What Are The Hardest Languages to Learn? [infographic]

May 18, 2011 |  by  |  Education
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Bonjour! Did you catch that? That was the only French word that rolls easily off my tongue after several years of college French classes. Yes, that is pathetic. Yes, I am ashamed. This shame was only compounded when I saw today’s infographic. Apparently, the language I tried to learn is considered “easy.”

Using the Foreign Service Institute, among other sources, this infographic divides some commonly learned languages into three categories- easy, medium, and hard- based on various factors. The estimated time to achieve proficiency in each category is also included at the top of the sections. This time-frame is tempered with a reminder that each learner is different. (Learners like me and the small man in the top left of the graphic seem to have it a little harder…)

It is common sense that many Romance languages are gauged as “easy,” based on their similarity to English, but I was surprised that Russian is only “medium.” Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean comprise the list of “hard” languages to learn for native English speakers. [Via]

Infographic ranking languages by difficulty

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  • Patamodle

    Don’t agree with Japanese: its grammar is simple, most of the sounds exist already in English or French, You need little time to be able to hold an everyday conversation. Of course, written Japanese is a formidable task, but by no means oral Japanese.
    Nice infographics anyway!

    • http://www.facebook.com/karlabravoc Karla Bravo

      I thought that it was very easy when I started learning Japanese…. now in 7th level (basic) it’s insane, because you have the 3 writing systems (kanji, katakana, hiragana) but also you have the levels of politeness (informal, formal and very formal) and 14 conjugations (present, past, continuative, conditional, etc) of course you can learn the basic stuff for travel in 3 months, but to be able to sustain a conversation is a whole different animal :D ????????

    • Jim

      No. Japanese is only easy if you are happy sounding like a 5-year-old when you speak. If you want to sound educated and like someone native Japanese people feel comfortable around, much more work is necessary.

      Many of the sounds in spoken Japanese *do not* exist in English. For example, the “u” in Japanese is not like the “ooh” sound in English nor the Spanish or Italian “u”; it’s a vowel that is so rare that there isn’t even an accepted IPA symbol for it. There are similarly unusual sounds in Japanese like the “r”, “o”, “i”, “d”, “t”, long vowels, and the list goes on. 

      The grammar is only simple if you are speaking very broken Japanese, which will hardly gain you entry into adult Japanese society. The word “eat”, for example, can be said, “kuu”, “kuimasu”, “taberu,” “tabemasu”, “meshiagaru”, “meshiagarimasu”, and on and on depending on various social factors. There are clear times when it is right and it is wrong to use these words; it’s not arbitrary. But I doubt you are even aware of these cultural nuances, given that you claimed that Japanese grammar is “simple”.

      Good luck, or perhaps I should say, “Ganbare!” (a rougher and different grammatical form of “Ganbatte!” F.Y.I.)

      P.S. I have a degree in Japanese literature and have studied the language for over 10 years, so I stand by what I write with some confidence.

      • passerby

        isn’t it all just personal opinion though? what’s ridiculously hard for one person could be fairly simple to grasp for another. it doesn’t have much to do with how difficult the actual task is.

        • ddarasweet

          Actually, there are scientific and theoretical grounds that could determine whether one person may easily or difficultly learn a language most especially separate from the language group of his own native tongue. Nonetheless, personal insights should never be discredited.

          • http://www.facebook.com/maarten.vanderplas.5 Maarten van der Plas

            Japanese is not that hard. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss about the 3 different writing systems. You can learn Hiragana and Katakana in 2 weeks. The fact that it uses 3 different writing systems also is a blessing when reading since it easilly allows you to see blocks of meaning, foreign words and grammatical relationships. The pronounciation is easy as well (though I am native dutch). Kanji are difficult though, no question about that. And the differences if formal, informal just mean that you exchange a few words to their more formal/informal version, wich again is not that difficult.

  • Radosveta

    I don’t know any Japanese, but I’ve also heard it is not hard to learn. I also disagree about Russian: those declensions are really something that could put you off, even for a slavic speaker like me. I also noticed Bulagrian and German are not mentioned (since they tried to cover the European languages).  But I guess this is from an American’s point of view. Also the idea of the infogrsphic is good, and it’s well executed – since it made us read it and think, it fulfills it’s porpouse.  

  • Pepita

    Spanish easy?  22 conjugations? japanese is waaaay easier

    • Chilean

      Nah, Spanish is easy, if you don’t include the lingo of every country of course.

  • Anonymous

    I, for one, do agree with Japanese being on the hard list. 
    Here`s why:

    - Each kanji has multiple readings/pronunciations.
    - Japanese is an inflective language, forcing the learner to also learn how to hear tones of voice more accurately than in, say, English which is an explicative language.
    - 3 written languages. (While Hiragana and Katakana are quite easy to learn, they are often used in conjunction with kanji).
    - Situational pronunciations (more specifically B/H)
    - The insane number of homophones.

    I will say, oral Japanese is not so bad. One can, fairly quickly, complete daily tasks with ease, but being able to get around and being able to actually converse are wildly different. 

    My other comment is:  I would like to see where English is placed in a similar list for non-native English speakers. With a lexicon much, much, larger than any other language and an irregular structure, I think it would be difficult to place it in anything other than the “Hard” category.

    • JessicaSNSDlove

      ENGLISH?
      you can walk into the biggest “ghetto” in korea and still find that 70% of the people can talk to you easily in english :)

      See, Americans claim english is extremely hard
      but more than 70% of asians can speak it without a major problem(maybe gramar could be an issue), and most europeans know english… its not that hard

      Also, I also agree with japanese on the hard, but im glad you didnt say it was the hardest because korean and chinese are up there as well.  chinese and japanese are extremely alike because korea transferred chinese into japan, and then we “betrayed” the chinese and japanese language-wise and made a new written language trust me, ive been speaking korean ALL my life and i still dont know 80% of the words and ive NEVER met a person who has mastered it

      • ramos

        english is actually hard, we asians can speak english because we study english since we were kids (not by the same degree but pretty much), and the language is used worldwide so we don’t really notice how hard it is… but you saying “you can walk into the biggest “ghetto” in korea and still find that 70% of the people can talk to you easily in english :)” in my opinion is a buttload of crap (sorry) i’ve only been living here in korea for the past 3 months and my english is already getting rusty. I have to talk to most of the people here with really short phrases, i have to pronounce english words the way koreans pronounce them or they won’t understand what i was saying, i no longer use linking verbs, conjunctions, articles, etc. and i will definitely not survive if i haven’t been studying korean. I agree with you that korean is really hard (i am really struggling), but among the 4 languages on the “hard” category, korean is the easiest.  i believe that you are exaggerating the difficulty of learning your language… we all know your language is hard to learn but chinese and japanese and arabic are harder, you don’t have to exaggerate to make your point. and this part – “ive been speaking korean ALL my life and i still dont know 80% of the words” just made me laugh! seriously! by the way my native language is filipino and i know it’s relatively easier to learn (probably between the easy and medium category) and another thing i’am a huge fan of snsd as well but only jessica and tiffany can speak in english well, i believe 2 out 9 doesn’t make 70% and both of them grew up in states… no offense…  

        • JessicaSNSDlove

          hahahaha i was exaggerating XD
          yes, English isn’t easy, but there are so many people who speak it that it just can’t be considered hard.

          • Adam
          • http://profile.yahoo.com/XGYUPQ6IC5JWI6MT4BJS5WQVPU Paula

             Jessica, please. Your English is pathetic. If you are going to be rigorously intellectual about this, you can only say English is easy when you can write in it without any of the mistakes you’ve made thus far.

            As others have mentioned, Korean, Japanese, and even Mandarin are actually pretty easy to learn enough of in order to carry on a simple conversation, but as Jim previously mentioned, that is only if you want to sound like a 5 year old. Well darling, the same holds true for English. If you want to speak proper, old school Shakespearean English, breaking news for you, you will probably need to study it for a few decades ! Yes, decades! And depending on the malleability of your maxillary and tongue, you may well never be likely able to pronounce most of the words in English without a detectable foreign accent. Gloria Estefan, a famous Cuban singer moved to the United States when she was two years old, and you can still detect her Spanish accent when she speaks English. How about that ?

            I speak 12 languages, and can confidently tell you the difficulty of any language will depend heavily on how well you want to speak the language. In overall difficulty, I am very tempted to say perfect French is the hardest of all languages. But with anything in life, that is also relative. French is far easier for someone whose first language is Spanish, than it is for you!

            I am now learning Swedish, and I am enjoying every minute of the process, but one thing I do not do is underestimate the linguistic content of an entire idiom just because I feel like I can have a conversation and articulate most of my simplest thoughts. For example: I have never met one person who has completely mastered Portuguese (except Camoes), and I question the assumption made by the source from which this site gathered its information from, that just because Portuguese is a romance language and possesses the same alphabet as English, that it is easier for English natives to learn it than Korean! You have several irregular verbs (as we do in French), a huge amount neologisms, cases, tenses which are conditional subjunctive, perfect, imperfect, more than perfect, three types of futures, a nightmare of a syntax, and a phonetic scheme which eats words, and pronounces vowels differently for no good reason, all the while using a fuc*k ton of nasal sounds. It was enough to drive the Spanish insane. Speaking of Spain, you also a have Basque, which is non Ind-European language, with roots from God knows where, and again, another nightmare of a linguistic morphological system.

            Never in my life have I heard a Korean speak any European language with a high level of academic integrity. Never. So please Jessica, the next time you think of writing yet ANOTHER post praising the level difficulty involved in learning Korean, think of what I just said, and in the mean time, work on your English. It’s so easy =D   

          • Josh Nelson

            I’m not Jessica, but adverbs and adjectives are definitely conjugated (Nouns though? I don’t know what she means). The fact is that adjectives and verbs don’t share much distinction in Korean and both require the exact same conjugation. For example, there are “describing verbs” (adjectives) like ???. If you put it at the end of the sentence, depending on the politeness level, you’d have to change it to
            ???. That’s to say something like “the girl is pretty,” but if you want to say “the pretty girl” then you have to change the form to ?? and put it before the modified noun. If you want to say “the girl who was pretty (but isn’t anymore)” then you have to change it to ??? and again, place it before the noun. To me, that seems like conjugation, especially when the changes can account for tenses. Conjugating adverbs often doesn’t involve anything more than altering the dictionary form and adding ? though many adjectives merely have their roots in the dictionary form and are not conjugated. I’m not saying that it’s easier than Japanese.

          • Adam

            And no offense Jessica, after 11 years in Korea, I can DEFINITIVELY say, 70% of Koreans cannot communicate effectively in English, much less understand the nuances of the language (idiom, humour, intonation and stress, etc.)

      • Arrietty

         I found Japanese is actually quite easy to learn to speak, it’s just the writing that is difficult. Korean on the other hand is exactly the opposite. Once you learn to speak it, the writing is quite easy but learning to speak it is REALLY difficult.

        • JessicaSNSDlove

          Exactly.  I’m Korean and I still have trouble… oh gosh… can’t even speak my own language

  • http://about.me/alexdbk Alex Debkalyuk

    Nothing new basically. :)

  • Mihai

     The Economist had an article in 2009 about languages and how hard they are to learn. They agreed on a language called Tuyuca, spoken in the Amazon. The article is here - http://www.economist.com/node/15108609

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  • http://twitter.com/MarionCast Marion Castañeda

     Thai is “medium”? I think it’s hard, probably the same level of difficulty is Arabic.

  • Vitor

    The country with the greatest number of portuguese speakers is Brazil, with ~190 million speakers, much more than Portugal (10 million), the total number of speakers should also be higher, ~210-220 million.

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  • Yasmine

     I guess German is not in the list because it’s extra hard? ;-) Where would you classify German?

    • J. Sands

      English is a Germanic language. German would be in the Easy zone.

    • J. Sands

      English is a Germanic language. German would be in the Easy zone.

      • darthlenaplant

        If it weren’t for all those capitalization and various other rules…
        Even native speakers get to learn that sentence: “Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache.”, which means “German language, hard language.” (the verbs were left out to emphasise the hardness of especially the use of verbs in German)
        Like: gehen – to go
        Präsens – Present tense

        Ich gehe – I go
        Du gehst – You go
        Er/Sie/Es geht – He/She/It goes
        Wir gehen – We go
        Ihr geht – You go
        Sie gehen – They go (or you go if used politely)

        Mitvergangenheit – Past tense

        Ich ging – I went
        Du gingst – You went
        Er/Sie/Es ging – He/She/It went
        Wir gingen – We went
        Ihr gingt – You went
        Sie gingen – They went (or…see above)

        This fills BOOKS, so I’m not going to continue, but I hope you get the impression.

        • Burrito

          Seriously… out of all the languages I’ve studied, German has the simplest verbs.
          It took me about 6 months to reach proficiency in German and twice as long in Spanish!
          German would definitely be in the “easy” table. Only native speakers find it hard.

          • darthlenaplant

            It may or may not have the simplest verbs, but I wasn’t even going to the four cases… and the rest of the grammar rules. And the “Rechtschreibung”
            Really? 6 months? From what level and “base language*”? And how intense was the training?

            *) If your native language A is similar to language B, then it is easy to learn it. Also different people learn different languages more or less well, f.e. my sister had major problems in English but was super in Latin, while I had not much problems in English. (I didn’t even learn Latin because our class voted for French, so I learned that instead, but my sister would have major problems in French, the same way I would have in Latin if I attempted to learn it…)

      • DenjinJ

        As an English speaker who’s studied Japanese, French, and a little Korean, Cantonese and German, I disagree… Gendered languages are crazy hard. Inanimate objects should not have a gender… And even near the beginning of my studies I was finding articles for nouns being changed if the object was male, female, neuter, or even the recipient of an action! It was getting too weird on me, so I bailed. Back to Cantonese and filling up on kanji for Japanese.

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  • Dimitri

    German’s probably not there because while it’s harder than those languages listed as “easy” (not -that- much harder, bit still noticeable so), it’s nowhere near as hard as those listed as “medium”. The FSI, for example, rates it (along with Indonesian and a few others) in a special sub-category of languages about 30 weeks, and I guess they thought that would disrupt the flow of the graphic or something.

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  • simonsaysjapan

    I have a Masters degree in Advanced Japanese, and lived there for 15 years. Believe me, it is by far the most difficult language for a native English speaker to learn. The Instiute of Linguists agree with me too, putting it at No.1. Some people here are stating that it is easy, but only because they have decided to concentrate on the easy bits and ignore the difficult, probably because they haven’t got to that stage. Japanese rarely uses the pronoun (making you wonder who is doing what to whom), has the opposite word order to English putting the verb at the end, has sometimes 26 different readings for one Kanji. Has three alphabets used together within a sentence switching them depending upon the role of the word in a sentence. There is polite Japanese, plain Japanese, and then there is honourific Keigo containing 3 honourific languages. The word for ‘I’ has at least six different words; watashi (polite), watakushi (very polite), boku (for men only, casual), ore (men only, very casual), washi (antiquated) and chin (only used by the Emperor). But then again, they often don’t use it at all. To remember the Italian for ‘flower’, I need to remember the word ‘fiore’ and in this case the words gender. For Japanese, I must remember ??,???,??,??,??,??, and the romaji of ’hana’ or the onyomi of ‘ka’. I also need to remember the brush stroke order for painting those Kanji. That is just for ‘flower’! Since Japanese also has only 46 sounds, there are so many words (made up of two Kanji) that sound identical that I must go through the different Kanji compound combinations like the rollingdrums of a slot machine until I get the word that matches the nuance. If someone says the like the English ‘kokka’ then it could mean they like England’s national flower (the red rose), the national anthem (God Save the Queen) or the political State of England. So, a Japanese might say they like the English ‘kokka’ and I might say, “Yes, I love roses too”, but they then say “Roses? Oh, no I didn’t mean the national flower, I meant the national anthem”. The Japanese are always talking at crossed purposes like this. In English the word ‘hot’ means ‘heat hot’ and ‘spicey hot’. Imagine if every word in English had several such different meanings. The Japanese themselves are often 17 before they can read a newspaper. Even then, most Japanese cannot read out loud because many of the characters have so many ways of reading them that they have to guess, and there is no rule as to which one is correct. So guys, take it from me. It is the hardest.

    • JessicaSNSDlove

      you see, japanese is COMPLETELY based off of chinese (the written language)
      in like 100 B.C. (not sure if this is accurate), the korean country BakJae, sailed to japan and “took over”.  Then, the korean written language was chinese in a different way, and the japanese didnt have one.  So, the “chinese/korean” written language was spread into japan, their oral language is VERY different, i know, but the written language is based off of chinese.  the reason  the Korean written language is different, is because in the 13th/12th century, we created a new written language that is based off of the sound.  and the thing about multiple meanings and multiple words for one meaning, i.e. “blue” can be expressed in 13 different ways.
      There is a conjugation for not just verbs but nouns, specific subjects, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, something VERY complicated for prepositions, and with words like when, or stuff like that, it is completely different from how it is conjugated when it is a question.  speaking of questions, there are about 8 ways to put “what” into a sentence.
      You mentioned that you MASTERED japanese… well, there are an EXTREMELY FEW AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE MASTERED KOREAN.  I, in fact, have never met a person who has.
      Also, korean has an INFINITE AMOUNT OF SOUNDS.  Korean is like a puzzle language, you put it together.  Its one of the most “organized” languages in the world.  Each sound fits in a specific place depending on what its shape is, and the consonants can be at the left, the top, the top left, the bottom, or two at the bottom.  The “characters/sounds” that are used commonly area at 10,000.
      Japanese is a very hard language, but i wouldnt be so quick to say that it is the hardest :)

      • Erin

        Arabic is deifnitely more difficult than Japanese.  People generally expect it to be the writing that is hard, but thats easy compared to the grammar.  And there are just so many words.  You might think you know a word, for example, but in literature, they will use a totally different word that means the same thing.  There are a lot of sounds too – several that we don’t have and are hard to pronounce.  Its also the only language I know of with the dual form.  So there is a you singular for female, a singular you for male, dual you, plural you for female, and plural you for male.  There is a dual for they for male and they for female too.  All in all, there are 14 pronouns and verbs must be conjugated for each.  But what really gets me is that there are so many versions of Arabic.  And no, its not like British and American English.  I mean they write in one version and then each country speaks an entirely different one (well, not always each country – in the case of the levant for example, its most the same for those countries).  Most understand the Egyptian dialect, but Egyptians don’t understand the others.  No one understands the North Africans.  My Palestinian friend told me about meeting someone from Algeria and speaking English together.  And in cases where the word might be the same spelling, it is pronounced differently in different countries.  Like the word coffee is pretty easy, but can be said at least 4 different ways depending on the country.  So a person newly learning the language may not be able to tell that a person is saying a word he actually does know.  So I suppose if you only wanted to speak (and not read/write, because grammar is not as strict in speaking whereas it is impossible in the formal Arabic that you must write in) and you only cared about 1 dialect, its probably not that hard.  But as a whole language, it feels impossible. 

        Korean sounds impossible too.  I don’t have any experience with that one. 

        • JessicaSNSDlove

          oh definitely, Arabic is no-doubt #1

        • hansy

          I am NOT a native arabic speaker, but i’m learning it and i am falling in love the language

          It is much easier to have a grasp over this language as there’s a ‘root word’ for every single word from which many other related words can be easily derived. For example: book, writer, office, and verbs for writing all have same root which is so much simpler than most other languages.

          Just because the arabic words don’t resemble the european languages cannot mean arabic by itself is difficult, It is a tongue that is easy, comprehensive & versatile. It’s beautiful!!

          • yallah

            Clearly you haven’t been studying Arabic very long if you think it’s easy!

    • hopeless

      thanks for totally discouraging me….

  • GPW

    Back in the 1970s the US Gov. tracked how long it took for smart recruits to State Department jobs to achieve an intermediate level in the immersion programs they used for the 20 or 30 languages supported. Based on the number of hours needed for native speakers of English, there were 4 classifications of difficulty level; difficult mostly for the cultural proficiency, not the linguistic production of sound or letters. In other words knowing WHEN to say WHAT to WHOM and WHICH WAY is what takes time. Category I (e.g. Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian), II (German, I seem to recall), III (Russian also with case endings, but different orthography than German), IV (East Asian languages, as well as Arabic).

  • h3oooooo

    What about Lithuanian? http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/more-on-the-hardest-languages-to-learn/
    Lithuanian, an archaic Indo-European Baltic tongue,
    is extremely difficult to learn.

    A single verb has 13 participial forms, and that is just using
    masculine gender for the participles. You can also add feminine forms to
    that verb. There are five classes of verbs and five models of
    declension for nouns. However, Lithuanian tense is quite regular. You
    only need to remember infinitive, 3rd person present and 3rd person past
    and after that, all of the conjugations are regular.

    There are two genders, but telling them apart is easier than in
    German where you often have to memorize which noun takes which gender.
    Lithuanian is similar to Spanish in that the ending will often give you a
    hint about which gender the noun takes.

    Here is an example of the sort of convolutions you have to go through to attach the adjective good to a noun.

    geras – good

    Masculine                   Feminine

    Singular    Plural      Singular   Plural
    Nominative    geras geri gera geros
    Genitive           gero ger? geros ger?
    Dative               geram geriems gerai geroms
    Accusative       ger? gerus ger? geras
    Instrumental  geru gerais gera geromis
    Locative           gerame geruose geroje gerose

    Lithuanian gets a 4 rating, hardest of all.

    As a learner, I can vouch for the fact that it is very difficult!

    • Guest

      Depends how you learn Lithuanian. My sister told me that when she was 6 she could speak Lithuanian in the year she was there. And you can’t argue that she’s a kid and can learn languages faster, because she only learned it quickly because she had to go to a Lithuanian school.

  • http://tonsofguides.net/language Joe Lingo

    It seems like virtually any language that uses characters, an English speaker will find it difficult to learn. But I guess, if you wanted to learn a language, then you’re bound to meet some kind obstacle, whether it’s a different writing system or difficult accents.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148643430 Daniel Anzures

    what about german?  X_X

  • http://twitter.com/bobmyers Bob Myers

    Written Korean does NOT rely on Chinese characters. They are hardly ever used.

    It is also not correct to say that Japanese has “three different writing systems and two syllabary systems”. There is ONE writing system, which mixes three character sets: kanji and the two syllabaries katakana and hiragana. Actually, it uses four sets if one includes romaji (Roman characters) as one should.

    • ddarasweet

      Agree. I think what the infographic creator meant was lexicon, word choice, semantics, stylistics, and conjugation most especially formal, literary Korean has great numbers of Chinese sources.

  • Adam

    It really bothers me how English is not widely considered a “hard” language. It is DEFFINITELY one of the hardest -if not, THE hardest-  language. It has the MOST words of any language. English may be one of the easier to initially “learn” but it is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to master if you’re not a native speaker. 
      Just because a language uses characters does NOT make it hard… I have studied Mandarin for 4 years and it is EASY. The sentence structure is SO BASIC and it is SO easy to show tense and plurals (like simply adding “le” and “men”). To be able to speak Mandarin profficiently, you only need to know around 3,000 characters/words. Where as in English; you need to know somewhere around 20,000 words in order to be proficient. AND THAT IS NOT TO BE FLUENT!   
       With over 1,000,000 words and counting, myriads of nuances, new slang every year, more adjectives than the number of words in WHOLE languages, abbreviations, multiple meanings, strange spellings, changes in spelling for different situations, influence from EVERY language known to man, the ability to adopt words from other languages, pronunciation showing different emotions… ETC… NOTHING COMPARES TO ENGLISH!  … do you think other languages have to do vocab and spelling for years even though they already “know” the language? AND NOBODY KNOWS OLDE ENGLISH ANYMORE!!
      And as for writing… we have lower case, UPPER CASE, and cursive in lower and upper case. AND DIFFERENT FONTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   no other language can compare (sorry) XD

    • Anonymous

      This list is for English speakers. The list gauges the hardness of a language by comparing it to English, so the people who read this list already have mastered English. So wouldn’t it be silly to include English?

    • Tessiethecat

      You are just joking, right? Or you never attempted to learn any other language. I’m from Japan and English is my second language. I recently I completed a doctoral dessertation both in Japanese and in English. Composing something in Japanese was definitely harder. I even had to have a dictionary and other available help by my side all the time. But English was fairly easy compare to my mother language.

    • J. Sands

      Calm yourself. This is just a guide describing what languages would be most difficult for native English speakers to learn. As a native speaker of English, you don’t reserve the right to argue how difficult English might be to learn. You have no idea. I’m a native speaker, as well, and I don’t pretend to know how hard it is or proclaim my self-importance across the internet. We learned it at an age that is far different than the adult mind attempting to learn a new language. Plus, your writing skills are horrendous, and some of your points have little relevance to your argument (“DIFFERENT FONTS!!!!!!!!!!!”, really?).

      • HooverBot

        Of course one has the ‘right’ to judge if their own native language is difficult or not… For Pete’s sake, 30% of the English language is exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions, and so on, and so on.

        • irma

          English is a foolproof language. I have studied a few languages so far, but it has been the easiest i have ever came across. You can basically get to conversiational level on your own in two-three months. You will never be able to do that slavic, arabic or oriental languages. Sorry Adam, please do your research and check all the languages “with upper and lower cases, vocabulary, genders etc.” before you make a fool out of yourself.

    • JessicaSNSDlove

      Ok, english is a hard language, i agree… but, if it’s as hard as you say it is, how do you think i can speak it fluently after 3 months of living in the states, i came from korea u see… if its so hard, how does the world speak it? practically everyone in the world knows how to speak english…
      now, korean, japanese, and chinese are extremely hard, the mandarin ur learning is like the “slang” chinese.  Japanese is pretty much the same thing as chinese… but in Korean, you can say “blue” in 13 different ways, the sentence structure is different, there is conjugations on nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, the prepositions have this strange trick i cant explain on written words, there is a different way of speaking it to different people, the sentence structure varies in who ur talking to, what ur talking about, i.e.:instead of Noun, Verb, Predicate, it can be Verb, Noun, Predicate or Noun, Predicate, Verb (A LOT MORE THAN THESE TWO) and the possibilities are infinite.  yes, english is one of the hard languages, and it has a TON of words, im studying these for SSAT.  but, korean has an ENTIRELY different way of talking. 

    • Chrispalasz

      You are just getting defensive. Look at the factors this lists. One of the biggest factors in the case of English goes to resources available. Yes, it’s a hard language, but it’s an international language. There are more resources for learning English than any other language.

    • Guest

      Well, English is really easy because it has no gender, there`s enough media in English to make you become fluent in just a few months/years. Plus, there are at least a few English speakers in every country, most of the time most of the people know English

    • Bixo

      You must be kidding, English is one of the easiest languages to learn, I just needed a couple of weeks in the internet and the basics everyone knows from school.

    • Alexia

      English has the most words you say? Then obviously, you don’t know Greek. English is actually one of the most easy languages one can learn.

    • Andrey

      The difference between memorizing english words and chinese kanji is that english words are composed of letters (so you can read it, even those with some irregularities in pronounciation) and chinese is a single kanji

    • Sarlot

      English is definately the easiest language, everybody will say it. There is no grammar when u compare it with other languages and there is nothing difficult to learn. And of course English is a world language, but everybody can learn English easily, communicate with other people, even study in it. This would be impossible if the language were hard.

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  • JessicaSNSDlove

    I see that there are a lot of Japanese MASTERS out there.  MASTERS…
    theres practically no such thing as MASTERING Korean.
    trust me, japanese is hard, but korea… o my god…
    japanese has 3 politeness levels
    korean has 5
    japanese has 3 writing styles
    korean has more than 4 (dont know the number exactly)
    japanese has 46 sounds
    korean has 24 basic + i think 10 multipled= 10,000 sounds
    korean actually doesnt have F or V but the R and L are mixed depending on where in the “character” they are in
    in korean, you can say “blue” in 13 different ways, “hello” in about 8 different ways, and a lot more
    there are sounds like the thick T/D=?, P/B=?, G/K=?
    there is a silent sound=? which HAS to be with a vowel if the sound is like “Ah”/?, and when it is the NG sound, it is at the bottom
    there is a thing called “ending/bottom” (rough translation) which is at the bottom of the other sounds like ? (Bon), and can have two at the bottom like ? (Dak), however “Dak” can also be ?,?.
    there can be two as the first consonant like ? (not a full sound)
    lets think twice japanese speaking people before saying it is the hardest
    im not saying korean is the hardest (i think arabic is)
    but lets not say things we dont know its true

    • Josh Nelson

      I think you’re overstating the complexity of Korean. I mean, it’s very difficult, no doubt…but I’d be lying if I thought it was harder than Japanese. For one, there aren’t 10,000 sounds. For example the character ? can have an “s” sound, a “t” sound, or maybe it’s silent sometimes or uses an “n” sound(sort of), so I guess you’re counting entire clusters as sounds (which isn’t how we do it).

      Really, there are only 4 politeness levels used in Korean…and really, there are only 3 that are actually used in speech. 4 writing styles? No way. There’s Hangeul and Hanja. No one uses Hanja anymore, but the kids still learn it. Romanization doesn’t count as a writing system, or rather, it’s not official. It’s just a version of the language for people who haven’t taken 2 hours to learn how to read Korean.

      The reason why there are Japanese “masters” and not that many Korean masters is because no one’s really been interested in Korea culturally up until Kpop happened. Japan has interested the west for a while so there are more people willing to attempt it. Have you ever eaten sushi? How about kimchi? The culinary traditions I think are another reason why Japan has won the culture war in the west. Each country has it’s own brand of entertainment, but Jpop existed long before Kpop. Both are equally vapid. Essentially, my generation was raised with mythic tales and legends surrounding Japan, but not Korea.

      While racism in Japan exists, it has nothing on Korea. Even if you learn the language, you will never be accepted in Korea, because there’s still a large focus on ethnic purity (Kids 15 years ago were still being taught that Koreans are the master race…I wish that was a joke). There are also laws and government regulations which make it difficult for non-Koreans to integrate…and then a lot of people get over here, after they realize all this, and just say “Why would I want to learn the language of hateful, shallow peasants?” I love Korea, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find Koreans rude, materialistic, and outdated. You can go read the newspapers, which have about as much journalistic integrity as a highschool newspaper, and read outlandish accusations against foreigners while constantly ignoring their own problems…because the hot topic is always about how the outsider is the problem. Korea just kicks the shit out of you and eventually most people want to leave.

      • Maverick

        You hit the nail on the head there son. I’m married to Korean lady and living here and can vouch for all of that. Korean is not a spot on Japanese when it comes to difficulty. Whilst difficult to master it is dead easy to pick up and you can read everything around you after about a week of study. This would take years of study in Japanese.

        As for the racism, totally agree. There is one way to do things and that’s the Korean way. If you aren’t doing it that way then you’re wrong.

        A lot of Koreans are even afraid of dark skinned people! I had an Indian-Canadian over my place and my mother in law walked in and politely told us we shouldn’t have dirty people in our house because it’s dangerous.

        We’re really starting on the back foot already as foreigners.

  • Guest

    what about icelandic?

  • Guest

    forgot to say why,
    its not an entirely different writing system there are a few symbols like “th” has its own letter, but its less the writing but more the speaking which is hard. I have a friend whose learning Japanese and sometimes she’ll use it in daily conversion to help her learn. I’ve tried to learn some of the basic phrases so I know what she’s talking about, they’re easier to say. I’m just surprised it isn’t in the medium section at least. 

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  • Jess

    Korean’s use of Chinese characters is so small that there is no logical reason why it should be included in the difficulty. When reading Korean I see a Hanja like almost never and even then it has the pronunciation in Hangul in parenthesis. Also, DPRK doesn’t even use Hanja anymore!!! In fact, I find writing with Hangul(the Korean alphabet) is 100x times easier than writing with the Latin alphabet!! And Hangul is 100x easier to learn too!!! The only thing that makes Korean hard is its highly inflected verbs(meaning lots of verb conjugations,  Korean has hundreds of verb conjugations) and its Alien vocab. Also its hierarchical system based on verb conjugations and age makes it hard.
    Japanese is probably the hardest though. Three different writing systems; about 2,000 kanji and 2 alphabets aka kana. However what makes it harder than the rest is the Kanji can have multiple readings and pronunciations and each can be multiple syllables long in pronunciation. And Japanese also has higly inflected verbs(but not as bad as Korean).
    Chinese, sure they have thousands of symbols but its not that hard. For one thing Chinese grammar is no where near as complicated as other languages and is quite simple. It’s an analytic language, which means NO verb conjugations. Also, the characters each have a one syllable pronunciation that never changes. And tones? Tones are the easiest thing on earth, I don’t see why people think of a tonal language as hard.

    • Cathy

      Tones are easy for me because I’ve grown up hearing them. However, it’s very very hard to memorize what each tone means because even if you’re slightly off, you might think you’re saying “I love you, mom”, but you’re saying “I love you, horse.” And from people who learn Chinese later on in life, I’ve tried conversing with them and they are literally tone deaf haha. Writing in Chinese is extremely difficult, grammatically not so, but memorizing the characters are. That’s why it’s even a problem in China where they’re worried the younger generations will eventually forget how to write Chinese because we’re all using automated computers. I think Korean is definitely the easiest, I learned how read and write off of youtube in less than 4 hours. I used to have a lot of korean friends in highschool, and eventually you could definitely figure out what they were talking about just because everything was very simple and easy to understand. I agree that Japanese is a very hard written language, but IMO Hebrew makes it to one of the most difficult languages to learn. I really just can’t get my tongue around it, and you have to read it backwards.

  • Yoshi

    i’m in korea right now, i’m also observing its language, for fun. i’ll say that Jessica whatever is full of you know what. english isn’t my first language, however i began learning at a young age, around 11 years old. i’ve been learning and speaking it for more than 18 years now here in the States. you know that scene in the LION KING where Simba laughed: “hahaha” and the hyenas came out? yeah, if you say english’s easy, that’s what i’ll be doing. english is very precise, and you can convey any thoughts you want to in written form if you’re careful with the words. Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, they’re all hierarchically built with unnecessary and senseless honorifics and   different ways to address a person and such. totally stupid in my opinion, and this comes from someone who speaks one of the aforementioned languages as the first language. because of the ‘hierarchical” nature of these languages, they’ll, i believe, always be inferior to the ones that do not emphasize or built upon them. honorifics sound nice initially, but it’s actually a form of discrimination and to keep one subservient. it makes me cringe quite honestly.

  • sally

    English? it was quite easy for me to learn (Native Spanish speaker here). Speaking in past tense is very simple (add was/were +ing for the most) and future, even easier (add will and change nothing) With a small set of rules you can have very simple conversations. (And that’s exactly were its beauty lies… makes communication simple. the way it should be, you should be focusing on your conversation, not in if you’re doing it with the right declination, gender, etc)
    Difficult language? Please… try to learn GEORGIAN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgian_language) unrelated to absolutely any other language and with an alphabet that looks like someone took it out from the “Lord of the Rings” elvish script. sheeesh..

  • http://www.facebook.com/LJaropojop Lloyd Dela Umbria Jaropojop

    Why not all languages around the World wasn’t featured here?

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  • abc

    Arabic is definitely more difficult So the Quran was revealed in Arabic

  • Brian

    English is easy to learn.
    I am learning to speak English at this site: http://englishspeakingcourses.com/
    Hope it helps !

  • kisna

    you are all wrong here.
    and the detail given by you is wrong.

    the population of india is over 1200000000 and hindi is mother tongue of india you are saying that there is only 182 m people are native speaker of hindi and the map pf india used by you is different from it’s original.
    So change your infographic.

    • A

      You are very ignorant for one so insistent. Hindi is definitely the most popular language of India. It’s not the majority, no language in India is, but it’s very popular. As a native language, and DEFINITELY as a second language. (Many Indians know more than one language.) Hindi is not the mother tongue of India. It is simply their official language. Granted, if you take non-natives. The number doubles. (Record keeping isn’t done very well in India, unfortunately.) But this infograph has the right estimate of how many people speak Hindi natively.

  • Henry

    While this is a nice way to sum up English’s relation to other languages and how different some languages are- this is simply untrue in some circumstances. The fact is, that even people who speak the same native language think and speak differently- kind of like how some people are naturally good at maths because the numbers inexplicably “click”. I, for one, find Korean (even with it’s very very complicated syntax and conjugations) much easier than say, Danish (I’m looking at you, 9 vowels and guttural pronunciation ^_^).

    Quick side note: Why the hell does it say written Korean has Chinese characters? Nowadays there is no Hanja in sight on magazines, newspapers, signs etc. Only, like, restaurants that want to look traditional might use Hanja. (It is true that many words have etymologies that involve Chinese though)

  • sakurak

    Uh Koreans don’t use hanja (Chinese characters) in their writing. They strictly use hangul. In fact, you don’t really see hanja being used much at all these days except maybe in newspapers.

  • Jerica

    I’m sorry, but only ancient Korean uses Chinese characters in the writing, they use Hangul, which is pictured in the Korean section.

  • justcurious

    What about Icelandic?

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  • sarcasticcupcakes

    Thai is a tonal language, too. So it might well belong in the ‘hard’ category.

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  • Snorre

    The info above is based on real, compiled, historical, statistical data of how long of a time it has taken native English speakers to become proficient in the different languages.

    That means that “I believe that ..”, “In my experience ..”, “From my point of view ..”, and all other opinionated objections to the info is void, meaningless, worthless, beyond the miniscule dent the hard numbers of your personal learning experience could make in the data set.

    I don’t understand from where people get the nerve to ‘correct’ statistics with their personal opinions and experiences.

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  • Anthony

    Written Korean doesn’t rely on many Chinese characters. Chinese characters are seldom used and not necessary at all really.

  • InativeSpeaker

    Very good representation but how about Greek & Latin?

  • Mitchell Davis

    The difficulty of tones is seriously overrated, and though they have a few quirks, Chinese grammars tend to be rather fantastically straightforward. The real difficulty comes with the memorization of characters. This takes a little while to pick up, but once you’ve picked it up it’s rather easy to retain and advance in the language. Chinese languages are simply overrated in difficulty, though you must put in a hell of a lot of time to learn them. (Chinese is referred to in plural form intentionally: Chinese is not A language.)

    Korean is also not as hard as it’s made out to be.

    Japanese on the other hand, is stupendously difficult. There is far less grammatical consistency than Chinese languages, there are three primary “alphabets” (two parallel syllabaries and the Kanji) that are necessary to understand the language. The small number of vowels generally serves to confuse via ambiguity, rather than add clarity or ease. The grammar is also difficult on a number of levels. (Let’s conjugate ‘to eat’: http://www.japaneseverbconjugator.com/VerbDetails.asp?txtVerb=taberu&Go=Go). Don’t even get me started on politeness in Japanese.

    The Arabic writing system uses four parallel abjads, each correlating to where a letter is in a word. Arabic varies greatly across regions and borders. Arabic grammar is also incredibly difficult when you really get into it.

    If it were me, I would put Arabic and Japanese very near each other when it comes to difficulty. I don’t know if I can say which will be more difficult from every English-native learner’s perspective, but they are similar in their level of difficulty (though certainly not in their individual difficulties). However, as I’m inclined to go with the experts (for obvious reasons): linguists by and large agree that Japanese is the most difficult language.

    >| (The marks to the left of this line mean ‘sidebar, for those that didn’t know.)
    >| I’m rather intrigued by the people trying to compare languages for the sake of penis envy. There will always be people better than you at the language(s) you speak- why would you learn a new language to show off instead of learning it for utility or interest?

  • Adrian Cahill.com

    Wow! Talk about human nature. Except for South Africa, I spent time in all these countries. If you think learning the language is hard it is. If u think its very hard it is. If you focus on how hard it is, its only going to be harder.
    Lets replace hard with Challenging. And isn’t it awesome learning a challenging language, its fantastic. I love meeting people from these countries and greeting them in their language. http://www.adriancahill.com Change your mindset to enjoy learning and thrive of the challenge and reward. (and find a partner that doesn’t speak much English)

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  • irma

    Has anybody tried to learn Hungarian? My linguistic professor called it the magic mushroom of languages and dared his brightest students to learn it. There is no other language like that, try it.

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  • Jake

    I think South Indian language Malayalam is the most tough language.