Topic Talk | Why people hate English


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In this episode of The A to Z English Podcast, Jack gives some common reasons why people might hate English.

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The reasons why some people may express a dislike for the English language can vary widely based on personal, cultural, and educational factors. Here are some common reasons:

Complex Grammar and Spelling: English has many irregular rules and exceptions in its grammar and spelling, making it difficult to learn and master. For example, words like “knight” and “night” sound the same but are spelled differently, and verb conjugations can be inconsistent.

Colonial History: English is often associated with British colonialism. In countries that were colonized, English might be seen as a symbol of oppression and cultural erasure. This historical context can contribute to negative feelings towards the language.

Global Dominance: The prevalence of English as a global lingua franca can sometimes feel overpowering. In international settings, non-native speakers might feel pressured to learn English, which can lead to resentment, especially if they feel their own languages and cultures are being overshadowed.

Cultural Imposition: The dominance of English-language media (movies, music, literature) can sometimes be seen as a form of cultural imperialism, pushing Western norms and values onto other cultures.

Educational Challenges: In some educational systems, English is taught in a way that feels overly strict or punitive, leading to negative associations. Students might struggle with the language due to teaching methods that do not accommodate different learning styles.

Pronunciation Difficulties: English pronunciation can be particularly challenging for non-native speakers. The same letter combinations can be pronounced differently in various words, leading to confusion and frustration.

Language Pride: People may feel a strong sense of pride in their native language and view the necessity of learning English as undermining their own linguistic and cultural identity.

Social and Economic Inequality: In some societies, fluency in English can be a marker of social status and economic opportunity, creating a divide between those who have access to quality English education and those who do not. This can foster resentment among those who feel disadvantaged.

Understanding these reasons can foster a more empathetic perspective towards those who may dislike English. It highlights the importance of promoting multilingualism and cultural respect in global interactions.

Here’s a deeper look into the complexities of English language structure and pronunciation that contribute to its perceived difficulty:

Language Structure

Irregular Verb Conjugations:

English has many irregular verbs that do not follow standard conjugation patterns. For instance, “go” becomes “went” (past tense) instead of “goed.”

This requires memorization of many unique forms, which can be challenging for learners.

Inconsistent Spelling Rules:

The relationship between spelling and pronunciation in English is often inconsistent. For example, the “ough” in “though,” “through,” “rough,” and “cough” is pronounced differently in each word.

Words borrowed from other languages retain their original spellings, adding to the complexity (e.g., “ballet” from French, “yacht” from Dutch).

Articles and Determiners:

English uses articles (“a,” “an,” “the”) and determiners (e.g., “some,” “any”) that do not exist in all languages, requiring learners to understand their proper usage.

The definite article “the” and the indefinite articles “a” and “an” are used based on specific grammatical rules that can be confusing.

Syntax Variability:

English allows for flexible sentence structures but also has specific rules about word order (Subject-Verb-Object is standard).

Questions and negatives require auxiliary verbs (e.g., “Do you like…?” “I do not like…”).


English prepositions can be particularly tricky because their use often does not follow a logical pattern and must be memorized (e.g., “interested in,” “good at,” “afraid of”).

Pronunciation Challenges

Vowel Sounds:

English has a large number of vowel sounds (about 20), including diphthongs, which are combinations of two vowel sounds within the same syllable.

For example, the “i” in “bit” is different from the “i” in “bite.”

Consonant Clusters:

English frequently uses consonant clusters (multiple consonants together) which can be difficult for speakers of languages that do not use them.

Words like “strengths” or “twelfth” are challenging due to their complex clusters.

Stress and Intonation:

English is a stress-timed language, meaning that the rhythm of speech is based on the stress of syllables rather than the syllable count.

Sentence meaning can change based on intonation and stress patterns (e.g., “I didn’t say he stole the money” can have different meanings depending on which word is stressed).

Homophones and Homographs:

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings (e.g., “two,” “to,” “too”).

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations (e.g., “lead” as in to guide, and “lead” as in the metal).

Silent Letters:

Many English words contain silent letters that are not pronounced (e.g., the “k” in “knight,” the “b” in “debt”).

This inconsistency adds to the difficulty of spelling and pronunciation.

Examples of Difficulties

“The chaos of English pronunciation”: A classic example is the poem “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité, which illustrates the inconsistencies and complexities in English pronunciation.

Minimal Pairs: Words that differ by only a single sound can change meanings entirely (e.g., “ship” vs. “sheep,” “bat” vs. “pat”).


The irregularities and inconsistencies in English grammar, spelling, and pronunciation contribute significantly to the difficulty of learning the language. Understanding these challenges can help educators develop more effective teaching methods and learners to be more patient with their progress.

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Intro/Outro Music: Debora by Jangwa

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