Here we show you top 10 difficult languages in the world. Knowing a second language in the 21st Century is not only advantageous but essential for achieving success in life. The ongoing process of globalization has brought diverse cultures and communities into frequent interaction. The barriers of distance, once separating these communities, have been dismantled by the ease of global travel and the internet. Whether in the corporate realm or among individual consumers, from early education to universities, and from leisure travelers to the global elite, the world has become an integrated and interdependent community.
Institutions of higher education meticulously assess applicants in order to identify potential future global leaders. Employers and businesses actively seek individuals who can navigate the complexities of the modern global economy. By acquiring another language, students can develop the necessary skill sets for these pursuits. Additionally, learning a new language offers numerous other benefits, such as enhanced academic achievement, improved cognitive development, and a more open-minded attitude towards different languages and cultures. In essence, language learning has become an imperative for students to effectively thrive in today’s global marketplace.
In addition to meeting the needs of future students, language learning has been shown to greatly enhance student performance across the curriculum. Language learning has been shown to improve a student’s cognitive function, including, but not limited to:
- Enhanced Problem Solving Skills
- Improved Verbal and Spatial Abilities
- Improved Memory Function (long & short-term)
- Enhanced Creative Thinking Capacity
- Better Memory
- More Flexible and Creative Thinking
- Improved Attitude Toward the Target Language and Culture
These cognitive benefits of language learning have been shown to enhance student performance producing:
- Higher standardized test scores
- Higher reading achievement
- Expanded student vocabulary in native language (English)
- Higher academic performance at the college level
But In here we provide you 10 most difficult languages for native English speaker to learn. Let’s find out about that.
Table of Contents
- 01. Mandarin Chinese
- 02. Arabic
- 03. Japanese
- 04. Hungarian
- 05. Korean
- 06. Finnish
- 07. Basque
- 08. Navajo
- 09. Icelandic
- 10. Polish
01. Mandarin Chinese
Mandarin Chinese, one of the most difficult languages in the world, presents a significant challenge to language learners. Interestingly, it is also the most widely spoken native language globally. There are several factors that contribute to its difficulty, making it a formidable language to master.
One of the primary hurdles for English speakers, or anyone accustomed to the Latin alphabet, is the writing system. Mandarin Chinese employs a character-based writing system, unlike the phonetic alphabets found in Latin-based languages. This means that learners must memorize thousands of unique characters, each with its own individual meaning and pronunciation. This stark contrast to the relatively straightforward nature of the Latin alphabet poses a considerable challenge.
Beyond the complexity of the writing system, Mandarin Chinese is also known for its tonal nature. The language utilizes four tones, which significantly affect the meaning of words. Mastering these tonal distinctions is crucial for accurate communication in Mandarin. Furthermore, there are various Chinese dialects, such as Cantonese, which have their own distinct written characters, pronunciations, and linguistic features. These dialects add another layer of difficulty for learners.
While Mandarin Chinese presents formidable obstacles, it is important to note that it is not impossible to learn. With dedication and persistence, learners can overcome these challenges. However, it requires a substantial amount of time and effort. For instance, reaching level 2 proficiency in Spanish or French, on average, takes about 15 weeks for learners with average aptitude. In comparison, achieving a similar level in Mandarin may take approximately 50 weeks. To become fully fluent in Mandarin, one should expect to invest around 230 weeks, which equates to roughly four years of dedicated study and practice.
The difficulty of Mandarin Chinese is a testament to the rich linguistic diversity found in the world. It highlights the unique aspects and complexities of different languages, providing a fascinating challenge for those eager to delve into the realm of multilingualism.
Arabic is often regarded as one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to learn. Language learning communities are filled with aspiring Arabic learners expressing their concerns about the daunting task of achieving fluency in Arabic. According to the Foreign Service Institute, it takes approximately 2,200 hours (or 88 weeks, nearly 2 years) of dedicated study to reach a level of general proficiency in Arabic.
One of the primary reasons Arabic is considered difficult is its vast dissimilarity to the European language families. Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic language family, following a distinct developmental path separate from major European languages. This stark contrast in linguistic structure, grammar, and vocabulary poses a significant challenge for learners. However, it is worth noting that Arabic has left a significant imprint on the global linguistic landscape, as it was the language of science during the Middle Ages, resulting in the incorporation of Arabic words into various languages.
Although Arabic presents unique difficulties, it is important to acknowledge that there is no definitive “most difficult language” in existence. The difficulty of learning a language is subjective and varies based on individual experiences and linguistic backgrounds. The key to mastering any language, including Arabic, lies in establishing personal connections with the material being learned and enjoying the process of language acquisition.
While Arabic may require significant effort and perseverance, it is not an insurmountable task. With dedication, consistent practice, and immersion in the language and culture, learners can overcome the challenges and achieve fluency. The rewards of learning Arabic extend beyond linguistic proficiency, opening doors to a rich cultural heritage and enhancing cross-cultural understanding.
So, Arabic is often considered a difficult language due to its divergence from European language families. However, with the right approach and mindset, learners can navigate the intricacies of Arabic and embark on a fulfilling language learning journey.
Japanese is widely recognized as one of the difficult languages to learn, particularly for English speakers. One aspect that sets Japanese apart from other character-based writing systems is the need to learn thousands of characters before becoming proficient in writing. Japanese employs three independent writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji, each with its own set of characters. This complexity can be challenging for learners, requiring dedicated effort to master all three scripts.
On a positive note, speaking Japanese is considered somewhat easier compared to Mandarin Chinese. However, it still presents its own set of difficulties. The language has unique grammatical structures and sentence patterns that differ from English, requiring learners to adopt a new way of thinking and expressing themselves. Additionally, Japanese pronunciation can be challenging, as it includes specific sounds that may not exist in English.
To effectively learn Japanese, immersion in the language and culture is often considered the best approach. While it is possible to navigate major metropolitan areas in Japan with limited or no Japanese language skills, doing so would mean missing out on a significant portion of what the country has to offer. It can also lead to difficulties in everyday situations such as filling out documents at city hall, going to the post office, or effectively communicating with Japanese coworkers.
Dedicated study, practice, and immersion in the language are crucial to overcoming the challenges of learning Japanese. Utilizing a variety of resources, such as textbooks, language exchange programs, online courses, and language partners, can provide learners with the necessary tools and support. Additionally, immersing oneself in Japanese media, such as movies, TV shows, and music, can aid in developing listening skills and cultural understanding.
While Japanese may be a difficult language to learn, it is important to approach the journey with patience, perseverance, and a positive mindset. With consistent effort and a genuine interest in the language and culture, learners can make significant progress and unlock a world of opportunities in Japan.
Hungarian is widely recognized as one of the difficult languages to learn, especially for English speakers. The challenges arise from several factors that set Hungarian apart from English and many other European languages.
One of the primary difficulties lies in the phonetics and sounds of the Hungarian language. English speakers may find it challenging to reproduce the unique sounds and phonetic patterns that are prevalent in Hungarian. The language contains a wide range of vowel sounds and consonant clusters that may clash with the speech patterns of English speakers, making it initially difficult to pronounce words accurately.
Grammar in Hungarian is another significant hurdle for language learners. Unlike English, which has a relatively simple grammar structure, Hungarian has a complex system with numerous cases. With 26 cases, Hungarian possesses one of the most extensive case systems among languages. The use of suffixes to indicate tense, possession, and other grammatical features adds further intricacy to the language. This departure from the word order-based approach found in many European languages can be challenging to grasp for English speakers.
Moreover, cultural elements within Hungarian also contribute to its unique difficulty. Hungarian idiomatic expressions, proverbs, and cultural nuances may pose challenges for learners trying to fully understand and integrate into the language. Gaining cultural awareness and sensitivity is an essential aspect of learning Hungarian effectively.
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), achieving fluency in Hungarian requires approximately 44 weeks or 1,100 hours of dedicated study, with an hour of daily practice. It is indeed a significant time commitment, but with persistence and consistent effort, fluency in Hungarian can be attained. One of the most common mistakes made by language learners is giving up too soon. Learning a challenging language like Hungarian requires patience, determination, and a positive mindset.
Engaging in immersive language experiences, such as speaking with native speakers, listening to Hungarian music and podcasts, and watching Hungarian movies and TV shows, can greatly enhance language acquisition. Additionally, utilizing language learning resources like textbooks, online courses, and language exchange programs can provide structure and support in the learning journey.
While Hungarian may be considered difficult, it is important to approach it as a fascinating linguistic and cultural adventure. Embracing the challenges, staying motivated, and maintaining a growth mindset are key to mastering this unique and rewarding language.
Korean is often regarded as a difficult language to learn, especially for English speakers. While it presents unique challenges, it is important to note that learning Korean is entirely achievable with dedication and persistence.
One aspect that adds complexity to the Korean language is its extensive borrowing of words from Chinese. Many of these loanwords are shared with Japanese as well. This shared vocabulary between Korean and Chinese/Japanese can create some familiarity for learners who have studied those languages, but it can also lead to confusion due to differences in pronunciation and usage.
A significant roadblock in learning Korean is the similarity of many words and sounds. Korean vocabulary can have a high degree of homophony, meaning that different words may sound very similar or even identical to one another. This can make it challenging for learners to distinguish and remember the subtle differences in pronunciation and meaning.
Additionally, Korean does not use characters like Chinese or Japanese. Instead, it utilizes an alphabet called Hangul, which consists of phonetic symbols representing sounds. While Hangul is considered relatively easy to learn, the absence of characters can make it more difficult for learners to create mnemonic associations or visual aids to aid in memorization.
However, despite these challenges, learning Korean is not an insurmountable task. With consistent effort and effective study strategies, progress can be made at a steady pace. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) estimates that it takes around three months or 90 days of study, with 7 to 10 hours per week, to reach a level where learners can engage in 3-minute conversations in Korean. Continuing at this pace for one year can lead to fluency and comfort in Korean conversation.
It is important to remember that language learning is a journey, and everyone progresses at their own pace. Immerse yourself in the language by practicing speaking with native speakers, listening to Korean music and podcasts, and watching Korean movies and TV shows. Utilize various resources such as textbooks, online courses, language exchange programs, and language learning apps to support your studies.
By embracing the challenge, staying motivated, and maintaining a consistent study routine, you can learn Korean and unlock a new world of cultural exploration and communication opportunities.
Finnish is widely recognized as one of the most challenging languages to learn. Its unique grammar, verb conjugation, case system, consonant gradation, and clitics can pose significant difficulties for language learners. Finnish stands out from other European languages due to its distinct grammar rules and vocabulary, mainly because it does not belong to the Indo-European language family. It is part of the Uralic language family, alongside Estonian and Hungarian.
The lack of connection to Latin or Germanic language groups makes Finnish particularly challenging for English speakers looking to learn the language. The grammar structure, word order, and vocabulary of Finnish are vastly different from those found in English or other Indo-European languages. As a result, learners may find themselves facing a steep learning curve.
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), mastering the most difficult languages, including Finnish, would require a minimum of 88 weeks of study time, equivalent to approximately 2,200 hours. This highlights the extensive dedication and commitment needed to achieve proficiency in Finnish.
However, while Finnish may be considered difficult, it is essential to approach the language with patience, perseverance, and a positive mindset. Immersion in the language and culture can greatly enhance the learning experience. Engaging with native Finnish speakers, practicing conversation, and exposing oneself to authentic Finnish media such as movies, music, and literature can contribute to language acquisition and cultural understanding.
Utilizing a variety of language learning resources, such as textbooks, online courses, language exchange programs, and language learning apps, can provide structure and support throughout the learning journey. Consistency and regular practice are key to making progress in mastering Finnish.
Although learning Finnish requires significant time and effort, it is important to remember that it is indeed possible to achieve proficiency. With determination, dedication, and a passion for language learning, learners can navigate the complexities of Finnish and unlock the rich culture and history embedded within the language.
Basque is widely regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn. One of the primary reasons for its difficulty is that it bears no resemblance or similarity to any other language. Unlike many other languages that share common roots or vocabulary with neighboring or related languages, Basque stands alone as a language isolate. This means that learning Basque requires learners to memorize an entirely new vocabulary and linguistic structure.
The lack of linguistic connections poses a significant challenge for language learners. Basque words and grammar do not mirror those found in other languages, making it necessary to start from scratch when learning the language. This lack of familiarity can make the learning process more demanding, as there are no pre-existing linguistic bridges to assist learners in understanding or recalling vocabulary and grammar rules.
Furthermore, Basque is spoken by a relatively small population of people primarily residing in the Basque region, which spans across parts of Spain and France. The limited number of speakers and the localized nature of the language make it less accessible for practice and immersion opportunities compared to more widely spoken languages.
Despite its difficulties, learning Basque is not impossible. With dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to invest time and effort, it is possible to acquire proficiency in the language. There are resources available, such as books, courses, and language learning materials, that can assist learners in getting started and progressing in their Basque studies.
While learning Basque may present unique challenges, embracing the opportunity to engage with a language isolate can be a rewarding linguistic and cultural experience. It allows learners to explore the rich heritage and distinctiveness of the Basque region. With determination and a passion for language learning, learners can embark on the journey of mastering Basque and connect with its unique linguistic and cultural identity.
Navajo is widely recognized as one of the difficult languages to learn due to its unique linguistic features and cultural context. Understanding and mastering Navajo poses several challenges for language learners.
One notable aspect of Navajo is its verb-centered structure. Descriptions and expressions in Navajo primarily revolve around verbs, which can differ greatly from the way adjectives are used in English. This difference in linguistic structure can be challenging for English speakers to grasp initially, as they need to adapt to a verb-oriented way of thinking and communicating.
Pronunciation in Navajo can also present difficulties for English speakers. The language contains several sounds that do not have direct equivalents in English, making it challenging to accurately reproduce certain phonetic elements. Navajo’s phonetics require learners to become familiar with and practice sounds that may be unfamiliar or challenging to articulate.
Regarding the difficulty level of Navajo, most language institutes estimate that achieving proficiency would require at least 88 weeks or 2,200 class hours of dedicated study. This extended duration emphasizes the significant time commitment necessary to grasp the intricacies of the language and navigate its unique linguistic features.
Interestingly, the writing system in Navajo is not as challenging as other aspects of the language. While not widely used by most Navajo speakers, the writing system closely aligns with the sound system. Its recent origin and correspondence to the spoken language make it more accessible for learners who wish to supplement their learning with written materials.
It’s important to note that Navajo is deeply rooted in the cultural context of the Navajo Nation and its speakers. Understanding the cultural nuances, traditions, and historical context associated with the language can greatly enhance the learning process and foster a deeper appreciation for Navajo language and culture.
Despite its challenges, learning Navajo is indeed possible with dedication, persistence, and a supportive learning environment. Engaging with native Navajo speakers, accessing language learning resources such as textbooks, online courses, and language exchange programs, and immersing oneself in Navajo cultural activities can contribute to language acquisition and cultural understanding.
By embracing the unique features of Navajo, investing time and effort, and respecting the cultural context, learners can embark on a rewarding journey of learning and preserving the rich heritage of the Navajo language.
Icelandic is often considered one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn. Its archaic vocabulary and complex grammar present significant challenges for language learners. The unique characteristics of Icelandic contribute to its reputation as a challenging language to master.
One aspect that sets Icelandic apart is its extensive use of long and intricate words. These words can be daunting for learners, as they differ greatly from the shorter and more concise words commonly found in English. The pronunciation of Icelandic syllables also differs from the typical syllables in English, adding another layer of difficulty when trying to master the language’s phonetics.
The time and effort required to learn Icelandic, like any other language, depend on various factors. Your commitment to coursework, as well as additional activities such as reading and listening practice, will significantly impact your progress. The level of proficiency you aim to achieve, whether it’s basic, intermediate, or advanced, also plays a role in determining the duration of your language learning journey. Prior experience with language learning, especially if you already speak other Germanic languages, can also influence your ability to grasp Icelandic.
With regular and dedicated study, you can gain a solid understanding of how Icelandic sounds and grasp the most common phrases and basic grammar within a timeframe of 6 to 8 months. This requires devoting a couple of hours per week to studying and practicing the language. However, reaching more advanced levels of proficiency will naturally require a more extended period of learning and practice.
It’s important to approach the learning process with patience, persistence, and an open mind. Immersing yourself in Icelandic culture, engaging with native speakers, and utilizing various language learning resources, such as textbooks, online courses, language exchange programs, and authentic materials, can greatly enhance your progress.
While Icelandic may be challenging, it is certainly possible to learn and master the language with dedication and consistent effort. Embrace the unique aspects of Icelandic, enjoy the journey of exploration, and gradually build your proficiency in this fascinating language.
Polish, as a Slavic language, poses significant challenges for native English speakers attempting to learn it. The difficulty in learning Polish stems from two main factors: the unique sounds used in the language and its complex grammar.
One of the primary difficulties in mastering Polish is the pronunciation of its sounds. Polish has a rich inventory of consonants and vowel sounds that may not exist in English or have close equivalents. Mastering these unique phonetic elements can be challenging and require focused practice to develop accurate pronunciation and listening skills.
Another hurdle in learning Polish is its complex grammar. Polish grammar features a highly developed case system, which means that nouns, pronouns, and adjectives change form depending on their grammatical function in a sentence. The declension patterns and agreement rules can be intricate and require diligent study to grasp.
Additionally, Polish verb conjugation involves a variety of forms and tenses, adding another layer of complexity to the language. The word order in Polish sentences can also be different from English, necessitating an adjustment in the way learners structure their thoughts and expressions.
Regarding the time required to learn Polish, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) categorizes Polish as a Category 4 language, indicating that it typically takes around 44 weeks or 1,100 hours of study to reach a proficient level. However, it’s important to note that individual learning experiences may vary, and these estimates should be taken as general guidelines rather than strict timelines.
Learning Polish requires dedication, consistent practice, and exposure to the language through various resources, such as textbooks, language courses, authentic materials, and interactions with native speakers. Immersion experiences and cultural immersion can also greatly enhance language acquisition and understanding.
While Polish may be challenging, it is certainly attainable with persistence and a positive mindset. Embrace the linguistic and cultural richness of the Polish language, enjoy the process of learning, and gradually build your proficiency over time.
In conclusion, learning a difficult language such as Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Hungarian, Korean, Navajo, Icelandic, Basque, or Polish requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and dedication. These languages present various challenges, from complex writing systems and unique grammatical structures to unfamiliar sounds and extensive vocabulary.
While the difficulty level may vary for each language and individual learner, it is important to approach the learning process with patience, perseverance, and a positive mindset. The key is to embrace the linguistic and cultural differences, actively engage with native speakers and resources, and immerse oneself in the language as much as possible.
While estimates from language institutes like the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) provide a rough guideline, it is crucial to remember that individual learning experiences can differ. The time required to reach proficiency will depend on factors such as prior language learning experience, study habits, exposure to the language, and personal motivation.
Ultimately, the difficulty of a language should not discourage learners but rather inspire them to embark on an exciting journey of language acquisition. With consistent practice, dedication, and an open mind, it is possible to overcome the challenges and become proficient in any language, no matter how difficult it may initially seem.
So, whether you’re aspiring to learn a difficult language or any language in general, embrace the process, stay determined, and enjoy the richness and beauty that comes with exploring new languages and cultures.