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What Is the Hardest Language to Learn

April 23, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 146

There are several thousand languages spoken in the world today. With globalization, many people know a second or third language. But the most commonly learned languages, Spanish and French, are very similar to English. What if you want to kick it up a notch? What is the hardest language to learn?

Factors in Language Learning Difficulty

There are two main factors in language learning difficulty. The first factor deals with the difference between the target language and English. Languages have many properties. English uses the Latin alphabet and has a verb order that puts the subject of a sentence before the verb. Not all languages share these traits.

In fact, many languages have features that seem down right exotic by English standards. There are languages where the word order of a sentence doesn't matter at all. Many languages have two words for "you", one for speaking formally and one for speaking informally. Other languages use sounds, like glottal consonants and clicks, that do not exist in English. And that's just scratching the surface.

Besides the complexity of other languages, the other factor affecting the difficulty of a language is the access to learning materials. If no learning materials exist, and you don't know any speakers, then it will be impossible for you to learn a language.

In short, there are a number of languages that are impossible to learn simply because they are remote tongues with few speakers and no learning materials.

In order to deal with the multitude of languages and with poorly documented languages, the rest of this guide will answer the questions: Which are the hardest languages to learn that most people will find useful?


Mandarin is extremely useful. China is becoming an economic powerhouse, and its 1.3 billion citizens are being integrated into the world economy.

But, Mandarin Chinese has some features that are difficult for most English speakers to get the hang of. First off, Mandarin uses tones to convey meaning. In English, we might take a certain tone of voice when asking a question or making a joke. In Mandarin, tonality is a much more fundamental part of the language. Every word has a specific tone, and changing the tone of a word can make it into a different word altogether.

The other major hurdle with Mandarin is the pictographic writing system. Instead of using letters to form words, Chinese languages use a set of pictographs. These pictographs are symbols, like letters, but there is no alphabet and you can't really sound things out. For every word, you have to memorize a unique set of glyphs. This can make it seem like you are learning two languages.


Arabic is a major world language. It is the official language of many countries in the Middle East. Because it is also the language of Islam, there are people who can speak Arabic all around the world. And unlike Chinese, it even has an alphabet! However, Arabic is also quite challenging for English speakers.

About that Alphabet... although Arabic uses an alphabet, it is completely different from the Latin alphabet that we use in English. The Arabic letters are much different, and they change form depending on whether they are written alone, at the beginning of a word, in the middle of a word, or at the end of a word. And Arabic is written right to left, completely opposite of English.

Even if you get past the writing system, Arabic has some challenges. There are many different dialects of Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic is the formal dialect, the dialect used in international or business situations. But this is not what most of the population speaks. Every region and country has its own form of Arabic, and these forms can differ greatly from the Modern Standard Arabic and from each other.

Finally, in Arabic, when you conjugate a verb, you must change the entire structure of the word, adding in extra vowels and consonants. This is quite different from most English verbs and can take some getting used to.

The Hardest Language to Learn

Arabic is hard, but if you want to learn the absolute most difficult language that will still be useful, Mandarin Chinese is the winner. In Mandarin you can't sound out words. In fact, due to the writing system, it is almost like learning two separate languages. Add in the importance of tones, and Mandarin provides a real challenge.

To find out more about the languages of the world, visit the site.

If your into languages, find out the best language to learn

Source: EzineArticles
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