Apr 7, 2011
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Aim high, go for something like Korean!
This info graphic is incorrect. The Korean Alphabet has 0 Chinese in it. In government buildings they do use traditional Chinese characters but in all Korean literature and signage they use their own alphabet. Their alphabet is very simple and can be learned in a day, making Korean very easy to read. However, their language is very hard to speak and understand for a native English speaker.
You are correct. Koreans do not use Chinese characters. Also like English, their alphabet is based on sounds and not symbols.
Actually, Koreans do use Chinese characters, but mostly at a higher level. A great deal of Korean vocabulary is based upon Chinese, but since Korean has an alphabet they can forego using the characters in nearly every case. If you read a Korean article and they use a word that can be confused because it has the same spelling, they may include the Chinese characters in parentheses after the word. But you’re right in that knowing the Chinese characters really has no bearing on the ability to learn Korean as an English speaker. The most difficult factor is probably the grammar — conjugation and honorific language is much more difficult just to name a couple of issues.
it’s true. I learned how to read Korean in 3 hours. although I pronounce the words slowly. haha
It’s 세요, not 새요!
I think most Romanians I know would disagree with this actually.
Why would it matter what Romanians think? This is a chart illustrating how hard it is for native ENGLISH speakers to learn other languages such as ROMANIAN. Last I checked… Romanians speak Romanian…. how would they know how hard it is to learn Romanian for a native english speaker…..?
…perhaps because multilingual Romanians would understand the differences between Romanian and English? And most high schools are turning out students who speak Romanian, English, and at least one other language (usually French). Granted, none of my Romanian friends are linguistics majors, but I believe them when they tell me how hard it is for an English speaker to learn their native language. And I would agree with them.
Again, youre missing the point. It doesnt matter if your norwegian friends are taught english in school they are still native norsk speakers. They have zero frame of reference when it comes to a native english speaker. completely different.
As a native English speaker, one of the Latin-based languages I had an easier time figuring out, was Romanian. Of course, I took Latin beforehand, however, on a personal scale, its Romanian, Spanish, Italian, and French (from easiest to hardest). I have no experience with Portuguese.
I find it interesting that German is not on here, but then, I figure it would be placed in the easy category and was replaced by Dutch. I find it hard to believe it would be in the medium category, considering it was easier to learn than the ones I mentioned above.
I am also very glad to see the medium category on here, because that is usually ignored in scaling languages. Russian and (Ancient) Greek were certainly strange and took a longer time to initially understand sentence structure and memorize grammar. Knowledge of Latin, languages stemming from it, and Germanic languages definitely helped in learning both, however sparsely. (It is interesting to know, for anyone hoping to learn both Greek and Russian, if one learned Cyrillic, then they would have an easier time learning the Greek, and vice versa. This is because Cyrillic was developed from the Greek alphabet.)
“I believe them when they tell me how hard it is for an English speaker to learn their native language.” Maybe, but your friends have ZERO understanding of how hard it would be for that SAME English speaker to learn Korean, or Hindi, or Chinese. So, do you see how they have absolutely zero bearing on how their language would relate to other languages, in terms of ease of learning for an English speaker?
Learning a language is difficult for most people. This ranks those languages on a scale for English speakers. Your friends saying “Romanian is hard” is asinine.
I wonder at the realistic of this as a majority of schools are producing students that can’t read English, much less write it. With state sponsored slang of Ebonics, its a wonder that I can order food at a restaurant and actually recieve what I ordered.
Its morphology is more complex when compared to other Romance languages. Granted, knowing Latin comes in very handy.
I find it kinda weird for you guys to just jump to the conclusion that just because we’re not native english speakers, we can’t figure out how hard it is for native english speakers to learn a language. Sure we’ll be slightly biased if we (by we I mean multilingual people) tried learning the same language as native english speakers with no knowledge of foreign languages, since we wouldn’t have the same view on linguistics, having been raised in a another language (linguistic relativism and whatnot). That still wouldn’t mean we can’t figure out the differences between both languages and how hard it would be, more or less ofc.
Lastly, I can’t believe german isn’t on there because it’s such a hard language, that french would be juged as “easy” to learn, (tons of exceptions to each rule, meaning a learner would be bound to make mistakes, even with thousands of hours of learning) and that korean is ranked “hard” since they did everything they could to make it easier and more logical.
I’m also pretty sure they use the word proficient really loosely
Sorry about the hard to read rant haha : P
@Jason Wilkes. As someone who was born and raised in Arkansas and who lives in Mississippi, I think the same can be said of the poor speech in those regions. I don’t know what the poor speaking, which is a sister to “ebonics” would be called, but most Americans, not just the population “ebonics” is assigned to, speak very poor English. Those people are found throughout the country, including the south and/or rural areas. But, for some reason, people have selective memory about their existence and adverse impact on society, when they focus on urban populations.
It’s actually not that hard to learn Romanian, compared to the languages listed as “medium” and “hard” on this chart. Romanian is a Romance language and shares a lot of similarities. I have several family members who live and travel in Romania and Bulgaria (Native English speakers) who were able to pick up Romanian quite quickly. It does all depend on the person, but really, Native-Romanian speakers aren’t able to say how easy or hard their own language is to learn; it just doesn’t work that way.
>With state sponsored slang of Ebonics<
All dialects are legitimate languages. The reason we speak English properly is because William the Conqueror came over and killed a bunch of Anglo Saxons and made people speak like him. Proper English is no more a legitimate communication medium than Ebonics or any other dialect.
Romanian isn’t a difficult language for English speakers to learn at all. For the most part, it’s just old Italian (hence ROMAN-ia) and has the elegance and simplicity of Italian, with a tiny bit of slavic influence aided by the clever use of diacritic marks.
To me, it’s a wonderful, historic language, and one which could have easily disappeared. Before the war, the elite/political/academic classes in Romania mostly spoke/wrote French and 90% of the populace was illiterate. One of the few positive efforts by the communists to make Romanian the official language for everybody, which reinvigorated the language.
As a native English speaker in Romania, I have learned Romanian pretty well (through immersion), but I haven’t learned other languages to compare. I can say I rarely meet other native English speakers who speak Romanian as well as I do, but that could also relate to the incredibly low demand for the language with more than 99% of the world’s population, including among foreigners in Romania. There are fewer people who can fly a hot-air balloon than a 747, but that doesn’t mean the former is harder.
Romanians frequently tell me their language is incredibly hard because verbs have more conjugations for different people (although that means they often leave out pronouns when speaking English and don’t realize it’s incorrect), the definite articles are used as part of the noun, and the very common use of the dative case, which even Italians get wrong in Romanian. What many people miss, regarding any language, is that more rules does NOT imply that something is harder- what’s hardest is when there are no rules.
Most difficult language for the rest of the world to learn… English. It has absolutely no consistent rules for pronunciation and any words that change with case or tense are utterly arbitrary (am, was, will be; run, ran; eat, ate). Have I mentioned we need pronunciation markers for our letters?
This is a bit of an urban legend. English is very difficult for native Chinese speakers to learn, for example, but not so difficult for native German speakers to learn.
Though English is notoriously complex and arcane, there’s a good reason it’s the de facto international language. (And no, that reason isn’t “imperialism.”)
Based on my experience with teaching a Spanish speaker how to read English (and an English speaker!), I disagree.
Also, based on my understanding of world history, I believe imperialism has a lot to do with English being the de facto international language.
If you were making that statement 75-100 years ago, I would be inclined to agree with you; whatever dominance English had in the world would have been due to “imperialism.” Of course, we forget that the French spoken in North Africa, the written Vietnamese alphabet, the aforementioned Afrikaans, and the South American variants of Spanish and Portuguese are all due to the imperialistic intentions of other countries. For some reason, English always gets the “imperialistic” moniker (in many cases this is because people haphazardly use the term “imperialism” when they are really referring to capitalism). Whatever dominance English has today is just because of that-the spread and success of capitalism-and not because of an empire that reached its zenith a hundred years ago.
This empire has not reached its zenith yet.
Capitalism is a very old and basic concept not that different to “The Law of the Jungle” and is of only incidental relevance to the spread of English. It so happened that The Industrial Revolution and the subsequent age of mass communication took place mostly in Western Europe during the height of the British Empire. Had these events occurred a hundred years earlier the predominant language would be French, which was at that time the language of international diplomacy. If telegraphy, the telephone, radio, television, and the internet had been developed 400 years ago everyone’s second language would be Latin.
Capitalists are corrupt to function as a society we need socialism
And what would that reason be?
German is a very close relative of English, so that makes sense. I was speaking in hyperbole, and I recognize the things that make English accessible to so many non-native speakers. All of the letters are pretty simple for most other speakers, grammar is simple and dictated by word-order rather than a complex declension system, and so on. But English is still a language dominated by exceptions because of all the borrowed words.
English is very difficult for native English speakers.
What do you claim the reason is, if not the obvious?
Like AStev says, it depends who you ask. Many Germans I’ve talked to consider English one of the easiest languages to learn.
Thats likely mostly due to the fact that the MAJORITY of english words that are borrowed from other languages come from german. pretty much all of what we dont get from the romance languages (read latin) comes from german.
Not true. I think you are confusing German and Germanic. German and English do belong to the same branch of Germanic languages, but German is not one of the major influences on English vocabulary. Most of the words of Germanic origin in English come either from Old English (a surprisingly low percentage), or from Scandinavian languages (Old Norse, to be exact). The French/Latin comment is also sort of incorrect. French and Latin were both major influences, but they are obviously not the same. Words entered English directly from Latin mostly during the Roman conquest, and later, during and after the Renaissance. French (i.e. Old Norman) was a direct influence for some 300 years after the Norman conquest.
I must also say that, as a language teacher, I find these estimates to be overly optimistic.
The universal language isn’t English, it’s broken English. :) That being said, English is pretty easy for most of the world to speak. Simple sentence construction.
English is easy.
Been thinking about Ethiopian lately and I think Amharic would be on the extra hard end of the chart.
I have studied at various times Arabic, Korean, and Amharic. They are all hard languages. This chart is not complete, but is just an excerpt from the complete rankings of languages by the Foreign Service Institute, which teaches many, if not most, of the world’s languages to foreign affairs personnel.
I LOVE that Romanian is on the list! I seemed to pick it up pretty easily when I went there (three times). People would ask me where I’m from, expecting me to answer with a city in Romania, and when I’d say, “California,” they’d be like, “Wait what?! Your pronunciation is perfect!”
I think they were just being nice, Tabitha. You can’t go to a country 3 times and speak like a native. Sorry
Not neccessarily. Maybe she has a very good ear.
I know someone who is often taken for a native speaker of various languages which he knows very little of, because his pronunciation of the little he does know is very good.
As ‘Where are you from’ is somthing that is likely to come very early in a conversation, what Tabitha says may be quite correct.
Well, it depends. I speak italian language like an native Rome citizen ( Rome accent and way of speaking.. yeah.. it’s not just the accent) and i actually never been to Italy. But many native italan speakers tought i’m from Rome. Anyway, this “skill” is simply due to the nature of my job.
I do speak some other languages at various levels but i never been interested to learn them better.
Anyway, related to romanian.. i speak this language native. It’s true, it’s easy to learn it. The grammar is simple, very well structured, the words are, most of them, easy to pronounce.
However, something that many don’t realize is that in romanian a single word can have 2 or more senses, be used in the same phrase with all those various senses and there’s no way to get the right sense of those words if you don’t have along practice speaking it.
Just an example: the romanian word “par”.
par = pole, thorn
par = equal, even
par = resemble
Anyway.. as we romanian’s say.. “Na-ţi-o frântă că ţi-am dres-o!” ( might be a good phrase to start larning romanian :) )
Have fun, that’s all that matter, even when learning a new language.
That’s not quite true, I have a friend who moved to the US from Brazil when she was 9, and didn’t speak a word of English, but she picked it up in three months, and when she speaks she doesn’t have an accent (I only met her freshman year of high school, but people who knew her for much longer said she never had an accent when speaking English). On the other hand I have another friend who moved to the US from the DR when she was nine as well, and she has a pretty thick accent. It’s different for different people.
Japanese isn’t actually that difficult if you take writing out of the equation. It just takes so stinking long to learn the kanji characters. In my opinion the grammar is, at times, more logical than English. Example: English: Let’s go shopping today. Japanese: Today shopping let’s go. (Kyou wa kaimono ni ikimashou.)
That said, I am starting a Mandarin community education class next Wednesday- which I’m bracing myself for.
この飲料水は放射性である。申し訳ありません。 This handy phrase will get you started on Japanese.
Please someone explain to me how the grammar of today let’s go shopping is any better than let’s go shopping today.
I was wondering the same as you…
Japanese is sooooooooo easy… there are practically zero exceptions to the grammar part of it. Once you learn the writing and basic structure than it’s really easy.
Using proper honourifics makes japanese very difficult. Meaning, I cannot use the same basic sentence structure when I speak to everyone. They will politely pretend they understand but they’re thinking how stupid cam this person be when, for example, I speak to my boss the same way I speak to my wife or children. The grammar may seemingly remain static but the use of age-appropriate vocabulary, gender-appropriate sentence and grammatical structure, and religio-social-economic contextually-appropriate vocabulary — these add on to the complexity of learning the Japanese language. And then add there is the use of “connectives” which native Japanese speakers love to use … but this is another topic. But perhaps what makes Japanese more difficult is that the spoken language is inseparable from its culture.
I live and teach in Japan. I’ve seen old men and women have trouble writing things down because of the characters, and adults misunderstanding oral messages because of the similarity between completely unrelated words pronunciation because of kanji combinations. The vast majority of young Japanese can’t even use Keigo (honorific speech) correctly, and this is brought up on TV all the time here. The difficulty of the language is the reason why most people have no choice but to use the most simplest of words to communicate with each other on a day-to-day basis, and all TV is subtitled constantly to help native speakers’ comprehension (the same happens for other extremely difficult languages like Chinese and Korean). Japanese is rightly ranked as one of the hardest language to learn, let alone speak, read, write and comprehend for native speakers.
It certainly depends on the person – and personally I’m terrible at languages other than English, largely because I can’t even recognize the differences in phonemes. Chinese has something like four “ch” sounds, and I only hear one.
Talking to people around the world, I get the feeling that basic English is relatively easy to learn, but mastering it is quite difficult due to the spelling and exceptions to the rule. English spelling is actually mostly logical – if you take into account that it has merged two major and several minor languages and spelling systems into it. English spelling also plays a role similar to Chinese characters when it comes to differentiating homonyms.
But Japanese, for instance – I’m thinking it was the number 7 that I was once trying to use in a phrase. I pronounced it one way – but no, one pronounces it slightly different with some words – so a little later I used it with another word – nope, wrong sound – so I tried it with the second sound – nope, in this case a THIRD sound is used in the pronunciation.
Which is not to pick on Japanese, but just to point out that every language has its oddities.
The easiest language for me has been Spanish as spoken in Argentina and Uruguay, mainly because I can hear the sounds the way they speak it. I’m still not good at it, but it’s better than anything else, including the French I learned in school.
Glad to know I picked one of the hardest languages to learn…
*Insert anecdotal contrarian comment (just for the hell of it) here*
Funny thing. No.
Would love to know what they mean by “language proficiency”. Those kind of hours certainly don’t mean fluency … and proficiency must be fairly low for those low hours.
I certainly agree with the hours and proficiency thing for Portuguese. I would consider myself to be proficient in Portuguese, and I have probably put in about 400-500 hours. Of course it took me about 1 year to do it, but I wasn’t very motivated. Also, I have a friend who became almost fluent in Portuguese in about 6 months.
That’s what I was wondering too. Motivation and exposure is a large factor in how fast one learns a language. If I wanted to learn German, for instance, and really wanted to, then I would most likely learn it faster or memorize more vocabulary. Also, if I introduce myself to more of its culture, trying to read beginning books and such, then I will also learn it faster. But if I have less desire, then I learn it less fast.
In regards to your other post (for some reason it wouldn’t let me respond to it), German was not included because it is more difficult to learn than the languages in the easy category, yet not as difficult as the languages in the medium category.
Dutch’s sentence structure is much more similar to English than German. German’s three genders and numerous cases are difficult for English speakers at first. I am hoping to study Dutch next as I know both English and German. I’ve spoken with linguists about this and they’ve explained that Dutch is considered to be in between English and German, making it very easy for a speaker of those two languages to learn.
It’s just because portuguese is similar to spanish … it makes the things easier, try to learn portuguese without know how to speak spanish or any latin language
Swahili is incredibly easy for English Speakers to learn as well.
I’d be curious to know why German isn’t on here. My guess is that it would be
‘medium-easy’ — more complex grammar than Dutch but still relatively easy for English speakers.
This chart is not complete, but is just an excerpt from the complete rankings of languages by the Foreign Service Institute, which teaches many, if not most, of the world’s languages to foreign affairs personnel.
Yeah. You are correct. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers
I feel like this is just organizing them by language families and lexical similarities. A lot makes sense but a lot can also be argued why it does not.
Thanks for posting this Abraham. I use an old-fashioned FSI chart with this information in language acquisition training that I do in China (to foreigners prepping to learn Chinese). This is a great representation of the graphs, although the graphs factor in aptitude and the time needed to achieve different levels of proficiency. This information really helps people re-set their expectations on what it will take them to achieve Chinese language proficiency.
I disagree with all your ‘class hours’ to achieve proficiency. If achieving proficiency means engaging in simple conversations about daily life topics…that’s fine. However, to me, achieving proficiency means being able to deal with almost every topic in that language; as close as a native as possible. I can assure you that with 2.200 hours of class you are pretty far away of using Japanese as a ‘proficient user’.
I would be inclined to say that they mean, able to speak the language, not necessarily fluently. And like they said at the top of the chart: There are a variety of variables to how fast one can become proficient. For example, if you are emerged in a foreign language, and you are motivated to learn the language, devoting an hour a day to the task, I think one would become fluent, in any language, relatively fast.
How is this possible? In Brazil we have 190 million people and we talk portuguese. What you mean with this 178m?
they completely forgot about Welsh…gaelic…they are some of the hardest to learn…
Okay but nobody cares about/speaks those languages, duh
I’m a linguistic major and by far Chinese has been the easiest for me to learn but that’s mostly because Spanish has so many conjunctions and tenses and Chinese verbs never change, the writing is fun if you have a good attitude about it. Also many Chinese natives have said that learning English was easy, and for most of the world, it is as well.
I’m a Chinese native, and I found learning English very difficult. (So did most of my friends who are also Chinese.) I think it’s because English grammar is so complicated and illogical (especially when compared with Chinese grammar). Spelling is a big issue as well.
i am native chinese and think english was difficult as well. let alone the inconsistent grammar rules, most vocabularies have more than one meanings(some imaginary or contrary) of which can be ambiguous in speech. for chinese, all you have to learn fist is pin yin, so you know how to pronouce that characters. you will need to memorize about 3000 charaters for average needs like reading news paper. however, there are more than 500,000 english words. i just had memorized 2000 new vocabs from sat|gre study guides and thats only a drop in the bucket. everyday i still encounter new words after 20 years living in this country.
ps. sorry, tablet pc difficult to type
I started learning Korean and I didn’t think that it was all that difficult, it wasn’t that different from English. The character are simply letters like our alphabet and you combine characters to form words just like in English etc etc.
Hmmm…. Anyone can learn to read Korean letters, that’s the easy part. The hard part comes in with all of the grammar forms. Verb conjugation is especially difficult. Good Luck!
Dude, Korean’s got conjugation with every verb having more than 600 possible different endings depending on degree of politeness, age, seniority, tones and other nuances. (So there’s basically 600 different ways to say a same damn thing) Korean adjectives are also conjugated, with more than 500 possible endings. So I’d say it’s one of the most (if not the most) grammatically rigorous language. And also as you progress you’ll discovers that there are many, many unique sounds in Korean, and that they escape you ear. You can listen and listen for hours to pairs of contrasting consonants and hardly get the difference – not speaking of reproducing it.
The population of Turkey is more than 70 million, so how could there be only 50.8 million native speakers?
Not everyone in every country speaks the official language of that country as their first language.
Immigrants and ethnic enclaves contribute to this, especially in America, but in Turkey I’d imagine the numbers don’t match because of the large number of Kurds (Armenians, Greeks and others as well).
I was glad to see Portuguese on the “easy” end of things. I have heard that it is one of the most difficult, but I did not find that to be true. It has a very “regular” (few exceptions) pronunciation and grammar. It is also a very musical language, flowing naturally from the lips.
The chart is a little off as to the number of native speakers. There are 190 million in Brazil alone, plus another 10 million in Portugal.
The chart isn’t off. Not everyone in Brazil is a “native” speaker of Portuguese. A large chunk of the population is indigenous and speak Portuguese that language as a second language or not at all.
Do you know Brazil?
Less than 0,2% of the population speaks indigenous languages in Brazil!
Just for you know, there are more people speaking German than indigenous languages in Brazil!
Please don’t say anything when you don’t know!
A very small minority speak indigenous. I guess you also don’t know that in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guine-Bissau, São Tomé e Principe and East-Timor, Portuguese is the official language. The population of these countries overpasses by far the indigenous speaking brazilians.
As a native Dutch speaker I have to disagree. From what I have heard from students here, who have to learn Dutch, it’s as hard as Chinese. The Dutch language has many irregularities, both in pronounciation as in writing.
But it is an interesting language of course ;)
spain isn’t the only place where the speak spanish… just saying
I couldn’t agree more!
Apparently 5 million people were counted twice in the Netherlands.
In Vietnam the researcher forgot to count 18 million.
In Spain every citizen was counted 7.15 times.
In South Africa only one in ten was counted…
In Thailand only one in three was counted.
In Portugal every citizen was counted 17 times !!!!!!!
In India only in 6.6 people were counted !!!!!!
I’m stopping my search here, it’s obvious this article lacks the needed scientific approach to be taken serious.
While you are correct that several of the numbers are incorrect, you forget that Portuguese and Spanish are spoken in more countries than just Portugal or Spain. In fact, I’m surprise the numbers for both of those languages isn’t higher. Hindi isn’t spoken by every citizen of India, quite the contrary, many Indians speak “local” languages, though calling them local seems rather naive since there are millions speaking each of them. Afrikaans is spoken by many more, probably around 12 million. Anyway, you are correct on some counts, but it seems that your research methods are flawed as well.
Once again, these numbers are the amount of native speakers worldwide. It’s confusing because they put a picture of the country containing the most native speakers next to it.
Ergo, native Spanish speakers everywhere from Spain to Mexico to Argentina to America are included in that count. Not everyone in Thailand speaks Thai as their first language, etc.,
There seems to be a common misconception that everyone in a particular country has the same language/ethnicity. That’s simply not true of the vast majority of countries.
I guess you don’t know that in Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Principe and East-Timor, Portuguese is the official language! So in fact the number of native speakers is even higher than the one mentioned
There are no languages that originated in Africa on this list! Lots of them are spoken in various African countries (Afrikaans, English, Portuguese, Arabic, French), but the major languages of wider communication in Africa are omitted from the list. Why aren’t Swahili, Lingala, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, or others included?
I will attest to Yoruba being hard. Learned that for a good chunk in my life, and I didn’t grasp it one bit. Bits and pieces I remember, but I cannot carry out a conversation to save my life.
What about Finnish, Hungarian and Basque, killers every one of them.
Suomi (Finnish) is listed – in the Medium category.
Is this based on immersion, or taking classes?
Obvious omission is the primary language of Indonesia (the ummmm fourth most populous nation on the planet).
I have to disagree a bit on what’s hard or not according to the chart.
Thai is an exceptionally hard language to learn to speak, read and write. 44 consonants, about 30 vowels, some ancient letters that aren’t used much – just enough to confuse you. Throw into the mix that there are only breaks between sentences (not between words) and it’s a bit daunting. It’s a 5 tone language to boot with no consistent high, mid or low like Chinese but is set by the voice tone of the speaker. So two people can say the same word but one is high toned and the other low in tone.
Throw into it the fact that although Central Thai is the language taught in school even small areas have dialects that are hard to decipher and often people mix dialects as well within a conversation. Conversations at our wedding had about 5-6 distinct dialects all going on at once in the same conversation. A normal dinner at home has three – Isan, Northern and Central – depending on who is speaking to who.
I actually found Japanese to be quite easy to learn as speech but I never really learned to read well, same with Chinese. I have good Vietnamese friends and we speak English because they can’t understand anything in Thai and Vietnamese just sounds like high pitched mumbling to me.
Spanish, French, German (not on the list) and Italian are all quite easy to understand if you have English skills. You don’t even have to be a native English speaker to watch the news and get a good idea what’s going on.
I think by “proficiency” they mean you will be able to order burgers in McDonald’s.
Not surprisingly, Mongolian did not make it on the list, but it is extremely difficult for native English speakers as well due to the grammatical structure and the quirks from its alphabet being converted to Cyrillic.
Love the graphic and the idea behind it. However, I have to agree with @Ricefield radio about Thai. The tones definitely make it difficult, there are multiple letters for the same phoneme, no space between words (only at the end of a sentence), the tones change depending on the class of the consonant (high, mid, and low), consonant sounds change when they are used at the end of a syllable/word (s->d), as well as the presence of many diphthongs and triphthongs.
What about Gaelic? I don’t see that listed. (Olde English would be fun to learn also!)
This infographic is very true. I’m a native English speaker from England. I’ve been learning Japanese for 4 years and norwegian for about 6 weeks. Norwegian IS SO SO EASY after learning to read, speak and write Japanese.
This is quite subjective… Dutch is NOT an easy language. In fact, it is regarded as one of the more medium/difficult languages. More importantly, German isn’t even listed here and it’s the #1 language of Business and one of the top 3 most popular in Europe as well as one of the most widely spoken languages world wide. This graph is not worth anyone’s time.
Cherokee is the hardest
I SPEAK EIGHT LANGUAGES IN TOTAL, AMONG WHICH RUSSIAN AND CHINESE AND YOUR CLASSIFICATION IS TOTALLY WRONG! RUSSIAN IS VERY FAR FROM BEING MEDIUM EASY SINCE ITS GRAMMAR IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT AND ITS PRONUNCIATION QUITE DIFFICULT FOR NON NATIVES! I WOULD RATE IT EVERY BIT AS DIFFICULT AS CHINESE DEPENDING OF COURSE WHETHER YOU WANT TO LEARN IT SUPERFICIALLY OR FOR REAL! IT CAN TAKE YEARS OF HARD WORK TO REALLY MASTER IT!
WHY IS NOT GERMAN WITH THE EASY LANGUAGES TO MASTER FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS!?! DUTCH IS VERY CLOSE TO GERMAN AND ITS PRONUNCIATION ABOUT A HUNDRED TIMES HARDER THAN IT FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS SO IT DOES MAKE SENSE TO ME TO PUT DUTCH IN THE EASY LANGUAGES AND FORGET ABOUT GERMAN ALTOGETHER! POLISH IS NOT MEDIUM DIFFICULT TO PRONOUNCE, IT IS EXTREMELY DIFFICULT TO WRITE AND PRONOUCE AND IS RATED AS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD TO LEARN FOR FOREIGNERS, SO!?! WELL I COULD WRITE MORE, BUT I THINK THAT YOU ALREADY GOT MY DRIFT! DON’T TRUST THAT CHART AT ALL
slow down cowboy, I think someone jammed down your caps lock key. Also I am a native English speaker and was taught by my polish grandfather, at age 11, to speak and write Polish. I would actually put it in the Super easy category.
CORRECTION…IT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE TO ME TO PUT DUTCH IN THE EASY LANGUAGES AND FORGET ABOUT GERMAN ALTOGETHER!
There is one MAJOR language missing from this chart: German under easy. ENGLISH IS FROM GERMAN! A lot of the words are the same. People always miss this one and say Spanish is closer..Spanish should actually be on the medium chart!
English isn’t from German, they came from the same language but developed separately from there. Except that English has changed a lot after the split due to French influence and so the grammar is actually closer to romance languages than Germanic ones, I have reached fluency in Italian and I learnt German for maybe eight months – Italian was far easier to learn once you get your head around conjugating verbs. This would be about the same as with Spanish, which I also learnt for about 4 years, it is very similar to Italian.
As a kid, I could understand a fair bit of the German I heard on TV without ever having had a lesson, as it’s by FAR the most similar language to English.
To quote the experts:
“…English is a West Germanic language that originated from the Anglo-Frisian and Old Saxon dialects brought to Britain by Germanic settlers from various parts of what is now northwest Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands…”
It could just be me but I’ve taken a good amount of both Russian and Japanese… Russian was easily 5 times harder.
Dear lord, how do you get that English came out of German? I mean, I guess if you’re going for OLD English and some sort of old barbaric form of German… Anyhow, I agree Russian may be ranked higher, as far as it is hard for native English speakers to learn… Though it should seem pretty obvious that Japanese, and other more southeastern languages may be harder to learn for native English speakers, on account of the use of inflection, and tone to define a word, rather than using inflection and tone as only expression. (I know, Russia is in Asia as well, but as far as I know they don’t use tone and inflection as defining bits of their vocabulary?)
Chinese and some of the southeast Asian languages (among others) are tonal. Japanese and Korean are NOT tonal.
I believe much of this information is wrong. Finnish is one of the absolute hardest languages for English speakers to learn.
Actually Finnish is not very hard to learn at all. I have a more difficult time learning Russian than finish.I even listen to finish music because I learner it fairly quickly and can understand it pretty well
People think that I’m abnormal. I speak English, Spanish, Mandarin (Chinese), Malay, Japanese, Korean, Penang Hokkien and Teochew fluently and a little bit of French and Cantonese.
Hello, Hola, 你好, Helo, こんにちは, 안녕하세요, lu ho bo?, lu chia pa liao bui?, Bojour, nei hou
Do u have an eidetic memory or something? I’m really skeptical.
According to OIF in 2010, french speaker are at least 220 millions (probably 380 millions).
English is my mother-tongue and I speak 7 additional languages at various levels of ability, as well as regularly playing around with the basics of other languages… and I can say that Hungarian and Finnish are the hardest languages I’ve come across.
The concoction of both languages being ‘glutonous’ with very high rule-based grammatical structures and countless grammatical exceptions, make learning it a very technical and theoretical experience.
I’ve read some people commenting on Romanian… but it’s not difficult at all and very simple in comparison.
This list would be great to see expanded fully. I can imagine languages like Irish and Basque fitting in the middle category, Georgian maybe in the third.
You have forgotten Esperanto in your document. It is the easier language to learn. (150 hours to learn language)
You are very optimist because to learn french or anglais you need 1500 hours.
Vi forgesi Esperanton. Ĝi estas facila lingvo. (150 horojn lerni lingvon)
Vi estas tre optimisma ĉar lerni franca aŭ anglais vi bezonas 1500 horojn.
India has 15 national languages recognized by the constitution and spoken in over 1,600 dialects, which are more than spoken in the entire Europe.
Although Hindi is the more popular to name, Tamil literature ia as vast and rich as can be English.
One can easily learn hindi watching Bollywood (Hindi) movies. Bollywood stands second after hollywood in film production with approx 800 films per year.
There are 73 million Turkish speakers in Turkey alone, add another 50 with Azerbaijan, uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Germany, France … Please update the figure
The big biaise in this study is that most of the people studied are from europeen and western countries, so it is easiest for them to learn spanish, french.. and other languages derived from the Latin.
Great work. However, I still think that its a rather subjective topic. In the end it depends really depends on your native tongue as well.
To give us a clearer picture, we could break the languages down to their individual parts. For instance, analyzing the grammar, speaking, and writing aspects of the language.
You can check out this list:
I’ve been learning Hebrew and its syntax is similar to English so I agree with the Medium assessment. However I find it hard to understand why Arabic should be “hard” to learn. Both are closely-related Semitic languages and modern Hebrew rarely uses vowels. Just my two cents.
Disagree on the Chinese point. With no inflections and no conjugation, and as a monomorphemic language, you get a lot of “bang” for the buck. Chinese learners I know say you progress very quickly. The tones don’t seem to hang most people.
Agreed on the difficulty of the writing system, though. But it might be worth pointing out the benefits of that system–speakers of non-mutually-intelligible dialects are able to communicate through the written word. Nice.
Also, I find the “proficiency” numbers to be wildly understated. But in my experience, people overstate their abilities in a second language to an astonishing degree. The number of times I’ve heard people say “I’m basically fluent” or “I have near-native speaker fluency” in a language they speak worse than I do … ARGH!
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