’s not just the past tense we have to worry about. Something as simple as the plural is more complicated than it seems. Again we have two common ways of writing the regular plural – adding “-s” or “-es” to the end of the noun. However, we have 3 ways of pronouncing those endings, and again, many mysteriously irregular plural nouns as well, like “man/men” “woman/women” “child/children.”

I’m stressing out about English stress.

why is English so hard

Stress does make English hard, and I’m not referring to the anxiety you may feel when studying. English is a “stress timed” language, meaning syllables in the language may last different amounts of time, but there is perceived to be a fairly constant amount of time (on average) between consecutive stressed syllables.

This means that unstressed syllables between stressed syllables tend to be shortened to fit into the time interval. For example, if two stressed syllables are separated by a single unstressed syllable, as in ‘come for tea‘, the unstressed syllable will be relatively long, while if a larger number of unstressed syllables intervenes, as in ‘come and have some tea’, the unstressed syllables will be shorter.

Many languages are syllable-timed, rather than stress timed, so the idea of shortening syllables is almost incomprehensible to many students.

Those are our top 3 reasons why English is so hard to learn. What about you? What areas of English do you struggle with?

We’d like to make English a little easier for you. With our personalized course schedules, individualized lesson plans, and flexible scheduling, we make it as easy as possible for you to get top quality instruction face-to-face with an expert. Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your free English assessment via Skype.

Professional Business English for your Website and Social Media

business english

Your company’s online presence is one of the first ways that potential customers and clients interact with your business.

Are you using professional business English, or are embarrassing mistakes scaring off customers?

Chances are, you’ve invested money and time in creating an online presence to represent your company. Perhaps you have even hired a web designer or an SEO professional to ensure that your website gets a greater amount of traffic.

But what do customers see when they follow you on twitter, read your blog post, add you on Google+, like you on Facebook, or scroll through your website?

Here are a few real-life examples of distracting business English mistakes on professional websites:


Business English Mistake #1:

“General informations about right of residence for foreigners”

Business English Mistake #2:

“keep your rates down while rewardring your teen for responsible driving”

Business English Mistake #3:

“We makes over 100,000 photobooks a year”

Business English Mistake #4:

“Warning! You will lost current progress if you close window. Are you shure?”


You probably want your customers to see professional business English that accurately represents your company. Perhaps you think that spelling and grammar errors like the ones above aren’t that important, as long as the main idea is there. But a recent 2013 study suggests that 59% of people would not use a company with poor grammar on its website.

The grammatical and spelling mistakes lurking in your posts, tweets and pages can have a negative impact on your image. Clients may come to your site seeking a professional contractor, accountant or fitness instructor, but instead they find a page full of misspellings, confusing sentences, poor business English, or grammatical errors. Instead of contacting you for more information, they may leave your page wondering if you are really the professional that you are representing yourself to be.

business english

If they can’t spell correctly, what else are they doing wrong?

 

If English is not your first language, it can make the process of creating professional business English text even more difficult. While you are spending all your time scheduling updates, drafting blog posts, and checking your web traffic, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes may be more difficult to notice.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend hours second-guessing your blog posts or website pages. Confidence Learning Services offers an in-depth grammatical, spelling and composition analysis of all text on your website, social media page, blog, or other English-language media. You don’t have to worry about the difference between “they’re” “their” and “there.” During the months of May and June, this service is only $99 (regularly $150).

Let us do the work for you, so that you can get back to doing what you do best. Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule your business English-language analysis.

Can you really have too much cake? Using “too much”, “too many” or “a lot” in English Grammar

Too much Too Many

I often hear English learners misuse the phrases “Too Many” or “Too Much.” As in:

“I have too many family.”

“We have too much food at home.”

“That park is great, they have too many swings and slides!”

Misusing this phrase can drastically change the meaning of your sentence, and may even communicate the opposite of what you wanted, so let’s take a look at why this aspect of English Grammar is important.

English Grammar: Too Many – We use “too many” with count nouns. That is, we use it with words that we could count with numbers. I.e., “Too many books” “Too many bugs” “Too many students.”

English Grammar:  Too Much – We use “too much” with non-count nouns. That is, we use it with words that we can not count with numbers. For example, “Too much coffee” “Too much rain” “Too much water.”

Many English learners that come to Confidence Learning Services understand that much, but here’s where it gets tricky.

We only use “Too Many” or “Too Much” when talking about something in a negative way.

When talking about something in a positive way, we instead use “A lot of” or “Lots of.”

Let’s look at some examples of this English grammar issue.

 English Grammar Knoxville

 English Grammar Knoxville
My mom gave me too much food.

My mom gave me a lot of food.

 

 English Grammar Knoxville

 English Grammar Knoxville
The library has too many books.

The library has a lot of books.

 

 English Grammar Knoxville

English
There are too many people at the beach.

There are a lot of people at the beach.


One serious English Grammar error I often hear is people saying, “There are too many Egyptians in Nashville,” or, “California has too many Korean people.” To an English speaking listener, these statements sound offensive or racist, like the person who is saying them hates Egyptian or Korean people. But often, the speakers themselves are Egyptian or Korean! The sentences they should have used are, “There are lots of Egyptians in Nashville,” or “California has a lot of Korean people.”

 

And remember, the opposite of this phrase is “Not enough,” and often combined with a version of “do”.

 

 English Grammar Knoxville  English Grammar Knoxville  English Grammar Knoxville

My mom didn’t give me enough food.

The library doesn’t have enough books.

There aren’t enough people at the beach.

 Want more help with your English grammar? Do you want to learn exactly which errors are holding you back in English? Contact Confidence Learning Services today at 1-865-226-9477 to schedule a free, 20 minute English consultation via Skype. 

Business English: 7 Mistakes to Avoid as a Non-Native Speaker of English in the Workplace

In today’s workplace, a global environment where cultures mix and multiple languages are spoken is valuable. This is an exciting time to be in business, but it can have its challenges if you are a non-native English speaker. Business English Courses offer instruction on vocabulary and grammar needed for meetings or interviews, but successful workplace communication goes far beyond your college courses.

business rates for spanish courses in Knoxville Employees who speak English as a second language bring unique skills and challenges with them to the workplace. Without being vigilant in your use of English in the workplace, you may encounter situations where team members have difficulty communicating with you or where customers misinterpret the tone or intent of your communication. For employees new to the US, cultural miscues are inevitable and expected, but even employees who have lived in the US a long time may lack cultural knowledge that native-born employees consider to be “common sense.” Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Business English Error #7: Incorrect use of definite and indefinite articles.

“Please drop report off at my desk” “A manager is holding interviews tomorrow” “Melissa is on the vacation” If you aren’t sure whether or not these sentences are right or wrong, you may struggle with using articles correctly. Many languages do not have articles, or just have one definite and indefinite article, so learning to navigate articles in English can be tough. But using proper business English is vital in communicating clearly. A general rule: Use “a” when the meaning is not specific, and use “the” when you want to be more specific “Can you hand me a stapler?” (any stapler around) vs. “Can you hand me the stapler?” (the stapler I let you borrow earlier).  Articles are not usually needed before proper nouns. “Melissa is vacationing in the mountains” vs. “Melissa is vacationing in Colorado.”

Business English Error #6: Prepositions

Will I see you “at the meeting”? Or is it “in the meeting”, or “on the meeting”? Prepositions are the most difficult set of words to use in any language, and they can cause the most confusion when misused. Unfortunately, prepositions have to be studied and individually memorized in order to be used properly in business English. Fortunately, you can easily find lists of the “most common prepositions” in the English language to study. Remember to keep an eye out for those, and double check your usage when one of these words comes up. Better still, analyze e-mails or messages from native English speakers to study their preposition usage. Confidence Learning Services will provide a free e-mail, blog, or web analysis to identify any lurking grammatical errors you might have.

Business English Error #5: Phrasal Verbs

Do you know the difference between “Run” and “Run Into”? “Make” and “Make up”? Phrasal verbs typically involve prepositions or adverbs, but the combination of the specific verb and preposition/adverb changes the meaning of both words. But when you are using English in the workplace, you will “run into” these phrasal verbs constantly. If you see a combination of a verb and a preposition or adverb, “check it out” (Check out = Investigate) with a native speaking friend, or use an online resource like http://www.englishpage.com/prepositions/phrasaldictionary.html <h3>Business English Error #4: “It’s/Its”</h3> For starters, these words cause trouble for native English speakers all the time. It’s is a contraction for it is or it has. Its is a possessive pronoun, it means “of it” or “belonging to it”. Its’ is not a word. But that’s not really what we’re here to talk about. Much of business English happens in written communication, but spoken English is also important. Non-native speakers often pronounce “it’s” as “is”. Thus, when you mean to say “It’s vital that we take care of this account today” or “The copier needs its ink replaced”, native English speakers hear “Is vital that we take care of this account today” or “The copier needs is ink replaced”. This gives the impression that an important part of your sentence is missing, and your grammar is poorer than it really is. Take the time to make sure your sound completely stops during the production of “it’s”, and that your “s” is voiceless, like the sound in the word “ice”, with no vibration in your vocal chords.

Business English Error #3: Rushed e-mails or blog posts

EMAIL

Don’t send that e-mail off just yet!

An important part of business English is communicating via e-mail, or projecting a brand image via blog posts. But both of these can turn into a disaster if you don’t take the time to pay attention to vocabulary, grammar, and spelling. Typing “can” instead of “can’t”, failing to use an appropriate greeting, or misspelling your client’s name can all turn into situations that demand much more time than a quick proofread would have. Save a draft of your e-mail and come back to it later before pushing send, if you have the time. If not, read the e-mail aloud to yourself before sending, or look back to see the type of language used in previous e-mails from others. When in doubt, ask a coworker or search online for advice and proofreading before sending your e-mail.

Business English Error #2: Poor understanding of etiquette and cultural norms.

When you think of “Business English”, you may think of just that – a language to be used. But even if you are perfectly fluent in English, there are some aspects of the language that are more cultural than grammatical. Many nonnative English speakers use the rhythm and intonation patterns of their first language when speaking English in the workplace. These rhythm and intonation patterns may sound harsh or aggressive to native speakers of American English. Additionally, nonnative English speakers may begin questions with, “Why did you…?”, “Why didn’t you..?”, or “Why aren’t you…?” while native speakers may begin those same questions with more embedded, polite phrasing: “I was wondering…?”, “Is there any reason…?”, or “Do you think you could…?” Pay attention to what phrases native English speakers use when making requests or delivering information in your workplace, and strive to do the same.

Business English Error #1: Thinking that there is nothing left to learn.

This is a problem I see among many non-native English speakers. Because they took a Business English course, or have conducted business successfully for the past 10 years, or because they speak better English than other speakers of their native language, they assume that there is nothing left to learn, and their English cannot improve any more. Coworkers may still struggle to understand their use of English in the workplace, but they refuse to enroll in any more courses, aren’t interested in Business English coaching, and don’t take time to add to their vocabulary. In any language, more remains to be learned, no matter your level. Speakers who realize that there is still room to grow are often more advanced than those who think they “speak English perfectly.” When we tell ourselves there is nothing left to learn, we are missing out on valuable learning opportunities that surround us. Wondering if you could improve your use of English in the workplace? Contact Confidence Learning Services at 1-865-226-9477 for a free consultation. We’ll take a look at your website, blog posts, or the past several e-mails you have sent, and give you a report on your use of Business English, at no cost to you.