Results of the Hardest Languages to Learn Poll!

We previously posted an article on the top list of the hardest languages to learn which attracted a lot of feedback from our readers. As a result of this, we decided to conduct a survey in order to find out what people think the hardest languages to learn are. The voting comprised of 3 parts: the hardest languages to learn how to pronounce correctly, the hardest languages to learn to speak correctly and the hardest languages to learn overall. The much anticipated results are as follows:

The hardest languages to learn overall

1.Mandarin
2.Polish
3.Arabic
4.Hungarian
5.Japanese
6.English
7.Finnish
8.Basque
9.Lithuanian
10.Icelandic

The hardest languages to learn to pronounce correctly

1.Mandarin
2.Polish
3.French
4.Arabic
5.English
6.Japanese
7.Hindi
8.Korean
9.Hungarian
10.Basque

The hardest languages to learn to write correctly

1.Mandarin
2.Japanese
3.Arabic
4.Korean
5.Polish
6.Hindi
7.Greek
8.English
9.French
10.Hungarian

Thanks to everyone who took part in the poll. I think we’ll all agree that no matter what language you choose to learn, you are presented with challenges, but that’s half the fun!

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19 thoughts on “Results of the Hardest Languages to Learn Poll!”

  1. Pingback: Top List of the hardest languages to learn - Lexiophiles

  2. Pingback: Results of the Hardest Languages to Learn Poll! - Lexiophiles M CIKU 词库

  3. hmmm..curiously, no one added some REALLY hard languages, like Georgian, Cambodian (Khmer), Cherokee, Navajo and some others in the Caucasus mountains. Tlingit will also make a grow mane cry 🙂

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  5. Young Mormon missionaries learn most of the languages of the world, although that doesn’t apply to most African languages yet, and it is common knowledge in the Church that Navajo is the most difficult, which is why Navajos were used as “windtalkers” during WWII.

    I’ve mastered Japanese and am pretty proficient in Mandarin Chinese, and I have to say that Chinese is definitely much easier for English speakers because of the SVO pattern. Despite the poll results, Japanese is probably one of the easiest languages in the world to pronounce, being almost identical to Italian. I’d say that the 17 (or 19 by some accounts) vowels in my native Swedish are much more difficult for English speakers to distinguish, along with several vowel combinations. Mandarin really isn’t too difficult to pronounce after a while, and the grammar is quite easy. Clearly, Korean is much more difficult for English people to pronounce, and it has the difficult grammar that is nearly identical to Japanese, which both resemble Finnish in the sense of the SOV pattern.

    Contrary to what has been stated, English is well known as a very difficult language for people to learn compared to most other Western hemisphere languages, but its prevalence means that people are exposed to it more often and at an earlier age.

    It would be ridiculous to say that Korean is a difficult language to write, because it is purely phonetic and scientifically constructed fairly recently by linguists, so I’d say it’s probably the easiest language in the world to write, other than appearing somewhat foreign to Westerners. Someone could master it in a couple of weekends.

    Obviously, the poll answers were submitted by people with limited exposure to only a few languages of personal interest and not a broader understanding that would be necessary for a true comparison.

    I’d say that French, Spanish, Italian, and even Portuguese are not particularly difficult for native English speakers. I find Swedish one of the easiest of all, because the grammar seems almost identical to English, and it’s easy to recognize a lot of words—though nowhere near as many as in French. I’ve had absolutely no experience with German, and even though English is basically a Germanic language that has adopted a vast number of French words, Swedish—another Germanic language—actually resembles English more closely than German, from what I have seen.

  6. I’m also perplexed by the presence of Polish high up on the list of ‘languages that are hard to write correctly’. With the exception of the question of how to write the sounds represented by ż/rz, h/ch, u/ó, and how to write a final voiceless consonant (-d or -t, etc.) Polish orthography is entirely regular and predictable from the sound. The first issue is dwarfed by the chaotic spelling systems of many other languages, and the second issue is common to very many languages (most Slavic languages, and German, for instance).

    Similarly, if I’m not mistaken, Hungarian has a completely regular system, apart from the use of both j and ly for the same sound.

    Clearly the difficulty of these orthographies comes from their relative unfamiliarity, and not from any inherent difficult. Spanish, for example, presents a number of situation where one sound may be represented in two way, but nobody would dream of saying that it has an extraordinarily difficult orthography.

  7. I agree with Andrew’s comment about Korean. It has a phonetic alphabet (although initially it does look like scribble) and the words for the most part are pronounced like they’re written. And the majority of Korean sounds appear in English as well…I think the impression of difficulty comes from having those sounds assigned to different characters or letters than English.

    Does anyone know how many people actually participated in this poll? That would make the rankings and percentages more meaningful to me.

  8. @SOM – I am Polish and also, truly curious about your source of information. I’ve never had any trouble with Polish ortography whatsoever but have seen many people struggle with it – whether they were studying it at school or learning Polish as a foreign language. your ‘regularity’ argument can easily be proven wrong as you probably use a barely valid source of information. you know, it’s real experience against some wikipedia trivia now. Polish does have a lot of exceptions and many orthographic rules pertain not only to the letters themselves, but also to comas, the use of majuscules, minuscules, a/ą, e/ę, etc. you see, Polish is the fifth language in that list, English is the eight one. can English really boast some complex orthography? I’ve never noticed, really. when it comes to Korean, Hindi or Greek, you simply have to master different alphabets.

  9. Hey I m in Taiwan, at the begining i though Mandarin is the hardest lenguage but i can tell you that list is because a lot of guys on the sample for sure they don t know about lenguages around Asia or in the middle of Africa, Vietnamesse is really hard to pronunce, and some countries like Burkina Fasso really hard to write, for sure as my point of view is not the mandarin because grammatically is not so hard, the oral expressions are quite simple forms.

  10. As the results do not appear to state the native language of the participants in the poll, they are of doubtful value IMHO. However, I am truly amazed that Russian does not appear on any of the lists. For an English speaker, the different alphabet, the case system, the complexities of the orthography, the flexibility of the word order, the often unfamiliar vocabulary, the sheer volume of rule exceptions, all add up to a learning experience which is much more demanding of the student than many other (even Indo-European) languages. Very interesting results!

  11. IMO, Cantonese is much harder to pronounce correctly than Mandarin as there are no suitable pinyins, IMO.

  12. As somebody who has lived 25 years in the Basque Country, I have to agree that it is a devilishly hard language to learn. Almost as hard as English, it seems?! Maybe that’s because there are about 20 ways to say “took”, 50 ways to say “this” and 100 ways to “that” in Basque. Imagine how long it takes me to translate, “Is that the boy who broke this chair?”

    An interesting survey, anyway, though it would be good to know a little about total number of participants, voters’ nationalities, backgrounds, etc.

  13. If Mandarin is #1 on your list, then you should know that it is one of the easiest Chinese dialects to learn, for several important reasons: it only has four tones (compared to 6-9 for some other dialects), the spoken and written language are quite similar or even identical (although mastering written Chinese is extremely difficult, you have to use lots of literary expressions from classical Chinese to write well), and because Mandarin has a much reduced vocabulary compared to many dialects.

  14. I don’t think that Polish is relatively hard language to learn to write. Just the opposite, it is quite easy to write, comparing to English. However it is very complex in terms of gamma and clean, proper pronunciation. Everybody finds orthography, the hardest part of learning 🙂

  15. I would make an argument for English being a difficult language to write properly.

    English orthography is extremely complicated and the letters of the alphabet can have so many different phonemes attached to them that reading and writing English is definitely difficult. How many times have you wondered about the spelling of a word and how many spelling mistakes do you still make even as a literate, native English speaker? Also, I tend to feel that English pronunciation of the alphabet letters does not always correlate well with more general usages. My favourite example is ‘i’, which in British English is not pronounced the same as /i/ as in most other languages.

    I’d also like to echo sentiments that Korean, whilst perhaps initially confusing for people is definitely an easy alphabet system to make. From a linguistic point of view, it is arguable the most perfect alphabet system to date – encoding a lot of linguistic information intrinsinically.

  16. Im going for Estonian with its 14 case endings and no relationship to Indo European languages hardly at all only occasional loan words, I would say its as hard as Finnish and Hungarian but add that its only spoken by just over a million and they dont have any experience listening to foreign accents when trying to learn it, Ive lived here in Estonia for 6 years and I dont know any foreigners that have learnt it properly in adulthood, though there are legends my Estonian friends say only language perverts can be bothered with the struggle.

  17. Well my mother tongue is malayalam,a language that it spoken in kerala,an indian state. I wish you would include my language in list of top 10 toughest language. My language is difficult and i can prove. The malayalam script is as difficult as mandarin/ cantonese

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