English is one of the hardest languages to learn. This is a commonly held belief among many language learners. While English undoubtedly holds its unique challenges, it is actually not the most complicated world language. Many other languages are in fact much more complex grammatically, phonetically, and morphologically in comparison to English.
So why all the fuss? Let’s look at some factors that play into English’s reputation as one of the trickier languages to master.
One aspect of English that exasperates learners and confounds teachers in their attempt to teach English is the fact that it is a very illogical language and is riddled with exceptions for its seemingly strict rules. Additionally, phonetically speaking, or spelling-wise, English is admittedly confusing. There are many strange spelling rules that make it tough for second language learners, since many words do not sound how they are spelled.
And of course, as with any language, idioms and regional dialects all play into the difficulty of mastering fluency, as learners will have to grapple with very specific and nuanced language that have historical or cultural information particular to a specific region that can confuse learners endlessly. However, this aspect of language is not unique to English, as any second language learner or educator will report, a marker of authentic fluency in any language is being able to use idiomatic terms and phrases.
Another important factor to remember when feeling overwhelmed by English or any other language you choose to learn, is your native language.
Our first language plays a big role in how we learn and process a second language. For example, if you have knowledge or fluency in a romantic language (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.) then of course it will be much easier to pick up another romantic language. Whereas if you are learning a language that is quite different from your native tongue (be it alphabet, grammar structures, or word sounds), this second language will be significantly more difficult to master! Hence, many Asian speakers find learning English quite difficult, and any English speakers trying to learn Asian languages will report a similar feeling of overwhelm or frustration. But not to worry! There are many things that students and their parents can do to aid them with their English learning.
With second language learning, taking risks in oral production is very important.
Thus, creating a safe and comfortable learning attitude and space for children is paramount. The aim with second language learning is not perfection, but rather progress and growth that build into eventual confidence and ease in the second language. Insisting that a child or student speak and write perfectly in their second language can actually seriously inhibit important learning steps in fluency development. Anxiety and fear of not producing perfect speech can often be debilitating for students and cause them to speak less. When students are unwilling to speak, this means they miss out on opportunities to learn from mistake as well as practice creativity, and experimentation in speaking, which are all an integral part of fluency and second language development.
Moreover, if English cannot be spoken at home, parents should encourage and facilitate students to immerse themselves in English language in a fun and engaging way. Helping your children find fun or interesting books, movies, music and other media can be a great way to practice English.
Little Mountain Learning Academy also offers holistic and in-depth support for these key aspects of second language learning.
In particular, Little Mountain Learning Academy’s Early Literacy Foundation Program (Butterfly Stream) and ESL Program (Fish Stream) provide key early literacy and continued ESL support. Our Butterfly stream helps students develop a strong understanding of phonics rules and patterns, build vocabulary and spelling skills, and practice writing and simple sentences independently.
With our Fish stream, holistic ESL learning is further supported with a focus on developing confidence and ease with speaking and listening, strengthening and expanding vocabulary, and working on critical reading, spelling, and grammar skills. With all this information in mind, an important takeaway is that a sense of fun, creativity, and compassion all combine to create a powerful formula for meaningful language learning!