2's fine (as I think you know). 1 is not.
You could say 'He has a hard time learning English...' or 'He finds learning English hard...'. If he's demonstrative about it, you could say 'He makes hard work of learning English...' or 'he's making heavy weather of learning English...'. The '...does John' is OK, though not formal (and rather dated - my teachers used to say it but my peers don't).
Student or Learner