December 08, 2021
If you think it's hard to learn a little French or Spanish in your spare time, then you should know how much work you're putting into learning other languages from around the world. Are you serious about learning Hungarian? Or Navajo? Or Thai, whose alphabet consists of a whopping 44 consonants and 32 different vowels? Then you should be ready to learn. So you know what you're getting into, we've put together this list of the most difficult languages to learn. And for those English words you're still mispronouncing, read The 14 Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English.
To learn Arabic, you need to learn a new alphabet and get used to reading from right to left. Many of the sounds in the language are difficult for English speakers to master, and the grammar is full of irregular verbs. Even if you can overcome all of that, it's a language with many, many dialects that vary widely. So you may get by in Jordan but have trouble in Kuwait.
For English terms you finally need to perfect, here are 23 words you should stop mispronouncing.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) rates Russian as two out of three levels of difficulty based on the time it would take an average native English speaker to learn the language, so it's not as difficult as some of the other languages on this list. However, there are some hurdles to becoming fluent in Russian. These include the fact that spelling is not always easy, that there are many vowel sounds that the average English speaker does not know, and that you have to learn an entirely new alphabet to master.
There are many differences between these two European languages. However, these are the 10 that cause English speakers the most difficulty when learning Russian. Although they can be stumbling blocks, these differences can also give you a whole new perspective on languages (and a deeper appreciation for English).
Unlike most other European languages, you don't even have the advantage of having the same alphabet when learning Russian. While most European countries use an alphabet derived from Latin, the Russian alphabet is Cyrillic. While there are a few similar letters, to really learn the language, you'll have to learn an entirely new alphabet from the start.
This is because even though most of the sounds match the Latin alphabet, it's not the right way to write a word. There are 33 letters (compared to the 26 of the English alphabet), but about 18% of them are identical to letters you already know.
It can take a while, but if you learn the alphabet from day one, you'll find that it's not nearly as complex as it sounds. The new letters are also interesting to write, so you can do something unusual as you learn. If you learn best by doing something, your introduction to Russian will be much more memorable. As a Germanic language, English follows many rules, even if you don't realize it. English is much more fluid than German because we can change our word order, but Russian has perfected the free-flowing sentence. Similar to English, Russian places words in different places in the sentence to emphasize certain aspects. Unlike English, any word can be placed anywhere in the sentence without losing meaning.
At first glance, this seems to make things easier, but remember that you want to emphasize something you are saying. Word order is crucial to the point you want to make. It will be difficult to understand this at first, but over time you will learn to make this distinction.
In terms of learning to read, Korean has a relatively simple alphabet that doesn't take too much time to learn, unlike the characters of the Chinese and Japanese writing systems, so you can start deciphering words fairly quickly. But speaking is another matter entirely, as the grammar is completely different from English and the pronunciation is loaded with rules that are difficult to master. Learning a new language that is too different from English can be challenging. Most Europeans find it difficult to learn East Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean because they are too different from their native language. Let's take a look at why Korean is difficult to learn. For native European or English speakers, learning the Korean script or Hangul may seem difficult. The Korean alphabet is very different from the English alphabet. But if you are already familiar with Japanese and Chinese characters, it will be easier for you. If you are not so familiar with the Korean language and culture, you should know that the Korean language, like the Japanese language, has hierarchies. This determines how you should address people. Depending on who you are talking to and their place in the hierarchy, you will use different words. If you don't know this, you may come across as rude to native Korean speakers.
If you are a native English speaker, you probably follow the word order subject + verb + object. Many other languages use this sentence structure, especially native English speakers. But in Korean, they use subject + object + verb, which may sound simple for simple sentences, but it gets complicated when it comes to complex Korean sentences. There are some aspects of Korean pronunciation that are difficult for English speakers to realize. This is due to letter combinations that are not common in English. This makes learning Korean difficult because sometimes the materials you can download online or use in Korean courses are different from what Koreans use in everyday life.
It may seem complicated at first glance, but you need to know that learning Hangul is actually not difficult. In fact, it is much easier than Chinese and Japanese. When you learn the Japanese language, you need to learn kanji. These are Chinese characters that the Japanese use in their writing system. But if you are learning Korean, there is good news: you only need to learn a very limited number of characters. This is the first factor you can consider when answering the question "Is Korean hard to learn?".
Navajo is so difficult to understand that code talkers in World War II used this language to develop a communication code that the Germans could not track down. This fascinating language can also be the most difficult. During World War II, the language was used as a code by bilingual Navajo code talkers in the Pacific War to send secure military messages over the radio. This had the advantage of being an extremely fast method of encrypted communication. The code was never broken by the Japanese, who were baffled by the intercepted tones. Navajo was chosen as the code language not only because it is very difficult, but also because there was no published grammar or dictionary for the language and because native speakers were readily available. Almost everything a language needs to do is done differently in Navajo than in English. For example, in English, only one person is marked on the verb - third person singular, present tense (I read --> he reads) with a suffix. Navajo marks all persons with a prefix on the verb.
Since Finnish has no connection to Latin or Germanic language groups, it proves to be more than just a mouthful for most English speakers who want to learn the language. The 15 grammatical cases in Finnish make learning the language a challenge, as the slightest change at the end of a word can significantly alter its meaning. Case endings are attached to word stems as suffixes and are used to express the same things that prepositions express in English. According to the FSI, learning the most difficult languages would require at least 88 weeks of study - or 2,200 hours. This group includes languages such as Arabic, Japanese and Korean, as well as Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
Compared to these tongue twisters, Finnish is a bit easier - but still not among the easiest, with FSI estimating that it would take 44 weeks, or 1,100 hours, to feel confident enough to join in a conversation at the office coffee machine. The FSI rankings also list the easiest languages to learn. These include Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, French, Dutch, Spanish and Romanian.
Have you ever learned these languages?
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