Here’s a question: You speak English fluently, but you want others to learn it quickly. No worries – here’s what to do. If the language you want to learn is not native-taught, the toughest challenge you will face is the patterning of its syntax. The syntax is a set of rules by which a language lays down its structure and rules of being. When you consider this patterning, you will realize that English has an amazing system of rules and patterns. This article examines these patterns and highlights the hardest language for English speakers to learn.
Hardest Language for English Speakers to Learn
Some people love a good challenge. We recently gave you the list of easiest languages for English speakers to learn, but maybe you prefer life on hard mode. We checked in with language expert Benjamin Davies from our Didactics team to determine the six hardest languages to learn for English speakers. They may take a bit longer to master, but they’re definitely worth the challenge!
1. Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world. It’s useful for business, government, and diplomacy – all essential skills necessary to succeed in English! Newcomers respond well to Mandarin as it connotes intelligence overtime or anything else. The very fact that you are studying another whole new language after you have already been learning a different one (English) reinforces this “intelligence” idea right away.
Mandarin Chinese is challenging for some reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet. In addition to the usual challenges that come with learning any language from scratch, people studying Mandarin must also memorize thousands of special characters, unlike anything seen in Latin-based languages.
Arabic is another language with a non-Latin alphabet. Its 28 script letters are easier for English speakers to comprehend than the thousands of Chinese characters, but it’s still an adjustment to become familiar with a new writing system.
The language spoken by many different cultures, Arabic is a tough one for English speakers to learn. Even though Spanish, French, and Italian are all rooted in Latin roots (the tongue of Rome) like English or German is, these countries have had centuries to make their languages easier for everyone to understand without any struggle from native speakers; however there same can not be said about Arabic where pronunciation changes drastically depending on tone – even when word stress doesn’t change.
So, the issue with Arabic is… pronunciation. English speakers have been able to understand Arabs simply by memorizing pronunciations they’re familiar with or because of their linguistic similarity to languages spoken in Europe and North Africa such as Spanish (European language).
A non-Latin script language? Sounds strange, right? However, there are examples of languages with scripts where sounds do not directly correspond to letters or the characters formed from them. These include Hebrew and several other European languages such as Spanish and Welsh which were derived from Latin in ancient times; Chinese is also sometimes considered a case of this “pseudoalphabet”.
One further way to see widespread adoption: Polish’s neighbors – Russia (both former Czarist nations), Ukraine (Soviet republic, and Western-leaning EU recipient country), Belarus + parts of modern-day Poland – tended to use the same styled Latinization. However, these neighbors also used a runic lettering system (low/fraktur in German) which was similar enough for their people to understand without needing extensive instruction!
The strong influence Latin has on other languages is evident even about the different alphabets used in Europe and North Africa, but just how important is this influence? The problem with learning an unfamiliar language from scratch like Arabic or Japanese (in case you wouldn’t mind going through it after all) often means that people learn words one by one; some parts of vocabulary are also easier than others to memorize.
The easiest part for English-speaking learners would likely be Greek/Eastern Mediterranean phonology since English follows a similar pattern. However, even an awkward way of looking at words can help strengthen a learning process (which I will explain later on this page). So how do you learn the alphabet? To send and receive letters, it is sometimes helpful if they are well known in your language’s print version rather than just through handwriting or sign language.
While I do not want to single out Russian in particular, what this means is that learners would benefit from learning the basic patterns of synoptic thought and sentence structure (values) before they learn solid foreign grammar rules.
Grammatically, Russian is not as difficult as Polish but pretty darn close. Polish has seven cases, while Russian has six. Also, Russians omit the verb “to be” in the present tense, which can throw beginners for a loop when they try to form basic sentences. In Russian, “I am a student” would simply translate to “I student.” Like Polish, Russian uses a lot of consonants clustered together, which makes spelling and pronunciation a challenge.
Tense verb charts from the Russian and Turkish languages, with many more irregular verbs.
Another interesting aspect of learning a language is that people have different expectations when it comes to usage patterns and pronunciation. So while one might expect German or Mandarin speakers to know what academic writing should sound like versus a scolding parent in Armenian, there are still differences between countries’ cultures (closely related within the same “phylum”).
Turkish is an agglutinative language, which means prefixes and suffixes are attached to words to determine their meaning and indicate a direction, rather than using separate prepositions. This results in extremely long verbs, like konuşmayı reddediyorlar (“they refuse to talk”).
If you read our article on the easiest languages, you may remember that the Germanic languages from Scandinavia largely dominated that list. Norwegian and Swedish took the top two spots. And like those languages, Danish has relatively simple grammar concepts and shares plenty of cognates with English.
Pronunciation. Words sound nothing like the way they are spelled, which can be quite off-putting for a beginner. For example, mit navn er (“my name is”) is pronounced, “meet now’n air.” Mastering Danish pronunciation takes a good deal of practice, making it a significantly harder language to learn than its Germanic counterparts.
So, there are many hard languages to learn at the same time. Depending on which language your teacher tells you to start with, learning each of them is possible while remaining fluent in English (which is the easiest).
Korean, Portuguese, and Hindi are also difficult languages.
What is the hardest language for English speakers to learn?
There is no one answer to this question, as the hardest language to learn depends on the individual. However, some people believe that Japanese may be the hardest language to learn. This is based on the fact that Japanese has a very rigid sentence structure, which makes it difficult to understand at first. Japan also has a complex writing system, which can be challenging for those who are not familiar with it.
Other languages that may be considered to be hard to learn to include Korean, Russian, and Mandarin. Korean is known for its complex grammar, Russian for its challenging consonant clusters, and Mandarin for its complex tones. All three of these languages are used extensively in international business, and as a result, they can be difficult to learn if you are not familiar with them.
What is the hardest language to learn fluently?
There is no one answer to this question, as the hardest language to learn fluently depends on several factors, including the person’s level of fluency, the language’s grammar and syntax, and the person’s interests and motivation. However, some languages that are commonly cited as being difficult to learn to include Russian, Swedish, and Japanese.
Russian is notoriously difficult to learn for foreigners due to its complex grammar and syntax. Swedish is also difficult due to its high level of irregularity. Japanese is a language that is known for its difficulty in learning due to its complex script and irregular grammar. Additionally, Japanese is a difficult language to read and write due to its kanji characters.