Top 8 hardest languages to learn

by William Reid

Which are the hardest languages to learn? Sure, picking up a new language is challenging in and of itself, but if the language and vocabulary you’ve picked are notoriously tricky, you’re in for a serious mental workout. Many other languages on the list are just as challenging as Mandarin Chinese, which is often defined as one of the most challenging or complex languages in the world. This site is dedicated to language enthusiasts and polyglots always looking for a new and challenging language to learn.

hardest languages to learn

Top 8 Most Hardest Languages to Learn for Native English Speakers

Here are given below the 8 hardest languages to learn, both for native English speakers and non-natives alike. This data is the result of extensive investigation.

1.     Mandarin Chinese

The most frequently used native tongue is simultaneously the hardest language to learn. There are several obstacles one must overcome when learning Mandarin Chinese. To begin with, the writing system is rather challenging for native English speakers (and anyone who is used to the Latin alphabet). In addition to the difficulties inherent in learning any new language, students of Mandarin face the additional hurdle of memorizing thousands of specific characters that are not used in languages based on the Latin alphabet.

Learning to write in Mandarin is challenging, but that’s not all it takes. The language is also difficult to speak because of its tone system. Cantonese is one of many Chinese dialects; it is expressed predominantly in southeastern China and other regions of Southeast Asia. It has its own set of written characters and pronunciations, making it a formidable learning challenge. It’s important to note that one word in Mandarin Chinese (the most widespread dialect) can be pronounced four different ways, with different meanings for each. When used differently, the term ma might refer to a mother, a horse, a demanding person, or a scolding person.

2.     Arabic

Arabic is the most difficult language to master after Russian, is the sixth official language of the United Nations, and is widely considered the language of poets. More than 300 million people worldwide speak this language, making it one of the most talked about on the continents of Africa and the Middle East. Two years is the average time it takes to master Arabic, as the Foreign Services Institute reported. The language is complex because of its wide varieties, enormous vocabulary (almost 200 synonyms for the word camel! ), right-to-left writing system, challenging pronunciations, and absence of vowels.

3.     Japanese

Another top-three Asian language, Japanese, has a grammar that can be challenging because it only has two tenses: past and non-past (both present and future). To write in Japanese, one must first memorize a far higher number of characters than most other character-based writing systems. The three main Japanese scripts (kanji, hiragana, and katakana) have developed separately over time. The Japanese use a script called Hiragana. Only native Japanese words use this alphabet, which consists of 46 characters or 51 phonetic characteristics. To learn the true nature of Japanese pronunciation, it’s essential to know that most kanji have only one possible reading.

Technical and scientific terms and some plant and animal names are among the loanwords (words acquired from a foreign language) written in Katakana. Millions of Japanese symbols known as kanji represent whole words, ideas, or phrases, and their meanings in English are not always clear from these symbols alone. Achieving communication and trust across linguistic barriers begins with using the language correctly: Because of this, native English speakers need to be able to switch easily between polite and plain speech (used for casual addresses).

4.     Korean

In contrast to the symbols used in the Chinese and Japanese writing systems, the Korean alphabet is relatively straightforward and one of the hardest languages to learn, making it possible to begin sounding out words without much time investment. Without common linguistic ancestors, Korean stands apart as the world’s most peculiar and unique language.

However, this language has many obstacles to overcome, including its alphabet and complex syntax. In addition, the words must be said in a particular order to make sense. If you’ve heard any other languages, you’ll quickly realize that Korean is unlike any of them. In the Korean language, for instance, the definition of the subject comes first, then the object, and finally, the deed.

       5. Finnish

Finnish deserves its reputation as a complex language to master. There are 15 cases for nouns, whereas English only has three: subject, object, and possessive. The language is related to the Finno-Urgic group of languages and has no traces of Latin or German influence that would help you guess what a word means. One little relief is that the language uses an alphabet quite similar to English, so comments are spelled the way they sound.

6. Vietnamese

Tonal languages are complex for native English speakers to learn. Six tones are a lot to learn for people who aren’t as tone-sensitive as they should be for good communication.

That doesn’t mean achieving that goal is impossible. All in all, it’s a tough uphill slog. More vowels are used in Vietnamese than in English. The language includes many dialects that, while understandable to one another, are distinct enough to be a nuisance to travelers visiting the country’s north and south.

However, people fluent in both Chinese and English may find learning Vietnamese a breeze, as the language also employs the Latin alphabet (although with accent marks added), and the speakers of both languages are likely already familiar with tones. Vietnamese may be the language for you if you’re looking for a challenge because of how difficult it is to pronounce. It has six tones, many vowel sounds, and various sounds unique to the language.

To further complicate matters, northern Vietnamese is very distinct from southern Vietnamese. Modern Vietnamese benefits from being written in a Latin-based alphabet. However, there are many more accents and tone marks to learn and use.

7. Hungarian

With approximately 13 million native speakers, Hungarian is one of the most much-used languages in the world. Understanding and applying the complex rules of the Hungarian language can be challenging. Instead of word order to indicate tense and possession, the language uses 18 or more case suffixes (the precise number is debatable). Therefore, you need to have a firm grasp of grammar to express yourself effectively. But since it lacks grammatical genders, Hungarian is a good language in which to examine the effects of gender bias in artificial intelligence.

Hungarian is one of the hardest languages to learn due to its subtle cultural elements: It makes extensive use of idioms, which can be challenging for students of foreign languages. It’s a phrase that implies it’s futile and won’t be valued. Hungarian is a complex language for native English speakers to learn and master despite being nearly phonetically perfect. For many native English speakers, learning Spanish can be challenging because of the fourteen vowels and the diverse meanings each one conveys when spoken with a particular accent.

8. Turkish

I’m going to teach you a new term today: agglutinative. Turkish speakers affix prefixes and suffixes to establish the meaning of words and convey direction. As a result, you get verbs like “konuşmay reddediyorlar” (they refuse to talk) that are several words lengthy.

Vowel harmony, in which vowels are altered or new vowel endings are introduced to words to make the flow of speech more natural, is another aspect of Turkish that may be unfamiliar to English speakers. What we already regard as one of the most challenging languages to learn is made even more so because it uses many foreign vocabulary words with Arabic origins.

Learning Turkish is a beautiful approach to investigating a rare agglutinative language (linguistics nerds, unite! ), and the grammar has very few exceptions compared to other languages.

What about some languages that make them so challenging to learn?

Some linguistic characteristics appear more than once on this list. And knowing they exist in a language can help you prepare for the arduous task of mastering it.

Such like…

  • Difficulties arise when using grammar that is too intricate.
  • Languages that make use of cases are incredibly challenging.
  • Issues in pronunciation may present a barrier to communication.
  • The difficulty of learning a tonal language increases if your first language has fewer tones.
  • Learning a new system of writing can be challenging, but how so varies from language to language.

Attempting a less-common language can increase the difficulty level because development will be slower if you don’t have access to adequate resources and a native-speaker community with whom to practice.

If you had to pick one, which language would it be?

Significantly, I added “for speakers of English” at the outset. Learning a language relative to your native tongue is typically far less challenging than learning a different language. You’d get a drastically different answer if you ask a natural Chinese speaker, for instance, which languages they find the most challenging to learn.

Lastly, you are an essential variable because no two people are alike. Mastering tones may drive some people insane, while others would find cases to be their nemesis. The Chinese tone system is far more intuitive to me than the German grammatical system. However, my opinion is just that.

Because of this, they are ranking the “hardest languages to learn” in the world as an inherently subjective endeavor. A plethora of examples come to mind (Finnish and Turkish only just missed out). But don’t worry; learning any of the languages given here will keep you busy in your spare time. If you have the right approach, learning any language is doable. You may quickly master the writing systems, tones, and cases of Chinese, Japanese, and Russian with daily practice. Even if you study one of the supposedly simple languages but only use it once a week, you will have a tough time mastering it.

Methods to Quickly Master a New Language

There is no one right technique for studying a new tongue because everyone has their unique learning style; you’ll find various methods to be particularly effective for you; yet, here are a few general, last-minute recommendations that can help students of any language:

Be kind to yourself. There’s nothing worse than a sense of stagnation that prevents any forward movement. Remember that learning a new language is like entering an entirely new universe, and it will take some time to become fluent (this is the dirty truth about learning languages abroad). The things you’ve been through and the insights you’ve learned along the way should serve as a springboard for further foreign language study.

Use only the target language in conversation. Make a commitment to yourself right from the start that you will exclusively speak/write in the target language while you are learning, regardless of your chosen method. This piece of advice is instrumental if you are unable to travel overseas and immerse yourself in the language straight away. You have more potential than you give yourself credit for.

Join up with locals and make some pals. While it’s always beneficial to have friends or study partners, if you know a native speaker of the language you’re attempting to learn, you may take your studies to the next level by actively engaging with this individual! The most remarkable approach to learning a language is through a native speaker because they are fluent in the language, have perfected the art of communication, and can share insider knowledge like slang, jokes, and cultural allusions.

Do you need an expert language translation or localization service?

Get a Quote