English is the most spoken language worldwide. Owing to the ever-increasing demographics of “English users” there are some languages which they might find easy or difficult to learn. For example, the whole of the Anglophone community will agree that Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn in the world, but is the hardest? – Interesting proposition. In this article we will list out some of the most difficult languages to learn especially for English speakers.

Top Hardest Languages To Learn

1. Cantonese/Mandarin
2. Polish
3. Arabic
4. Japanese
5. Russian
6. Korean
7. Turkish

#1 Cantonese/Mandarin

Speaking Mandarin to a Cantonese speaker is like, as the saying goes, “a chicken talking to a duck”. However, Cantonese is harder to learn than Mandarin – not discounting the fact that for an English speaker both of them are going to be pretty difficult. Cantonese has from 6 to 9 tones, each of which signifies different things. Mandarin only has 4 tones. The grammatical system, the writing system – and the whole logographic aspect of it, and the tonal nature of these both languages place them as the foremost hardest language to learn.

Chinese, however, is also a culturally and politically relevant language, opening the door to numerous career in translation and interpretation.

#2 Polish

Polish uses Latin script but has 9 additional letters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż). It also has seven diagraphs ch, cz, dz, dź, dż, rz, and sz. There are eight vowel sounds, but nine graphemes (a, ą, e, ę, i, o, ó, u, y). There are five genders: masculine, feminine, masculine inanimate, masculine animate, and neuter. Compared to English, which is considered to have no gender at all! There are seven cases: nominative, genitive, instrumental, accusative, dative, locative, and vocative. Compared to the English language, it is a very different scheme to produce sound – making it the second most hardest language to learn for English speakers .

#3 Arabic

Arabic is a very distant language from English with virtually no similarity. Speaking, writing, and the syntactical structure of Arabic is very different from English. Also, the dialectical dissimilarity of Arabic in the Middle East is big. Also, the diacritical marks present in Arabic writing can change the meaning of a word into another completely unrelated word. Hence, Arabic language overall is very difficult to learn for an English speaker. Another trivial fact, Arabic because of its guttural sound is the hardest language to learn for Chinese speakers.

#4 Japanese

First, there are the feared three systems of writing – the 2 kanas (Katakana and Hiragana), and traditional Chinese (Kanji). The Katakana and Hiragana are sound-based scripts used in day to day communication. Katakana is the basis for neologism (borrowed words). Modern Japanese is written with a combination of all the three scripts (sometimes the boundary is unclear) and to makes matters more confusing written sentences are written often with limited use of Latin alphabets. As such Japanese is one of the tough language to learn for English speakers.

#5 Russian

The case and gender system of the Russian language are very different from English – it has nominative, accusative, dative, prepositional genitive, and instrumental cases combined with three genders. This makes it tricky to learn Russian. Russian verbs have two versions, called perfective and imperfective. These are actually two different verbs used for each version, which does not equate to different forms of the same verb. So, for every Russian verb you learn, you need to learn two. Also, the actual words – they are long, a lot, and requiring loads of learning with various unfamiliar words in between.

#6 Korean

The Korean writing system, unlike Japanese and Chinese, is easy to learn – there are 24 basic letters and 27 complex letters that can be learned within days. In terms of speaking as Korean isn’t as tonal as Chinese – making matters a little easier. However, Korean still offers various difficulties in terms of speaking, the syntactical structure, and the vocabularies as a whole. Never mind the possibility of a combination of all of these instances is going to make learning Korean language is a tough job.

#7 Turkish

Turkish is an agglutinative language – which means expressions are made up of several suffixes. As such pronunciations for various words are going change according to contexts and the person who uses it. Turkish also has complex grammar. Turkish has a lot of cool features, written Turkish follows a Subject-Object-Verb pattern whereas English follows a Subject-Verb-Object pattern. There are order differences such as ‘prepositions’ following the noun in Turkish, main verbs preceding modal verbs, and relative clauses. These variations often make Turkish the hardest language to learn for an English speaker.

What groups all of these languages together, in terms of their difficulty, is their relative lack of connection (geographical distance) to the English language. Mastering any one of them is going to require grit and hard work. All of the languages listed here require at least 45 weeks and more of learning time to gain competence and often requires years of learning to gain mastery. Learning any one of these languages in combination with English places one in the highest-earning brackets in terms of translation jobs because of the difficulty in learning these.

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