What’s The Hardest Language to Learn? Weekly Edition

“What’s the hardest language to learn?” is possibly the most redundant and irritating question that constantly permeates this side of the internet.

Why is it irritating? Because the answer is obvious.
Why is it redundant? Because you’re not going to learn a language solely because it’s difficult. If you have to learn a language, it doesnt matter how difficult it is. If you want to learn a language, either it will be too difficult for you or it won’t.

I’ve written about the hardest language to learn before. I wouldn’t ordinarily cover the same ground again (because I’m lazy.) However, I’ve read one too many forum threads about this in the past couple of months, so I thought I’d highlight some of the problems with asking about “What’s the hardest language to learn?”

Language Bug Weekly Reading List: What’s The Hardest Language To Learn Edition

This article by Claritaslux.com suggests that Polish is the hardest language to learn, based on the case system, the gender system and the pronunciation. It’s a good start, after all we have no genders in English and no cases. So it makes sense that this would be the hardest language.

This article by languages.com puts forward the case for Mandarin Chinese being the hardest language to learn. However, it doesn’t have gender or case issues, so surely it can’t be harder than Polish? but it has a different writing system! That must be what makes it a harder language.

But if we go to the comments section of that article, we see that some fellow suggests that Japanese is the hardest language because it has many writing systems! We find that this article by Language Realm agrees.

Of course, it could be more difficult. It could be Icelandic, Finnish, Swahili. Arabic. Korean. Thai. All of these languages are in the running, because they all have aspects which are completely alien to the native English speaker. Of course, if you were to frequent language learning forums like HTLAL, you’d hear people saying that you aren’t even multilingual unless you can speak one language from five different language families, and the hardest language is Proto-Indo-European (they happen to be studying this!)  and the hardest languages have to be extinct otherwise you’re learning a tourist language. Still others will say that you can’t determine whether a language is difficult unless you’re a professor of applied linguistics in the language and have also travelled to the Amazon rainforest and learned the click&whistle hunter-gatherer languages.

And then hopefully you’ll realise that there’s no point in reading any more of this because you could probably have learned five words instead of reading all the endless comments and articles. That’s the key point here: None of the articles linked above are necessarily wrong, but even if you have learned Japanese or Chinese or Aramaic and it was really difficult, what is the gain in categorising it as such anyway?

Rant over. Feel free to disagree or tell me which language is literally the hardest in the world in the comments!



Language Bug