What Are the Hardest Languages to Learn

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Do you want to take on a new challenge? These languages are the most difficult for English speakers to learn. You may take a bit longer to learn, but you are definitely worth the challenge.

THE HARDEST LANGUAGES FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS

MANDARIN CHINESE

In fact, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn. First, the writing system is very difficult for English speakers who are accustomed to the Latin alphabet. In addition to the usual challenges which come with learning any language from scratch, people learning Mandarin also have to memorize thousands of special characters, unlike anything seen in Latin based languages.

However, writing is not the only difficult part of learning Mandarin. The tonal nature of the language creates speaking it really hard as well. Apparently, there are some Chinese dialects, including Cantonese, spoken especially in southeastern China, as well as in Hong Kong and other parts of Southeast Asia that have different written characters and pronunciations, and are also really difficult to learn. For your information, Mandarin Chinese  has four tones. So one word is able to be pronounced four different ways. Each pronunciation has a different meaning. For example, the word ma can mean “mother,” “rough,” “horse” or “scold” depending on how you say it.


ARABIC

The second hardest languages for English speakers to learn is also in the top five most spoken world languages: Arabic. Apparently, there are dozens of varieties of the Arabic language that are generally classified by the region or country in which they are spoken, that can be different radically from one another. So, the first step is to select which dialect you want to learn.

You have to note that Arabic is another language with a non-Latin alphabet. There are 28 script letters that are easier for English speakers to learn than the thousands of Chinese characters. However, it is still an adjustment to become familiar with a new writing system. The thing which makes reading and writing in Arabic particularly challenging for the beginners is the exclusion of most vowels in words. This makes reading the language very difficult. Also, Arabic is written from right to left instead of left to right, that takes some getting used to.

Aside from that, there are also characteristics of spoken Arabic which make it hard to learn. Some of the sounds used do not exist in other languages or unfamiliar to English speakers, including sounds made in the back of your throat. The grammar is challenging too. Verbs tend to come before the subject. You need to learn a dual form of words in addition to the singular and plural forms.

POLISH

It is hard to learn Polish. Spelling and grammar are a couple of areas in which Polish is able to give English speakers a hard time. Words are loaded with many consonants, that makes them difficult to spell and pronounce. For example, szczęście means “happiness” and bezwzględny means “ruthless.” In terms of grammar, there are 7 cases: it is like German on steroids. However, on the bright side, Polish uses a Latin alphabet. Therefore, the letters are more familiar to English speakers than those used in Arabic, Chinese, and other non-Latin languages. In addition, being able to speak Polish as a second language makes you in a coveted group, considering Poland’s developing status as a major economy in Europe.

RUSSIAN

Russian is the fourth hardest language to learn for us who use a Cyrillic alphabet. It is made up of letters both familiar and unfamiliar. However, the speaker must beware, some of the Cyrillic letters may look familiar but create a different sound than the Latin letter they resemble. For example, “B” in the Cyrillic alphabet creates a “V” sound.

Grammatically, Russian is not as difficult as Polish but darn close. Polish has 7 cases, while Russian has six. Russians also omit the verb “to be” in the present tense, that can throw beginners for a loop once they try to form basic sentences. In Russian, “I am a student” will simply translate to “I student.” Like Polish, Russian uses many consonants clustered together, that makes spelling and pronunciation a challenge. In spite of its difficulty, Russian may be worth the extra effort to learn. It is an extremely culturally and politically relevant language, opening the door to numerous career and leisure occasions.

TURKISH

Turkish is an agglutinative language, that basically means prefixes and suffixes are attached to words to specify their meaning and indicate direction, rather than using separate prepositions. This results in really long verbs, like konuşmayı reddediyorlar (“they refuse to talk”). Turkish also includes a concept English speakers may confuse: Vowel harmony, where Vowels are changed or endings with vowels are added to create a word flow more smoothly. Besides, a large number of unfamiliar vocabulary words (Arabic origin) add to the difficulty of learning Turkish. However, the good news for Turkish learners is that there are relatively few grammar exceptions in comparison to other languages, spelling is straightforward to master, and it is a nice way to explore a rare agglutinative language.

DANISH

Another hardest language to learn for English speakers is Danish.  If you read other articles on the easiest languages to learn, you may remember that the Germanic languages from Scandinavia largely dominated that list. In fact, Swedish and Norwegian took the top two spots. Like those languages, Danish has simple grammar concepts relatively and shares many cognates with English. So, why is Danish on the list of the hardest languages to learn? The answer is Pronunciation. Words sound nothing like the way they are spelled, that can be quite off upset for a beginner. For example, mit navn er (my name is) is pronounced meet now’n air. In fact, mastering Danish pronunciation takes a good deal of practice, creating it a significantly harder language to learn for us.

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