Thursday, November 8, 2012

Challenging Languages

If you’re considering learning a new language for school, work or personal enrichment, it pays to know which languages are the hardest to learn. Rather than rely on apocryphal data, use this research-based list to learn which languages you should avoid if you’re not seeking a challenge. 

1. Korean. The United States Foreign Service Institute (FSI) trains federal employees for work overseas, including language preparation. The FSI has ranked Korean as the most difficult language for English-speakers to learn, due to the tonal structure and imported Chinese words. However, Korean uses a symbol-based alphabet, like English, making basic reading/writing easy to learn.

2. Japanese. Your vocabulary and grammar in this language are based on your gender, age and relative position of power compared to your audience, meaning you will have to learn many forms of the same words. The National Virtual Translation Center considers Japanese the most difficult language to world.

3. Navajo. Japanese speakers are excellent code breakers, partly due to the difficulty of their own language. During World War II, Navajo speakers were used to transmit classified information over the airwaves, and the Japanese never managed to understand the complexity of the Navajo language. Rather than using loan words from other languages, Navajo defines foreign objects by stacking multiple prefixes on to existing words, resulting in terms with nine or ten syllables each. Additionally, few native speakers of Navajo remain, especially compared to other languages.

4. Basque. Spoken by a few villages in remote regions of Spain and France, Basque is one of the few language isolates of the European continent. Unlike Spanish or French, this language contains few cognates, so learners will have no familiar terms to help them learn. The British Foreign Office considers Basque the hardest language to learn.

5. Arabic. As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, Arabic has spawned tens if not hundreds of dialects. In addition, many Arabic countries experience triiglossia: One version of Arabic is used for religious texts and vocabulary, a second version is used for literature and media and a third version is spoken on a daily basis. Arabic learners will have to master each version of the language for full comprehension.

Luckily, you still have many choices for easy, widely spoken languages. Consider French, Spanish, German or even Hindi and you could be speaking a new language in a year or two. Stay away from the five languages listed here unless you want to spend a decade mastering a new tongue.
Author Byline:
Ken Myers as an Expert Advisor on multiple household help issues to many Organizations and groups, and is a mentor for other “Mom-preneurs” seeking guidance.  He is a regular contributor of “”.  You can get in touch with him at 

No comments:

Post a Comment