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Top 10 Hardest LANGUAGES to Learn

Top 10 Hardest Languages to Master 10. Finnish (Study Time: 1,100 hours plus)
The fact that Finnish is even around as a national language today is thanks to one guy:
Johan Snellman. A philosopher and Finnish nationalist, Snellman
was the guy who brought written Finnish out of the shadows of Swedish (which was seen
as being more cultured at the time). Sadly, though, Snellman’s opening up of
written Finnish didn’t make it any easier for the rest of us to learn. While Swedish will take you around 600 hours
study time, Finnish will take almost double that. Although Finnish uses a mostly Latin alphabet,
bar the odd ä, it has some distinctly weird aspects that make it tricky for English-speakers. First, like German, Finnish is one of those
languages where you can keep combining words into gigantic compound nouns that look terrifying
on paper (such as the 61 letter “Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas”.) Second, the standard and spoken language are
wildly different, which can be a real headache for learners. Lastly, any language which can present you
with the sentence ‘Vihdoin vihdoin vihdoin’ and tell you that each of those three identical
words means something different (in this case: “I finally whipped myself with a birch branch”)
is guaranteed to set a few heads exploding. 9. Estonian (Study Time: 1,100 hours plus)
The good news is that you’re hoping to study Estonian in 2016, rather than several hundred
years ago. Why? Because back then, the script was written
in runes. That’s symbols that look something like
this: ᚱᚢᚾᛟ. In other words, the sort of thing to have
the casual learner quaking in their boots. Not that you should get too complacent, though. Estonian still remains a freakishly odd language
by European standards. One issue is the dialects. Despite being spoken by fewer than 2 million
people, most of whom live in a country significantly smaller than West Virginia, Estonia has two
distinct dialects, Northern and Southern. The Southern dialect is often different enough
from the Northern one to potentially qualify as a whole new language. That’s before we get to the weirder regional
offshoots like kirderanniku. The thing you’re most-likely to notice,
though, is the sheer number of vowels. There are 9 distinct vowel sounds in the language,
and 36 diphthongs (made by joining two vowel sounds). By comparison, it’s generally agreed that
English has between 8-10 significant diphthongs. To an English-speaker, an Estonian conversation
can sound a lot like yodeling. 8. Georgian (Study time: 1,100 hours plus)
Georgian has a non-Latin alphabet. This makes it immediately intimidating. For example, a simple phrase like “be strong”
will look something like: ძლიერი, მტკიცე. Speaking is no easier. A whole bunch of Georgian words and phrases
contain no vowel sounds whatsoever, so saying them makes you feel like you’re choking
on something. Finally, Georgian is a language that’s unusually
dependent (for a country that is technically still in Europe) on stress, intonation, and
rhythm. Change any of these three and your sentence
can take on a new meaning entirely. All of which combines to make Georgian a scary
language for an English-speaker to consider learning. Luckily, it’s an agglutinative language;
a language where all the sounds stay the same when you combine them together in words and
sentences. This makes it easy(ish) to break down what
someone is saying into digestible parts. No short cuts with the written alphabet though,
we’re afraid. 7. Hungarian (Study time: 1,100 hours plus)
There’s a wonderfully odd story tucked away in the history of Hungarian. First widely-written down in 1000AD, the language
stumbled in the 18th century. The scientific revolution had arrived and
Hungarian, a language based around concepts of community, countryside and family, turned
out to be woefully inadequate for dealing with science-based concepts. So rather than importing foreign words, a
bunch of Hungarian academics got together and made up reams of new words. In doing so, they single-handedly shook up
the entire language. They also made Hungarian into a language that
is painfully difficult for English speakers to learn, at least if they want to learn it
formally. Learning Hungarian properly involves dealing
with six verb tenses (in English we only have two, which we combine with other words to
create stuff like the ‘future imperfect’ or whatever). Thankfully, though, most ordinary Hungarians
only use two. On the other hand, they use a heck load of
idioms. This means Hungarian sentences always sound
colorful, but can also sound like someone talking in code. Then there’s the matter of cases. Hungarian has around 20 cases, as opposed
to English’s 3 (subjective, objective, possessive). Interestingly, it’s possibly the only European
language to have in-built patriotism. When you visit parts of the old Hungarian
Empire, you are ‘on’ them. Anywhere else, you are ‘in’. 6. Mongolian (Study time: 1,100 hours plus)
It’s not often we say this, but thank God for the USSR. Prior to 1946, the written language of Mongolia
looked something like this: ᠮᠣᠩᠭᠣᠯᠪᠢᠴᠢᠭ. Then the Soviets decided their Central Asian
republic needed a more Russian outlook and pushed through a Cyrillic alphabet. So nowadays the language looks more like this:
Монгол бичиг. Obviously, for an English speaker, that’s
still terrifying. And so it should be. Despite having only around 5m speakers, Mongolian
has a vast number of dialects so different that some think they should be classed as
separate languages. On top of that, modern Mongolian tends to
mix in Chinese words and ideas, which opens up a whole new frontier of difficulty. Then there’s the sheer alien quality of
it. Like Estonian, it is a vowel heavy language. That means it can sound almost musical to
English ears… but freakishly hard to replicate. The good news is that English words and phrases
are now starting to creep into modern Mongolian. So you may not be able to book a hotel room
or plane ticket, but you’ll be able to order a skinny latte with ease. 5. Vietnamese (Study time: 1,100 hours plus)
If you’ve got to learn a difficult, but not insanely difficult language, Vietnamese
might be a good bet. Spoken by 70m people globally, it has more
speakers than every other language on this list so far combined. It’s also probably the most unlike English. While its Latin script might mean Vietnamese
looks more friendly than, say, Georgian, don’t be fooled. The use of tones in this language is enough
to make even language-lovers’ heads explode. Vietnamese has six tones, which can be applied
to pretty much any word, and completely alter the meaning. So a sentence like ‘Ban bạn bán bàn
bẩn’ may look like pointless repetition, but actually translates as “Friend Ban sells
dirty tables.” This is a big deal. If you mutter when you speak English to your
boss, he’ll just assume you’re being sullen. Attempt to do that in Vietnamese and you might
accidentally insult his mother. Interestingly, Vietnamese is one of the easier
languages in the region, in part due to French colonial influence, which gave the language
its Latin script. Go wandering into other parts of East Asia,
and you’ll find languages that make Vietnamese seem like a walk in the park. 4 Mandarin & Cantonese (Study time: 2,200
hours) These are two of the biggest languages you
can possibly learn. Spoken by upwards of a billion people worldwide,
they’re as important and as far-reaching as English, Spanish or Arabic. They’re also insanely hard, so hard the
FSI estimates it’d take you over 85 weeks of full-time study to get to an adequate level. Mandarin, like Vietnamese, is tonal. Saying a word in a slightly different way
can alter its meaning wildly. It’s also a language completely devoid of
tenses. There’s no past, present or future. Instead, speakers can use a single syllable
in a looong sentence to change its entire meaning, by passively suggesting time has
passed. As an additional headache, it’s also a super-polite
language. There are many ways to address people, depending
on their relationship to you. Use the wrong one and watch all the goodwill
in the room evaporate. Cantonese is problematic, too. Putting a word in the wrong place in a sentence
can completely change its meaning to a ridiculous/hilarious degree. Speakers also talk differently about a subject
or object as a way of demonstrating how important it is to them. The only real advantage it has over Mandarin
is that you pronounce each syllable of equal length, making talking ever so slightly easier. Oh, and of course, both use non-Latin script. So phrases look something like this: 汉字/漢字. Arabic (Study time: 2,200 hours)
To an English speaker, the Arabic script is fascinatingly strange, like sinuous lines
drawn in sand. Just have a look at it: لأَبْجَدِيَّة
العَرَبِيَّة. Isn’t that all sorts of weird and romantic? It’s also difficult. In 2010, a study revealed learning to read
Arabic is unusually taxing on the brain. It’s not just reading, either. The most-common version of Arabic is Modern
Standard Arabic, used across in 26 countries across North Africa and the Middle East by
around 300m people. Only English and French are official languages
in more countries. However, Modern Standard Arabic is subdivided
into so many different dialects that a non-native who learns one version won’t necessarily
be able to understand another. This can be both confusing and highly frustrating. As regards the quirks of the language, Arabic
has a flexible word order, which means you can mix up your sentences and still make sense. On the other hand, listening to someone else
talk can be confusing as heck. That’s before we even mention the 12 forms
of personal pronouns. Korean (Study time: 2,200 hours)
We’re used to seeing Korean written down as wonderfully alien characters like 한. To English eyes, this looks difficult enough,
but it’s actually even harder. Written Korean is all bunched together into
syllable blocks, meaning that 한 contains the letters ㅎ, ㅏ, and ㄴ. Getting used to combining them in a legible
way is just one of the many challenges facing English learners of Korean. One major issue is word order. In Korean, the verb usually comes last. The rest of the sentence is pretty fluid,
meaning words can shift around in places and leave you feeling massively confused. Even harder is the crazy-level honorifics
system, which requires you to use a whole different set of words and verb endings depending
on how you socially stand in relation to the person you’re talking to. The not-so-good news? Get this part wrong, and you could wind up
badly insulting someone. The good news? Young Koreans are starting to discard this
aspect of their language entirely. Japanese (Study time: Over 2,200 hours)
This is it. According to the FSI, Japanese is the hardest
major language for English speakers to learn by a country mile. It’s like Korean on steroids, a language
so infused with politeness that being anything less than a native speaker is to walk into
a linguistic minefield. Forget to use the correct vocab or honorific
word forms and watch everyone look at you like you’ve just pooped on their bedroom
floor. An additional complication is that Japan is
an extremely high-context society. The most important things in a Japanese conversation
may well be those left unsaid. In the same way that us native English speakers
can tell when someone’s being sarcastic (even if they’re using dry British sarcasm),
Japanese people can take a whole lotta meaning from the social cues surrounding what is said. As a non-native, picking up on these can be
incredibly hard. It’s not a problem with the language itself,
per se, but it’s still a massive pain in the backside. That being said, spoken Japanese is no more
difficult to learn than many other Asian languages. It’s written Japanese that’s the real
killer. Japanese writing combines five different systems:
kanji, hiragana, katakana, Arabic numerals and a smattering of the Latin alphabet. Japanese linguist Haruhiko Kindaichi once
wrote, “I don’t think any other country in the world uses a letter system of such
complexity.” We’re inclined to agree.

100 Replies to “Top 10 Hardest LANGUAGES to Learn”

  • Surprised to see any languages here? Try our video about the easiest languages to learn. We are sure you'll agree with all of those choices.

  • my mom knows every meaning in Arabic words. and I'm from Malaysia my dad is from another Malaysia state….also my grandma (no grandpa..he is also malaysian) ;-; all I know is Arabic numbers OoF
    these are Arabic numbers that all I know. ;-; yeah that's all the numbers I know

  • Funny thing is I really want to learn how to learn Finnish, but I cannot find any audio books or programs on it anywhere.

  • Ik ben een jongen, en jij kan dit waarschijnlijk niet lezen. waarom is deze taal niet op de lijst? het is toch best wel een moeilijke taal. Het leren en uitspreken van deze taal is extreem moeilijk, ook al lijkt dit redelijk veel op engels.

    i am just wondering why this language isn't on the list. this is dutch.

  • I'm trying to learn Japanese, Do far I've studied for about 3 hours and I still dont have the Hiragana down where I can read it fast
    Hoping the Kanji doesn't rip my head off

  • Japanese its not that hard to learn If you are dedicated to do it 😃 (I'm curently learning it) Its so much funnnnnnnn

  • Estonian is not that hard to learn. You can mix up a lot of things, tenses (14 of those), order of words… and it will still be understandable. Estonian doesn't have future and no sexes. Making everything much more easier. All those 14 tenses have easy to remember endings. And all tenses are easy to explain to English speaker.

    Example. Apple, Apple's, an Apple (as in what do you eat), into-an-apple (as in "what can you put inside a fake apple statue, Estonian has just a word "apple" plus an ending to to that word instead of separate words), in-an-apple, from-inside-of-apple (a worm came out of an apple), onto-an-apple, on-an-apple, from-on-top-of-an-apple (tiny bug fell off an apple, again, just apple+ending instead multiple words). We almost made to the end. Last tenses are become-an-apple, up-to-an-apple (find a way to reach-an-apple with a hand), be-an-apple, without-an-apple, with-an-apple (can't live without-an-apple or with-an-apple, one word instead of many, so it translates like: "can't live apple-less". If you learn the ending you have like 20% of the whole language. THIS IS NOT HARD.

  • Shouldn't English be Number 1?
    Honestly, this list seems extremely bias to me.
    If someone is going to ask why English should be number 1, well, let me ask you this…
    What's the differences between Their, There and They're as well as Your and You're?
    Some "foreign" people would probably think the past tense for stood is standed.
    Past tense doesn't always end with -ed.

  • How come you don't mention Sanskrit. It takes 4000+ hours just to master the basics.

  • I created a language that is the opposite of a Agglutinative language. Words only have a pronunciation when in a sentence. So the example "I have to jump" is pronounced "Iha veto jump". This is because that words that make up that sentence are actually easier to pronounce when broken up that way. Yeah. totally fun to learn, I know!

  • Only thing missing was mention of the multiple written forms of Japanese: Hiragana, Katakana, Romaji and Kanji.

  • Korean and Vietnamese are very easy to learn. The difficult languages should be more with Hebrew , languages from Indian country, Khmer , , Germany,

  • Korean and Khmer are so different but Cambodian learn 3 months and be able to use but English take lots more time . Where your information get from? No make sense… in my opinion, Korean is amongst of easiest

  • Estonia has actually 4 different dialects. The island dialect, The northern dialect, the southersn dialect and the seto/võro dialekt.

  • 1:17 FALSE! I speak 7 languages and Estonian was by far the easiest

    …but my mother language is Finnish, so that helped

  • I nominate Xhosa, Zulu and Nama from Southern Africa on this list. Xhosa (mother language of Nelson Mandela) is hard, mostly due to the funny click-sounds. Regional town closest to Mandela's village is named Nqutu, pronounced N(smatter)utu. Those are both languages of the Bantu-group. Nama is probably even harder, it has a grammar rather more involved and many more click-sounds.

  • Mandarin Chinese is the hardest language to learn and I needed some Chinese tutoring and it takes me a long time to learn the language in China. I wanted to work for the World Trade Center in New York City and I needed learn more Chinese in Doulingo on my app. I can pay a lot of money of speaking Chinese to communicate people in China.I had to the characters figures of the writings to read in Chinese. And I also learn Arabic for the WTC in the Middle East. Japanese and Korean are the hardest languages to.

  • Correct about Japanese, but us gaijin won't have too much to worry about…Japanese folks know and accept we will screw up. Ah soo desu nee! Now for a really hard language to learn but isn't spoken by a lot of folks–Khoisan, spoken by Bushmen…in clicks.

  • This is all a bit misleading. The easiest languages to learn are the ones closest to your own and the hardest are the ones least like your own.

  • he has lost out the Khoisan language group, all of which have an incredible variety of click sounds. Xhosa, a Bantu language which has acquired many Khoisan click sounds is notoriously difficult even for other South Africans.

  • Where's polish? Hard dialect, a person from a slavic country that isn't Poland won't understand anything so literary no one will have it easy to learn, sentences are complicated and most of people can't even read a polish name right.

  • If you take some classes, Vietnamese isn't too difficult. If you learn on your own then goodluck lol. Watch out for the diphthongs and triphthongs.

  • I learned Japanese in high school, then years later taught myself Mandarin Chinese in just over a year with no professional help. I also learned Spanish simultaneously as I was learning Japanese. I also taught myself Russian with a little help from a Russian person via Skype. I'm currently tackling Hebrew, but that's a strange language that I'm finding hard to learn quickly.
    Languages have always come easy for me.

  • i can kind of write in hungarian i can speak full hungarian and i am british hungarian and my grand parents live in hungary and i am in hungary right now and what he showed ias the ancient hungarian writing bank but the one everybody uses now in a bit easier for example saying hi is szia and saying bye ummmm… well people that are quite young for example 4 or below they would say pa-pa and if you were older you would say szia (szia means bye and hi) and saying dad would be apa and saying mum would be anja (J=Y) and grandpa is papa and grandma is mama

  • List based solely on spoken language irregardless of writing system
    Hardest languages to learn for English speakers my list:

    1. Lithuanian/Latvian (it is literally proto indo-european)
    2. Georgian/Kartvelian Languages
    3. Navajo
    4. Basque
    5. Japanese
    6. Korean
    7. Polish
    8. Cantonese/Mandarin
    9. Finnish/Hungarian
    10. Icelandic
    Despite Icelandic being closest related to English out of all the listed languages, it is on the list for a number of reasons.
    Icelandic is in some sense modern day old Norse, alive and spoken. It is maybe the oldest casually spoken language on the planet right now. Icelandic even may be one of the hardest, harder than some of the other languages on this list. Icelandic retains many ancient grammatical features spoken a thousand years ago, making it highly inflected and extremely complicated. nouns inflect for definiteness, case, gender, number, and strong and weak paradigms. Adjectives also inflect for the same manner having dozens of different forms

    There is no arabic on this list as it is not more difficult than the languages on this list.

  • Korean’s not as hard to learn as it may first seem. I learned the letters within a week and became proficient at typing in three weeks.

  • Japanese has only 3 writing systems hiragana, katakana, and kanji my Japanese friends don't count romaji as a writing system in the language since no one but some early learner's of the language use romaji to get out of learning the 2 kana scripts and the scary kanji

  • To learn Chinese, study time is 2200 hours? I'm seriously stupid then – I had been learning Chinese in school for almost 10-long years… And I have not mastered it one bit – I failed 9 years; Passed (only) 1. Oh boy, am I naturally stupid😢😞

  • How can Mandarin be easier than Japanese?
    Oh well I guess 80,000 kanji characters with different pronounciations and meanings, plus those pronounciations being near impossible to say and if you screw up you're doomed, isn't as hard as learning only 2,156 kanji characters that you can just use romaji to type, plus make reading a lot easier plus the grammar is a lot more basic than languages like russian or icelandic plus everyone would prefer formality levels over impossible to pronounce words and an impossible to read writing system.

  • This seems to be based off of very casual learners, i don’t see how different scripts make it “scary” I learnt the Cyrillic script in a week, and the Georgian was just as easy, and verbs English has more than 2 tenses, and cases aren’t hard or scary either, maybe the number of endings might be, but generally it’s not hard. Word order isn’t very hard either. Once again this seems to be based on very very casual learners

  • I'm Turkish and you noob Indo-Europeans, most similiar languages to Turkish is;
    1) Mongolian
    2) Korean
    3) Japanese
    4) Hungarian
    5) Ugoric (Finnish / Estonian)

    but I can't say same for Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese :d

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