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What is the hardest language to learn? 


Again, this is subjective and really depends on your native language…but give us your thoughts!

6 Responses to What is the hardest language to learn?

  1. Thalles Castellani

    The “Ma”, “Ma, “Maa” problem is just the point of the iceberg of the Mandarin complexity.

    • Irene Thompson

      This is not the right question to ask. The right questions to ask are the following:
      How different is the language you are trying to learn from your first language or another language you have learned (sound system, grammar, vocabulary, writing, culture)?
      How well do you want to know the language?

  2. Ligia

    Hi Irene,

    I agree in part with what you mentioned above: it will depend on own experience or background, and how different your native language is from the target language.

    However, the most crucial point is the student’s attitude and the reason for learning a new language. If learning a certain language is something he really desires and he believes he can do it, it will be doable even if he has to learn a totally new alphabet. He’s attitude will make what seems hard to others an easy task for him because he’s doing it with joy.

    • Irene Thompson

      Great comment! I will throw in a few more factors besides motivation. Those are aptitude, age, and learning environment, to name a few. In addition, a new alphabet is not a big obstacle, unless it is character-based (Chinese, partially Japanese), syllable-based, or has a totally different structure, such as Hindi or Arabic. Cyrillic alphabet is a bump in the road only in the first few months of language study, to give you an example.

  3. renato

    good question, I believe there is not a single answer, but many. As language lover (I speak fluently 3-and know quite well other 5- besides 8 others I’m studying in this moment) the first answer would be the first foreign language is the most the difficult, because is something knew you are trying to understand; the second answer would be languages with different alphabets specially languages where the alphabet is written for only one people like Greek, Korean, Japanese, and South Asia languages. Of course in all languages a new grammar will also halp to make more difficult and third those Bosquimanes languages Khoe family with all those tongue clicks. Really I tried some videos on Youtube, it was impossible to do the clicks.

    • Irene Thompson

      I afraid your statements are personal opinions, not based on the science of language. You are trying to compare apples with oranges. First of all, the processes of acquiring a first language (L1) and a second language (L2) are quite different due to the different stages in the development of the human brain, the age of acquisition, the length of time spent in acquiring/learning L1 and L2, and the circumstances under which they are learned. Secondly, you should clearly distinguish in your mind the difference between the spoken and the written form of language. Zulu children learn to do clicks, Chinese children learn how to do tones, French children learn to do nasal vowels, English children learn to do a retroflex [r] perfectly, i.e., they become native speakers. Adults learning these languages will not, for the most part, be able to achieve this feat. Most adults will retain an foreign accent. Obviously the degree of difference between L1 and L2 in phonology, grammar, vocabulary, and script will pose differetial levels of difficulty for learners of L2.


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