When I was a teacher, I encountered two types of students: those who really loved learning a language and excelling at it, and those who thought that languages were the hardest subject of all. There was rarely a middle ground.
It's not really a surprise, statistically it's a lotharder to get high grades in a foreign languagethan other subjects in the UK. While learning a foreign language is challenging, some languages are more difficult for English speakers than others.
Language Difficulty Rating Explained
That oneInstitute of Foreign Services(FSI), a US government educational institution, has calculated how difficult it is for English speakers to learn different languages and ranked them according to the time it takes to master those languages to professional proficiency.
This is what the FSI produced:
- Easier Languages for English Speakers– closely related languages such as the Romance language (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, Galician, Catalan) and other languages with historical influence on English (Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Swedish and Norwegian). Mastering these languages takes up to 600 hours.
- Other languages like English– German, which takes about 750 hours to master.
- Languages with cultural or linguistic differences– for example, Swahili, Malay, Indonesian. Mastering this takes about 900 hours.
- Languages with significant cultural or linguistic differences- for example. B. Russian, Polish, Greek, Urdu, Turkish etc. It takes about 1,100 hours to master these languages.
- Extremely diverse and difficult languages.– for example Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese and Arabic. Mastering them takes about 2200 hours, which is almost four times longer than the first category of languages.
The hardest languages to learn for English speakers
ArabicaIt is part of the hardest category and takes up to 2200 for an English speaker to become proficient at a professional level. This language is widely spoken all over the world. Although mostly spoken in Arab League countries, it has also been spoken much more across Europe over the last fifty years and is also the liturgical language of Islam.
Arabic is a Semitic language that had a great influence on other languages in the early Middle Ages, so we have a lot of English loanwords such asAlgebra,mattress,orange, safari, alcohol, magazine,jCafeteria.Despite this, it is extremely difficult to master.
What makes it one of the hardest languages to learn is that it is unrelated to English and written from right to left. Also, the pronunciation is tricky and the root system requires a lot of practice and memorization. Noun, plural and verb agreements are particularly challenging.
Finally, because Arabic is so widely spoken, you will often encounter different dialects and words, especially when communicating with Arabic speakers from rural areas or an older generation. However, don't let the difficulty of learning Arabic put you off because Arabic is a beautiful language!
2. Mandarin Chinese
It is probably no surprise to find thatmandarin chineseentered this list of the hardest languages to learn. Mandarin is a Sinitic language spoken in most parts of southwestern and northern China. Many languages are spoken in China, including many versions and dialects of Mandarin, although it is Standard Mandarin that comes first in terms of native speakers (of which there are nearly a billion).
What makes Mandarin so difficult for English speakers to master is its alphabet, or lack thereof. The Mandarin writing system, like many other Chinese writing systems, is based on logograms or characters. Why is this a problem? Well, there are over 50,000 Chinese characters, 20,000 of which are in modern usage. It is believed that the average Chinese knows about 8,000 characters.
Also, the character doesn't say anything about how the word is pronounced, so Mandarin learners should learn that too. After all, when you speak Mandarin, you have to find the right tone. For example the wordBreastsIn Mandarin it means different things depending on the tone of voice. It can mean mother, horse, stun and scold.
However, what's great for English speakers is that there are no articles (a/the) or verb tenses. Imagine how difficult that would be!
Just becauseJapaneseIt's the same difficulty as Mandarin and it has characters, but that doesn't mean it is. However, Japanese speakers use Chinese characters, but they also have two syllabaries: katakana and hiragana. Therefore, to write and read Japanese, you need to learn thousands of characters and two separate alphabets!
Unlike Mandarin learners, Japanese learners have to think about grammar. The Japanese language uses a mandatory SOV (subject-object-verb) morphology and also has many different verbal structures and particles. You also have to deal with an extraordinarily complex courtesy system!
That said, there's a silver lining for learning Japanese: there are so many resources out there, not to mention cool stuff like manga and anime. The culture is so fascinating that learning the language is fun!
Learn koreanas an English speaker it is terribly difficult. Korean is practically unrelated to other languages, making it difficult for anyone, not just English speakers, to learn.
Korean word order can be exceptionally challenging for English speakers. For example, verbs come at the end of a sentence. Another thing that makes Korean challenging is the pronunciation rules. Pronouncing each of the vowels and consonants is difficult on its own, but when you add the correct inflection it can easily become overwhelmed!
Even if you master pronunciation and grammar, you still need to understand the Korean honor system. This system is an integral part of Korean culture and it can be easy to offend someone if you screw it up! You must take into account formality, courtesy, age, status, deserved respect and the seriousness of the situation!
But, like Japanese culture, Korean culture is full of teaching materials, including fantastic movies, video games, TV shows and the famous K-pop that is successful even outside the country.
HungarianIt belongs to the group of languages with significant cultural and/or linguistic differences in relation to English. Therefore, Hungarian language learners can expect to spend twice as much time to become professionally proficient compared to simpler languages.
Hungarian has a lot of irregularities, which makes it a real challenge to learn. It is also an agglutinative language, so different morphemes together express different meanings.
Although there are only around 330,000 native speakers of Icelandic, it's a great language to learn! SinceIcelandiclike a language hasn't changed since 9To dieo 10To dieCenturies-old words gain new meanings and that's why it's very archaic.
In addition, it has a complicated pronunciation, it is an irregular language with many verb forms that must be completely memorized. The sentence structure is also irregular and there are up to ten different tenses!
like the hungarianFinnishit has an extremely complicated grammar. It's also common to find a lot of double vowels and double consonants, so find words likein motionwhat does showroom meana translatormeaning translator!
However, there are also good things about learning Finnish. It's a phonetic language, which means you say everything you see, and there's no future tense, so there's one less thing to learn!
polishingit is defined as difficult mainly by its pronunciation. Even the first word you learnHello(Hello) is challenging for English speakers because 's' and 'c' are not pronounced like in English.
The case system is even more challenging. There are seven cases for gender and seventeen for number. So yes, there are seventeen ways to say each number in one sentence.
There are no surprises to be foundrussoon our list of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.
With its Cyrillic alphabet, Russian can be a little easier to read than other difficult languages like Mandarin Chinese and Japanese, but there are other things that make this language difficult. This includes the six different cases and the fact that Russians don't use the verb "to be" when speaking in the present tense.
Finally, the last language on our list of the hardest languages to learn isturquoise. This is another agglutinative language and as a result you will see long verb forms. Also, in Turkish there is a concept called "vowel harmony", which means changing vowels to make words softer.
However, there are positive aspects, Turkish doesn't have so many grammatical exceptions and the spelling is also simple.
Learning a language is always a challenge, no matter which language you choose. It doesn't matter if you want to learn the hardest language in the world or an easier one.
Learning a language is a wonderful skill, even if you never reach full fluency. The most important thing is that you enjoy learning and have a satisfying experience.
Finally, learning a language will help you better understand yours, whatever you choose!
1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.What is the 20 hardest language to learn? ›
- Mandarin. No. of speakers: 1.3 billion.
- Arabic. No. of speakers: 274 million. ...
- Japanese. No. of speakers: 126 million. ...
- Korean. No. of speakers: 80 million. ...
- Thai. No. of speakers: 60 million. ...
- Vietnamese. No. of speakers: 77 million. ...
- Hindi. No. of speakers: 615 million. ...
- Icelandic. No. ...
Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.What is the 7 hardest language to learn? ›
- 1 – Chinese (Mandarin)
- 2 – Arabic.
- 3 – Japanese.
- 4 – Korean.
- 5 – Hungarian.
- 6 – Finnish.
- 7 – Xhosa.
Generally, if you're an English speaker with no exposure to other languages, here are some of the most challenging and difficult languages to learn: Mandarin Chinese. Arabic. Vietnamese.What is the 10 hardest language in the world? ›
- Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Japanese. ...
- Hungarian. ...
- Korean. ...
- Finnish. ...
- Basque. ...
2. Arabic. Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.What language has the hardest grammar? ›
Hungarian grammar seems like the road to death for an English speaker. Because Hungarian grammar rules are the most difficult to learn, this language has 26 different cases. The suffixes dictate the tense and possession and not the word order. That's is how most of the European languages deal with this problem.What is the world's easiest language? ›
- Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. ...
- Swedish. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Indonesian. ...
- Italian. ...
Japanese (2200 hours)
This is because Japanese has long been thought to be one of the most difficult languages ever to learn, whether you are native English speaking or not. This is because of the complex writing systems in Japan.
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Answer: Thankfully, your brain can definitely handle learning two (or more!) languages at once! (Two down, 6,998 to go.) But there are also some ways you can make this linguistic task easier on yourself.What language is easiest for English speakers to learn? ›
Spanish has always been a go-to language for English speakers to learn due to its practicality and wide reach. Well, it's also one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.Which English language skills is most difficult? ›
Writing: It is the most difficult of the four language skills. It requires a command over vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. When children graduate to writing short paragraphs, it also involves establishing links among different sentences. All these help in creating meaning.What is the 5th hardest language? ›