1. Pronunciation differences can be very challenging.
When a person learns English as a second language, they must learn some new sounds that are not in their native language. Each person brings with them some of the sounds from their native language that are most similar to American English sounds. But, because these sounds don't match exactly, these differences create accents. The heavier the accent, the more difficult a person's speech is to understand. Probably the most commonly used sound and the most difficult to learn is the "r" sound because it can be a consonant and a vowel. The America English "r" sound is also formed differently than in most other languages. Other sounds that tend to be challenging are "w","v", "t","d","th", "ih" and "ee."
2. American English grammar has many exceptions to the rules!
English grammar has what we call "regular forms" which follow specific rules and "irregular forms" that don't. Both have to be learned, which makes English grammar very difficult!
Let's look at the following examples:
Regular plural words: To form regular plural words in English, just add an "s" or "es" to the end of the noun.
For example, the word "hat" changes to "hats", and the word "bus" changes to "buses". Easy, right?
That would be great if that's all there was to it, but wait a minute, not so fast! Just when you are thinking, "Hey, this isn't so bad", now you learn that there are just as many plurals that don't follow the rules. Irregular plurals can stay the same as the singular form or can change completely. These must be memorized.
For example, "mouse" changes to "mice", "goose" changes to "geese", and "ox" changes to "oxen".
Forming past tense verbs:
Verbs in English must not only agree with the subject, but are formed in specific ways to indicate tense.
Regular verbs are verbs that follow the rules. For the past tense this means that they will always add "ed" to the end.
Let's take a look at an example:
The verb "to walk" is a regular verb. To form the past tense, add "ed" to "walk", forming "walked."
Irregular verbs are verbs that do not add "ed" at the end when forming past tense. These verbs may stay the same or change completely in spelling.
The verb "drive" changes to "drove"
The verb "say" changes to "said"
3. English is not a phonetic language.
In some languages, it is easy to sound out a word because the sounds that letters make stay the same. English is not one of these languages, which makes it very difficult to learn. In English, there are many instances when a letter or series of letters do not say what you would think they would say, and they may not even be consistent.
Look at the following example of the letters "ough" in words. So confusing!
"ough" can say several different sounds:
"ough" in "rough" says "uff"
"ough" in "ought" says "aw"
"ough" in "though" says "oh"
"ough" in "through" says "oo"
"ough" in "bough" says "ow"
Yes, English can be very challenging to learn. With patience and dedication, however, one can significantly improve their spoken and written English. Practice makes perfect!