English is generally easy, except for the pronunciation

From my experience, English is one of the easiest and most logical languages to learn. There is no gender in English like it is in languages such as French or Spanish. There is no special alphabet in English as in the case of Japanese, Arabic or Chinese. Grammar can be a bit complex if it’s in the academic context, but our usual grammar in daily usage is fairly simple.

In English, if you know a noun, you can deduce what the verb, the adjective and the adverb that are related to the noun are, and vice versa. For instance, from the noun fright, I can guess the following: frighten, frightening, frightened. In difficult languages, you often have to learn by heart what each word means. Take Vietnamese as an example.

  • hai: it means number 2 or what you informally call your oldest sibling
  • hài: it means funny
  • hái: it means pick up fruits from a branch
  • hại: it means harmful
  • hãi: it means scary
  • hải: it means sea, often used in literature

None of those words are related to one another, yet they look awfully alike and there is no other way to learn their meanings, except by heart. But at least in Vietnamese, words are pronounced exactly the same as they are spelled. Unlike in English!

The most difficult part of English in my opinion is pronunciation. In Vietnamese, we don’t pronounce the ending letters in the words; which is often the differentiation in many words in English. For instance, without the letter “d”, “beard” would sound the same as “beer”. Some words such as “sixth”, “world” or “word” are a nightmare for us, Vietnamese, to pronounce correctly. So, take it easy on us for our pronunciation. We definitely try, but it’s just not what we are used to, growing up.

Another challenge lies in the irregularity of how words are pronounced. For example, “diversity” can be pronounced /ˈdaɪnəsti/ or /ˈdɪnəsti/, depending on whether you use American or British English respectively. Same for diversity, but the other way around.

Plus, there are words that require pronunciation very different from their spelling, such as colonel, zucchini, mischievous, February, Wednesday and so on… There are far more complicated words than what I listed, but it should give an idea of how a foreigner thinks of English.