Why is harder for native English speakers to learn a foreign language?

Jacqueline Walker

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Whilst I was studying for my AP Spanish exam, I couldn’t help but wonder why it is harder for native English speakers to learn foreign languages than other language speakers? Having lived abroad the US and experienced what it is like to live in a country where English is not the first language yet everyone in that country seemed to know English so I would never have any troubles communicating, I decided to look into it. 

The first and most obvious reason is:

  1. Everyone speaks English

This is of course a blessing and a curse for wanting to learn another language – why struggle and put yourself through the indignity of sounding like a three year old in front of people who can speak perfect English and make the communication normal? English is the first language of the most influential country in the world for the media, so the language is attractive to other countries to learn so they can understand the media, such as movies and pop songs coming from the US. Junior, Clara Farres, who lived in Madrid before moving to Rye said, ‘In my school learning English was a lot more appealing to students than it is here for students learning Spanish. By the time everyone reached high school in Spain they would be fluent in English’. 

      2. The way English native speakers learn English

People tend to repeat the concept that ‘English has no grammar’, however, that is incorrect. Although it might be simpler, you still have ‘subject, predicate, subjunctive’ that you learn by using them but not by structuring and naming the various language components. I think that this is actually key in learning a foreign language, as so many English native speakers give up their efforts when coming across such alien grammatical concepts that they have never encountered in their mother language. 

I know how frustrating this could be because of the reasons above, however there is so much to gain from learning a language, it is really the only way of getting to know, understanding and entering a new culture. Going through the struggle of making mistakes in front of people where you are not as funny or clever will make you more empathetic and understanding towards people who are making the effort to speak English as a second language.