Society

The Hardest Languages to Learn in the World

This list of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn comes from data gathered by the US State Department.

Language is the system of communication used by a particular community or a country. Learning a new language is not an easy task. For English speakers, some languages may appear harder than others to speak and comprehend.

The Hardest Languages to Learn

Chinese

Chinese is a group of languages spoken by the people of China. The most common of them is Mandarin which is the most spoken language in the world. English speakers find the language very difficult to learn, primarily because it is a tonal language. Each and every sound in Mandarin has four distinct pronunciations. To make matters worse, the language is rich in homophones (words that sound the same but have different meanings). In addition, the long and rich Chinese history has enriched the language with idioms and aphorisms. Most English speakers have cited the language as the hardest language to learn in the world.

Arabic

The Arabic language is a Central Semitic language. It was first spoken in the Iron Age and has developed to be the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is spoken by approximately 422 million people around the globe. In Arabic, most letters are written in four different forms depending on where they are placed in a word. The fact that vowels are not included in writing complicates the language even further. To add on that, the language has many different dialects depending on the geographical area it is being spoken in.

Japanese

Japanese is an East Asian language with over 125 million speakers. It is the national language of Japan. The language is made difficult to learn by the fact that thousands of characters have to be learned before one can write in Japanese. In addition, the language has three different writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. To further complicate things, each of these systems has a different alphabet.

Korean

The Korean language is spoken by approximately 80 million people around the globe making it the largest language isolate in the world (an isolate language is a language with no close relatives). It is the national language of both North and South Korea, as well the official language of two Chinese autonomous prefectures. The language structure of the Korean language is very different from many other languages, including English. For example, when describing an action in the Korean language, the subject goes first, followed by the object and then the sentence ends with the action. A practical example is a sentence like “I read books” when spoken in Korean changes to “I books read.” This change in sentence structure makes it very difficult and sometimes confusing to English speakers.

Hindi

Hindi is a language spoken by approximately 260 million people across the world. It is the official language of the government of India. It is also the official language of Fiji. Hindi language has ten vowels and 40 consonants and is characterized by bars on top of symbols. It is highly phonetic, unlike English. The major difference between English and Hindi is in the sentence structure. A simple sentence order in English is subject-verb-object, while in Hindi is subject-object-verb.

Why Asian Languages Are Difficult To Learn?

English speakers have difficulty in learning various languages with Asian languages proving to be the hardest to learn. The difficulty is brought about by the difference in the writing characters and difference in sentence structure. Asian languages have inverted syntax from English meaning that you first have to first learn the syntax before learning the language.

The Hardest Languages to Learn

RankLanguageNumber of Speakers Worldwide (Millions)
1Chinese1200
2Arabic221
3Japanese122
4Korean66
5Hindi182
6Russian144
7Vietnamese69
8Turkish51
9Polish40
10Thai21
11Serbian16
12Hebrew5
13Finnish5
14Albanian5
15Amharic36
16Armenian12
17Turkish88
18Tamil70
19Tagalog70
20Croatian6
21Kazakh15
22Macedonian3
23Lao25
24Latvian2
25Lithuanian3

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