Why English is a Tough Nut to Crack

Hello there, language enthusiasts.

Are you on a journey to master the English language? If so, you’ve probably realized by now that English can be quite a confusing language to learn, leaving you in a muddle. Yes, the journey from ABCs to fluency in English isn’t always a smooth ride. Instead, it’s a rollercoaster full of ups and downs, unexpected twists and turns, but a super rewarding task. You can visit us for better insights: Big Books By George (BBBG).

In this post, we’re going to break down the world of English, dissect its idiosyncrasies, and understand why it’s often dubbed a ‘tough nut to crack’. We’ll investigate the diverse dialects to phonetic peculiarities, from grammatical hurdles to inconsistent spellings. And don’t worry, it’s not all about the challenges. We’ll also explore some tools to aid your learning journey, including an array of fiction and non-fiction books. Let’s begin. 

The Diversity of the English Language

What makes English so intriguing, yet equally challenging, is its rich and diverse heritage. With roots in Germanic languages, sprinkled with Latin and French influences, and a generous dash of words borrowed from languages around the world, English is a real mix of cultures and histories.

Did you know that English is the official language in 67 countries and is spoken by over 1.5 billion people worldwide? This global presence has led to a variety of dialects and accents that can vary tremendously. Whether you’re hearing the Queen’s English from the heart of London or the southern drawl in Texas, it can feel like you’re listening to a completely different language.

This can be quite confusing, especially for new learners. For instance, the word ‘water’ is pronounced with a crisp ‘t’ sound in British English, while in American English, the ‘t’ often sounds like a ‘d’. These subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) variations in pronunciation can make comprehension a bit tricky for non-native speakers.

However, do not let this stop you. The diversity of English is a testament to its flexibility and global acceptance. It’s an invitation to learn, not just a language, but the many cultures and histories it represents.

Phonetic Peculiarities of English

While on the surface English phonetics may appear relatively straightforward, learners quickly find out that this isn’t always the case. What’s with those silent letters, anyway? Why is ‘knight’ not pronounced as ‘ka-nig-ht’? Who decided to make ‘p’ silent in ‘pneumonia’?

One of the biggest challenges with English pronunciation is the lack of one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds. A single letter can have more than one sound, and a single sound can be represented by more than one letter or letter combination. For example, the ‘c’ in ‘cat’ and ‘cycle’ are pronounced differently, while the ‘ph’ in ‘phone’ sounds like an ‘f’. The letter ‘a’ in ‘apple’ and ‘ate’ represent different sounds. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?

And let’s not forget homophones – words that sound alike but have different meanings (and sometimes spellings). Words like ‘two’, ‘to’, and ‘too’ or ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ can cause quite a bit of confusion for learners. They might sound identical, but they’re used in entirely different contexts.

Yes, these peculiarities can make English phonetics feel like a maze. But remember, every language has its complexities. With practice and patience, you can navigate your way through these phonetic puzzles and come out the other side with a much richer understanding and appreciation of the English language. 

Grammatical Hurdles in English

If you thought English pronunciation was a challenge, wait until we talk about English grammar. While it’s true that every language has its unique grammatical rules, English seems to be up there in its complexity.

A significant hurdle is the English verb system. English verbs come with a variety of tenses and aspects – past, present, future, and perfect – each having its own set of rules for when and how to use them. The past tense of ‘go’ is ‘went’, not ‘goed’. We say ‘swam’ not ‘swimmed’, and ‘ran’ not ‘runned’. Such irregular verbs are enough to make any language learner’s head spin.

Next up are prepositions – tiny words with big responsibilities. ‘In’, ‘on’, ‘at’, ‘to’, ‘for’ – these words might look insignificant but change the meaning of a sentence dramatically. When do you use ‘in’ versus ‘on’? What’s the difference between ‘look at’ and ‘look to’? It’s definitely a learning curve

And who could forget about the peculiar rules surrounding plural forms? Why do we say ‘mice’ instead of ‘mouses’, or ‘children’ instead of ‘childs’? The English language has a fondness for irregular plural forms, creating another layer of complexity for learners.

So yes, English grammar can be a tough cookie. With each challenge you overcome, you’ll find yourself one step closer to mastering the language. 

Vocabulary Variations

The English language, with its vast lexicon, offers a cornucopia of words to express a single idea. This might seem like a treasure trove for the eloquent speaker, but it can feel like a labyrinth for a new learner. The existence of synonyms, antonyms, and homonyms can turn even a simple conversation into a tricky puzzle. 

Let’s take synonyms, for instance. The English language offers a multitude of ways to express a single idea, each with its subtle shade of meaning. ‘Happy’, ‘joyful’, ‘content’, ‘pleased’, ‘elated’, ‘cheerful’, ‘thrilled’, ‘satisfied’, ‘glad’, ‘merry’—each word denotes a slightly different degree or type of happiness. And this is just one emotion!

Similarly, consider the word ‘said’. Instead of repeating ‘said’ over and over again, you can use ‘whispered’, ‘shouted’, ‘replied’, ‘muttered’, ‘exclaimed’, ‘declared’, ‘murmured’—the list goes on. These synonyms not only add variety to your language but also lend depth to it by conveying how something was said.

Antonyms, too, enrich the English language. They provide a way to express the opposite of an idea. For instance, the opposite of ‘happy’ could be ‘sad’, ‘unhappy’, ‘sorrowful’, ‘miserable’, ‘downcast’, ‘despondent’, and more. Each of these words has its own intensity and nuance.

Then we have homonyms, words that sound alike but have different meanings and sometimes spellings. For instance, ‘compliment’ and ‘compliment’, ‘principal’ and ‘principle’, ‘flower’ and ‘flour’, ‘hare’ and ‘hair’. Such words can make English seem like it’s playing tricks on you!

Idiomatic expressions and slang add another layer to vocabulary variations. Phrases like ‘barking up the wrong tree’, ‘let the cat out of the bag’, or ‘butterflies in my stomach’ are full of colorful imagery, but can be puzzling for someone new to the language. Slang words like ‘cool’, ‘chill’, ‘lit’, ‘hangout’ or ‘selfie’ reflect cultural and societal trends, keeping the language dynamic and contemporary.

The Inconsistencies of English Spelling and Pronunciation

Why does English refuse to follow its own rules?

Take a look at words like ‘rough’, ‘cough’, ‘though’, and ‘through’. All of them end in ‘ough’, yet each one is pronounced differently. ‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C’? Well, try telling that to ‘weird’, ‘seize’, or ‘science’. And who could forget the pronunciation minefield that words like ‘colonel’, ‘subtle’, or ‘aisle’ present? 

One might wonder how English ended up this way. Well, we can partially thank the Great Vowel Shift, a historical linguistic event that changed the pronunciation of vowels, and the borrowing of words from other languages, each with their own spelling and pronunciation rules. These factors, combined with others, have resulted in the unpredictable and inconsistent spelling-pronunciation relationship we see in English today.

Yes, it can be frustrating, but look at it this way – it’s also what makes English unique. Each of these peculiarities has a story to tell, a piece of history. And the more you learn, the more fascinating these stories become. 

In the next section, we’ll talk about some powerful tools that can help you navigate this tricky terrain, including an excellent list of non-fiction books to read for kids. Stick around!

How Non-Fiction Books Can Aid in Learning English

With all these hurdles we’ve discussed, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. But there are many tools and resources to guide you on this journey, and one of the most effective is non-fiction books.

Non-fiction books, especially those designed for kids, are a great way to start out in the English language. They typically use simpler vocabulary, shorter sentences, and clear, concise language, making them perfect for beginners. Plus, they’re an excellent way to learn about a variety of topics, which not only expands your knowledge but also introduces you to subject-specific vocabulary.

As you start to feel confident with these, try reading “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Despite its title, this book simplifies complex scientific concepts into easily understandable language. Or how about “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank, an emotional journey that introduces readers to narrative storytelling in English? Books like these can make the process of learning English engaging and fun.

But don’t stop there. There’s an entire universe of non-fiction books to read for kids. From “Charlotte’s Web” by E. B. White to “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba, these books provide a range of themes and language styles to help improve your English skills.

Remember, language learning isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. It takes time and practice, and reading non-fiction books is a step in the right direction.



Don’t let the challenges of the English Language dishearten you. The journey to learn English, or any language for that matter, is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s about celebrating the small victories, whether that’s finally figuring out the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’ or mastering the pronunciation of that word you’ve been tripping over. It’s going to take time so be patient. 


Along the way, remember to utilize the many resources available to you. Non-fiction books for kids, in particular, can be a powerful tool in enhancing your understanding and fluency. Not only do they offer engaging content, but they also expose you to a range of vocabulary and writing styles. So keep going, keep learning, and most importantly, keep enjoying the journey. After all, isn’t that what learning is all about? And who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll find that the English language isn’t such a tough nut to crack after all.