In this piece, I want to give my take on what are the most difficult languages for English speakers. This is based on my personal experiences learning or learning about various languages. This is just my opinion.
For this type of list, I like to break language into categories which are reading writing, pronunciation, and grammar.
Reading and Writing
- Mandarin (or any other Chinese language)- Mandarin wins without a doubt. Remembering even just a small bank of characters in your mind for a long time takes practice and hard work.
- Thai (and Cambodian, Lao)- While I have only done research about this language and not really learned it, the Thai writing system can be quite intricate and challenging to English speakers.
- Vietnamese- I have learned about Vietnamese. I have only studied the alphabet and pronunciation. Mandarin pronunciation is tough, but Vietnamese is more difficult. You have tones, an incredibly complex system of accents marks that indicate differences in pronunciation, and on top of all of that, the differences in pronunciation can be slight and make words mean totally different things. Vietnamese pronunciation leaves a super small margin for error.
- Inuit and Native American languages- I have only researched these languages. These languages can have extremely complex consonant clusters along with some vowel combinations that are foreign to English speakers.
- Dutch and Afrikaans- I have learned about these languages and briefly dabbled in learning them. Dutch especially can have some difficult pronunciations.
- Finnish- I have studied Finnish in the past and want to study it more. Finnish is an incredibly challenging language when it comes to grammar. The language is beautiful and I wholeheartedly recommend it, but you have to put some hours on the board when it comes to looking at grammar in examples from your textbook or real pieces of content. The biggest challenge for me is the way that words change when endings are added on.
- Russian- like almost all of its Slavic brother and sister languages, Russian has quite the complex and intense grammar. I have studied this language a bit, and it is on my list for the future. Verbs of motion and perfect vs imperfect verbs are two real challenges that I consistently have in Russian. Russian is second because the grammar largely follows its own rules and the grammar is a little bit closer to English.
- Arabic- I have studied Arabic and have it on my list to continue learning in 2018. Some aspects of Arabic grammar can be tough. How verbs conjugate can be extremely tricky. Arabic (and Hebrew) has a root system that can be a bit of a challenge to wrap your mind around at first.
Remember to not be discouraged and keep persisting through it if you are learning one of these languages.
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