Learning English as a second language isn’t exactly easy!
Even for those of us whose first language is English, the language can be confusing. There are so many exceptions to a seemingly endless number of rules! You must use appropriate punctuation, the subject and verb must agree, commas are only used in certain instances, you cannot use more than one negative in a sentence…it goes on and on. Thankfully, learning to speak English is step one, and learning to write and spell correctly is step two.
You are not alone. Learning a new language can be difficult, but studying as you are immersed in the language and the culture can make the process a bit easier. These are the most common challenges students face when learning English as a second language.
English is not a phonetic language, meaning we often do not say a word the same way it is spelled. For example, “I will read the book today,” and “I read the book yesterday,” are spelled the same way but pronounced differently. There are numerous words like this that can be confusing to English learners. These words are known as heteronyms, words with different sounds but the same spelling. Another example is the word “tear.” You could say “I have a tear in my pants,” or “There is a tear (like a teardrop) in my eye.”
Many words sound the same but have vastly different spellings. There can be a “pair” of people or a “pear” like the fruit. They are pronounced the same, but have different spellings and different meanings. Going further, individual letter sounds can be spelled many different ways. Take for example the sound of the letter “f.” It can be spelled as a “gh” like “enough, or tough,” with a “ph” as in the word “phone,” or spelled with a double “f” as in “fluff.” Whew! Thankfully you only have to worry about spelling when writing English, but these are crucial differentiators that you’ll need to master to be an effective written communicator.
Slang and Colloquialisms
This is one particular area that is challenging to teach in the classroom. Slang refers to casual language more commonly used in day-to-day conversation. Being a part of the local culture here in Dallas will offer you plenty of opportunities to catch on! By taking advantage of pop culture like radio shows or television, non-native speakers can help gain an understanding of conversations by picking up cues like the tone of voice or nonverbal clues. Here are a few examples of common English slang phrases.
Fluent, spoken English can be challenging to interpret
The best way to overcome the challenge of interpreting spoken English is to practice and be fully immersed in an environment with English speakers as much as possible. While we have pointed out many of the challenges in learning the English languages, there are some aspects that make it easier. For example, nouns have no gender in the English language. There are only three basic tenses: the past, the present, and the future. That simplifies things a bit!
While you may not learn to speak English fluently overnight, the important thing is that you don’t give up. Learning English can be an exciting, entertaining experience. You will become better and better each day as you allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Soon you will be a professional at writing, reading, and speaking English.