UK School of English

What makes learning English so difficult?

Like German, English uses the Latin alphabet. English and German are Germanic languages and therefore related to each other. Many English words are very similar to German words (e.g. hand – hand, minute – minute).

So why is it still so difficult to learn English?

Unlike German, English has irregular spelling. In the following example, the self-voice “a” is always pronounced the same in German, but always different in English:

In British English there are 20 different self sounds, but only 7 letters: “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” and “u”, “y” and “w”. Therefore the same letter sequence can be pronounced differently in different words (heat, heart, earth, ear, bear, bread, beautiful). In return, sometimes the same sound is written differently (a long[i:] in marine, brief, mean, street, complete, receive, key).

In summary it can be said that in English only about 10% of words can be read as they are written (e.g. dog[d o g] dog). In many words, there are only a few letters that are read as written. Thus only about 40% of the letters of an English text can be read as written. Unlike German, whose spelling contains many bindingly valid rules, English has many regularities with many exceptions.