LCN learner Jenny Z. recently received US Citizenship. Jenny says, “Thank you to Literacy Council and my teacher Martha!

5 reasons why English is difficult to learn

If you teach English language learners, give them credit! English is difficult to learn, but since it is the current lingua franca, it is a language that many non-native speakers need to know.

Why is English so difficult?

English spelling and pronunciation are quite irregular.

According to, English has 43.5 different sounds (the half-sound being the schwa, or unstressed vowel sound):

English has 43.5 sounds


Yet English has 185 (!!) spellings for these 44 sounds. Yikes! I’ll bet Spanish- and German-speaking children don’t have to have spelling tests every week, because their languages have regular spelling patterns that do not change from word to word!

The English vocabulary is huge.

It is hard to quantify how many words a given language has, but by any measure, English has a huge quantity of different morphemes. Why? English has gone through several iterations as its native speakers have been conquered by foreign powers, and English has always readily accepted words from other languages and cultures. The richness of English vocabulary makes it quite expressive for speaking and writing but difficult for non-native speakers to learn.

Definition of morpheme

(from Google)

English has rules, but the rules have many exceptions.

You have heard the rule “i before e except after c, or sounds like such as neighbor and weigh“.

What about “science”? “Weird”? “Their”? “Seizure”?

English grammar can be challenging.

There are things about English grammar that are easier than some other languages:

  • lack of gender for articles and adjectives
  • not as much emphasis on case (for example, the object case of German prepositions varies, while the object of English prepositions is always accusative)
  • no polite and familiar forms of the pronoun “you”

However, English, like many other languages, has a slew of irregular verbs that must be memorized. Also, proper word order in English can be difficult. If you ask a native English speaker why one can say “the little brown dog” but not “the brown little dog”, the speaker may say “it just doesn’t sound right!” Some languages put the adjective before the noun, some after, but English speakers can do both!

The dog is brown.

The brown dog barks.

And then there are the regional differences…

English is so widely spoken that there are many regional accents. According to Dialect Blog, there are nine main dialects in the United Kingdom alone, and many other smaller dialects. Then add in the American, Australian, South African, and Indian dialects, and it can get complicated. Even native English speakers can have trouble understanding some dialects, so imagine being a non-native speaker and trying to make sense of what you are hearing. You might think this would not be as big a problem in the USA, where there are less regional variations over a much larger area than the UK, but imagine you learned English in Pennsylvania and then traveled to the southern US–it could be like trying to understand an unknown language, y’all!


Finally, which rhymes with enough—
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!

(from “The Chaos” by Gerard Nolst Trenité)

No, DON’T give up, just appreciate how difficult your English language learners have it!

Giving Tuesday is November 29th

villagegivingtuesdaywebimage-2Giving Tuesday is a nationally recognized designated day for philanthropy during the holiday season. You can take part by making a contribution to the Literacy Council of Norristown’s general fund.

The Literacy Council of Norristown asks that you take a moment from the hustle and bustle of this holiday season and consider making a donation that directly supports adults in enriching their lives with the gift of improved literacy and mastery of the English language.

Click here to make your donation to LCN’s Giving Tuesday Campaign.

Please fill out the form at the bottom of this page as well.

Helping someone raise their level of English literacy can enable them to do things that native English speakers take for granted. Imagine not being able to read to your child, help with their homework, not being able to fill out an application, or understand a doctor’s instructions.
We provide books, assessment testing and tutors to work with adults on an individual basis. In order to do that, community partners are essential to keep our funding sources flowing.

Did you Know:

  • low literacy adults make an average of 35% of the wage of those at the highest levels of literacy.
  • 50% of U.S. adults function at or below the second of five levels of literacy. (NIFL)
  • 70% of mothers on welfare fall into the lowest two levels of literacy and the literacy level of the mother is an important indicator of her child’s future literacy level

With your generous donation we can:

  • tailor instruction to the individual student’s needs
  • provide small group GED preparation services
  • provide English classes and citizenship preparation for our growing immigrant population

Happy Holidays

Felices Fiestas


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खुश छुट्टियाँ

تعطیلات شاد

About LCN

The Literacy Council of Norristown (LCN) is a non-profit organization that can help adults improve their reading, writing, and math skills. We also offer help with English as a foreign language. English literacy skills are important in finding or keeping a job, helping your children with their schoolwork, or seeking further education.

We can help!

Help us help them!!


Dollar General Literacy Foundation supports LCN!


Literacy Council of Norristown Receives $5,000 Grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to Support Adult Literacy

[Norristown, PA] May 24, 2016 – This week, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation awarded the Literacy Council of Norristown a $5,000 grant to support adult literacy.  This local grant award is part of over $7.1 million in grants awarded to more than 900 schools, nonprofits and organizations across the 43 states that Dollar General serves.

Each year over 300 adult students register with LCN to receive help with reading, writing, math, GED preparation or English as a Second Language (ESL).   Instruction is provided via one-on-one tutoring, small groups or classes.  Volunteer tutors are trained by LCN and utilized in the one-on-one tutoring program.  New volunteers are needed to reduce the wait time for students.  More information about this volunteer opportunity and LCN services may be found by visiting the website:  LCN relies heavily on community support in order to continue to provide quality services at little or no cost to students.

“Consistent with our mission of Serving Others, we are excited to provide these organizations with funding to further literacy and education across the communities we call home,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO.  “It is always so exciting to see the true and meaningful impact the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has on both children and adults looking to improve their lives through literacy.”

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $120 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 7.3 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education.

About the Dollar General Literacy Foundation

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education as part of the company’s mission of Serving Others for over 20 years.  Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $120 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 7.3 million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education. For more information about the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and its grant programs, visit

 About Dollar General Corporation

Dollar General Corporation (NYSE: DG) has been delivering value to shoppers for over 75 years through its mission of Serving Others. Dollar General helps shoppers Save time. Save money. Every day!® by offering products that are frequently used and replenished, such as food, snacks, health and beauty aids, cleaning supplies, clothing for the family, housewares and seasonal items at low everyday prices in convenient neighborhood locations. Dollar General operates 12,483 stores in 43 states as of January 29, 2016. In addition to high quality private brands, Dollar General sells products from America’s most-trusted manufacturers such as Clorox, Energizer, Procter & Gamble, Hanes, Coca-Cola, Mars, Unilever, Nestle, Kimberly-Clark, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and PepsiCo. For more information on Dollar General, please visit




What is LCN all about?

LCN Board President Pat Lees talks about the Literacy Council of Norristown’s work in the community on Comcast Newsmakers.