Is learning English easy or difficult?

Many people believe that English is a difficult language to learn but is it really? When you compare English with some of the other most spoken languages in the world we can see that there are difficult things about the English language but there are also some very simple aspects.

What makes English difficult to learn?

Spelling: The spelling of English words is particularly difficult because the English alphabet has only 26 letters yet there are 44 sounds. For this reason English has phonemes which are 2 or 3 letters working together to represent a sound. For example, in the word “light” the letters “ght” together make a sound.

Pronunciation: Learning the pronunciation can be quite challenging for new learners. English is not a phonetic language like Spanish. In Spanish you pronounce a word the way it is spelled. In English, we often pronounce a word differently than it is spelled.  For example: THROUGH and THREW are pronounced the same, while DOUGH and TOUGH have very different pronunciations. The only way to master the pronunciation is through practice, lots of listening and trying to imitate the native speakers´ way of speaking.

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40% of English words have cognates in Spanish (False Friends)

Learning English for Spanish speakers can seem quite simple at first because as much as 40% of English words have cognates in Spanish.

Cognates are words that sound similar, have similar spelling and have the same meaning in the two languages.  Examples of cognates are: teléfono-telephone; persona- person; invitar-invite.

However, there are many words called FALSE COGNATES or FALSE FRIENDS. In the case of False Friends, the English word sounds like a word in Spanish but the two words do NOT have the same meaning. Here is a list of FALSE COGNATES with translations of the words in Spanish and English:

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Learning a language after 18 years of age is infinitely more difficult. Why is this?

Small children learn languages more easily and more quickly than adults do. Starting to learn a foreign language when you are over the age of 18 is infinitely more difficult than if you start as a young child or better yet, a baby. Why is this?

Babies start to pick up on sounds of a language while in the womb. They listen to the “song” of the language(s) being spoken around them, the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech, which linguists call prosody. If you hum a sentence in English the sound of that is the prosody. If someone then hums a sentence in Spanish, Russian or Chinese the prosody of each language will sound different. Of course, babies that are exposed to more than one language while in utero, and thus more than one prosody, have a head start on being bilingual or even trilingual later in life.

Read moreLearning a language after 18 years of age is infinitely more difficult. Why is this?

English expressions about time

The time is here! Set your clock and get ready! Today’s post is about expressions and idioms related to TIME. The following list contains some of the most commonly used English expressions regarding the passing of time with explanations and examples to make them clearer.

AGAINST THE CLOCK– in a hurry or with very little time.
They are working against the clock to have the house ready for the guests arriving Saturday.

A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT– something that comes too late and isn’t worthwhile economically.
Yesterday we bought a used car after searching for weeks. Then today my uncle said we could have had his, but that it needs repairs. A day late and a dollar short!

AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR– something that happens at the last minute, almost at the end.
The opposing team scored a goal at the eleventh hour and won the game!

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER– it is better to do or have something late than not at all.
We wanted to give her the birthday present at her party but it wasn’t delivered until 3 days later. Well, better late than never!

DONKEY’S YEARS– for a very long time.
He’s been living in Spain for donkey’s years! It must be 30 years now!

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Homophones: How do you pronounce these two words: BLUE and BLEW?

 Which of these two grows in a garden: FLOWER or FLOUR? Have you ever read a word in English and you are not sure how it is pronounced? Or you need to write a word in English but you can’t remember how it’s spelled?

Homophones are two words that have the same pronunciation but have different spellings and different meanings. The English language has many homophones and they often cause a lot of confusion to English learners.

Here is a list of some of the more commonly used homophones and some examples to help you understand the different meanings:

Allowed-Aloud
Children, you are not allowed to stand up on the chairs!
Don’t say it aloud, it’s a secret!

Read moreHomophones: How do you pronounce these two words: BLUE and BLEW?