If you’re smart you can manage to learn the most difficult languages quite easily and in the shortest possible time. Some might consider a particular language the hardest language to learn in the world, but it’s all a matter of perspective. What’s hard for you could be very easy for someone from a different language background.
The truth is that all languages have evolved in a manner that makes them easy to learn, so one language cannot be deemed as more difficult than the other.
Is English the hardest language to learn, some might be asking. It is the most spoken language in the world. How easy or difficult another language is depends on how similar or different it is from a language that you’re already fluent in. For instance, if you’re fluent in German, it might not take you much time to catch on to Dutch. So let’s check out.
- What’s the hardest language to learn
- Most spoken language in the world
- 20 most difficult languages to learn
- Hardest language to write
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The Top 20 Hardest & Most Difficult Languages to Learn From All Around The World
Arabic – Arabia – Hardest Language in the World
Arabic is considered among the most difficult languages to learn, especially for English speakers. However, it is also undoubtedly a very beautiful language.
- The vocabulary is huge. Many words of more than 10 synonyms and most of them have the same meaning. This means that you have several words to convey a single meaning. It can also be the hardest language to write.
Note: There are around 90 million to nearly 500 million words in this language.
- There are many grammatical rules and a slight shift in words or a change in a letter could change the entire meaning
Hebrew – Israel
It’s a Semitic language with the oldest written records dating back to 1200 BC and also the Bible. There are around 9 million people all over the world speaking the language, but 90% of them being Jews in Israel along with some Israeli Arabs and also in the US.
- The Modern Hebrew is the standardized form today.
- The language includes many tongue twisters like, Ganan gidel dagan bagan – A gardener grew rye in the garden; Nachash nashach nachash – A snake bit a snake.
- There are many English religious words like Adam and Jacob, as well as kosher; hallelujah; behemoth; etc. that are actually loaned from Hebrew.
There are more than 50 million people all over the world speaking this language. Polish communities are also found in the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Israel among others.
- It belongs to the Slavic group, similar to Russian, Czech, Serbian etc. and is among the most difficult languages of the world.
Note: Daj, ac ja pobrusze, a ty poxzywaj – this is the first known Polish sentence meaning, Relax Honey I will do the dishes today.
- The language makes use of small forms. For instance, the word Ola; Olka; Olunia stand for Aleksandra.
- What’s the hardest language to learn? The digraphs, such as cz; ch; sz; dz; come in different combinations and are used for creating tongue twister words that foreigners find very difficult to pronounce.
Around 300,000 people living in Iceland speak this beautiful Nordic language. It bears a lot of similarity to ancient Norwegian language. It is also a little similar to German and Dutch.
- The language contains plenty of oral culture in the form of ancient songs and poetry.
- People continue to make up new words in Icelandic. They also have their own sign language. It is also one of the difficult languages to learn.
Navajo: South West US ( Mexico US border)
The biggest Navajo populations are seen in Arizona and in Mexico. It is an Athabaskan language, which is spoken by tribes in Alaska. They are the 2nd largest Native American tribes in the US. Check out these Navajo phrases for common English sentences.
- A unique feature of the Navajo language is that it doesn’t use any adjectives but rather depends on verbs, so translation between other language is a little difficult. But it’s perfect if you’re looking for a challenge.
- There are no written rules for grammar nor is there a dictionary of the Navajo words. It can be one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.
Note: The language was used as a code during the World War II, as the language had nothing in common with Japanese or German. The Japanese were mystified by the language. The grammar was also complex so it could not be decoded easily.
It is an isolated language, meaning that it does not belong to any language group. With its increasing international presence, it seems a good time to learn a language spoken by more than 80 million people all over the world.
- It’s alphabet is known as ‘hangul’ and earlier the language used Chinese characters.
- It is a difficult language: the honorifics are complex; the script is unfamiliar; and it has 2 different numbering systems.
Pashto: Ethnic Afghans; Pashtuns in Afghanistan and West Pakistan
It is also called as Pashtu or Afghani and is the official language of Afghanistan, and a regional language of Pakistan. Around 60 million people speak the language all over the world. It belongs to the Indo Iranian group or the Indo European family.
- The writing is based on Arabic script called Naskh.
- It has 21 dialects, the southern and northern or the soft and hard dialects.
- The language is taught in primary as well as secondary education, but in Universities, the language is Dari, which is the co official language of Afghanistan.
It is spoken by 955 million native speakers all over the world, more than any other language. So if you learn this language, you can speak to 13% of the world’s population.
- There are totally only 50,000 characters but you can start reading the language even by knowing 2500 important characters.
- The language unlocks both the temporal lobes of your brain, whereas English only unlocks the left side.
Note: Famous people have started learning Mandarin. Mark Zuckerberg gave a talk in Chinese at the Beijing University.
Finnish – Finland
It is one of the most harmonic European languages and also the most challenging one! The language originates from the Russian Ural mountains. Some of the words used date back to 4000 years. There are around 5 million native speaking people of this language, most living in Finland.
- There are 29 letters, with standard Roman alphabets and some additions.
- The words are rather long as they make use of compound words, and the language is famed for having one of the longest words in the world, with 61 letters.
Cantonese – Canton, South China
It belongs to Sino Tibetan group of languages and is spoken by more than 100 million people all over the world, mainly in Hong Kong and Macau.
- It is popularly spoken in china-towns all over the world.
- It mainly depends on tones for differentiating between words and that’s what makes it a hard language to learn.
Tuyuca – Colombia
It is literally the boss of all linguistics. It is also an endangered language spoken by Colombians and can easily be considered as the most difficult language on this planet.
- It’s a polysynthetic language and is made of elaborate words that are made by attaching pieces of smaller words together.
- Some call it an agglutinating language, as words are piled up to form a word. For instance, I do not know how to write, is hoabasiriga.
Basque – Basque Country Between Spain and France
It is an isolated language and does not belong to the Indo European language group. It is spoken also in South America and in other places all over the world.
- There are roughly about 500,000 people speaking the language and it has about 9 dialects.
- According to the British Foreign Office, it is the hardest language to master for English speakers, as it is not connected with any European language.
Vietnamese – Vietnam
It is the official language of Vietnam, with more than 90 million speaking the language. It is one of the hardest languages in Asia.
- It uses Chinese characters and is also influenced by the Latin language.
- It makes use of diacritics for determining the tone. There are 6 tones and this makes it difficult to master, with Mandarin only having 4 tones and Cantonese 6.
Estonian – Estonia
Estonian is spoken in this European country by more than 11 million people and is similar to Finnish. The language has also taken many words from Russia, with the country being a neighbor. It is also spoken in several parts of Russia.
- It is written using Latin alphabet with Roman script. As some words are not covered using this alphabet, there are diacritics for creating specific sounds.
- Estonian belongs to the Uralic language group and is called the Finno Ugric language.
- Sentences are framed using several compounds, connecting each word with the other.
Note: Check out these quirky Estonian words!
- The Foreign Service Institute states that it is the 5th most difficult language to learn.
Japanese – Japan
It is the 9th most commonly spoken language of the world.
- It is not a tonal language, so this actually makes the language easier to learn than Mandarin.
- However, the language does have a rhythm to it, so you have to listen to the authentic speech to learn to speak it fluently.
Hungarian – Hungary
It is also known as Magyar and is spoken by about 9 million of the inhabitants of Hungary as well as surrounding countries like Austria and Croatia. It belongs to the Finno Ugric group.
- It is considered one of the hardest languages to learn due to the complex rules.
- It has a 44 letter word and is called an agglutinative language.
Xhosa: South Africa
It is an official language of South Africa and more than 7.6 million people speak it. It belongs to the Bantu language group.
- It is well known for the click consonants and the use of the letter ‘x’ for denoting these clicks.
- An alveolar click is made by pulsing your tongue against your mouth palette and making an explosive sound. Lateral clicks, represented by the letter ‘x’ is made by the tongue clicking on the mouth side, rather like a horse sound. Dental clicks are made with the tongue clicking on the back of the upper teeth, like ‘tut tut’.
Persian – Iran
It is also called Farsi and there are about 130 million people speaking this language in Iran and also in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Israel, Yemen, UAE and also in America.
- The language has similarity with French. For instance, the word ‘thank you’ is Mersi in Persian and Merci in French.
- Farsi and Dari are the two types or forms of the language.
Dutch – Netherlands
- It is similar to English and German. For instance, apple is appel; banana is banaan; blue is blauw; green is groen and so on. It can be one of the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers.
- Dutch has taken a lot of words from other languages, such as French; Hebrew and others. For instance, bureau; humeur; jus d orange; pantalon are a few French words that are found in the Dutch language.
Greek – Greece
- It is probably the first language that used vowels in alphabets. Prior to that, all written language only had consonants.
- Nearly 12% of words in the English language have been derived from Greek. For instance, ‘biology’ ‘mathematics’ and most of the English words starting with ‘ph’ like philosophy; phobia and so on.
No language is inherently hard! It’s just a matter of learning the grammar, memorizing the rules and the vocabulary and spend some time in listening and speaking a new language to get the hang of it. With a little bit of familiarity and effort, you can still become a multi linguist. There are many other difficult languages, such as Sanskrit, which is the most difficult language in India.
You can even learn the American Sign Language or ASL, which is the the 4th most popular foreign language learned in US universities. When you learn a new language you are actually using your brain in a new and different way. You will also get acquainted with a new culture. So are you ready to give your brain a workout with a new language?
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What is the #1 hardest language to learn? ›
Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the writing system is extremely difficult for English speakers (and anyone else) accustomed to the Latin alphabet.
2. Arabic. Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.What is the 5 hardest language? ›
- 1 – Chinese (Mandarin)
- 2 – Arabic.
- 3 – Japanese.
- 4 – Korean.
- 5 – Hungarian.
- 6 – Finnish.
- 7 – Xhosa.
- Spanish. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin, and not a surprise at the top of languages to learn. ...
- German. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Mandarin. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Russian. ...
Hungarian grammar seems like the road to death for an English speaker. Because Hungarian grammar rules are the most difficult to learn, this language has 26 different cases. The suffixes dictate the tense and possession and not the word order.What is the oldest language in the world? ›
The oldest living language, still in use to date, might be Tamil. This fact is widely debated across linguistic communities. Tamil is proposed to be first attested somewhere between 5320 BC and 8th century CE. The Dravidian language has speakers in Southern India and Sri Lanka.Is English the hardest language ever? ›
As we've seen, then, English is pretty challenging. But it's not the only contender for the World's Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky languages include Finnish, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin.What language is the hardest to pronounce? ›
German is known as one of the harsher languages due to its difficult pronunciation and harder-sounding words, which is only one reason why it is so tough to learn.What is the 2nd most spoken language if English is not counted? ›
Spanish (548+ million speakers)
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language globally in terms of native speakers. In addition, it is the most spoken of the Romance languages and the third most used on the internet.
Is Japanese or Chinese harder? ›
Both Chinese and Japanese have a fierce reputation to be the hardest languages to learn. But, for English native speakers, that's not accurate. The truth is, there's no such thing as an easy or hard language. But, whichever you choose will require a commitment from you if you want to reach fluency.What is the 3 easiest language to learn? ›
Easiest (about 600 hours of study)
Of these, Spanish and Italian are the easiest for native English speakers to learn, followed by Portuguese and finally French.
- English. It's the most widely spoken language in the world, making practice possible. ...
- Spanish. It's heavily influenced by Latin and Arabic, spoken as it's written and has fewer irregularities than other romance languages. ...
- Italian. ...
Riau Indonesian is different from most other languages in how simple it is. There are no endings of any substance, no tones, no articles, and no word order. There is only a little bit of indicating things in time.What is sweetest language in the world? ›
According to a UNESCO survey, Bengali has been classified as the sweetest language in the world. As a language, Bengali is widely spoken all over India, including Assam and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The sweetest language in the world is also recognized in the Constitution of India.Which language has the most words? ›
The English language is believed to have more words than any other language in the world. But this isn't easy to prove. Since some languages, such as Chinese, are non-alphabetic, evaluating the number of words is difficult.Can you learn 2 languages at once? ›
Answer: Thankfully, your brain can definitely handle learning two (or more!) languages at once! (Two down, 6,998 to go.) But there are also some ways you can make this linguistic task easier on yourself.What is harder Japanese or Arabic? ›
Arabic is usually considered one of the most difficult languages to learn, topped by only a few languages like Japanese in terms of difficulty. Plus, it's even harder (or so they say) if you are a native speaker of English or a romance language.Can you learn a language while sleeping? ›
Not a lot, unfortunately. As Jennifer Ackerman notes in her splendid 2007 book Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, learning a language while sleeping “is probably impossible, [and] attempts to teach slumbering adult subjects vocabulary of foreign languages or lists of items have failed miserably.”How many hours does it take to learn a language? ›
Research shows that it takes between 480 hours and 2200 hours of language study and practice. To reach an advanced level in a foreign language you will need at least 480 hours. The majority of people are not able to learn a language 'full-time' so it can take a few years.
Which grammar is the hardest to learn? ›
The grammar of Hungarian is significantly different from that of Indo-European languages such as English. The language has no grammatical gender and it uses suffixes instead of prepositions which makes Hungarian one of the most difficult languages in the world.
The Three Best Languages for Americans to Learn
If we consider the number of speakers, location, career possibilities and ease of learning, the overall three best languages for Americans to learn are (drum roll, please): Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese.
FRENCH – MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOKEN LANGUAGE
With its unpronounceable “r”, its nasal vowel sounds “en”, “in”, “un” and melodious intonation, it sounds extremely musical to the non-native ear. And let's not forget the strong cultural context which lends French the status of the most beautiful spoken language in the world.
- Mandarin Chinese.
Let's start with the reason that people say Chinese has “no grammar”. In many Western languages, such as Spanish, Russian, or French, there is a well-documented tradition of language academies, standardization, and the study of the grammar of a language.Which language has the richest grammar? ›
Arabic might be considered the richest language in words based on its complexity. According to The National – the United Arab Emirates' leading English-speaking news outlet – on average, a single written word in Arabic has three meanings, seven pronunciations and 12 interpretations.What language has the weirdest grammar? ›
And The World's Weirdest Language Is…
Chalcatongo Mixtec, also known as San Miguel el Grande Mixtec, is a verb-initial tonal language. Verb-initial means its sentences begin with verbs, which is something it only has in common with 8.7 percent of languages, including Welsh and Hawaiian.
Most religious scholars and historians agree with Pope Francis that the historical Jesus principally spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Through trade, invasions and conquest, the Aramaic language had spread far afield by the 7th century B.C., and would become the lingua franca in much of the Middle East.What language did Adam and Eve speak? ›
Traditional Jewish exegesis such as Midrash says that Adam spoke the Hebrew language because the names he gives Eve – Isha and Chava – only make sense in Hebrew.What is the mother of all languages? ›
In the beginning, Sanskrit stood as mother of all languages and encouraged all languages and was the reason for their growth and prosperity. One may note that most of the works in Sanskrit have been translated into other Indian languages.”
Which is harder English or Spanish? ›
To conclude, we can say that 1) Spanish grammar is more complicated to learn than English grammar (if your mother tongue is not a Romance language) and 2) the pronunciation and spelling in English are more complex than in Spanish.How hard is Japanese to learn? ›
The Japanese language is considered one of the most difficult to learn by many English speakers. With three separate writing systems, an opposite sentence structure to English, and a complicated hierarchy of politeness, it's decidedly complex.Is it too late to learn a language? ›
It does not matter how old you are, it is never too late to start learning a foreign language. Many language learners are put off by their advancing years; they believe age is a barrier to learning an entirely new language. However, this is not the case.What are the top 5 longest words? ›
- Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (45 letters) ...
- Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (36 letters) ...
- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters) ...
- Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (30 letters) ...
- Floccinaucinihilipilification (29 letters)
The word onomatopoeia is a jumble of vowels and is probably the most difficult English word to pronounce. It is pronounced [on-uh-mat-uh–pee–uh], and it defines a word that imitates a sound.What is the most spoken language in the US? ›
English is by far the most prominent spoken language in the U.S., with over 239 million English-speaking people across the country. In fact, English is commonly mistaken as the official language of the United States, which doesn't actually have an official language on record.What language is spoken by most countries? ›
1. English — 60 Countries. When counting both native and non-native speakers, English is the most-spoken language in the world. It's not too surprising that English would be the most common official language, then.How many can speak English only? ›
How Many People In The World Speak English? Out of the world's approximately 7.8 billion inhabitants, 1.35 billion speak English. The majority aren't native English speakers, however. About 360 million people speak English as their first language.Which is harder Korean or Chinese? ›
Generally speaking, we might assert that Korean is easier for an English speaker to learn than Mandarin Chinese. But this is very relative. In fact, the US Foreign Service Institute assigns Mandarin Chinese and Korean the same level of difficulty. Both languages are in “Category Four”.
Can I learn 3 languages at once? ›
Yes, it is possible to learn many languages at once!
There are many methods you can use to learn more than one language at once. Here are some of my best recommendations. As for the these tips, you can try some or all – ultimately it's about finding the technique that works for you!
How Long Does it Take to Learn Japanese on Average? With consistent studying and speaking, for about 30 minutes to an hour a day, you could speak at a conversational level in Japanese in about 3 months.Is it hard to learn a language at 15? ›
They concluded that the ability to learn a new language, at least grammatically, is strongest until the age of 18 after which there is a precipitous decline. To become completely fluent, however, learning should start before the age of 10.What is the world's 3rd hardest language? ›
3. Japanese Comes In The List Of Top 10 Hardest Languages To Learn. Belonging to the top 10 hardest languages to learn, Japanese is more comfortable speaking compared to Mandarin, but what makes it exist in this list? Japanese has a wide range of alphabets that need to be learned before writing in this language.Which language has the hardest grammar? ›
The grammar of Hungarian is significantly different from that of Indo-European languages such as English. The language has no grammatical gender and it uses suffixes instead of prepositions which makes Hungarian one of the most difficult languages in the world.What is the easiest language skill? ›
Listening is the easiest skill to practice
All four language skills are incredibly important and present their unique challenges. When I say that listening is easiest, I do not mean that it requires less time or commitment than reading, writing, or speaking.
Are you ever too old to learn a new language? Well, the good news is that experts say you are never too old. Studies show that anyone at any age can learn a new language. In fact, it is even easier to start speaking in a foreign language now with all the advanced technology available on the market.What age is too late to learn a language? ›
It does not matter how old you are, it is never too late to start learning a foreign language. Many language learners are put off by their advancing years; they believe age is a barrier to learning an entirely new language. However, this is not the case.Is 40 too late to learn a language? ›
Many people believe that you lose the ability to learn new languages as you get older. Language experts, however, will tell you that you're never too old to learn a new language. As you get older, it can be more difficult to learn a new language, though. Children and adults learn new languages in different ways.