Asian countries boast many fluent English speakers. You might wonder, is English hard to learn for Asians, or is it not?
As widespread as English language education in Asian countries nowadays is, some still struggle to learn it. Not only is the language hard to learn for itself, but non-native English-speaking countries also have their own primary language to learn on the side. That aside, did you know that Asia ranks second in the world – only behind Europe – among non-native English speakers in terms of proficiency in the language? This high proficiency with today’s most common language also serves as a crucial foundation for Asia’s flourishing yet significantly growing economy. This makes it so that learning English for Asians has become a crucial aspect of life. And it would probably be so as long as they want to keep their economy at a high level.
That may be, many still ponder the question: “Is English hard to learn for Asians?” in their minds. It may be because they find it difficult to understand Asians when they try to communicate in English. Perhaps because they are Asian themselves who are struggling so much to learn it, let alone be proficient with it. This difficulty in learning English for Asians can come from a multitude of reasons. From the cultural factors they had grown accustomed to when they were young to the various mental barriers created within their minds as they become full-grown adults.
Why or why not is English hard to learn for Asians? Read on as we try our best to answer that.
Is English itself hard to learn?
To many native English speakers, the English language may seem like a very candid and easy-to-learn language. While for those outside looking in, the language is not all bread and butter. To some, trying to learn it may prove to be a source of frustration and stress. If it isn’t all that apparent yet, the English language is broad and dynamic. This means that it changes with the flow of time itself and may adopt new words on the fly from various sources. Not only that, the language is also rampant with exceptions and rules that many, even native English speakers, find confusing. All these factors combined make it tricky for those who wish to learn the language. This holds more true, especially for non-native English speakers like Asians.
The English language has successfully established itself as one of the world’s most recognized and used languages. This is regardless of whether learning it is hard or not. In fact, the language has grown so much that it is now widely considered the “common language.” This makes it so that learning it can give an individual several benefits. Being proficient with the English language does not only enable someone to travel the world and communicate with other cultures freely, it also unlocks several professional opportunities to which they may undertake. Learning English may indeed be a struggle not anyone can overcome, but learning it is an idea you should not despair about.
Here are some factors that make learning the English language hard:
Inconsistencies in Pronunciation and Sound
Arguably the most difficult factor in learning the English language is its several – albeit subtle inconsistencies in its pronunciation and sound. Words that are spelled perfectly alike may not necessarily sound the same when pronounced. And if that wasn’t enough of a struggle yet, many words also have silent consonant letters. The English language is filled with various illogical statements that make it much harder for anyone to comprehend it. Some of which are difficult enough to clarify to native English speakers, let alone non-native speakers.
Word Order or Sentence Structure
While constructing English sentences, two or more adjectives may define a single noun. The challenge here is that these adjectives must adhere to a certain structure for a sentence composition to be considered acceptable. For example, most would see nothing wrong with the sentence “a red small shoe.” However, such isn’t accepted as a correct English phrase. The proper way of constructing the very same sentence, with the very same thought, is: “a small red shoe.”
Unlike native English speakers, Asians do not possess the natural intuition to know how to order these words. This certainly adds difficulty for them to learn the language as there is no logical explanation for such except that it just doesn’t sound right. Some just don’t have the right intuition to discern such instances. This makes it so that they would need to dedicate more effort just to be acquainted with these confusing word order and sentence structures.
As difficult as it is to speak in English, some consider writing using the language more challenging. So much so that several native English speakers admit that they struggle to write in English properly as well. Additionally, using punctuation marks correctly can prove to be a challenging ordeal.
It requires an extra level of education to understand how to use commas, colons, semi-colons, and quotation marks properly. Unfortunately, some just don’t have the time and proper sources to do that. Say that you’re seeking to go beyond speaking the language to writing or transcribing them. It is best to remember that mastery over the use of punctuation is a must.
Native and non-native English speakers alike often wonder why some English words aren’t spelled as they are pronounced. On other languages, how a word is spelled is literally how one can utter them. In English, however, that just isn’t the case. A little bit of research would already show you several examples how English words can have their spellings be downright different to how they are pronounced. This essentially means that you cannot correctly spell several English words through their sounds alone, leaving no other choice but to carefully memorize them.
Slew of synonyms and homonyms
Many English words may have similarities in their meanings but differ in spelling and pronunciation. Even though that’s the case, it doesn’t mean you can use them interchangeably. More confusingly, some words have multiple meanings for themselves, and such may cause people to use them completely out of context.
Furthermore, English has plenty of homonyms. These words sound exactly the same as other words but have different spellings and meanings behind them. In fact, some words can have more than three meanings for themselves. Examples of such are “raise” and “right.” Combining all these factors can indeed be very complicated for anyone trying to learn the language.
Emphasizing a word can give a different meaning
It is also worth noting that, in the English language, the way you stress a single word can already completely change its purpose and meaning. For example, the statement “I am coming” is as straightforward of a sentence as it gets. However, stressing the word “I” in the very same statement implies that no one but you is coming. This element of the English language can already be baffling for anyone, not just non-native English speakers. Mix it in with the other confusing elements of the language, and you’d see how challenging it is really to be proficient with the English language.
Families of language
The English language is a mixture of several words from many different parts of the world. This includes French, Germany, and Latin. This makes it so that individuals from such places can learn the English language far more quickly. Unfortunately for those outside of it, such as Chinese and Japanese, learning it can be extra challenging. While the fact that English is a byproduct of many other languages combined is interesting in itself, this also means that it can be downright confusing at times. Being a blend of different languages contributes to its complicated and sometimes contradictory pronunciations.
Is English hard to learn for Asians? It can be. English alone is a difficult language to learn. Perhaps more than any other language today, English has a whole cluster of complicated exceptions and rules that guide its usage. As confusing as the examples we have given above, those were only but a small sample. There are several more confusing and downright baffling factors within the English language that make it one of the hardest languages to learn today, especially for those outside English native speaking countries, such as Asians.
However, given sufficient focus and commitment, anyone who desires to learn the English language can do so. It is no different from any other effort out there today. Indeed, some may struggle more than others, but given ample time and dedication, anyone can be proficient with the English language. To give a bit of encouragement, remember that native English speakers also struggle to learn your native tongue. It goes both ways.
Why Is Learning English Important For Asians?
As briefly brushed upon above, learning the English language can prove beneficial to Asians for several reasons. English proficiency influences social development, economic competitiveness, technological innovation, and so much more. Several studies show that countries with high English proficiency typically pay their citizens at a higher rate. This leads to them having a more desirable economic standing and generally being able to enjoy a better quality of life.
It is also worth noting that English has become the language of business and technology. This means that if you want to work internationally, you must have the skills in communicating in English fluently. In most Asian countries, they make it a point to promote employees based on their ability to speak the English language. There are several English proficiency tests that companies use nowadays. Their scores would factor in whether they would receive a promotion or not. More often than you realize, what separates a regular employee from their direct supervisor is their scores. In fact, some employers may even feel discouraged in accepting a skillful candidate for a specific job just because they have poor English speaking skills.
The point here is that the more knowledgeable you are at communicating in English as an Asian, the higher your stature in life is. Learning English for Asians has become a way to improve their job prospects and thus the ability to provide for themselves better. Is English hard to learn for Asians? It can be. But they are more than willing to undergo such a grueling process just so that they’d receive the opportunities they believe they deserve.
How English can be Difficult for Asians
The reality is that English can be difficult for anyone, not just Asians or other non-native English speaking nations. Those that are from English speaking countries themselves may find learning the language a bit challenging as well. One huge factor why Asians struggle communicating in English so much is that some people make it a point to constantly tell them that English is a language too hard for Asians to learn. Add to those the people that continually drive the notion that English fluency is only attainable if you live with native English speakers or live where English is the dominant language.
Some Asian folks may internalize these opinions, and such could affect their mentalities. They would start thinking that oh, English is very challenging and oh, I’m going to work my behind off if I want to attain even a modest command on the language. Not everyone could get over that hump, and some would unfortunately take such as fact and compromise. While most of these opinions come from native English speakers, a slew of Asians themselves are now sadly spreading the same discouraging remarks to their fellow people.
That is but one reason why English can prove difficult to learn for Asians. Here are some of the other factors why some Asians find speaking English so difficult.
1. Some sounds in English are not in their primary language
The bottom line is that we do not all grow up in the same world of sounds. In some cultures, the sounds around them are completely different from the sounds commonly present in the English language. People’s tongues literally grow comfortable in a particular way, and most would find it very difficult to adjust or retain it any other way. Worst yet, when they do try to speak the sounds they aren’t accustomed to, they are often met with laughs and ridicule. While some may take such in stride, most will feel discouraged from making an effort to learn further. This effectively limits their ability to speak English more fluently.
2. Inherent shyness
Unlike native English-speaking people, Asians are shy in nature. A lot of Asian cultures have tremendous academic prowess because it is something that they can do quietly and alone in the comfort of their homes. However, as soon as they have to step into the limelight and speak the language they did not grow up with, the fear of looking foolish may prove too hard to bear. We aren’t saying that all Asians fall under pressure or the brightness of the spotlight. Some are just inherently shy. We couldn’t blame them for that.
3. Silence is an acceptable response in Asian countries
In several Asian countries, to not speak or remain silent to a comment thrown is normal. Truth be told, to have no reply to someone talking to you, mostly lecturing you, can be considered a sign of great respect to many Asian cultures. While Asians may find not responding respectful, native English speakers may see this the other way around. This is often the toughest thing for Asian English learners to overcome. This is because as they see being disrespectful culturally as one of the worst crimes one could pull off.
4. Conflict is unacceptable
Verbal questioning may seem like a normal thing for other nations, such as Europeans, Africans, and Middle Easterners. In fact, they may find such as a way to show their passion for something instead of starting a fight. However, when dealing with some Asian cultures, conflict is the worst and seemingly the most disrespectful thing that you can do. Asians aren’t confrontational people. Avoiding conflicts at all costs is practically within their DNAs. So asking questions or pushing a conversation for more information on Asians may convey the feeling that you are being unnatural. Some may even find it downright disrespectful.
5. Asian cultures can be restricting
Some cultures are inherently international, particularly most European cultures. They can mingle with any colors of life without as much as exerting effort. Asians couldn’t be more different. Asian cultures boast close family ties. To do anything or mix with anyone outside their fellow culture is sometimes unusual. Some may even go as far as restricting their family members from communicating with others just because they may find it unusual. This is not them being racist; some Asians are just not comfortable going outside their comfort zones. So there often isn’t the support within their families for one to be truly bilingual.
6. They are afraid to make mistakes
One should be prepared to make a mistake to get better at anything. When you write something in English, you always have the chance to double-check. Make sure that nothing is wrong before you give it to anyone else. When speaking the language, however, it is already out there the moment you open your mouth and utter words. For some Asians, the fear of failure means loss of face and shame not just for them but for their whole family as well. This is why others tend to keep to themselves, limiting them from practicing the language to their full potential.
7. They don’t have anyone to practice speaking with
While you can certainly improve listening, reading, or even writing in English alone in your room, speaking the English language effectively means you need someone to practice with. This is where things get complicated, however, especially to inherently shy people like Asians. For many people, finding someone to practice English with, let alone speak anything with, can be a challenge in itself.
To answer the question we have been pondering for the whole article: Is English hard to learn for Asians? We believe it to be yes…but also no. Ultimately, this question that we have posed is answered depending on the individual trying to learn the language. Furthermore, the Asian country where they came from and how much access they have to the language to be proficient factors in as well. Asians are known to be hard workers, and everyone knows they don’t lack dedication.
That being said, native English speakers shouldn’t also shame Asians when they sound different when speaking the language. Whenever they struggle with a particular pronunciation or sentence structure, be kind enough to correct them politely. They may sound funny to you, but do not make fun of them. Remember that, unlike you, Asians aren’t born into English-speaking families. They made it a point to exert extra effort to learn the language as fluently as they could. Some struggles and difficulties in understanding what they are trying to say in English are perhaps inevitable. But the important thing here is that they are trying. They should be commended for that rather than made fun of.
Difficult or not, Asians are warriors of life, and they certainly wouldn’t let a language be a hindrance to their growth. As we have comprehensively established above, learning English can develop a person both personally and professionally. To be completely frank, the answer to the question is learning English hard for Asians shouldn’t really matter in the grander scheme of things. The important thing here is for an individual to have the right dedication and drive to achieve whatever it is that they put their mind to. Learning the English language, native English speaker or not, should not be any different.