Hardest language to pronounce?

Nanon

Senior Member
français (France)
For me Spanish is difficult, so many irregular verbs, you can't guess the pronunciation of the verbal forms from the infinitive!!! For me they are irregular sim senhor!
This is all so relative... But, even pronouncing Portuguese correctly is hard for a Spanish speaker--despite being very similar languages. It goes to show that even if languages are very similar, all bets are off when it comes to phonology or pronunciation.
I agree, koniecswiata. The problem with very close languages is that some people believe that they will learn all of the other language easily, or that because the understand well, they will be understood in the same way.
Sorry, Istriano, so many Portuguese speakers think that Spanish is much easier than their own language - however, erm, it is not always so. So maybe those regular-irregular Spanish verbs are... just fair :D. I myself fell in the trap of believing that Portuguese would be easy for me using Spanish as a starting point... soon I discovered that if I wanted to progress, I had to dissociate the two languages and to get rid of that idea, otherwise I would have to add my name to the already long list of Portunhol speakers :D.
In this post, Orlin is telling me something similar about Bulgarians who believe they speak good Russian. It is true that the vocabulary is close and that most parts of a text are understandable to speakers of the other language, but if you don't do some efforts, you won't manage to speak properly. From my personal experience, I know that Bulgarians have a hard time with Russian noun declensions... but for me (my only Slavic language being Russian) Bulgarian verb tenses are a jungle :p.
We are attracted by easiness... and when we face something difficult, surprise-surprise :p.
 
  • Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    I myself fell in the trap of believing that Portuguese would be easy for me using Spanish as a starting point... soon I discovered that if I wanted to progress, I had to dissociate the two languages and to get rid of that idea, otherwise I would have to add my name to the already long list of Portunhol speakers :D.
    I don't think your approach is good, because by avoiding contrasting Portuguese and Spanish you will mix them, eventually. The best thing for you is a book like Español para brasileiros where differences between two languages are dealt with. :) So, in the 1st lesson you learn gender differences (la sal ~ o sal, la señal ~ o sinal, la nariz ~ o nariz) and so on. :) The key to success is confronting differences and not fleeing from them. :)
     

    Montesacro

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    - there's almost no italians who knows the difference between pésca and pèsca or vénti and vènti -
    Huh? :confused:
    There are millions of Italians who know and make that difference.
    Are you Italian? Have you ever heard a Roman or a Tuscan speak?

    Please, next time add a small pinch of accuracy to your posts.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    there's almost no italians who knows the difference between pésca and pèsca or vénti and vènti - and survive happily...)
    Hi Egisto. Pésca is fish and pèsca is peach, vénti is winds and vènti is 20? Am I right? How I wish Italian used accent marks more often :)

    In general, I don't know if there are easy or hard languages to pronounce. I'm used to languages with lots of different vowel sounds like French, so when I find "vocal" languages I feel at ease. But I'm often taken aback with languages like Russian or German with 3 or 4 consonant clusters in a row. I'm sure Slavs must find Romance languages wickedly difficult though. If I ever tried learning Mandarin I'm sure I'd have a heck of a time with the different tones.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    Well, in Milan pésca is peach and pèsca is fishing, and Milan accent is kinda accent of wannabe's and rich people, and snobs. :)
    The Milan accent has 7 vowels but completely different from Tuscany and Rome: tréno, témpo, vendéndo, stèlla, perchè, ventitrè :)
    Even between Rome and Tuscany there are many differences in prounciation: trénta ~ trènta; pósto ~ pòsto; rispósta ~ rispòsta; spòsa ~ spósa; niènte ~ niénte; ièri ~ iéri. :)
    Every city in Italy has different pronunciation rules for stressed e's and o's. :)
     
    Last edited:

    Montesacro

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    Pésca is fishing :tick: and pèsca is peach :tick:, vénti is winds :cross:and vènti is 20 :cross:? Am I right?
    Well, in Milan pésca is peach and pèsca is fishing, and Milan accent is kinda accent of wannabe's and rich people, and snobs. :)
    The Milan accent has 7 vowels but completely different from Tuscany and Rome: tréno, témpo, vendéndo, stèlla, perchè, ventitrè :)
    Even between Rome and Tuscany there are many differences in prounciation: trénta ~ trènta; pósto ~ pòsto; rispósta ~ rispòsta; spòsa ~ spósa; niènte ~ niénte; ièri ~ iéri. :)
    Every city in Italy has different pronunciation rules for stressed e's and o's. :)
    Your post is full of glaring blunders.


    In the Milanese accent there’s no phonemic opposition between è and é, i.e. they are allophones.
    “Pesca” is always pronounced pèsca, regardless of its meaning (fishing or peach).


    As for the differences in pronunciation between Rome and Tuscany:
    - spósa is the old traditional Roman pronunciation, but nowadays it has nearly completely been replaced by spòsa (just like in Tuscany)
    - iéri and niénte are simply non-existent both in Rome and in Tuscany (I think you might hear those pronunciations in the north-westernmost tip of Tuscany where, by the way, they don’t speak a Tuscan dialect).
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    7 vowels are not really necessary for perfect Italian, no professors insist on this. :) Unlike in French where professors insists on difference between open e's and o's because they're important for French.
    In Italian, they're becoming more end more like allophones of the same vowel differently from Portuguese where all speakers use 7 vowels and the opposition between close and open e's and o's is essential.

    In Italian, è ~ é ò ~ ó difference is like cot ~ caught difference in Northern American English, 50 % of speakers have the merger. :)
     
    Last edited:

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    Istriano is right. Anyway, standard italian exists but in theory (in dictionary or used by professional speakers): so vènti is winds and vénti is 20, pèsca is that fruit and pésca fishing and so on... but, yeah, it's true: in reality in some regions or cities these differences don't work. For ex. "bène" (well) is the standard pronunciation (almost exagerate in Roma: bbééne; but in northern Italy you can ear only béne) (and if you are in Parma the number 7 is "sétte" or in Rimini 6 is "séi" - the standard is sètte and sèi: and "sette" could be sect, "secret societies", and sei could be "you are"; you can get out of trouble only considering context of word, not the "sound....". Of course we can't end this debate.
     

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    Oh, sorry, I didn't see Montesacro's reprimand.... Ok, There're italians who know the differences (but I'm not sure they are majority....)
     

    Alma de cántaro

    Senior Member
    Español ibérico
    I don't think Spanish is that perfect, for example, the simple r's in some words are strong (as if they were spelled rr): sonrisa and Israel, pronounced as: sonrrisa, Isrrael,
    yet it's not indicated in the spelling. :)
    Double "-rr-" only works between vowels in Spanish for hard sound. This rule doesn't have any exception. What's so difficult for you about "-rr-"?

    Saludos
     

    Nanon

    Senior Member
    français (France)
    I don't think your approach is good, because by avoiding contrasting Portuguese and Spanish you will mix them, eventually. The key to success is confronting differences and not fleeing from them.
    I've been through that a long time ago, Istriano. If I had been fleeing from differences I would still mix genders as you say, but if I really know the word I don't.
    There is however one statement I can agree with in your post - it is universally valid, anyway: The key to success is confronting differences and not fleeing from them. What I meant is that 1) a great number of Portuguese speakers think Spanish is extremely easy, that 2) a great number of Spanish speakers expect to know everything about Portuguese and that 3) both points of view are gross misperceptions.
     

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    Languages that are "relatives" (spanish, portuguese, italian for ex: all coming from latin) have the big problem of the "false friends" (words, sounds and meaning you suppose exactly alike and instead very different...
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    This is true, Spanish ñ and Italian gn are nothing like Brazilian nh (although they are similar to Portuguese nh, but not quite the same).
     

    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    Worse: Spanish ll in its most common realization and Italian gl:
    I've heard a Hispanoamerican singer pronounce a word "voio" instead of "voglio" with a clear "l"
     

    TitTornade

    Senior Member
    Hi,
    My mother tongue has no tones: for me, languages with tones are difficult to pronounce (Vietnamese, Cantonese… are a challenge to me!!).
    My mother tongue is not intensively stressed: for me, languages with intensive stress are difficult to pronounce (English, Russian, Italian… are a challenge to me!!).
    My mother tongue has no h, th (þ), dh (ð), r, rr, χ… sounds: for me, languages with such sounds are difficult to pronounce, they make my tongue twisting (English, Arabic (with two h !!), Icelandic, Spanish… are a challenge to me !!).
    When I’m speaking my mother tongue, there are almost as many vowel sounds as consonant sounds: for me, languages with too much consonants are difficult to pronounce (German, Arabic, English… are a challenge to me!!).
    My mother tongue has no diphthongs: for me, languages with diphthongs are difficult to pronounce (English and most of the IE languages… are a challenge to me!!).

    My mother tongue is the only language I perfectly speak! For me, it is the easiest one, though many people say it is difficult to learn it (too many vowels, strange “r” or nasal vowels…)
    Besides, the most spoken language is mandarin Chinese (Hanyu): it may be the easiest to speak, right? Or perhaps is it Arabic ?

    Conclusion: the hardest language to pronounce depends on who you are and even your neighbors’ language can be the most difficult. The criteria should be described to possibly choose the hardest language to pronounce.

    Anecdote: some languages are so difficult that the dialects suppress the difficulties: no th, dh, q in Lebanese, diphthongs or th that disappear in English…
     

    Angelo di fuoco

    Senior Member
    Russian & German (GER) bilingual
    In my area (and I think in Rome also) it is very common to drop the palatal /ʎ/ altogether and pronounce it as the approximant consonant /j/.
    Didn't know that. I speak only standard Italian, and the first and only time I was in Italy when I barely could manage to construct a phrase in spoken Italian (as a child)...
     

    krloszz

    Senior Member
    Mexican Spanish-Centro del Pais
    A little bit late, and I have read the 9 pages, so I will give my two cents.

    I have learned English since I was like 3 years old (and now I'm 20). I'm pretty good in pronunciation (but not the same for writting, as you could see xD), I think because of music, movies, t.v, etc., etc.... Americans and Canadians that I know told me that i don't have 'That' Mexican accent and some people could think that I'm native... I don't think so but anyway...

    Most people say that the vowels in English are difficult, I think they aren't, but well, is just my apreciation. Neither Portuguese or French seems difficult to me, but other spanish-speakers couldn't say the same. Between Indo-European Languages, I find it difficult the Slavic languages and Welsh and Irish and Danish, maybe due to my lack of experience with them.

    Like is mentioned above, tonal languages (Chinese, Vietnamese, Oto-Mangue languages in Mexico) are really difficult for people with lack of experience (personally, I never learned any of these), and also languages with complicated consonants clusters (Caucasians and some Native Americans Languages)... but my opinion is that everything depends on each one's mother tongue and personal hability with languages.

    Here some of phonetic features that realle makes me suffer (haha):

    -Ejective consonants in Mayan languages (k', t', p' in Yucateco, a q' in Mam Language and sometimes combined with χ... it's almost impossible to pronounce without making laugh to mam people).
    -Pronounce the single ɬ without t. (Spaniards and other South Americans couldn't even say tɬ).
    -The pharyngeal consonants in Semitic Languages.
    -The voiceless r in Welsh.
    -Voiceless vowels in some American Languages (They are pretty weird but... well, they exist).

    Saludos!
     

    Sobakus

    Senior Member
    I'd consider Faroese for that title. Every vowel there is pronounced in two (wierd, wierder than in English) ways, has some glides and the overall orthography falls just short of the most extreme Celtic ones. It also has the four Old Norse cases and other nice things.
     
    Last edited:

    涼宮

    Senior Member
    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    I have read the 9 pages, and really this is an interesting topic, anyway my oinion.

    I have had a look at many languages to see their differences, grammar and so on.

    When I tried to learn Mandarin I found it quite difficult to distinguish between tones upon hearing not using them; to me, tonal languages are difficult.

    I find German, Russian, Icelandic and Norwegian really easy to pronounce, their sound are not that hard, of course, with them I discoverred new sounds such as ð in Icelandic which to my ear is the same sound as the letter ''delta'' in Greek.

    Thanks to French, Russian and German I discovered so many r's, it's quite funny for me :D The German's r sometimes is strong like in betreten and sometimes a guttural sound.

    I think the vowel sounds of French and tonal languages are the hardest thing I have acrossed so far, but to me they are not that hard, but they are hard!

    As regard to English, to me English has always been easy to pronounce, but I am aware of the difficulty it can be for some people, like a Japanese person, Japanese is almost a syllabical language, so to pronounce English is a hell for them (not to mention French and Polish) as they have consonants put together, but still there are sounds for me which I am not able to distinguish very well yet in English, like: still vs steal vs steel.

    There is a curious sound for me in one word, ''illusion'' that word is not pronounced as is written, it sounds like iluzhon (like a mix between a French J and SH sound) like that I heard it.

    But we have to take into account that British English and American are pretty different in pronunciation, I think it counts for some people, for instance, normally to Asian people are taught to learn british so they find it quite easy, but american English is a little harder as they have to pronounce the final sounds which are often omitted in British specially the letter /r/. So I think those kind of characteristics count too, don't they?

    When people hear me talking in English they say I talk with an interesting mix between British accent and Russian, I don't know why:( ( I don't even know Russian, thou)

    But as many here have said, it depends on your mother tongue and what sounds you are get used to, and of course your linguistic abillities:D

    To end this big ''scroll'' of mine, I find quite hard to pronounce Polish, tonal languages and Georgian.

    ほなな~
     
    Last edited:

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    When people hear me talking in English they say I talk with an interesting mix between British accent and Russian, I don't know why:( ( I don't even know Russian, thou)
    Maybe because you pronounce the STRUT vowel as [ä] (low central vowel) which is common in Australian English, and Russian or Spanish accented English.

    The vowel is much higher (more closed) in most English accents,
    but, love are not pronounced like [bät, läv] but as [bət, ləv].


    When a Spanish/Russian/Australian speaker says you [säk], I understand it as you sock.
    I'm not a sock. ;)

    Dance/dunce merger is common in many Australian accents (where both are [däns]), but it should not be imitated by foreign learners. ;)
     
    Last edited:

    name my name

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Differet people would think different.
    They often consider the totally different languages as the most difficult ones. For me, the hardest one is arabic.
     

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    Ok, after this long debate, we've learnt it's all relative.... There's no absolute answer to our first question (hardest language to pronounce?). Everyone has his own answer, his own "enemy" language... but - I beg your pardon - what about chinese or japanese.....?
     

    涼宮

    Senior Member
    Sbaeneg/Castellano (Venezuela)
    Ok, after this long debate, we've learnt it's all relative.... There's no absolute answer to our first question (hardest language to pronounce?). Everyone has his own answer, his own "enemy" language... but - I beg your pardon - what about chinese or japanese.....?
    Unless your language does not use vowels Japanese would be hard, but to the mayority of people Japanese is dead easy to pronounce, I think the only sounds that could be hard are the R, Z and TS if your language does not have them in they way Japanase does, but as I see your native language is Italian, so for you Japanease would be extremely easy to pronounce, besides you have the TS sound, but in Italian it is the Z. I think the only sound you do not have is the Z which is made by your throat. That sound is used a lot in English, French, German, Russian and many more.

    Chinese is one of the hardest for many people as it uses tones, but if you know already vietnamese or thai, then it is not that hard.

    In short, Japanaese= dead easy, Chinese= damn hard

    What makes Japanaese so easy to pronounce is that it is read as written, try to say a sentence, get google translator, write any thing and then hear it, you will notice it is easy, then try Chinese you will kinda suffer :D

    ほなな~
     
    Last edited:

    name my name

    Senior Member
    chinese
    Ok, after this long debate, we've learnt it's all relative.... There's no absolute answer to our first question (hardest language to pronounce?). Everyone has his own answer, his own "enemy" language... but - I beg your pardon - what about chinese or japanese.....?
    Chinese has no language enemy. They get easy to learn other languages, though some are not good at them.:D
     

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    So, I can study... japanese... It's a good news... And, considering the tragedy of the last weeks, it could be right. ... Arigato!
     

    Kannan91

    Member
    Malayalam
    I've never heard a non-native speaker say more than a couple of words of Malayalam in a row with anything resembling an accurate pronunciation. Other Dravidian speakers probably should do reasonably well, but there are always tell-tale signs that give them away (like Tamils not being able to distinguish the two Malayalam "r"s, even though that distinction still theoretically exists in their own language).

    Then again, hardly anyone actually bothers to learn it as a foreign language, so mispronunciation would sound a lot more jarring to a native speaker of Malayalam than to one of English (because English speakers are used to hearing learners).
     

    Copperknickers

    Senior Member
    Scotland - Scots and English
    I've yet to hear anyone do a good imitation of a Glaswegian accent. I can hardly do a really working class one, and I've lived here all my life.
     

    Marnelly

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Caribbean
    How about Damara, spoken in Namibia? It 'sounds' lile the South African Xhosa, only with more clicks. Who would have thought more clicks were possible...
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    I've never heard a non-native speaker say more than a couple of words of Malayalam in a row with anything resembling an accurate pronunciation. Other Dravidian speakers probably should do reasonably well, but there are always tell-tale signs that give them away (like Tamils not being able to distinguish the two Malayalam "r"s, even though that distinction still theoretically exists in their own language).

    Then again, hardly anyone actually bothers to learn it as a foreign language, so mispronunciation would sound a lot more jarring to a native speaker of Malayalam than to one of English (because English speakers are used to hearing learners).
    I don't think you're being fair.
    I could also say: ''I've yet to hear a Keralite who speaks decent English. Even your best teachers speak English that is incomprehensible to Americans and Europeans.''
    Foreigners learn your language (even tho' there are no audio courses at all!!!) not because they want to ridicule your pronunciation, but in order to speak with common folk who don't speak any language other than their own.

    With the help of phonetics, even the hardest languages can be pronounced:

    ഓറഞ്ച്(നിറം) [ˈoːrɐɲdʒɐ(ˈnɪrɐm)]
    തവിട്ടു നിറം
    [ˈt̪ aʋɪʈʈ(ə)ˈnɪrɐm]
    ധൂമ്രവര്‍ണ്ണം [ˈd̪huːmɾɐʋaɾɳɳɐm]





    And ZH is not a unique sound at all, it exists in many languages, even in American English and in Caipira Brazilian Portuguese:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retroflex_approximant




     
    Last edited:

    Egisto

    Senior Member
    italian
    Ehi, guys, reading so many and different opinions about "hardest language", I mean in old latin the impossibility to have a shared and common final opinion: "tot capita tot sententiae"...
     
    Last edited:

    olaszinho

    Senior Member
    Central Italian
    To be honest I have not read all the thread, but what about Danish? In my opinion it is one of the hardest Germanic languages to pronounce. Russian is not that hard, Polish consonants are more difficult and European Portuguese is hard too.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I've yet to hear anyone do a good imitation of a Glaswegian accent. I can hardly do a really working class one, and I've lived here all my life.
    Some people tend to think Scottish accents are easy to do, but I've yet to hear a foreigner who can imitate one to perfection.
    I rarely come across people who can do a good working-class Dublin accent either, including (or especially) other Irish people.
     

    Dix Ponga 9

    Member
    Español de Castilla
    Worse: Spanish ll in its most common realization and Italian gl:
    I've heard a Hispanoamerican singer pronounce a word "voio" instead of "voglio" with a clear "l"
    In Hispanical countries there is a tendency called "yeísmo" which consists of replacing the sound /ʎ/ with the sound /ʝ/. Officially, we should make the diference between both sounds, but nobody does. I do it sometimes.
     

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    In Hispanical countries there is a tendency called "yeísmo" which consists of replacing the sound /ʎ/ with the sound /ʝ/. Officially, we should make the diference between both sounds, but nobody does. I do it sometimes.
    Many Spanish never use [ʝ]. I find [dʒ] more logical: Azerbaiyán with [dʒ], Yénifer (Jennifer) with [dʒ], and Medellín with more logical [dʒ], than with [ʝ].


    Azerbaiyán [ajʝ ] not euphonic and difficult to pronounce.
    Azerbaiyán [ajdʒ] euphonic and easy to pronounce.
     

    KirkandRafer

    Senior Member
    Español (Murcia, España)
    Officially, we should make the diference between both sounds, but nobody does. I do it sometimes.
    Not quite.

    yeísmo. Consiste en pronunciar como /y/, en sus distintas variedades regionales, el dígrafo ll (→ ll): [kabáyo] por caballo, [yéno] por lleno. El yeísmo está extendido en amplias zonas de España y de América y, aunque quedan aún lugares en que pervive la distinción en la pronunciación de ll e y, es prácticamente general entre los jóvenes, incluso entre los de regiones tradicionalmente distinguidoras. Su presencia en amplias zonas, así como su creciente expansión, hacen del yeísmo un fenómeno aceptado en la norma culta.


    Its presence in large areas as well as its growing expansion make of yeismo an accepted phenomenon in the educated norm.

    P.S. Sometimes French gives me nightmares.
     
    Last edited:

    Istriano

    Senior Member
    Croatian
    También hay ieísmo, žeísmo, šeísmo y eísmo, dependiendo de cómo se pronuncia la y:
    kabayo, kabaio, kabažo, kabašo, kabao.
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    I agree. Very few people whose Russian is not a native language speak it at a very advanced level. Polish might be hard too. There was even a remark made by Arthur Miller, that it was like bees and snakes having an argument. I do not know the exact words, but this was the sense implied. The perception of languages and the
    phonetic difficulty of a particular language may be something subjective or individual to a certain extent. For me, for example, Swedish is one of the easiest languages to pronounce and one that can express everything in the most concise way.
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top