Discover the World’s Hardest Languages to Learn

Pascale Chauvot

4 May 2016

There is no doubt that some languages are easier to learn than others. However, while German may be “easier” for a native English speaker to learn, the same may not be true for a Japanese national. So what are the hardest languages to learn and why?

What are the hardest languages for native English speakers?

From the perspective of the English-speaking world, other Germanic or Latin languages are generally much easier to learn than tonal languages found in much of Asia, such as Mandarin Chinese, or languages whose linguistic rules are very different, such as Arabic.  Using alphabets different to our own often complicates language learning as well.

Even so, a more globalised world finds more and more people attempting to learn popular difficult languages such as those mentioned above.  But are they the hardest languages to learn?  Treksplorer has explored the difficulties in learning languages they consider to be even harder to learn.

1.Georgian

Georgian is considered to have a complicated set of grammar rules

Located in the Caucuses, Georgia is the home to an indigenous language that shares few characteristics with prominent languages spoken regionally, such as Russian or Turkic languages.  It has its own unique alphabet, which also represents several sounds unfamiliar to most people.

In addition, as it hasn’t ‘travelled’ linguistically, it has lent few words to other languages.  It is also considered to have a complicated set of grammar rules.

2.Persian

Persian uses different alphabets (a modified Arabic alphabet for both Farsi and Dari dialects) but also the Cyrillic alphabet in the case of Tajik Persian

Although many Arabic speakers may not agree, Treksplorer has included Persian as one of the hardest languages to learn.  Although it’s true that a substantial number of words used in Persian languages are borrowed from Arabic, Persian languages are part of the Indo-European groupings of languages.

However, Persian grammar rules differ significantly from classic European languages such as English, German or French.  They also differ significantly from Arabic grammar, so although it helps to have shared words of Arabic origin, these shared words are used very differently.  Persian also uses different alphabets (a modified Arabic alphabet for both Farsi and Dari dialects) but also the Cyrillic alphabet in the case of Tajik Persian.

3.Turkish

Turkish’s grammatical structure differs significantly from Indo-European languages, with a complexity of verb tenses, word endings and a vowel harmony rule that is unknown to most other languages

Turkish is considered to be one of the world’s hardest languages to learn.  Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, made many changes as the Ottoman Empire came to an end.  These changes included the use of a modified Latin alphabet, making the Turkish language easier to read for most Europeans.

However, its grammatical structure differs significantly from Indo-European languages, with a complexity of verb tenses, word endings and a vowel harmony rule that is unknown to most other languages.

4.Icelandic

Icelandic tries to reject borrowed words

It seems as though Icelandic should be easier to learn than many other languages, given that its roots are in Germanic languages and is, of course, related to other Nordic languages.

However, although the Icelandic language is founded on rules somewhat familiar to speakers of these other languages, the complexity of its grammar rules means that words and phrases change depending on a host of conditions not considered in most other languages, including mood and subclasses of modifiers such as adjectives and pronouns.  It’s also a language that tries to reject borrowed words, thus maintaining its uniqueness.

Remember that none of us are born with the ability to speak any language; we all learn along the way

Many Westerners will relate to Treksplorer’s assessment of some of the world’s hardest languages to learn.  Others may have different languages on their list – it’s a matter of perspective.

But no matter whether you consider French, Japanese, or Tagalog to be hardest to learn, there are hints and tips on how to conquer your new languages.

  • Practice both pronunciation as well as vocabulary
  • Remember why you are motivated to learn your new language
  • Think of ways that it will be rewarding to use the language
  • Don’t be shy or embarrassed as you start your linguistic journey – you can’t learn a language without making mistakes!

Remember that none of us are born with the ability to speak any language; we all learn along the way.



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