Podcast: Is English really hard to learn? – Inglês Online

Podcast: Is English really hard to learn?

By Ana | Podcast Inglês Online

Nov 14
Inglês - Podcast Is English really hard to learn

Hi, all. Nesse episódio do podcast Inglês Online eu falo sobre um poeminha em inglês que brinca com as formas irregulares.


Hi, all. Today we have a new episode of the inglesonline podcast. To download or just listen to other episodes and download transcripts, go to inglesonline.com.br and click Podcast Inglesonline.

Let me read you parts of a little poem that’s floating around on the Internet about the so-called hardships of learning English:

We’ll begin with box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,

But I give a boot… would a pair be beet?
If one is a tooth, and a whole set is teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth?

If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?

Then one may be that, and three be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.

So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.

So this entire poem basically revolves around one thing: the exceptions to the rules, especially the rules of plural forms. And let’s not forget all the irregular verbs that were not even mentioned in this little poem. The past form of make isn’t maked; the past form of take isn’t taked, and we could go on.

Of course the poem is supposed to be humorous and not taken that seriously, but… any time someone states that English is difficult I feel compelled to say something about it. So let me just present a different point of view. I’m not denying all the exceptions to the rules, of course! I’m just saying that they’re not the reason English is hard to learn. In my experience, English is hard to learn for people who get very little exposure to the language – in other words, the majority of English students. Go read my tips on how to make progress with your fluency. That should get you off to a good start.

I just think it’s a little funny to consider English a particularly difficult language to learn when… we’re all fluent in Portuguese. And yes, I know, we all learned Portuguese at a time when our mental barriers were practically non-existent. But that just goes to show that nothing is really that hard when we’re truly open to it – not even a language that has structures such as the following ones: “Se a gente fosse estrangeiro…” and “A gente estava lá”. “Fosse” and “estava”: how do we say that in English? If we were foreigners… and We were there. We use the same word, “were”, for “fosse” and “estava”.

“Vocês estão cansados”; “Se vocês forem chamados…”; “No caso de vocês estarem cansados…”; and “Espero que vocês estejam confortáveis”. “Estão”, “forem”, “estarem” and “estejam”: that’s our Presente Simples, Futuro do Subjuntivo, Infinitivo Pessoal and Presente do Subjuntivo for you. Four different tenses, four different words in Portuguese, and they all become ARE in English. “You are tired”, “If you are called…”, “In case you are tired…” and “I hope you are confortable”.

There are more examples of “hard” words on both sides. I’m just saying I would think twice before claiming that English is a particularly hard language to learn. What are your examples of irregular words or verb forms that seem easier in one case than the other? Let us know in the comments and, before we wrap up – if you own a phone or a tablet that runs on Android, please go ahead and download the new Inglês Online app for Android. You’ll be able to download our podcasts right onto your gadget and then listen to the episodes even when you’re offline. This is still version 1; version 2 will probably be released next week with a few bug fixes… We’ve had hundreds of downloads in the last couple of days so just look up “inglesonline” in the search box of the Play Store and… drop me a line and let me know what you think, suggestions for future versions… Thanks! Talk to you next time.



get you off to a good start = fazer você ter um bom começo

“hard” = aspas são lidas como quote, unquote, hard

  • Layla says:

    I totally agree with you!!
    This maybe seems a little childish, but I hate Portuguese!!!!! It’s really very difficult and boring, but in ther other hand I really love English, actually I still have a lot to learn, but at least I enjoy studying!

  • Ana Luiza says:

    Thanks, everyone for all the great comments!!

  • Plácido says:

    Hi there, Ana!
    I have been reading all material showed here and learned a lot. The lessons have great content about grammar, slangs, pronunciation and so on. About the language be hard to learn isn´t true, because Chinese, Portuguese, Latim, German and others ones are more difficult than English. I think that the idiom have many levels, then be hard or easy will depend where you want to go. That is it. Congrats Teacher Ana Luiza, you have been doing a great work.

  • Patricia says:

    I think that what í´ve read in this text express exactly what really heappens when you are learning english. Everything seems to be hard, every exception is pretty hard and we think that we are never going to learn. Bur if we think about portugues, how many exceptions do we have? Definily I prefer to have to learn english than portugues!!!!! We already have a very hard language, I think that learn english is so much more than keep the rules in the mind, but it is practice to know how to speak in every situation. That´s the reason I think that musics, films, tv shows help us a lot!!!!
    If you like english to learn english is easier and until funny, but if don´t like and have to learn just because of work you will have a big problem.

    • Ana Luiza says:

      Yes, Patricia ;) And it’s kinda interesting to reflect on – we became fluent in Portuguese just like that ;) and sometimes a foreign language seems like such a hard goal to achieve as an adult. Interesting, to say the least…

  • gilmar martins ferreira says:

    in fact learning plurals isn´t that difficult, using the rule of simple present in the 3rd person of singular you can, by guessing learn most of the exceptions, actually I don´t know how to explane exactly what I mean, though it works with me, I hope you´ve got it.

  • Edvaldo says:


    I just love this site….and I would like to hear you talking about an expression that is frequently used in portuguese and I don´t about english…that it is: “estou torcendo por você” I think there is something close to it in english…I´ll keep my fingers crossed for you…but I´d like to hear if there´s something else???

    thanks a lot…

    • Ana Luiza says:

      Yes, Edvaldo, I’ve made a post about “fingers crossed”. There are other ways, such as “we’re rooting for you” ou “cheering someone on” (= encorajando, animando alguém)

  • rosimeire says:

    Well. I’ve been studying English for a While and also reading/listening to inglesonline since more than a year for now and I love all your tips . I must tell you that I just discovered I’m more interested in studying English than Portuguese because I think it is easier. I don’t know why, but I’m quite comfortable to say this: I’d rather study English than Portuguese. Portuguese has so many rules, exceptions. Much more than English. In English many words have a connection with the meaning. This also happens in our language but it’s from far more common in English. Therefore, English becomes really hard to learn when it comes to its accent. But that occurs with Portuguese anyway, I guess. If you speak grammatically correct, but without the right accent , you may not be understood. That’s my opinion.

    • Ana Luiza says:

      Yes, rosi, agreed on the pronunciation differences…

      So something that would really help in my experience is to listen to small pieces of audio over and over, and really notice the pronunciation of a few individual words. Over time, it gets easier (especially as we “let go” a little, meaning, when we relax ;)

  • andré says:

    Well, everytime that someone says something like that, I say: think in out language, there are a lot of rules, so much more than in English, and it’s amazing, however difficult sometimes.

    I’m sorry, but in this time I don’t have any idea beyond yours.

    Thanks for your great job.

    PS: your pronunciation is always fantastic, one day I’m gonna get there

  • Ricardo says:

    I forgot to mention before, but I think it would be great if there were a space to let comments on your podcasts in your application. See you.

  • Ricardo says:

    Hello, Ana! I’ve been listening to your podcasts for a long time and I only need to congrat you for them. Although I already use another android app to download podcasts, I decided to try yours too. I think it’s pretty good and useful, especially for someone who does not have another podcast manager program or who wants to have your material at their hands quickly. Have a good holiday! Bye

  • Al says:

    Desde que comecei a aprender inglês passei a admirar a simplicidade desta língua quando comparada com o português, sobretudo na conjugação verbal.

  • Antonio says:

    I think what makes english a trick language to learn is its pronunciation. To master them all, as you said, only by getting too much exposure to it.

    • Robson says:

      I’m completely agree. It’s very difficulty learn english pronunciation. Words like live, for example, could be pronounced as ‘laive’ (adj.) and as ‘live’ (verb). And what about words like: thought, through, tough, enough, policy, police, politician, chemical… :(

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