Hardest Language to Learn
October 20, 2019
[1960s movie music] What is the hardest language to learn? There’s no real answer to this question but some people say that — at least for English speakers — Chinese is the hardest. For one thing, it has tones so that ma1, ma2, ma3, and ma4 are all different words… and go3-shur2 means “dog food,”
but go3-shur3 means “dog excrement” Also, learning to write Chinese involves memorizing thousands of characters, many of which looks similar. But if you ask Chinese people what they
think the hardest language to learn is they will almost all say Russian This is partly because Chinese has a very simple grammar, while Russian’s is very complicated In fact, it’s so complicated that for almost every verb in English there are two in Russian… one for a completed action… and another for the action in general. For example, the sentence “I didn’t call Olga” has two versions in Russian The first means you didn’t even try to call and the second means you tried but didn’t get through. Also, Chinese people find Russian’s long slurs of consonants very difficult to pronounce, such as “zdrastvooytye” and “vodokhranilishche” But other languages could be just as hard Consider Hindi… like most South Asian languages, Hindi has groups of consonants that would sound the same to most English speakers for instance “d”, “dh”, “d” (retroflex) and “dh” (retroflex) are all totally different sounds. even though they’d all be considered the same sound in English. If you say “dal” you mean “lentils” but if you say “dal” (retroflex D), you mean “shield”, and if you say “dhal” (retroflex D), you mean “a tree branch” And then you have some of the languages of Southern Africa, where they use click stops For instance the name of this language — the native tongue of Nelson Mandela — is pronounced [click]-hosa Xhosa has three main types of clicks… the X for the click made at the side of the mouth, the Q for the click made on the roof of the mouth, and the C for the click made on the front teeth. And like Chinese, Xhosa has tones, as do many of the languages of sub-Saharan Africa. So between languages with tough pronunciations … tough grammars… and tough writing systems… there’s a lot to wrap your mind around. On the other hand it’s a fact that anyone can learn any of these languages. It doesn’t take any special ability, just a lot of practice.