If you are an anglophone (English speaker) and think that learning a little Italian, Spanish or French is challenging, then you should probably not try to learn Navajo, Basque, or Finnish. These are just some of the trickiest languages to learn for anglophones. If you are having a hard time learning a new language, it might not entirely be your fault. What is the hardest language to learn for English speakers?
While most people try to look for the easiest foreign languages to master, others seek the more difficult ones that provide the thrill of learning.
What is the hardest language to learn for English speakers? Whether you are just linguistically-curious or simply looking for a good challenge, here is a look at some of the most challenging languages to learn for an anglophone.
What is the hardest language to learn? Top 10 list
What are the top 10 most difficult languages to learn? Ranging from Arabic to Polish, here is a look at the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.
1. Mandarin Chinese
What is the hardest language to learn for English speakers? The top spot goes to Mandarin Chinese. Ironically, the hardest language to master is also the most widely spoken all over the world. Mandarin poses a challenge for various reasons.
First, the writing system associated with Mandarin Chinese is entirely new to anglophone and many other people who are used to the Latin alphabet. Besides this, anyone learning Mandarin Chinese must familiarize themselves with thousands of characters.
To make matters worse, Mandarin's tonal nature makes it even harder to master. Mandarin Chinese is the most common Chinese dialect and also one of the trickiest to learn. The language has four tones in it, which means that a word can have four different pronunciations that all have different meanings.
For example, the word 'ma' can mean scold, rough, horse, or mother, depending on how it is pronounced. These tonal variations and numerous characters make Mandarin Chinese the most difficult language to learn for a person used to English.
Similar to Mandarin, Arabic is also among the world's most-spoken languages. For a person whose base language is English, learning Arabic can prove to be a daunting task. The first challenge in learning the language involves its significantly huge geographical spread, resulting in numerous dialects.
The language's alphabet is also non-Latin and involves notations that do not have vowels. It gets worse; Arabic is usually written from right to left, an aspect which can make any language quite difficult to learn.
Arabic also contains some rather unique sounds and a grammar structure that places verbs before subjects making it quite complicated for an anglophone.
Hungarian is a relatively uncommon language spoken in Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, Serbia, and Romania. Hungarian uses the Latin alphabet but with some additional accents. What makes the language difficult for new learners has to do with its agglutinative nature.
Instead of using individual prepositions in speech and writing, suffixes and prefixes are added to words. This means that a big chunk of a sentence can be expressed in one particularly long verb in Hungarian. Agglutination can result in unreasonably long words, which make a language quite challenging to learn.
Hungarian also has 26 cases, making it grammatically challenging. Add this to the fact that it is also a vowel-harmony language, which essentially means that many word endings have two or three different versions, each to be applied under different conditions
Finnish is well-known for being one of the hardest languages to learn. Finnish nouns have 15 different cases. English, on the other hand, only has three cases; possessive, objective, and subjective.
Finnish belongs to the Finno-Urgic group of languages, and it has no connection to Latin to help an anglophone guess what anything means.
Polish may not be as challenging to learn as Mandarin or Arabic, but learning it is still quite a task.
The language's words are full of consonants, an aspect that makes spelling and pronunciation a problem for new learners. For instance, 'bezwzględny' means 'ruthless,' and 'szczęście' means 'happiness.' In terms of grammar, Polish has seven cases for each noun.
On the bright side, the language uses the Latin alphabet, so the letters are much more familiar to anglophones than those used in Arabic, Mandarin, and other non-Latin languages.
Mastering the Polish language may prove to be advantageous, considering Poland's developing status as a major economy in Europe.
The Japanese language has three different writing systems: Katakana is for foreign words, Hiragana is used for Japanese words, and Kanji is adopted from Chinese characters.
The grammar in Japanese appears a little more straightforward until you get to the particles (which are used to indicate the grammatical function of a word).
Navajo has several unique features that make it challenging for anglophones or anyone who does not speak a language in the North American Na-Dené language family. Navajo has several consonants that are absent from the English language.
Besides this, Navajo contains elements of agglutination, where prefixes and suffixes replace prepositions. To make it worse, Navajo does it in such an unpredictable way that it is considered by some linguistics to be non-agglutinative.
All the same, Navajo seems to be both non-agglutinative and agglutinative, making it even more complicated. Its significant lack of loanwords from other languages and its grammatical structure makes it so tough to crack that the allies had Navajo speakers speak their language to send coded communications during World War II.
At the time, there was no published Navajo dictionary, making the language even tougher to decode. Today, however, there are plenty of online resources for those willing to take on the challenge.
There are some definite roadblocks to becoming fluent in Russian.
Among these challenges involves the spelling not always being straightforward. It is full of vowel sounds unfamiliar to the average English speaker and requires learning an entirely new alphabet to master.
Similar to some other languages on this list, Turkish is agglutinative. Suffixes and prefixes are attached to words to indicate direction and determine their meaning. This is in stark contrast to English, where separate prepositions would be used to achieve the same effect.
Turkish is also a vowel-harmony language, a concept that may be entirely new to an anglophone. In vowel harmony, vowels are changed, or endings with vowels added to make a word flow more smoothly.
Lastly, the Turkish language has numerous words borrowed from Arabic, the second-hardest language to learn.
What's the hardest language to learn in terms of noun cases? That honor goes to the Basque language. It is impossible to link Basque with any Indo-European language despite it probably being the oldest-known spoken language in Europe.
Basque is an agglutinative language, meaning it likes to use suffixes, prefixes, and infixes. New words are frequently formed by adding a common tag onto the end, the beginning, or the middle of a simpler word.
Additionally, Basque is synthetic, rather than analytic. In other words, it uses case endings to denote relationships between words. Basque not only changes the end of the verb, but it changes the beginning too.
Besides the indicative mood, Basque verbs also have several imperative, subjunctive, potential, conditional, and irrealis(contrary to fact) forms.
If you have always asked yourself, "what is the hardest language to learn?" You are now in the know. According to you, what is the hardest language in the world? Are you up to the challenge of learning any of the languages mentioned above?
Legit.ng reported that Africa has more than 20 anglophone countries. While most of these adopted English as a result of colonialism, there are a few that chose to use the language as a result of its increasing importance in global issues.
In most of these countries, the English language is only one of several official languages, most of which comprise local dialects.