Solving the 6 Biggest Difficulties for English Learners

 Difficulties for English LearnersIf you are reading this article, chances are you are either an English learner or an English teacher. Here at Speak English Center we like to find ways to help our readers improve the way they learn English! That’s why in this week’s blog we’re going to address the 6 biggest difficulties people tend to have when learning English as a second language, and give you some tips as to how to overcome them.

While these problems are very common for most people learning English, they can be improved upon with a little patience!:

1.  “I don’t understand  native speakers because they talk too fast.” This is a typical listening problem for most people learning a language. It may seem like native speakers are talking faster than normal! But they aren’t! The trick here is to try to relax, and don’t focus on each word. You have to try to listen for key words, which in English are often the words that are stressed in the sentence. For example, you may only pick up on the subject, but not the details. That’s ok: picking up on key words is the beginning of understanding. If you try to understand everything at once, you will become frustrated and possibly give up!

2.  “I don’t know many words, and I forget everything when I try to speak.” Vocabulary is a big hurdle for many students, and you may feel like you can never remember the words you need to use the most often. The best way to acquire vocabulary is through repetition. This can be done through listening to music and memorizing songs, or watching short television series over and over. Vocabulary is more easily remembered when we learn it in a context.

3.  “My pronunciation needs improvement and I’m worried that other people won’t understand me.” Many students are worried that no one will understand them when they speak because they have a strong accent. This could be true if you are speaking to someone for the first time. Pronunciation can be improved through singing songs, or by practicing repeating lines from movies over and over. E-learning is also a great way to practice pronunciation without feeling embarrassed, as the computer program will assess your accuracy and no one else can hear you!

4.  “I get very nervous when I speak English.” Confidence is a problem for many people, regardless of learning a language. Add to that a communication barrier, and this can be a real problem for many English learners. The best way to overcome this is by facing your fears: put yourself in a situation where you must speak English, either in an Anglophone country, or join a local club or go to a place where you know Anglophones are present. You may not overcome your shyness right away, but over time your confidence will improve as you are encouraged by others.

5.  “I can’t express my ideas in English and I speak with a lot of pauses.” Finding your own voice in a second language can be very frustrating. Not being able to express humor or sarcasm, or even a serious tone, can lead to misunderstandings and feeling helpless. This is actually a great place to be in, because it means that your brain is starting to think in another way, and you are struggling to improve. If you speak some English, but become frustrated when you can’t express yourself well, rest assured you are on the right track and this is the moment of truth! Only practice and repetition will be able to bring you out of the depths of non-communication. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to use anything you can to help your expression: props, hand gestures, facial expressions, drawings or whatever you can think of! Doing this actually helps your brain learn and remember faster and better!

6.  “I make a lot of mistakes when I speak English.” Grammar is probably the number one concern for English learners. But would you believe that for most native speakers, they don’t really notice that much? Making grammar mistakes should actually be very low on your list of problems, because even if you make mistakes, you can still communicate effectively. Even some famous people are known for making language mistakes, and it adds to their popularity and charm! As long as you are able to communicate your ideas, acquire vocabulary, understand people and have an exchange with others in English, don’t worry about making mistakes! Mistakes will only improve over time with a lot of practice, and one day, you’ll realize that you are making far fewer mistakes than before, and you won’t even know how you did it!


Do you feel worried about these problems when you speak English?

Do you have any advice for others struggling with these issues?

We love to read your comments!


These 6 problems in this article were borrowed from this video series, but our original tips for correcting them are from Speak English Center!

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April is an e-marketing specialist, English instructor and freelance writer living in Grenoble, France.
  1. Susan Brodar Reply

    Great advice I can never stress enough!

  2. Neal Reply

    I disagree with #1: As an English (TEFL) teacher, I think that many native-speaking teachers DO speak too fast. In most of the places where I’ve taught, students frequently complain about this. I always try to speak slowly and clearly, and students appreciate this. In fact, I even have difficulty watching some American television programs because the actors use quick, clipped, sloppy English. Now imagine what one of those actors would be like in an English language classroom with beginning-level students …

    I disagree, somewhat, with #2: In the different countries in which I’ve taught, I’ve noticed that students’ vocabulary is much less of a problem in countries where the quality of classroom English instruction has been high. In other words, students’ mastery of verb tenses and prepositions, for example, always lag behind, but there has been a wide variation in vocabulary knowledge.

    I also disagree with #6: “Making grammar mistakes should actually be very low on your list of problems, because even if you make mistakes, you can still communicate effectively.” ??? Really ?? English has a high degree of precision in the use of, for example, verb tenses and prepositions, and even a slight variation can alter the meaning, intent and “time-stamp” of the speaker’s statement. I could tell you stories!

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