Top List of the hardest languages to learn

We had so many interesting responses to this article that we decided to create a poll to see what people think the hardest languages to learn overall are. We also wanted to find out what people think the hardest language to learn to pronounce correctly and the hardest language to learn to write correctly are. The hundreds of votes have now been counted! Take a look at the results of the hardest languages to learn poll, to find out what languages people voted for.

1. Basque
2. Hungarian
3. Chinese
4. Polish
5. Japanese
6. Russian
7. German
8. Korean
9. English
10. Swahili

There are some controversial questions which to some extent may never be satisfactorily answered. For instance, why is the train always late when we are on time and on time when we arrive too late? One important question, which falls under this category, is the following: What is the hardest language to learn? When I went to school we had to choose between French and Latin. All the students who decided in favor of Latin were absolutely sure that there was no trickier language on earth to learn. However, the other group, which devoted itself to the French language, was of the opinion that when it came to difficulty no language could come close even to the difficulty rating and kudos of learning French. Is it at all possible to prove either one of them wrong?

As so often is the case, the answer to this question lies partly in the eye of the beholder. For somebody from Spain learning Portuguese doesn’t present too many difficulties and lots of learners from the Netherlands find it quite easy to master the English language. As a matter of fact, different language families as well as cultural issues lead to a different approach of learners towards different languages. Due to the similar or identical characters of Japanese and Chinese, the Japanese can easily understand written Chinese. Interestingly, grasping the Chinese pronunciation has turned out to be more of a challenge for Japanese learners. All this shows, that there are many different aspects that need to be taken into account in order to pass a reasonable judgment on the matter. As English is the nearest thing to a world language there are lots of tools and textbooks that facilitate acquisition of the language, by contrast, this is not true for minor languages spoken by a smaller group of people.

While the common consensus tends to describe Chinese and Russian to be among the most challenging languages, a survey conducted by the British government has shown that this is not necessarily true. According to their results, which are based on interviews with diplomatic staff around the world, they found that on the list of the most difficult languages Basque is the top dog, followed by Hungarian with dozens of word cases. Surprisingly, among the interviewees Chinese was not considered to be hard to learn.

*Top List based on forum discussions in 23 countries

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356 thoughts on “Top List of the hardest languages to learn”

  1. The world’s hardest language is Slovak because no language has so difficult grammar as Slovak has.

  2. In all threads a few extremly hard languages are not mentioned, especially the american langauges (1 – 3):

    1. Ket
    2. Navajo
    3. Tlingit
    4. Basque
    5. Arabic
    6. Hungarian
    7. Finnish
    8. Lithuanian
    9. Polish
    10. Czech / Slovak

  3. Disclaimer: I’m typing this on an iPad, which makes any language difficult. 🙂

    I’m a native English speaker (and an editor by profession). I’d say that while English may be easy to learn and people are always exposed to it everywhere, mastering it is another story. Most of my editing is of non-native speaker’s work, but many natives are pretty awful, too. The sheer number of expressions, slang, things that can’t be exchanged even though they seem like they could be…and speakers of languages without articles will never master them. Never. On the other hand, English speakers are terribly forgiving, perhaps because there are so many non-native speakers. Ask me to correct your writing, and I’ll tear it apart, but don’t be shy about trying to speak and write it. 🙂

    What I love is seeing “loans” from the native language in English, in grammar. It’s cute.

    Je parle un petit peu de francais (no accents on this thing). I can’t fairly judge its difficulty because I started young. I’ve never mastered it and forget it, obviously, with no use, but it all comes back if I do a refresher.

    I just started learning Greek (today!) and can’t assess that yet. It has genders, but I’m at least used to that from French. So of course, what you already know influences the difficulty. I’ve never learned Spanish, even though half the people in this city speak it, but I could pretty much make out what that sentence above said. I guess it’s the Latin base and maybe the unconscious exposure.

    I’d think Japanese would be very hard, at least to do very well, with all the honorifics and different ways to say things depending on the age and sex of those involved. And of course, writing Chinese or Japanese is a mess. My Greek learning is bringing in the Greek alphabet, and while I’m picking it up, as it were, I imagine understanding the use of accents or no accents will be tricky. And it seems like some of the same sounds come from different letters. Many of us know some of the letters already, at least from fraternities :-), but I can see where being able to whip out.a written sentence would be tough. And that sure as hell isn’t a language I could type on this iPad. 😀

  4. You didn’t Try Arabic , so you don’t know what you are talking about

    Arabic is the hardest language ever to learn and pronounce
    it has letters with unique pronouncation
    Arabic Grammer is IMPOSSIBLE to lear for a foreigner
    they are complicated to death
    the one word in arabic may have tens of meaning
    It is hard to the extent that 99 % of arabic peoples don’t speak the real ” Arabic ” with its real grammers
    not they are interested , but they really can’t !!!!

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