Compared to many other developed countries, Americans are less likely to learn a second language – with the exception of second generation Americans. Part of the problem is that it can be difficult to learn a language when it is not commonly used in your everyday life and environment. But there are languages that are easier or harder to learn than others – including the ones in this list of the most difficult languages.
It is hard to come up with a list of languages that are difficult for everyone to learn. Depending on your native language, you may pick up some languages either than someone with another native language. This list covers 10 of the most difficult languages to learn for native English speakers.
#10 – Polish
The Polish language has a confusing gender system that makes it hard for English speakers to quickly grasp the language. It is definitely not an extreme challenge, but you will have to pay special attention to the gender system used by the language.
#9 – Icelandic
Icelandic is the tenth most difficult language in the world to learn, so there are definitely more challenging languages to learn, but it is still difficult for English speakers. Fewer than 400,000 people speak Icelandic. It has remained unchanged since at least the ninth or tenth century. Instead of adding foreign words to their language, as time progressed and cultures mingled, they have simply coined new words. This makes Iceland troubling for those attempting to become fluent in the language. It is almost impossible to master the Icelandic language without actually living in Iceland.
Navajo is a difficult language that is centered on the verbs when it comes to sentence structure. The majority of English adjectives have no direct translation. To make matters even more difficult, there are several sounds that are used in the Navajo language that has no English-sounding equivalent.
#7 – Basque
Basque is a language isolate and is not the only one on this list. A language isolate is a language that does not share a history with other languages. It does share some vocabulary with the romance languages, but it is written in a manner that is unlike the other languages. There are even several different variations of the Basque language. There are five distinct dialects spoken by less than 700,000 people. This means that if you want to learn Basque, you also need to choose a version of Basque.
#6 – Finnish
Finnish is similar to Hungarian in the sense that it uses complicated grammar and sentence structure. Even though some of the letters and pronunciations are similar to English, the grammar makes it a challenge.
#5 – Korean
Korean is the most spoken language isolate. Again, this means that there are no longer languages that share a close relationship with Korean. It is therefore entirely unique and has its own structure. When describing an action in Korean, the sentence begins with the subject, then the object, and then is followed by the action. Instead of saying, “I eat fish”, the sentence structure would translate as, “I fish eat.”
#4 – Hungarian
Hungarian is number four on the list of most difficult languages in the world to learn. This is due to the complicated grammar rules. In the Hungarian language, suffixes dictate tense and possession – instead of the word order. This makes it a very challenging language for people fluent in European languages to understand. When you add in the cultural subtleties of Hungary, it becomes even more difficult.
#3 – Japanese
Photo by Scott Webb
Japanese is another hard language to learn. The character-based writing system contains thousands of characters. Without an understanding of all of these characters, it is extremely difficult to write anything in Japanese. This also makes learning the language an incredibly lengthy process. Japanese even has three different and independent writing systems – yet is still easier than the next two entries on this list.
#2 – Arabic
Photo by hadass springut
Arabic comes in at number two on the list of most difficult languages in the world to learn. There are up to four different forms of writing most letters. This depends on where they are placed in the word. Vowels, which are pronounced, are not written. This combination of factors makes Arabic a truly challenging language. They are also many different Arabic dialects spoken throughout the Middle East.
#1 – Mandarin
What is the most difficult language to learn? For English speakers, Mandarin likely to be the most difficult language in the world to learn. It is a tonal language – each sound in the phonetic transcription system pinyin has four pronunciations. It is also a language which is full of aphorisms, idioms, and homophones, making it a true challenge for a native English speaker.
Those are 10 of the most difficult languages to learn in the world. If you are looking for something a little easier to pick up, you should try Esperanto. Esperanto is a language that was devised by D to become a universal language. While it never really caught on, you may occasionally come across material that is available in this simple to learn the language.
Learning a new language can be a challenge. For native English speakers, it is said that the some of the easiest languages to learn are the other romance languages. This includes Spanish, French, and German, which share many similarities and constructs.
It is also good to start early. Research shows that teaching a child a second language as soon as they begin developing speech will help them become fluent in a second language. The sooner you get your child started on a second language, the easier it will be for them to pick it up. Some people believe that you could confuse a child by having them attempt to learn two separate languages at the same time during their early developmental years, but this is simply not true. Studies have proven the benefits of starting children in a second language as soon as possible.
Now you know a little more about the challenging languages of the world. Being able to speak a second language is a valuable skill that could help you achieve more success and open up new opportunities. Do not let this list of the most difficult languages in the world discourage you from attempting to pick up a new language.