This is in reference to a question I recently posted, Which dialects of English are easiest for learners? which was deemed not constructive.

I respect the decision that this question is too broad to be answered objectively as it is, I agree that there are many factors to consider before even beginning to form an answer, especially since potential answers are largely dependent on the learner as well. However, I have had multiple students ask me this recently, and I believe many English learners face the question of which dialect to learn (though typically limited to SAE, SBE, or the regional dialect), which is why I thought it would be a good addition to the site.

I therefore intend to break it down and focus it into a series of smaller questions, hopefully more objectively answerable, which can then be compiled into a CW at a later date.

Is this an acceptable plan of attack for this specific question? Or the question something which is entirely unwanted on ELL.SE?

And lastly, for the sake of generality and posterity, is it typically acceptable to break down broad questions into a series of related focused questions? (not about my question, just a general rule of thumb)

After looking at it some more, I came to the conclusion that although it is possible to do a breakdown into objective components, to do so be more along the lines of a dissertation. And I unfortunately don't have the time required to undertake the project. So my thanks to everyone who gave feedback, maybe someday I'll have a dissertation on the topic...

  • I did actually answer the "dialect" question, but I fully expected it to be closed, and I hope my answer made clear that I broadly endorsed that. To be honest, I think the notion that Received Pronunciation is "easier to learn" than Cockney is highly suspect too. Francophones, for example, might find Cockney easier because, like French, it rarely pronounces aitch. Any accent is hard or easy according to how good you are at hearing/mimicking sounds, and the grammar/vocabulary of all recognised variants are probably about equal in objective "complexity". Jun 12, 2013 at 23:50

3 Answers 3


Multiple questions pursuing different aspects of the same topic are not at all uncommon here—as you are probably aware, having plunged (with conspicuous elan) into the Great Past Perfect Dragnet!

However, SE's structure prohibits discussion and requires us to take these one atomic question at a time, so any dialectic (much less coherence) between questions and their respective answers will inevitably lie mostly in the consciousness of the quærent, you.

Your mission, then, (should you choose to accept it) is to deconstruct your topic into a series of answerable individual questions: questions which

  • are of a scope which may be fairly briefly addressed—within, say, 200 to 800 words. Can a visitor hack out a good answer in fifteen or twenty minutes?
  • call for exposition and analysis of fact, not expression of opinion. Is there a conceivable "right" answer, or is this merely a poll of points of view?

Questions of that sort will stay open and will be answered. Whether they may be compiled into a useful answer to your underlying question will depend largely on your own ingenuity. And how to get that compilation published on ELL is yet another challenge.


The problem with that question is not that it's multifaceted, or too broad, but that it's simply too subjective. Go to Mathematics.SE and ask: "Which is easier to learn, algebra or geometry?" Go to Writers.SE and ask: "Which is easier to write for a first novel, fiction or non-fiction?" Everyone has their own opinion about what's easy to grasp and what's hard to understand.

It's not that such questions have complicated answers, is that they have no definitive answers. Maybe I think the Hong Kong dialect is simpler than the Nigerian dialect, but maybe StoneyB disagrees.

If one of my students asked, "Which dialect is easiest to learn?" I would simply reply that, for the most part, they are all just variations of each other, and whether or not one would be any easier to learn than another might depend on a host of factors.

One thing I will say, though: The easiest one to learn is probably the one you can immerse yourself in the most. In all likelihood, it would be much easier to learn the Caribbean dialect while in Jamaica than in Alaska.

  • 1
    So far I've only been looking at it from the somewhat narrower scope of pronunciation, and it seems it can be objective there at least. For example the Slavic languages don't have the /ð/ or /θ/ phonemes, but they do have [f] and [v] phonemes. So dialects with th-fronting would be slightly easier for a learner with a Slavic language background to speak and understand. This is the sort of objective analysis I was hoping for, but whether or not it can be extended beyond a phonetic analysis (to grammar, syntax, spelling, etc.) I don't know.
    – Walter
    Jun 12, 2013 at 7:27
  • 1
    Walter: That's certainly an interesting spin to the question, and maybe eliminates much of the subjectivity. However, I think the mapping of native languages to English dialects in terms of ease of learning would be beyond the scope of an ELL question. Sounds like an interesting research project, though. I'm not sure if something like that's ever been done, but ELU's @JohnLawler () might know.
    – J.R. Mod
    Jun 12, 2013 at 9:42

The problem is not just with the number of English dialects involved in the question, but also from its subjectivity: Which English dialect is easier to learn from a English learner depends from the person who is learning it, and the personal experience of that person.
For example, I have chatted for more than 10 years with a friend of mine, who is American; I probably find American English easier to learn, but that doesn't mean the same is true for every Italian. In fact, in Italy, the English dialect that is normally taught in public schools is British English.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .