High 12 Hardest Languages to Study


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

That stated, we’ve consulted knowledge from the US Division of State and regarded on the chilly arduous information and decided that these 12 broadly spoken languages will pose important issue for English audio system. The issue 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 would possibly set out in search of the best languages to be taught, these languages are finest for language learners who like a problem. 

To provide you a greater understanding of those languages and the simplest languages to be taught, listed below are some fast information in regards to the languages on each lists.

Language studying issue chart

Language

Problem

Hours to Study

Writing System

Tones

Spanish

Best

600-750

Latin

No

Italian

Straightforward

600-750

Latin

No

French

Straightforward

600-750

Latin

No

Dutch

Straightforward

600-750

Latin

No

Portuguese

Straightforward

600-750

Latin

No

German

Average

900

Latin

No

Indonesian

Average

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 (brand syllabic)

Sure

 

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

In actual fact, many different languages fall into the 1100 hour class, like Thai, Greek, and Icelandic. And different extra obscure tough languages like Basque, Igbo, and Irish (Gaelic) merely haven’t been as studied, however would undoubtedly be thought-about 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 more in-depth have 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, after all. They’re all arduous.

Price noting: Once we say “the place it’s spoken,” we’re usually itemizing nations the place the language in query is an official language. Many of those languages are spoken in nations all around 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 ‘automotive’ at the next 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, will not be.

What makes it so arduous?

Polish is a difficult language for English audio system for a number of totally different causes, however one of many main ones is that merely announcing Polish phrases is especially difficult for these with out a 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 comfortable 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 may be fairly difficult. That’s as a result of it has three grammatical genders and 7 grammatical instances.

Meaning each noun is both masculine, female, or neuter, and that nouns, pronouns, and adjectives may be conjugated in a whopping seven other ways. In English, for perspective, now we have three instances, they usually’re actually solely utilized to pronouns – suppose the distinction between I, me, and mine, and he, him, and his. These are instances. 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 arduous?

Turkish, like Polish, may be arduous for English audio system to wrap their tongues round due to unfamiliar sounds and consonant combos. 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 particularly could be 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 converse Arabic, you’ll have a leg up!). The system used to put in writing Turkish with Latin characters was solely applied in 1928, earlier than which the language was usually written utilizing both Arabic or Cyrillic scripts. Meaning historic paperwork in Turkish might be difficult to know, even when you be taught the language.

Turkish can also be what’s referred to as an agglutinative language. That signifies 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 really tonal like Vietnamese or Thai, Somali has two pitch accents (rising and falling).

What makes it so arduous?

Like Turkish, Somali has virtually nothing in widespread with English, vocabulary-wise, and makes use of the subject-object-verb phrase order. Grammatically, Somali has two genders but in addition has one thing referred to as gender polarity, which suggests phrases swap gender when made plural, together with different advanced guidelines round irregular plurals. To not point out the vowel adjustments 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 ceaselessly 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 suggests two folks look alike. And because of the language’s nomadic cultural roots, there are fairly a number of idioms based mostly round camel-herding and rearing that merely don’t translate into English.

Plus, whereas Somali right now is written in a modified Latin alphabet, like Turkish, it was traditionally written utilizing both Arabic or a writing system referred to as Osmanya, and right now each writing programs are nonetheless generally casually used amongst Somali audio system. In actual fact, Osmanya is usually seen on signage in expat Somali-speaking communities world wide.

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 arduous?

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

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

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

 


 

Wish to be taught one among these languages for work or journey?

Whether or not you might be relocating for work or embarking on a visit, it may be a good suggestion to know some important greetings within the language of the nation you will.

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5. Hindi

Script: Devanagari 

The place it’s spoken: India

Is It tonal? No.

What makes it so arduous?

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

The script can also be what’s referred to as an abugida or syllabary, that means that the person characters characterize a consonant and vowel mixture, fairly than a single vowel or consonant. 

So ‘to’ and ‘ta’ would possibly 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 how one can pronounce phrases – and Hindi is a very refined language, the place slight adjustments in sound and context can change the that means of a phrase completely. 

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

The excellent news? Although it is among the hardest languages on the earth for English audio system, Hindi shares phrases with Arabic, so those that already converse Arabic can have a leg up when it comes to 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 arduous?

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

A preferred 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 instances, making it greater than a tad grammatically difficult. It’s additionally a vowel-harmony language, which primarily signifies that generally 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 characterize distinctive sounds. Latin alphabet with a twist!

The place it’s spoken: United States

Is it tonal? Sure – 4 tones. 

What makes it so arduous?

Navajo has a number of distinctive options that make it difficult for English audio system, or anybody who doesn’t converse 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 parts 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 manner that it’s thought-about by some to be… not agglutinative. 

The alternative of agglutinative is fusional. 

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

In actual fact, its important lack of loanwords from different languages and its grammatical construction make it so robust to crack that the allies had Navajo audio system converse their language to ship coded communications throughout World Battle II.

On the time, there was no printed Navajo dictionary, making the language even more durable to decode. Right now, nevertheless, there are many on-line assets 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 arduous?

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 know. 

That’s to not say it might probably’t be achieved. 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 hassle for somebody touring in each the north and south components of Vietnam.

That stated, those that converse each Chinese language and English could discover Vietnamese to be a relative breeze, provided 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 arduous?

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

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

In response to 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 arduous?

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

Thankfully, within the case of Arabic, the characters really work pretty equally to our Latin alphabet. Besides, after all, the Arabic script is learn proper to left, as a substitute of left to proper, which could be a problem. 

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

Arabic additionally consists of a variety of distinctive sounds that may be arduous 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 stated, these acquainted with Hebrew or Hindi can have a little bit of a neater time with Arabic, since Hebrew’s written language has related 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 arduous?

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 arduous for English audio system as it would seem at first look, but it surely’s nonetheless fairly tough. There are three writing programs and the phrase order in Japanese sentence construction is nothing like English. 

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

And what you’ll discover if 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 definitely totally different from English grammar.

Nevertheless, 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, referred to as keigo, which is mainly a completely 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 grow 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 sophisticated, even Chinese language audio system could not acknowledge the entire characters in Japanese. They might be sourced from loanwords from fifteenth-century China!

Which leads us to our remaining 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 arduous?

Mandarin tops the listing as the good 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 high of the listing, Mandarin is just a stand-in as essentially 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 (widespread phrases that don’t essentially have a direct translation), and refined homophones (phrases that sound the identical however imply various things). It additionally requires the educational of 1000’s of characters to realize literacy. 

That stated, simply because one thing is tough 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 hundreds of thousands of individuals you won’t 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 all in regards to the hardest languages for English audio system to be taught and why they’re thought-about 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. 

In the event you’re able to tackle Mandarin – or Japanese, Arabic, or any one of many different 14 languages we provide (robust or in any other case), begin studying with us totally free right now.


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