Many people consider English to be one of the hardest languages in the world to learn! And it's true, English is no walk in the park - especially when it comes to all of the tricky pronunciation rules and irregular verbs.
Learning tip: English has borrowed many words from other languages - and knowing the roots of the vocabulary can help students improve their English level.
Word order is very important in English grammar. For example, when formulating a question, you must change "You are learning English?" to "Are you learning English?"
This goes beyond questions - you could say "A big hairy brown bear", but not "A hairy brown big bear". This is unless you add commas between the adjectives, like so: "A hairy, brown, big bear."
Even with all these tricks, English can be easy to learn. Still sceptical? Whatever your level, read on to get the most out of each English lesson...
A Wealth Of ESOL Resources...
English is truly a global language, so in comparison to nearly every other language, you'll find more tutorials, study materials, videos, blogs, apps and podcasts to help you learn English. Some are paid, but many are 100% free!
- One of the most popular language-learning apps is Duolingo, which offers bite-sized language lessons in a gamified format.
- We recommend downloading the app to your phone and play as you travel to work or school
- You can also find people for a language exchange online. There are a few different sites that allow peer-to-peer language exchange, and Speaky is one of the biggest. And with so many English speakers all over the world, it will be very easy to find willing English teachers.
- With a language exchange, you can learn parts of the language you won't find in textbooks - idioms, informal expressions and native slang.
- The ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) has a website for English learners! There you'll find plenty of short courses, video and listening resources, blogs and you can even take a course in 'Everyday English', or follow their graded programme through levels 1, 2 and 3. The videos will also teach you about Australian culture and natural wonders and even covers how the IELTS and TOEFL exams are graded.
You can also listen to podcasts and songs or watch movies in English.
Learning tip: when watching a film in English, turn on the subtitles (also in English!) - you'll be able to to practice your listening and reading skills at the same time!
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You should also download an English dictionary and translation app to your phone, so you can translate words on the fly or while studying.
Through films, podcasts, radio shows or getting your information from the world news, you can start to pick up on the difference between English, Australian and American pronunciation.
Learning English with literature, music or films is a great way to have fun and stay motivated while you improve!
English Grammar: Fewer Word Agreement Rules
'Word agreement' refers to matching the right verb to the subject.
- "The results show that the English test was hard." (in this sentence, both the verb and subject are plural).
- The results shows that the English test was hard. (a common beginner or intermediate mistake: the verb is singular but the subject is plural).
Word agreement also means matching the right pronouns with the right nouns.
- "Alex walked to his motorcycle" - correct!
- "Alex walked to him motorcycle" - incorrect!
Every language in the world has some form of word agreement, but English has fewer than other languages such as Portuguese, German or French!
English also doesn't gender objects or require that the adjectives agree with the gender of the noun.
For example, in French, chairs are gendered feminine - la chaise - whilst an armchair is gendered as masculine - le fauteil. Pretty confusing!
German complicates things further with three gendered articles.
In English, the only two articles are "the" or "a". "A" changes to "an" in front of a word starting with a vowel or silent "h", but that's the only rule you have to remember!
Did you know? Native English speakers often have trouble learning the gendered articles in other languages because there are no gender assignments in English... and no hard and fast rules for determining whether an object should be gendered as masculine, feminine or neutral.
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Capital letters are very easy in English - only the first letter of each sentence and proper nouns (people's names and names for places) are capitalised.
The Exceptions To English Grammar Rules
The trickiest aspect of learning English is probably its grammar rule exceptions.
Nouns ending with -ing
The -ing ending is usually used in verbs, but can sometimes be for nouns. ie. "This poor air quality is bad for my breathing"
"Breathing" can be a verb, but in this sentence, it acts as a noun.
Adjectives ending with -ly
“The waiter was very friendly.”
Usually, it's only adverbs that end in -ly (accidentally, cheerfully, seriously), but some adjectives do too.
Adjectives can be nouns
“The homeless deserve proper shelter.”
Homeless is usually an adjective (you could also say "homeless person") but in the example above, it is acting as a noun.
Nouns can be adjectives
“I hate my history teacher.”
History is usually a noun, but here this word is an adjective - it's describing what sort of teacher this student dislikes.
Nouns can act as verbs
“It is illegal to text while driving.”
As new technology advances, so too does the English language. Often this results in nouns acting as verbs. "Text" has been, up until recently, a noun.
Learning tip: try focus your learning on the grammar rule exceptions rather than memorising the rules themselves. Often knowing the exception will help you remember rule!
Other than these five simple exceptions, English grammar isn't too different from other languages. It generally follows a standard "subject-verb-object" common to many languages.
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Verbs Can Be Easier in English
There are irregular verbs in English, but you could list them all on one A4 paper - this includes all the conjugations of those verbs!
Let's compare that to Spanish - a list of irregular verbs in Spanish could fill sixteen A4 pages!
Fortunately for English learners, all irregular verbs in English (except for to have and to be) are irregular in the same way.
Here are just three examples:
- Buy bought will buy
- fight fought will fight
- seek sought will seek
Can you recognise the pattern?
Conjugation for regular verbs is easier as well. Each French verb has over fifty endings you need to learn.
Any regular verb in English has a maximum of four endings.
This means that if you're learning English as a foreign language, you'll have much less trouble with conjugation!
Building Vocabulary Is Simpler In English
On average, an English speaker with use a vocabulary of around twelve thousand words. A large percentage of those will be synonyms for common words.
If you're learning English as a second language, don't worry too much about the total number of words you know. Rather, you should focus on how these connect to other words.
For example, it's easy to remember the word "familiar" if you keep in mind that it is rooted in the word "family".
Another great way to improve your vocabulary is to divide words up into families. These are also known as rhyming words - these words sound similar!
Practice sound groups with the following fun exercise: speak a word each time you take a step. When you arrive, you may have reviewed and entire word family!
Learning tip: Did you know more than half of the word in English are phonetic? This means they are spelled how they sound.
If you need extra help with your writing skills, break any English word you can't spell into its syllables.
This technique works great for the word "usually". Usually has four syllables: u-su-al-ly.
Usually is often mispronounced by English learners! The most common mistake is to ignore the second syllable and pronounce it 'u-woo-ly' or 'u-shur-ly'.
You can sound words out in English to improve your speaking and writing abilities.
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To Recap: Making English Easy
Whilst English is a very important subject, make things easier with these four learning tips:
- Take advantage of all the great English learning resources out there, whether in print, online or over the radio. Music, film and literature can all help to improve your English listening and reading skills - they'll help you to have fun with your English learning!
- Improve your speaking skills and learn slang and idioms with native teachers or language exchange partners.
- Learn the roots of English will help you with your writing proficiency.
- Sound words out when you want to spell them.
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