Stretching tag:

list of World Hardest Languages To Learn

Posted by Think Extraordinary on 1:47 AM 47 comments

Learning another language gives the learner the ability to step inside the mind and context of that other culture. Without the ability to communicate and understand a culture on its own terms, true access to that culture is barred. In a world where nations and peoples are ever more dependent upon on another to supply goods and services, solve political disputes, and ensure international security, understanding other cultures is paramount. Lack of intercultural sensitivity can lead to mistrust and misunderstandings, to an inability to cooperate, negotiate, and compromise, and perhaps even to military confrontation.

Extremely Hard: The hardest language to learn is: Polish

Polish

Polish is a West Slavic language and the official language of Poland. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet which corresponds basically to the Latin alphabet with a few additions. Polish-speakers use the language in a uniform manner through most of Poland. It is also used as a second language in some parts of Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. This phenomenon is caused by migrations. There are only a few dialects that differ from the standard Polish language, however the differences among them are not significant and mostly based on regional pronunciation and vocabulary changes. The most distinguishable are the dialects of Silesia and Podhale (highlander’s dialect). Worth mentioning is Kashubian – a separate language used by the inhabitants living west of Gdansk near the Baltic Sea. The number of its users is estimated at somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000. Although it is gradually becoming extinct, a lot of effort is being put into saving it and it recently begun to be taught at local schools as a minority language. Polish, like other Indo-European languages, shares some Latin grammar and vocabulary. There are 3 tenses (past, present, future), 2 numbers (singular and plural), and 3 genders (masculine, feminine, neuter). There are no articles but Polish, like Latin, and is an inflectional language that distinguishes 7 cases, defining the noun usage in a sentence. This feature makes our mother tongue difficult to master and presents a lot of trouble to foreigners. The average Polish speaker is fluent in their language not until age 16.

Very Hard: Finnish, Hungarian, and Estonian-These languages are hard because of the countless noun cases. However, the cases are more like English prepositions added to the end of the root.

Finnish

Finnish is one of the official languages of Finland and an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a Finnish dialect, are spoken. The Kven language, which is closely related to Finnish, is an official minority language in Norway. Finnish belongs to the Baltic-Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric languages, being most closely related to Estonian, Livonian, Votic, Karelian, Veps, and Ingrian. Characteristic phonological features include vowel harmony, in which vowels are divided into two contrasting classes such that vowels from opposing classes may not occur together in a word; and consonant gradation, in which stop consonants (such as p, t, k) are altered before closed syllables (e.g., p is replaced by v, pp by p). There are also two lengths distinguished in vowels and in consonants. Many words have been borrowed from Indo-European languages, particularly from the Baltic languages, German, and Russian. Finnish dialects are divided into two distinct groups, the Western dialects and the Eastern dialects.

Hungarian

Hungarian is a Finno-Ugric language, distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. It is the largest member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages, spoken by about 10 million people in Hungary and 4.5 million in countries adjacent to Hungary and around the world. It is an “agglutinating” language, i.e., a language that uses large numbers of suffixes and post-positions. It belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family, which includes Finnish and Estonian, but its closest relatives are several obscure languages spoken in Siberia. Hungarian is not at all related to the Indo-European languages which surround it, and is very different both in vocabulary and in grammar. Hungarian is an agglutinative language, meaning that it relies heavily on suffixes and prefixes. The grammar is seemingly complex, yet there is no gender, a feature that most English speakers grapple with when learning other European languages. Hungarian is a highly inflected language in which nouns can have up to 238 possible forms. It is related to Mansi, an Ob-Ugric language with about 4,000 speakers who live in the eastern Urals, and Khanty or Ostyak, the other Ob-Ugric language which is spoken by about 15,000 people in the Ob valley of western Siberia.

Estonian

Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia and tens of thousands in various émigré communities. It is an Uralic language and is closely related to Finnish. Even the most ordinary everyday Estonian language contains numerous ancient expressions, possibly going back as far as the Ice Age. The language occurs in two major dialectal forms, northern and southern; the northern dialect, Tallinn, is used in most of the country and forms the basis of the modern literary language. The southern dialect is found from Tartu southward. Typologically, Estonian represents a transitional form from an agglutinating language to an inflected language. In Estonian nouns and pronouns do not have grammatical gender, but nouns and adjectives are declined in fourteen cases: nominative, genitive, partitive, illative, inessive, elative, allative, adessive, ablative, translative, terminative, essive, abessive, and comitative, with the case and number of the adjective(s) always agreeing with that of the noun. Thus the illative for “a yellow house” (kollane maja) – “into a yellow house” is (kollasesse majasse). The verbal system is characterized by the absence of the future tense (the present tense is used) and by the existence of special forms to express an action performed by an undetermined subject (the “impersonal”).

Pretty Hard: Ukrainian and Russian complex grammar and different alphabet but easier pronunciation. Serbian-Also similar to other Slavic languages with a complex case and gender system, but it also has many tenses. alphabet

Ukrainian

Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. The alphabet comprises thirty-three letters, representing thirty-eight phonemes (meaningful units of sound), and an additional sign—the apostrophe. Ukrainian orthography is based on the phonemic principle, with one letter generally corresponding to one phoneme, although there are a number of exceptions. The orthography also has cases where the semantic, historical, and morphological principles are applied. The letter ? represents two consonants [?t?]. The combination of [j] with some of the vowels is also represented by a single letter ([ja]=?, [je]=?, [ji]=?, [ju]=?), while [jo]=?? and the rare regional [j?]=?? are written using two letters. These iotated vowel letters and a special soft sign change a preceding consonant from hard to soft. An apostrophe is used to indicate the hardness of the sound in the cases when normally the vowel would change the consonant to soft; in other words, it functions like the yer in the Russian alphabet. A consonant letter is doubled to indicate that the sound is doubled, or long. The phonemes [dz] and [d?] do not have dedicated letters in the alphabet and are rendered with the digraphs ?? and ??, respectively. [dz] is pronounced close to English dz in adze, [d?] is close to g in huge.

Russian

Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia, the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages, and the largest native language in Europe. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of three living members of the East Slavic languages, the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn, normally considered a dialect of Ukrainian). Russian is written using a modified version of the Cyrillic (?????????) alphabet, consisting of 33 letters. Russian spelling is reasonably phonetic in practice. It is in fact a balance among phonetics, morphology, etymology, and grammar, and, like that of most living languages, has its share of inconsistencies and controversial points. The Russian language possesses five vowels, which are written with different letters depending on whether or not the preceding consonant is palatalized. The consonants typically come in plain vs. palatalized pairs, which are traditionally called hard and soft. (The ‘hard’ consonants are often velarized, some dialects only velarize /l/ in such positions). The standard language, based on the Moscow dialect, possesses heavy stress and moderate variation in pitch. Stressed vowels are somewhat lengthened, while unstressed vowels (except /u/) tend to be reduced to an unclear schwa. Russian is notable for its distinction based on palatalization of most of the consonants. The spoken language has been influenced by the literary, but continues to preserve characteristic forms. The dialects show various non-standard grammatical features, some of which are archaisms or descendants of old forms since discarded by the literary language. The total number of words in Russian is difficult to reckon because of the ability to agglutinate and create manifold compounds, diminutives, etc.

Serbian

Serbian is a South Slavic language, spoken chiefly in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, and in the Serbian diaspora. Standard Serbian is based on the Shtokavian dialect, like the modern Croatian and Bosnian, with which it is mutually intelligible, and was previously unified with under the standard known as Serbo-Croatian. Uses primarily Cyrillic, but also the Latin alphabet as well. Serbian verbs are one of the most complicated parts of Serbian grammar (with noun cases, probably, being the hardest). They are inflected for person, number and sometimes gender. Serbian verbs are conjugated in 4 past tenses – perfect, aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect, of which the last two have a very limited use (imperfect is still used in some dialects, but majority of native Serbian speakers consider it archaic); 1 future tense (aka 1st future tense – as opposed to the 2nd future tense or the future exact, which is considered a tense of the conditional mood by some contemporary linguists), and 1 present tense. These are the tenses of the indicative mood. Apart from the indicative mood, there is also the imperative mood. The conditional mood has two more tenses, the 1st conditional (commonly used in conditional clauses, both for possible and impossible conditional clauses), and the 2nd conditional (without use in spoken language – it should be used for impossible conditional clauses). Serbian language has active and passive voice. As for the non-finite verb forms, Serbian language has 1 infinitive, 2 adjectival participles (the active and the passive), and 2 adverbial participles (the present and the past).

Fairly Hard: Chinese and Japanese-No cases, no genders, no tenses, no verb changes, short words, very easy grammar, however, writing is hard. But to speak it is very easy. Also intonations make it harder but certainly not harder than Polish pronunciation. I know a Chinese language teacher that says people pick up Chinese very easy, but he speaks several languages and could not learn Polish. I am learning some Chinese, it is not the hardest language maybe even the easiest language to learn. Not the hardest language by any measure. Try to learn some Chinese and Polish your self and you will see which is the hardest language.

Chinese

Chinese languages – also called Sinitic languages – are a principal language group of eastern Asia which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family. All varieties of modern Chinese are analytic languages, in that they depend on syntax (word order and sentence structure) rather than morphology—i.e., changes in form of a word—to indicate the word’s function in a sentence. In other words, Chinese has few grammatical inflections—it possesses no tenses, no voices, no numbers (singular, plural; though there are plural markers, for example for personal pronouns), and only a few articles (i.e., equivalents to “the, a, an” in English). There is, however, a gender difference in the written language (? as “he” and ? as “she”), but it should be noted that this is a relatively new introduction to the Chinese language in the twentieth century. They make heavy use of grammatical particles to indicate aspect and mood. In Mandarin Chinese, this involves the use of particles like le ?, hai ?, yijing ??, etc. Other notable grammatical features common to all the spoken varieties of Chinese include the use of serial verb construction, pronoun dropping and the related subject dropping.

Japanese

Japanese is believed to be linked to the Altaic language family, which includes Turkish, Mongolian and other languages, but also shows similarities to Austronesian languages like Polynesian. The Japanese writing system consists of three different character sets: Kanji (several thousands of Chinese characters) and Hiragana and Katakana (two syllabaries of 46 characters each; together called Kana). Japanese texts can be written in two ways: In Western style, i.e. in horizontal rows from the top to the bottom of the page, or in traditional Japanese style, i.e. in vertical columns from the right to the left side of the page. Both writing styles exist side by side today. Basic Japanese grammar is relatively simple. Complicating factors such as gender articles and distinctions between plural and singular are missing almost completely. Conjugation rules for verbs and adjectives are simple and almost free of exceptions. Nouns are not declinated at all, but appear always in the same form. The biggest difficulty are accents, which do exist, but to a much lower extent than in the Chinese language. In addition, there are relatively many homonyms, i.e. words that are pronounced the same way, but have different meanings.

Average: French-lots of tenses but not used and moderate grammar.

French

French is a Romance language globally spoken by about 77 million people as a first language (mother tongue), by 50 million as a second language, and by about another 200 million people as an acquired foreign language, with significant speakers in 57 countries. French is a moderately inflected language. Nouns and most pronouns are inflected for number (singular or plural); adjectives, for the number and gender (masculine or feminine) of their nouns; personal pronouns, for person, number, gender, and case; and verbs, for mood, tense, and the person and number of their subjects. French has a grammar similar to that of the other Romance languages. The French grammar provides definitions and links to further information about each of the French verb tenses, pronouns, and other grammatical structures.

Basic to hard: English, no cases or gender, you hear it everywhere, spelling can be hard and British tenses you can use the simple and continues tense instead of the perfect tenses and you will speak American English. English at the basic level is easy but to speak it like a native it’s hard because of the dynamic idiomatic nature.

English

English is a West Germanic language that developed in England during the Anglo-Saxon era. English grammar has minimal inflection compared with most other Indo-European languages. For example, Modern English, unlike Modern German or Dutch and the Romance languages, lacks grammatical gender and adjectival agreement. Case marking has almost disappeared from the language and mainly survives in pronouns. At the same time, the language has become more analytic, and has developed features such as modal verbs and word order as resources for conveying meaning. Auxiliary verbs mark constructions such as questions, negative polarity, the passive voice and progressive aspect.


47 Responses so far:

Anonymous said...

try Lithuanian

Anonymous said...

icelandic

Anonymous said...

wow, you're really far off. the order is far from correct and it's no surprise you have no sources. You probably have never studied a language yourself.

According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Japanese and Chinese take TWICE as long to learn as Polish and are part of their category III of hardest languages to learn. Here's a summary of their research:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

Personally I'm fluent in Swedish, English and French. I've currently been studying Japanese at university for over a year and I can say from personal experience that comparing French with Japanese is similar to comparing an episode of Pokemon with the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in it's extended form.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you my friend... are WRONG!
The first are Japanese & Chinese.
Even the spanish is like in 5th place

Anonymous said...

greek...

Anonymous said...

na szczęście Bóg stworzył google translate :)

Anonymous said...

bullshit.
the credibility of the list lies in the sentence before the last one of the polish introduction. "our mother tongue" hmmm! that must be one hell of a balanced and objective review.

wonder why i've never heard anyone say "ohh come learn my language, it's so easy!!" you'll only hear people babbling how hard their language is. i've even heard mericans try to prove how difficult english is.

Anonymous said...

in other words. all the languages are difficult as long as you are still learning them to speak. different languages have different difficulties and are easier for certain individuals or for certain nationalities. it's easy for me to learn finnish while french verbs are a nightmare. so let's lynch the author :P

Anonymous said...

yes,try lithuanian. its the hardest language.

Anonymous said...

You should try slovenian :)

Anonymous said...

Well, quite frankly I don't see any point in making lists of this kind. The opinion depends largely on the speaker's mother tongue, his age, motivation and many other factors. I'm Polish so, quite naturally, Russian or other Slavic languages don't seem that difficult to me, while Chinese or Japanese may pose a problem. I personally find French difficult but that is caused by my deep dislike for that language. On the other hand, Spanish (also Latin origin) is like the easiest language ever for me.

Anonymous said...

"Russian is written using a modified version of the Cyrillic (?????????) alphabet"

What kind of bullshit is this? Modified? Modified from what??? xD

Anonymous said...

I don't agree. It definitely depends on who is learning what language!!

Anonymous said...

Polish kids are fluent just as young as any other children in the world. Hungarian is much harder than Polish and the two main Chinese dialects (Mandarin and Cantonese in particular) are to be considered the most difficult languages. And it seems to me that English is still a bit hard for you...

Anonymous said...

I guess the moron that wrote the above piece is completely ignorant. The hardest language to learn is GREEK. Only chinese may be compared to difficulty. The Greek language begun evolving 6000 years ago when the largest part of the rest of the world was still living in caves and on trees, like the apes they were. There is no other language on the planet that is richer in meanings, expresions and vocabulary. It is said that not even the most literate of greeks can use the Greek language to its full extent and capability which is understandable since it is the language of the people whose culture thousand of years ago provided the foundation of Western Civilization. Καταλάβατε? Γι' αυτό σταματήστε να γράφετε χαζομάρες αμόρφωτοι Ευρωπαϊοι καραγκιόζηδες που χωρίς το φώς του Αρχαίου Ελληνικού Πολιτισμου θα μένατε αιωνίως στα σκοτάδια της άγνοιας και στο απύθμενο βάθος της βλακείας που σας δέρνει.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? How about italian?

Look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_grammar

We have a tons of tenses, mood... also articles and declinations!

Anonymous said...

Im totally agreed with the anonymous 15...who idiot wrote that? Pls before u create this kind of blog again at least check which language has the biggest amount of words which has a huge different from the second language (russian) and that definitely its GREEK!!!!

Anonymous said...

Silly post. If I speak russian, i can understand(mostly) Polish, Ukranian and other Slavic languages.
Lithuanian and Latvian are the most archaich languages, so quite hard to understand. However if i know lithuanian language, i can understand(hardly, but i can) latvian.

Anonymous said...

wouldn't say polish is extremely hard, try lithuanian better...

Anonymous said...

the guy who said icelandic is pretty wrong, it's pretty close to ancience norse/old danish.
denmark, sweden(although, the least)and norway (the one with the least changes, atleast verbally) all have a more advanced version of it.

praskovia said...

What about German?Mark Twain found it "awful" and extremely hard to learn. Can't agree with him, but still German is more likely to be on this list, than English or French.

Anonymous said...

cmon lithuanian should atleast be in the list.. i was born i nlithuania, and my both parents are from lithuaniam but in school english is 2 or 3 times easier than lithuanian to me

Anonymous said...

What about Amharic - Ethiopian?

Anonymous said...

I don't see arabic, it would be the hardest language ever.

Anonymous said...

Well You guyz are all Wrong the hardest Language in the World is PASHTO of Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Arabic? Man u don't know what u say. I'm from Poland and i have problem with my language:P

Anonymous said...

Try Dutch. Its pretty DAMN hard to master.

Anonymous said...

English should never be in that list. It is one of the easiest languages in the world.
Beside this, it is true that all depends of the pupil : as a French, I understand advanced written Italian/Spanish/Portuguese/Romanian even if I never learned them.
For me, Chinese seems to be very difficult.
French may be moderately difficult, because of simple rules, but numerous exceptions.

Anonymous said...

Exactly - what about Lithuanian language? Its very hard! And its very old!

Anonymous said...

Ther is no "second" language in Lithuania.

Anonymous said...

not right japanese and chinese is first and on 4th its danish

Randor said...

Having spent my whole life studying/working in (more than 12) languages, I quite agree with Anonymous comment #11. The writer of the original article obviously has little or no experience in languages. Difficulty depends on many things. As a native English speaker, I found Russian rather complex but not particularly difficult. Japanese was much more challenging, but Chinese quite simple since I already had years of experience with the characters in studying Japanese. Sanskrit was also quite complex, both the grammatical structure and the writing system.

Anonymous said...

I learned English by playing games and watching TV it is very ... easy to learn.
I think that polish is a very hard but not the hardest :D

Anonymous said...

LOL polish is not difficult like all slavic languages. chinese japanese korean are difficult at start. english is very easy. you should try lithuanian :) if you want something difficult.

aders.kuchmajsters said...

Polish is hard? There are 12 tenses in english! Although I think it's sipmle to learn. Russian and ukrainian is easy to learn too, if you are Polish. ;] BTW. Deutsch is so hard.

Anonymous said...

try lithuanian language...

Anonymous said...

When one feels miserable he start to look around to justify his significance or belonging to something greater. So, almost all comments are proof of that:
try “my language”
“my language” evolved 6000 years ago
“my language” is most complex
“my language” has largest dictionary
Surely, the difficulty of language is relative and depends on your mother language, number of languages you know, access of language to learn, lingual environment (and other things already mentioned in comments).
I guess to learn Chinese for Koreans or Japanese would not be as difficult as for me.
However, I can start speak Polish or Latvian almost instantly (in a couple of weeks).

Anonymous said...

When one feels miserable he start to look around to justify his significance or belonging to something greater. So, almost all comments are proof of that:
try “my language”
“my language” evolved 6000 years ago
“my language” is most complex
“my language” has largest dictionary
Surely, the difficulty of language is relative and depends on your mother language, number of languages you know, access of language to learn, lingual environment (and other things already mentioned in comments).
I guess to learn Chinese for Koreans or Japanese would not be as difficult as for me.
However, I can start speak Polish or Latvian almost instantly (in a couple of weeks).

Anonymous said...

This list is bullshit Lithuanian should at least be second hardest and it isn't even mentioned so this list is just a huge failure.And reasons Lithuanian is so hard is because its the oldest language in the world.

Anonymous said...

have you ever heard about Czech ??

Anonymous said...

Not REMOTELY true.
The hardest languages to learn are Slovak and Czech respectively, THEN Polish and other Slavic languages, then French, then German, then whatever. English is fairly easy.

Anonymous said...

ARABIC is the hardest عربي

Anonymous said...

If you know Polish language then you can easily learn almost all of east language countries as I read it's exactly Russian, Lithuanian, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan and to this similar is Slovenia and Czech too, so if you want to learn one of these languages, just start from the Polish and the rest will come terrible fast to your head and you will understand everything more quickly :)

Sampurna said...

Hardest languages?
enough.. that's enough what about easiest language?
try Indonesian, the easiest and the youngest language ^^
http://goodnewsfromindonesia.org/2010/02/18/indonesia-languages-australian-student-favorites/

Anonymous said...

I see that rather than opting for objective critical analysis, certain individuals have opted for the good old fashioned nothing new venomous anti Americanism, when are you zealous idiots gonna relax?

Anonymous said...

OK.Being a philologist,i'll try to pose a more scientific view.
First of all,when trying to determine the difficulty of a language you have to set a parameter as to the native tongue of the learning person.For example,icelandic is a hard language but it's easier to learn if you're from,say,Denmark or Norway.I'll take it that we're referring to an english speaker,so:
1:Greek:richest vocabulary in the world
2.Hindi,Urdu,Bengali,Panjabi:hard case system and alphabet
3.Chinese:Freakkishly hard alphabet but the grammar is just plain-sailing.
4.Japanese:a language isolate,do you need more?
5.Hungarian:The inflection is indeed tremendously expanded,so yeah,it's actually more than just hard.
6.Korean:same as japanese,but the grammar is a bit simpler.

That's prettty much it.I won't even bother talking about navajo or native african languages(thus not swahili or afrikaans).
Also,you should try checking out a dead language,like sanskrit,ancient greek,old irish,old church slavonic,just to see that learning foreign languages isn't even half as hard for us as it was to the people of that time.

Anonymous said...

-_- seriously what??? dude come to Greece, many of our people can't even spell correctly, because it's uber hard.I've been born in Greece and my father-side is from UK(he is half greek and brought up in here). English is like........the easiest one and Greek's the toughest..

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