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Prime 12 Hardest Languages to Be taught


With over 7,000 languages on the earth, it’s exhausting to say what’s the hardest language to be taught. In spite of everything, what you discover most troublesome may not align with what another person considers a problem. 

That mentioned, we’ve consulted information from the US Division of State and appeared on the chilly exhausting details and decided that these 12 broadly spoken languages will pose vital problem for English audio system. The problem of languages to be taught is affected by elements like difficult grammar and pronunciation, distinctive writing programs, tonality, and dissimilarity from English.

Whereas many learners may set out in search of the best languages to be taught, these languages are finest for language learners who like a problem. 

To present you a greater understanding of those languages and the best languages to be taught, listed here are some fast details concerning the languages on each lists.

Language studying problem chart

Language

Issue

Hours to Be taught

Writing System

Tones

Spanish

Best

600-750

Latin

No

Italian

Simple

600-750

Latin

No

French

Simple

600-750

Latin

No

Dutch

Simple

600-750

Latin

No

Portuguese

Simple

600-750

Latin

No

German

Reasonable

900

Latin

No

Indonesian

Reasonable

900

Latin

No

Polish

Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

No

Turkish

Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

No

Somali

Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

No

Russian

Tough

1100 

Russian alphabet

No

Hindi

Tough

1100 

Devanagari

No

Hungarian

Very Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

No

Navajo

Very Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

Sure

Vietnamese

Very Tough

1100 

Latin with modifications

Sure

Korean

Most Tough

2200

Hangul

No

Arabic

Most Tough

2200

Arabic

No

Japanese

Most Tough

2200

Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

No

Chinese language (All)

Most Tough

2200

Written Chinese language (emblem syllabic)

Sure

 

Whereas folks usually marvel, “Is German a tough language to be taught? as you’ll be able to see, it doesn’t even come near breaking the highest 12. 

In reality, many different languages fall into the 1100 hour class, like Thai, Greek, and Icelandic. And different extra obscure troublesome languages like Basque, Igbo, and Irish (Gaelic) merely haven’t been as studied, however would positively be thought of tougher than languages like French, German, or Dutch.

Uncover the world’s 12 hardest languages to be taught

Now, with out additional ado, let’s take a better take a look at the toughest languages for English audio system to be taught. These tongue-twisting, um, tongues, are sorted from best to hardest — comparatively talking, in fact. They’re all exhausting.

Value noting: After we say “the place it’s spoken,” we’re sometimes itemizing nations the place the language in query is an official language. Many of those languages are spoken in nations everywhere in the world amongst immigrant communities massive and small!

1. Polish

Script: Latin alphabet with added accents

The place it’s spoken: Poland

Is it tonal? No.

Professional tip: A tonal language is one the place your vocal pitch is an element within the that means of the phrase.

Tonal languages are usually tougher for English audio system as a result of we use tone to convey emotion, however not that means. So, in the event you say ‘automobile’ at a better pitch or prefer it’s a query, it nonetheless means the identical factor in English.

That’s not all the time the case in tonal languages. Chinese language, for instance, is tonal. Polish, fortunately, isn’t.

What makes it so exhausting?

Polish is a difficult language for English audio system for a couple of totally different causes, however one of many main ones is that merely announcing Polish phrases is especially difficult for these with no background in Jap European languages due to the heavier use of consonants. For instance, there’s a city in Poland named Szczebrzeszyn (pronounced, roughly, “sh-chebr-jeh-shun,” with a delicate j just like the q in ‘beige’), and the phrase for frog is żaba – “zshyah-ba.”

Then, even in the event you can wrap your head round saying and understanding Polish phrases, Polish grammar will be fairly difficult. That’s as a result of it has three grammatical genders and 7 grammatical circumstances.

Which means each noun is both masculine, female, or neuter, and that nouns, pronouns, and adjectives will be conjugated in a whopping seven alternative ways. In English, for perspective, we have now three circumstances, they usually’re actually solely utilized to pronouns – assume the distinction between I, me, and mine, and he, him, and his. These are circumstances. Polish simply has much more of them, and utilized extra broadly.

The excellent news is that Polish genders are fairly clear from the spelling of the phrases, Polish verbs have fewer conjugations than English, and when you perceive Polish pronunciation, it’s phonetic.

2. Turkish

Script: Latin with modifications

The place it’s spoken: Turkey, Cyprus

Is it tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

Turkish, like Polish, will be exhausting for English audio system to wrap their tongues round due to unfamiliar sounds and consonant mixtures. And, whereas Turkish makes use of a modified Latin alphabet, the sounds don’t all the time translate on to how we’d pronounce the identical letters in English. Vowels specifically generally is a little counterintuitive at first look.

However that’s not all! Turkish shares little or no vocabulary with English (however fairly a bit with Arabic, so in the event you communicate Arabic, you’ll have a leg up!). The system used to put in writing Turkish with Latin characters was solely carried out in 1928, earlier than which the language was sometimes written utilizing both Arabic or Cyrillic scripts. Which means historic paperwork in Turkish will probably be difficult to know, even when you be taught the language.

Turkish can be what’s known as an agglutinative language. That implies that prefixes and suffixes are added onto phrases to create sentences and concepts. For instance, the phrase “from our home” turns into only one phrase: evimizden.

  • Ev = home
  • Evim = my home
  • Evimiz = our home
  • Evimizden = from our home

And, phrase order-wise, whereas English goes subject-verb-object (“I purchased an apple”), Turkish places the verb final (Bir elma aldım – “I an apple purchased”). All of this stuff out collectively make Turkish a difficult language for English audio system.

The excellent news is that Turkish grammar has few exceptions and Turkish, like Polish, is phonetic when you perceive the Turkish alphabet.

3. Somali

Script: Latin alphabet with added accents (traditionally and casually Arabic and Osmanya)

The place it’s spoken: Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia

Is it tonal? Not precisely – whereas not actually tonal like Vietnamese or Thai, Somali has two pitch accents (rising and falling).

What makes it so exhausting?

Like Turkish, Somali has nearly nothing in widespread with English, vocabulary-wise, and makes use of the subject-object-verb phrase order. Grammatically, Somali has two genders but additionally has one thing known as gender polarity, which implies phrases change gender when made plural, together with different advanced guidelines round irregular plurals. To not point out the vowel modifications concerned in verb roots and conjugation!

Frustratingly for brand spanking new learners, talking Somali additionally means mastering tons of colloquialisms – widespread phrases and sayings used continuously in day-to-day dialog that appear nonsensical on first listening to them. 

For instance, there’s the widespread phrase “they have been sneezed out of the identical place,” which implies two folks look alike. And because of the language’s nomadic cultural roots, there are fairly a couple of idioms primarily based round camel-herding and rearing that merely don’t translate into English.

Plus, whereas Somali as we speak is written in a modified Latin alphabet, like Turkish, it was traditionally written utilizing both Arabic or a writing system known as Osmanya, and as we speak each writing programs are nonetheless typically casually used amongst Somali audio system. In reality, Osmanya is usually seen on signage in expat Somali-speaking communities all over the world.

4. Russian

Script: Russian alphabet (Cyrillic script)

The place it’s spoken: Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan

Is it tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

Russian is the primary entry on this listing that requires studying a brand new writing system – however actually not the final. One of many issues that makes Russian powerful is, in fact, tackling the Russian alphabet, a Cyrillic script you’ll must take time to grasp earlier than you’ll be able to start studying in earnest. However that’s not all.

Like Polish and Turkish, Russian makes use of very totally different sounds from English, which will be difficult to decipher and pronounce. And, in Russian, inflection issues considerably to make your that means understood.

Russian grammar generally is a problem, with three genders and 6 circumstances, and phrases that work one thing like Japanese particles. These are phrases that, reasonably than having their very own that means, are positioned in a sentence for emphasis or to assist the speaker get their level throughout.

 


 

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5. Hindi

Script: Devanagari 

The place it’s spoken: India

Is It tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

First off, the script used to put in writing Hindi, Devanagari, is taken into account significantly exhausting to get a dangle of. 

The script can be what’s known as an abugida or syllabary, that means that the person characters signify a consonant and vowel mixture, reasonably than a single vowel or consonant. 

So ‘to’ and ‘ta’ may every get their very own letters, for instance, in an abugida script. It is a new idea for a lot of English audio system. 

Plus, the written model of Hindi lacks sure phonetic markings to inform a non-native speaker learn how to pronounce phrases – and Hindi is a very delicate language, the place slight modifications in sound and context can change the that means of a phrase completely. 

And, to make issues extra difficult, Hindi is what’s known as a “break up ergative” language, which implies – with out going too far down the grammar rabbit gap – that typically it acts like English (an accusative language) and typically it acts like Finnish (an ergative language which can be famously troublesome for English audio system).

The excellent news? Although it is without doubt one of the hardest languages on the earth for English audio system, Hindi shares phrases with Arabic, so those that already communicate Arabic may have a leg up by way of vocabulary!

6. Hungarian 

Script: Latin alphabet with added accents

The place it’s spoken: Hungary, Serbia, Austria, Slovenia

Is it tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

Hungarian has a lot of enjoyable issues, if that’s up your alley. First, like Turkish, it’s agglutinative, that means that as an alternative of getting particular person prepositions, prefixes and suffixes are added on to phrases. Which implies that a lot of a sentence will be expressed in a single, very lengthy verb. 

A well-liked instance of that is the Hungarian, “megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért,” which I’m going to go forward and allow you to Google. (Simply kidding, it means, roughly, “on your [plural] continued conduct as in the event you couldn’t be desecrated”, and is usually utilized by Hungarian audio system for example of how agglutination could make phrases unreasonably lengthy!)

The language additionally has a pleasant 26 circumstances, making it greater than a tad grammatically difficult. It’s additionally a vowel-harmony language, which basically implies that typically an additional vowel is added on the finish to make a phrase sound correct. 

Oh, and it has much less in widespread with English than Hindi.

7. Navajo

Script: Latin alphabet, plus added letters and accents to signify distinctive sounds. Latin alphabet with a twist!

The place it’s spoken: United States

Is it tonal? Sure – 4 tones. 

What makes it so exhausting?

Navajo has a number of distinctive options that make it difficult for English audio system, or anybody who doesn’t communicate a language within the North American Na-Dené household of languages. 

It has a variety of consonants we don’t use in English. 

Plus, it has components of agglutination, the place prefixes and suffixes substitute prepositions (the identical factor as that lengthy Hungarian phrase), however Navajo does it in such an unpredictable method that it’s thought of by some to be… not agglutinative. 

The other of agglutinative is fusional. 

And Navajo is kind of each. We did say this was a difficult one! 

In reality, its vital lack of loanwords from different languages and its grammatical construction make it so powerful to crack that the allies had Navajo audio system communicate their language to ship coded communications throughout World Struggle II.

On the time, there was no printed Navajo dictionary, making the language even harder to decode. At this time, nonetheless, there are many on-line sources for many who are prepared to tackle the problem.

8. Vietnamese

Script: Latin alphabet with a twist

The place it’s spoken: Vietnam

Is It tonal? Sure – six tones.

What makes it so exhausting?

For English audio system, tonal languages are a problem. 

We merely aren’t as attuned to tone as we must be to successfully talk, and 6 tones are a complete lot for us to understand. 

That’s to not say it could possibly’t be accomplished. It’s only a steep, uphill battle. 

Vietnamese additionally makes use of extra vowels than English, and has a number of totally different dialects that, whereas mutually intelligible, are dissimilar sufficient to trigger bother for somebody touring in each the north and south components of Vietnam.

That mentioned, those that communicate each Chinese language and English could discover Vietnamese to be a relative breeze, on condition that it makes use of the Latin alphabet (with added accent marks), they usually’re already used to tones.

9. Korean

Script: Hangul, Hanja (uncommon)

The place it’s spoken: South Korea, North Korea

Is it tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

Nicely, the excellent news is that Korean isn’t tonal, in order that’s a assist, and Hangul – the first alphabet – is pretty simple to select up. However, is Korean a tough language to be taught? Sure.

The unhealthy information is that Korean is agglutinative (prefixes and suffixes substitute prepositions, making some phrases unreasonably lengthy). It additionally has a whopping seven speech ranges, primarily based on the formality of the state of affairs, and has an unfamiliar grammatical construction for us Anglophones.

In line with The Protection Language Institute’s (the place CIA spies go to be taught languages!) catalogs, whereas it takes an English learner on common about 26 weeks to achieve proficiency in Spanish or French, it takes about 65 weeks to develop a working proficiency of Korean, Chinese language, Japanese and Arabic. 

Talking of which…

10. Arabic 

Script: Arabic

The place it’s spoken: Arabic is an official or acknowledged minority language in 31 nations, primarily within the Center East and Africa, together with Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, and the UAE.

Is it tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

Arabic makes use of its personal script, which, in itself, provides a layer of problem for English audio system. 

Happily, within the case of Arabic, the characters really work pretty equally to our Latin alphabet. Besides, in fact, the Arabic script is learn proper to left, as an alternative of left to proper, which generally is a problem. 

Plus, phrases as written usually don’t embrace their vowels, so vowels are merely recognized by Arabic audio system primarily based on context. Not the best language to be taught. 

Arabic additionally contains a variety of distinctive sounds that may be exhausting for English audio system to pronounce, and difficult grammar guidelines, with situation- and dialect-dependent phrase order in sentences. It additionally has all kinds of various dialects, relying on the area. 

That mentioned, these acquainted with Hebrew or Hindi may have a little bit of a neater time with Arabic, since Hebrew’s written language has comparable quirks and Hindi shares some vocabulary with Arabic.

11. Japanese 

Scripts: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji

The place it’s spoken: Japan, Palau

Is It tonal? No.

What makes it so exhausting?

What’s the second hardest language to be taught? We’d say Japanese. Right here’s why.

In some ways, rudimentary Japanese really isn’t as exhausting for English audio system as it would seem at first look, however it’s nonetheless fairly troublesome. There are three writing programs and the phrase order in Japanese sentence construction is nothing like English. 

That mentioned, in the event you can train your self Katakana and Hiragana, the 2 Japanese alphabets (properly, abugidas, in the event you’re feeling fancy!), you can begin to decipher menus and avenue indicators. 

And what you’ll discover whenever you do is that Japanese makes use of numerous loanwords from English and the Romance languages. 

It’s not tonal, and most of the fundamentals of Japanese grammar are, within the grand scheme of issues, comparatively easy to select up ( you, Hungarian!) – although it’s actually totally different from English grammar.

Nonetheless, research have proven that Japanese is the one language that takes English folks the longest to be taught. 

Why?

First, due to the Japanese system of well mannered speech, known as keigo, which is principally a wholly totally different set of vocabulary and verbs (and is essential for doing enterprise in Japan).

And, maybe extra dauntingly, due to the immense variety of Kanji – a system of particular person logographic characters symbolizing phrases and syllables – {that a} learner has to memorize to turn out to be even fairly literate in Japanese. 

Many of those characters have been borrowed from Chinese language over the previous few thousand years. Which implies, to make issues extra difficult, even Chinese language audio system could not acknowledge the entire characters in Japanese. They could be sourced from loanwords from fifteenth-century China!

Which leads us to our last entry…

12. Mandarin Chinese language 

Script: Simplified & conventional Chinese language characters

The place it’s spoken: Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore

Is it tonal? Sure – 4 tones and a impartial tone.

What makes it so exhausting?

Mandarin tops the listing as the excellent storm of challenges for English audio system. 

It’s price noting that whereas any of the opposite Chinese language dialects might simply additionally fall right here on the prime of the listing, Mandarin is solely a stand-in as probably the most broadly used and taught. 

As you’d anticipate from one of many hardest languages on the earth, Mandarin Chinese language is tonal, makes use of many distinctive idioms (fashionable phrases that don’t essentially have a direct translation), and delicate homophones (phrases that sound the identical however imply various things). It additionally requires the educational of hundreds of characters to attain literacy. 

That mentioned, simply because one thing is troublesome doesn’t imply it’s not price doing – as one of many most generally spoken languages on the earth, studying Mandarin is a problem price accepting. It offers you entry to thousands and thousands of individuals you may not in any other case have the ability to get to know. It’s a lingua franca of enterprise in a lot of Asia. 


So, what’s the hardest language to be taught?

Now you already know all concerning the hardest languages for English audio system to be taught and why they’re thought of so difficult. Which one sounds hardest to you? Are you feeling impressed and up for the problem?

We’re Busuu, an app that makes studying a language simpler for everybody. 

For those who’re able to tackle Mandarin – or Japanese, Arabic, or any one of many different 14 languages we provide (powerful or in any other case), begin studying with us free of charge as we speak.


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