Hardest languages to learn

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modgirl

Senior Member
USA English, French, Russian
What, in your opinion, are the hardest languages to learn?

For reference, I am a native English speaker. My second language is French, and my third language is Russian (though I don't speak well at all).

To me, an Asian language, such as Japanese or Chinese would be most difficult because of the symbols. Also, I find it difficult to distinguish Arabic letters. However, orally, I think that the throat languages, such as Tuvan, would be the absolute hardest!
 
  • lauranazario

    Moderatrix
    Español puertorriqueño & US English
    I suspect any language that does not utilize the same alphabet/characters you are used to must be particularly difficult. Not only do you have to learn a new set of "symbols", but words as well.

    Saludos,
    LN
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    Chinese and Japanese, because apart from the meanings, grammar and so on, you have to learn the letters!! Although next year will try the Classical Chinese.... :eek:
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    modgirl said:
    What, in your opinion, are the hardest languages to learn?

    For reference, I am a native English speaker. My second language is French, and my third language is Russian (though I don't speak well at all).

    To me, an Asian language, such as Japanese or Chinese would be most difficult because of the symbols. Also, I find it difficult to distinguish Arabic letters. However, orally, I think that the throat languages, such as Tuvan, would be the absolute hardest!
    So far as writing, I vote for Japanese--a language I studied years ago. It not only uses characters (kanji) borrowed from Chinese, but it mixes these with two distinct ''alphabets'' (hiragana and katakana--forty symbols each). Katakana is used only for foreign words introduced into Japanese (for example: hai hiru (high heels), infure (inflation), salariman (business man)). It also may be written using the roman alphabet (they call it romaji), but that is not usual. To make matters worse each kanji can be read in several different ways depending on the context. For example, the character for mountain may be read as ''yama'' the native Japanese word for mountain, or in a compound such as the name of Mt Fuji, it is written after Fuji and Mt Fuji becomes Fujisan. Here the character for mountain is given a sort of chinese pronunciation ''san''. The hiragana are mixed in with the kanji to indicate the tenses of verbs, ''post positions'' and such. It may be the most complicated writing system of any modern foreign language.

    On the other hand, it is fairly easy to pronounce Japanese words. The grammar is a little exotic, but lacking in most of those annoying things that make European languages so difficult (such as articles, gender, number, subjunctive, etc...). So if only the Japanese would confine their writing to romaji, I think it would be still be exotic, but not be considered such a difficult language.
     

    kens

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    To defend Japanese a little... :)

    I haven't studied it in much depth but it is in many ways a very simple language. As Edwin says it lacks things that make European languages difficult: articles, gender, etc.; and it also has very simple rules of conjugation -- from what I remember there's only two verb tenses. It tends to be a very economical language (like Spanish, you don't have to include "I" or "you" or other words that aren't necessary), so sentences can often be expressed in one or two words.

    The written language is very difficult, but I think katakana and hiragana are superior to the Latin alphabet (romaji) because, as soon as you read a word written in either katakana or hiragana, you know exactly how to pronounce it. There's pretty much only one way to write a word in those two alphabets, since each character represents both a vowel and a consonent sound. In English you have silly spellings like "knight", etc., and words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently ("polish" and "Polish"). If only Japanese could get rid of kanji, I think it would be a very simple language all-round!

    My vote for most difficult language is Mandarin or Cantonese. Both of those languages are nothing but kanji. You can never "guess" how to spell a word, you have to learn each word individually.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Hi, I'd think most diffcult languages are
    1st Chinese --> over 100,000s of symbols, plus some temporal form etc.
    2nd German --> the hardest grammar I think of, my native language, and it's even really hard for natives
    3rd Arabic --> to defend: it has only 28 characters, but with all variabilities it has over 100 "letters". The grammar is also very hard, but maybe easier than the other two ones. And it's no charcters for vowels (really hard to read)
    (4th Hebrew or Japanese) --> Hebrew is very hard to read without vowelization and it's also at least 40 different letters (i.e. there's e.g. a difference between שׁ and שׂ). And the difficulty in Japanese is the line-up of the words. And if there's only one dot incorrect, it can be another word!
     

    alc112

    Senior Member
    Argentina Spanish
    Hola a todos!!
    Quisiera saber que opinan respecto a esto
    Para ustedes cúal es el idioma más dificil de aprender escrito con esta clase de letra, sin ser arabe, japonés, chino etc, etc.

    I'd like to know what do you think about this:
    for you which is the hardest language to learn with this type of letter. Without being arabic, Japanese, Chinese, etc, etc.


    Para mí el más dificil es español

    Regards
     

    sibol

    Member
    spain spanish
    Creo que la principal dificultad en un idioma está en la fonética. Lo otro (gramática, léxico, alfabetos, etc..) se puede aprender, y puedes ir mejorando con el tiempo todo lo que quieras. Pero para un cerebro adulto hay sonidos que sino los aprendes de niño después es imposible decodificar (por lo menos en el tiempo real de una conversación). Respondo directamente a tu pregunta.
    Creo que –para un adulto-el lenguaje más difícil de aprender es cualquier lenguaje silbado. El más conocido y hablado de todos ellos es EL SILBO. Y es español silbado hablado por los pastores de La Gomera. No tienes mejor prueba de lo que te digo que escuchar una conversación en SILBO.
    Aunque la gramática y el léxico es 100% español no es que te suene a chino, te sonará a no humano. Colgaría una conversación en MP3 en SILBO aquí pero no se como hacerlo.
     

    zebedee

    Senior Member
    Gt. Britain - English
    sibol said:
    Creo que la principal dificultad en un idioma está en la fonética. Lo otro (gramática, léxico, alfabetos, etc..) se puede aprender, y puedes ir mejorando con el tiempo todo lo que quieras. Pero para un cerebro adulto hay sonidos que sino los aprendes de niño después es imposible decodificar (por lo menos en el tiempo real de una conversación). Respondo directamente a tu pregunta.
    Creo que –para un adulto-el lenguaje más difícil de aprender es cualquier lenguaje silbado. El más conocido y hablado de todos ellos es EL SILBO. Y es español silbado hablado por los pastores de La Gomera. No tienes mejor prueba de lo que te digo que escuchar una conversación en SILBO.
    Aunque la gramática y el léxico es 100% español no es que te suene a chino, te sonará a no humano. Colgaría una conversación en MP3 en SILBO aquí pero no se como hacerlo.

    Goodness! A new language I've never heard of! Sounds fascinating, please tell us more...
    Anyone else any idea about SILBO?
     

    munchkin5000

    Member
    england, english
    I don't now about anyone else, but i find french impossible!

    I can speak, write, listen and read, but ask me to do all this with grammatical accuracy and i will laugh! i can never remember if it's a or de, past anterior tense confuses me, and qui and que will be the death of me!

    But i did find spanish straighforward!

    Learning chinese at the mo coz im going to move there for a couple of years....think might become a social recluse. it's impossible! i'm just not picking up the tones!
     

    Marc1

    Banned
    Italian / Spanish / German.
    The most difficult language to learn,
    is the one of a country you hate.

    The easiest language to learn...
    The one from a country you love.
     

    Marc1

    Banned
    Italian / Spanish / German.
    That may or may not be so, yet I meet a dozen of people every day who lived here for 10, 20, 30 years and ask for an interpreter for their dealings with the government. Why? Because they hate this place, are convinced the "Australians" are out to get them, are racist, hate the joint and want to go "back"... Their chance to learn English? Zero, even if they live to be 150.

    Another observation is that if the person has never learned formally his own language, he has little chance to learn another.
     

    El Hondureño

    Senior Member
    USA;English,Spanish,Brazilian Portuguese
    Here's an Hondureño proverb "the hardest language the learn is the one you don't know" lol. Spanish is impossible for me. There's like American Spanish and Spanish from native countries. Spanish from native countries always phrase things differently lol
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    Marc1 said:
    The most difficult language to learn,
    is the one of a country you hate.

    The easiest language to learn...
    The one from a country you love.
    What of the person who hates the USA and UK but loves Australia? That's two strikes against English and one in favor of it? :)
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    Marc1 said:
    Another observation is that if the person has never learned formally his own language, he has little chance to learn another.
    Marc, you may want to modify this observation. There are many counter-examples in children that immigrate to a country and learn to speak the new language easily. Or for that matter children who live in an environment where they learn several languages simultaneously. (Now you are goint to tell me children aren't persons? :) )

    Another point that has been made in this forum is that most people in the USA really know very little about the grammar of their own language until they start learning a foreign language.
     

    sibol

    Member
    spain spanish
    Originally Posted by Zabedee
    Goodness! A new language I've never heard of! Sounds fascinating, please tell us more...
    Silbo is a language that's whistled, not spoken. If you hear a silbo dialogue but you don’t see people speaking . You would think you are hearing a bird conversation. The best thing is to hear a silbo conversation.
    There are many places on the web about silbo.
    You have two overview articles in English on the sites of CNN and BBC.

    you have an interesting article about how human brain process silbo.
    in eurekalert org

    Sorry. but these forums don´t permitte URL's links . I can´t paste them here.

    Please. Correct my mistakes.
     

    Benjy

    Senior Member
    English - English
    actually if you had a few more posts (30) you would be able to post links, the no links before 30 posts is to stop spammers. but you might try asking on of the culture mods if they would post them for you.. or you could just send me a pm and i can do it for you :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Benjy said:
    actually if you had a few more posts (30) you would be able to post links, the no links before 30 posts is to stop spammers. but you might try asking on of the culture mods if they would post them for you.. or you could just send me a pm and i can do it for you :)
    To reinforce what Benjy has said, we do allow links, but we ask you to be careful to limit that to links with valid information to support or enhance what you are discussing. WR is a 'commerce-free' zone, and we do not permit any form of advertising or posting for commercial purposes. I've probably put many hundreds of links here, and will be happy to assist you.
    For now, you may indicate the link by typing something like www dot silbo/lengua / musical / ejemplo. Your intrepid readers will understand.

    regards,
    Cuchuflete
     

    el alabamiano

    Senior Member
    English (US)
    Originally Posted by sibol
    Creo que la principal dificultad en un idioma está en la fonética. Lo otro (gramática, léxico, alfabetos, etc..) se puede aprender, y puedes ir mejorando con el tiempo todo lo que quieras. Pero para un cerebro adulto hay sonidos que sino los aprendes de niño después es imposible decodificar (por lo menos en el tiempo real de una conversación). Respondo directamente a tu pregunta.
    Creo que –para un adulto-el lenguaje más difícil de aprender es cualquier lenguaje silbado. El más conocido y hablado de todos ellos es EL SILBO. Y es español silbado hablado por los pastores de La Gomera. No tienes mejor prueba de lo que te digo que escuchar una conversación en SILBO.
    Aunque la gramática y el léxico es 100% español no es que te suene a chino, te sonará a no humano. Colgaría una conversación en MP3 en SILBO aquí pero no se como hacerlo.
    Zeb said:
    Goodness! A new language I've never heard of! Sounds fascinating, please tell us more...
    Zeb said:
    Anyone else any idea about SILBO?
    Hola: échale un vistazo a estos:

    Agulo La Gomera - silbo
    Nearly extinct whistling language revived
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Marc1 said:
    That may or may not be so, yet I meet a dozen of people every day who lived here for 10, 20, 30 years and ask for an interpreter for their dealings with the government. Why? Because they hate this place, are convinced the "Australians" are out to get them, are racist, hate the joint and want to go "back"... Their chance to learn English? Zero, even if they live to be 150.
    I'm not sure what that has to do with "the hardest language to learn". You seem to be talking about people who move to a new country and who resist learning the native language, and we have that problem in South Florida with Spanish speaking people from Cuba who have formed their own community in Miami, called "Little Havana".
    Another observation is that if the person has never learned formally his own language, he has little chance to learn another.
    In general, I agree with you, if you are referring to adults, because if you do not have any formal of the structure (grammar, etc.) of your own language, learning another is at least much harder. Children are another matter. :)
     

    Marc1

    Banned
    Italian / Spanish / German.
    Edwin said:
    Marc, you may want to modify this observation. There are many counter-examples in children that immigrate to a country and learn to speak the new language easily. Or for that matter children who live in an environment where they learn several languages simultaneously. (Now you are going to tell me children aren't persons? :) )

    Another point that has been made in this forum is that most people in the USA really know very little about the grammar of their own language until they start learning a foreign language.
    Spanish speakers who live in the US hate the US and "love" Australia. Spanish speakers who live in Australia, hate Australia and "love" the US. It is just another excuse for underachieving.

    Edwin, there are two type of person in the world, the one that try to learn from others, from experiences and from events, and the one that try to change the others, change the experiences and change the events.

    The first types usually do good leaders, are flexible and learn quickly, the second make good pressure salesman but are unteachable and slump into depression regularly....Ah...and they always try to have the last word :D

    As for Children not being persons, it depends on the context. Clearly in the context of my comment children are not, since they have yet to learn from their parents, bias and misconceptions and racism that will form the baggage of anti-values that will keep them underachieving for another 2 generations. Their "non person" status is probably their only asset that will allow others to have a chance at teaching them new and hopefully better values.
     

    Cath.S.

    Senior Member
    français de France
    Spanish speakers who live in the US hate the US and "love" Australia. Spanish speakers who live in Australia, hate Australia and "love" the US. It is just another excuse for underachieving.
    Listen, Marc, I'm not a Spanish speaker but it seems to me that you are pushing the envelope in making such sweeping statements about a whole population.
    if the person has never learned formally his own language, he has little chance to learn another
    As a former language teacher I can tell you this just isn't true. There are many ways to teach languages, that do not necessarily involve learning any theory.

    Anybody who is under 60 (they say it gets more difficult after that) and is willing to learn a language will succeed.

    An illiterate person might become able to speak and to understand speech, which is quite an achievement in itself I should think. After all, in every country you'll find a percentage of the population that is unable to read or write, still the local language is as much their own as it is that of highly educated people.

    Who are we to despise people's achievements?
     

    Marc1

    Banned
    Italian / Spanish / German.
    Egueule, you are entitled to your opinion, but mine comes from interviews adding up to ... mm... 50x50=2500x7= 17,500 people. I could double or triple this easily if I consider family members. Certainly a generalisation but with a significant population sample to back up my opinions.

    As for "there are many ways to teach a language", you are of course correct. The key is that the person must want to learn.
    My point, (my only point), is that people usualy find difficulties where there is not enough enthusiasm. If you love a culture a country or have some association or motivation for a language you'll learn it at age 30 or 70. My father re-married at age 63 a japanese and was fluent in this his 6th language in a year.

    If you hate all of the above you do not learn it. If the person did not go to school as a kid, to learn a different language as an adult is a VERY steep road for many reasons, not the least that the reasons for the persons illiteracy don't go away with age, if anything they are more prominent.

    I don't understand your last sentece.
     

    Honeyduke

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Has anybody tried Russian? I'm reading it at university next year and I'm quite worried! I know there's a different alphabet, however I was wondering what its like in terms of pronunciation and grammar. Any comments would be much appreciated
     

    suzzzenn

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Hi,


    I think, without question, the hardest languages to learn are the ones that are the most different from your own.

    I have been studying Native American languages and they are VERY VERY difficult. They operate using completely different logic! To me, Chinantec (spoken in South western Mexico) seems virtually unlearnable by outsiders. It has a complex tone system and very intricate syntax and morphology. I studied a language spoken in NW Canada, called Slave. It is related to Navajo and Apache. Verbs can have around 15 prefixes! I am very impressed with people who have mastered these languages as adults. It is very difficult to do.

    Susan
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    suzzzenn said:
    Hi,


    I think, without question, the hardest languages to learn are the ones that are the most different from your own.

    I have been studying Native American languages and they are VERY VERY difficult. They operate using completely different logic! To me, Chinantec (spoken in South western Mexico) seems virtually unlearnable by outsiders. It has a complex tone system and very intricate syntax and morphology. I studied a language spoken in NW Canada, called Slave. It is related to Navajo and Apache. Verbs can have around 15 prefixes! I am very impressed with people who have mastered these languages as adults. It is very difficult to do.

    Susan
    I agree with the first part. Any language that seem totally different from your own gives you no "common ground".

    Gaer
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    whodunit said:
    Hi, I'd think most diffcult languages are
    1st Chinese --> over 100,000s of symbols, plus some temporal form etc.
    2nd German --> the hardest grammar I think of, my native language, and it's even really hard for natives
    3rd Arabic --> to defend: it has only 28 characters, but with all variabilities it has over 100 "letters". The grammar is also very hard, but maybe easier than the other two ones. And it's no charcters for vowels (really hard to read)
    (4th Hebrew or Japanese) --> Hebrew is very hard to read without vowelization and it's also at least 40 different letters (i.e. there's e.g. a difference between שׁ and שׂ). And the difficulty in Japanese is the line-up of the words. And if there's only one dot incorrect, it can be another word!
    Actually, Hebrew without vowels is written with just 22 normal letters+2 final letters. Letters that use dagesh aren't separate letters since the dagesh is usually not used when writing Hebrew without vowels. The vowel system is really simple once you get used to it, much simpler than English.

    Arabic on the other hand has 3 different forms of virtually every letter. Not to mention spoken Arabic is very different from written Arabic.

    Japanese is definitely harder for native-sepakers of indo-European languages to learn. It uses two syllabaries and anywhere from 5-10,000 adapted Chinese characters.

    You only need to know 6,000 characters in Chinese, once you know these, you can figure out virtually every word.
     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    sibol said:
    Creo que la principal dificultad en un idioma está en la fonética. Lo otro (gramática, léxico, alfabetos, etc..) se puede aprender, y puedes ir mejorando con el tiempo todo lo que quieras. Pero para un cerebro adulto hay sonidos que sino los aprendes de niño después es imposible decodificar (por lo menos en el tiempo real de una conversación).
    Hay mucha verdad en lo que has dicho. Lo vemos a diario en Los Angeles, donde hay una gran variedad de inmigrantes.

    sibol said:
    Creo que –para un adulto-el lenguaje más difícil de aprender es cualquier lenguaje silbado. El más conocido y hablado de todos ellos es EL SILBO. Y es español silbado hablado por los pastores de La Gomera. No tienes mejor prueba de lo que te digo que escuchar una conversación en SILBO.
    Aunque la gramática y el léxico es 100% español no es que te suene a chino, te sonará a no humano. Colgaría una conversación en MP3 en SILBO aquí pero no se como hacerlo.
    Acabo de escuchar un ejemplo de SILBO en MP3. ¿Lo llamas lenguaje? No parece que lo fuera. No hay palabras, sino solo silbidos. Si lo llamamos lenguaje, cuaquier pieza de música silbada se podría llamar lenguaje. ¿cómo es que lo consideran un lenguaje? Por ejemplo, ¿cómo expresarías el teorema de Pitágoras en SILBO? ¿Cómo dirías que se te descompuso la transmisión automática del camión? ¿Cómo dirías que los precios de los combustibles aumentaron un 24% desde enero? ¿Cómo le dirías al alumno que escriba un ensayo sobre la Revolución Francesa? ¿Y cómo se escribe? ¿En papel pentagramado? Y los que no tienen oído musical, ¿como lo pueden "hablar"?

    Perdonen mi ignorancia, pero me va a costar entender esto.
     

    paluszak

    Member
    Poland (Polish)
    Honeyduke said:
    Has anybody tried Russian? I'm reading it at university next year and I'm quite worried! I know there's a different alphabet, however I was wondering what its like in terms of pronunciation and grammar. Any comments would be much appreciated
    Well, Russian is quite hard and not because it's written in its own script, but because of the complexity of Russian grammar. Somebody in this forum said that German grammar is difficult and no doubt it is, but comparing to Russian (and other Slavic languages, with the exception of Bulgarian and Macedonian perhaps) German is plain and simple.

    For me, Vietnamese is the most difficult language to learn and I have never heard about any foreigner really mastering it. I learned Vietnamese for a few years and I used to live in Vietnam, but it really beats me. Once you tried Vietnamese, Mandarin seems easy. ;)

    Jakub
     

    joensuu

    Member
    France - french
    For me, the most difficult language is Finnish ... I try to understand the logic with all these suffixes and declinaison. In first, it looks quite simple but not to applicate it !

    English is also a difficult language. I can speak an reading fluently but i make so lot of mistakes when i write. So it's quite easy to have a basic level in english but to be really fluent look me really impossible.
     

    paluszak

    Member
    Poland (Polish)
    joensuu said:
    For me, the most difficult language is Finnish ... I try to understand the logic with all these suffixes and declinaison. In first, it looks quite simple but not to applicate it !

    English is also a difficult language. I can speak an reading fluently but i make so lot of mistakes when i write. So it's quite easy to have a basic level in english but to be really fluent look me really impossible.
    Yeah, but you can say that about every language on Earth - it's pretty easy to grasp the basics, but the further you go the more difficult it gets.

    Let's take English for instance, for me, as a native speaker of Polish, English seemed fabulously easy when I started to learn it - almost no declensions, very simple conjugations, not so many irregularities. However, it got more difficult when I had to struggle with regional varieties and more sophisticated vocabulary. When I heard New Zealanders speaking English for the first time I didn't know it was English at all. ;)

    Jakub
     

    jess oh seven

    Senior Member
    UK/US English
    i suppose a language which doesn't use our alphabet would be very hard, but i've never tried so i don't know.

    maybe some form of Chinese would be very difficult as it's apparently a "tonal" language where the same thing said in two different tones could mean something completely different.
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    Hardest languages? Really it depends what your native language is, but here's my list for English speakers.

    Not in Difficulty Order:
    1. Basque
    2. Arabic
    3. Any of the Chinese dialects
    4. Japanese
    5. Korean
    6. Finnish
    7. Estonian
    8. Latvian
    9. Czech, Polish, or any of the slavic languages.
    10. Vietnamese

    Those are my top 10, although there are probably a lot of hard ones missing from my list.
     

    laoghaire

    New Member
    chile
    Acabo de escuchar un ejemplo de SILBO en MP3. ¿Lo llamas lenguaje? No parece que lo fuera. No hay palabras, sino solo silbidos. Si lo llamamos lenguaje, cuaquier pieza de música silbada se podría llamar lenguaje. ¿cómo es que lo consideran un lenguaje? Por ejemplo, ¿cómo expresarías el teorema de Pitágoras en SILBO? ¿Cómo dirías que se te descompuso la transmisión automática del camión? ¿Cómo dirías que los precios de los combustibles aumentaron un 24% desde enero? ¿Cómo le dirías al alumno que escriba un ensayo sobre la Revolución Francesa? ¿Y cómo se escribe? ¿En papel pentagramado? Y los que no tienen oído musical, ¿como lo pueden "hablar"?

    Perdonen mi ignorancia, pero me va a costar entender esto.[/QUOTE]

    Pues es como todo lenguage primitivo util para expresarse en conversaciones de la vida diaria.Los esquimales por ejemplo,-entre tantos otros dialectos indigenas-tienen un vocabulario bastante reducido pero lograr comunicar.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    paluszak said:
    Yeah, but you can say that about every language on Earth - it's pretty easy to grasp the basics, but the further you go the more difficult it gets.
    Well, there're so many German learners in our German forum who speak German almost perfectly. Jana, Elroy, and Jorge, for instance, started to learn German and they found it very hard, but the further you go in studying it, the more logical it seems. All the cases and the difficult grammar deters learners from going deeper in that language, but that's what you shouldn't do! If you keep learning a language, you'll find solutions and simplicities you haven't even discovered before.

    Let's take English for instance, for me, as a native speaker of Polish, English seemed fabulously easy when I started to learn it - almost no declensions, very simple conjugations, not so many irregularities. However, it got more difficult when I had to struggle with regional varieties and more sophisticated vocabulary.
    That's a very good point, because I've been studying English for more than 4 years now, and I still make lots of mistakes. I hate that, but I know I can't speak perfectly that language, unless I go to America or another English speaking country. I have to be corrected here over and over again, just to improve my written English, not to speak of my spoken English, which is very poor. :(
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I don't think anyone can make any sort of educated or informed claim about what the hardest language to learn is unless he's studied every single language in the world.

    That said, I would just like to point out that I have yet to meet one person who has studied Arabic as a foreign language and knows it (I use the word "knows" to include both "speaks" and "writes/reads," which are vastly different) with even a relative degree of fluency. Maybe I just haven't met enough people yet. :) If you're out there, I want to meet you!
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    elroy said:
    I don't think anyone can make any sort of educated or informed claim about what the hardest language to learn is unless he's studied every single language in the world.

    That said, I would just like to point out that I have yet to meet one person who has studied Arabic as a foreign language and knows it (I use the word "knows" to include both "speaks" and "writes/reads," which are vastly different) with even a relative degree of fluency. Maybe I just haven't met enough people yet. :) If you're out there, I want to meet you!
    Elias, does that include people who have lived in an Arabic-speaking area for at least 1-2 years?
     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    JLanguage said:
    Elias, does that include people who have lived in an Arabic-speaking area for at least 1-2 years?
    While Elroy reads your question and prepares an answer, let me say that I have many friends from Arabic speaking countries. I know people who were born and raised in Lebanon, who admit they don't know enough Arabic because their parents were not natives. They went to school and got university degrees in Beirut, but all their study was done in English and they only learned Arabic as a mandatory high school class, but they did very poorly in it. They themselves say they are not fluent in Arabic and that it is a very difficult language. (Of course, this applies only to people from Lebanon. All those I know who came from Syria, Iraq or Egypt are fluent in Arabic and proud of it).
     

    JLanguage

    Senior Member
    USA: American English, Learning Hebrew and Spanish
    sergio11 said:
    While Elroy reads your question and prepares an answer, let me say that I have many friends from Arabic speaking countries. I know people who were born and raised in Lebanon, who admit they don't know enough Arabic because their parents were not natives. They went to school and got university degrees in Beirut, but all their study was done in English and they only learned Arabic as a mandatory high school class, but they did very poorly in it. They themselves say they are not fluent in Arabic and that it is a very difficult language. (Of course, this applies only to people from Lebanon. All those I know who came from Syria, Iraq or Egypt are fluent in Arabic and proud of it).
    I have a friend whose father is from Lebanon, I'm pretty sure he's fluent in Arabic but I'll certainly ask about it. I understand Arabic is a very difficult language, but would it not be possible to acquire a certain degree of fluency after a few years of immersion?
     

    sergio11

    Senior Member
    Spanish (lunfardo)
    JLanguage said:
    I have a friend whose father is from Lebanon, I'm pretty sure he's fluent in Arabic but I'll certainly ask about it. I understand Arabic is a very difficult language, but would it not be possible to acquire a certain degree of fluency after a few years of immersion?
    Of course, I am sure you can acquire "a certain degree of fluency" within a reasonable time, but I think we are talking about more than just that. I am talking about being able to speak, read and write without gross errors of vocabulary, grammar and spelling; for example, being able to write business correspondence, letters of recommendation, an essay and a short story or report, and give a brief speech with short notice.
     

    xxatti

    Member
    USA
    gaer said:
    I'm not sure what that has to do with "the hardest language to learn". You seem to be talking about people who move to a new country and who resist learning the native language, and we have that problem in South Florida with Spanish speaking people from Cuba who have formed their own community in Miami, called "Little Havana".

    In general, I agree with you, if you are referring to adults, because if you do not have any formal of the structure (grammar, etc.) of your own language, learning another is at least much harder. Children are another matter. :)
    You cant really compare a childs capacity to learn a language with an adults because often times they are in completely different learning situations. The children attend school and have to read, write, and speak in the language, not to mention interact with all of their classmates/friends in the language.

    Adults often are not so immersed in the language. They will be working in their career feild using their native language, talking with other co-workers (like themselves), etc.... All the while using everything but the language they are trying to learn. Plus they are going to speak their language at home. So the only time they get exposure to the foreign language is during their 1hr tutor sessions or while they are at the local market where they are forced to interact with the natives. On the other hand, the only time the children will be using their mother tongue is at home with their parents that havent yet mastered the foreign language.

    To put these two cases on equal comparison for learning ability is just not fair.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    xxatti said:
    You cant really compare a childs capacity to learn a language with an adults because often times they are in completely different learning situations.
    Did you check the date of the post you are replying to? I wrote it four months ago, and I believe at the time I was trying to disgree, politely, with someone.

    You don't know me. I don't know you. Let's get off on the right foot, okay?

    First of all, I agree with what you just said. Second, I would add that children have a huge advantage over adults in learning new languages. Few here would disagree with that.
    The children attend school and have to read, write, and speak in the language, not to mention interact with all of their classmates/friends in the language.
    I agree.
    Adults often are not so immersed in the language. They will be working in their career feild using their native language, talking with other co-workers (like themselves), etc.... All the while using everything but the language they are trying to learn.
    No disagreement.
    Plus they are going to speak their language at home. So the only time they get exposure to the foreign language is during their 1hr tutor sessions or while they are at the local market where they are forced to interact with the natives.
    Okay.
    On the other hand, the only time the children will be using their mother tongue is at home with their parents that havent yet mastered the foreign language.
    That's true too. In fact, I teach many kids in this area, for instance, who are incredibly weak in Spanish in spite of the fact that they speak it at home. They are completely fluent in English.

    Many of their parents struggle to communicate with me in English. I speak slowly to them.
    To put these two cases on equal comparison for learning ability is just not fair.
    Where did I do that? Why did you pick me to get irritated at? I think you are making a lot of assumptions about what I think and what kind of person I am. :(

    G
     

    Honeylhanz

    Senior Member
    Filipino, Spanish
    modgirl said:
    What, in your opinion, are the hardest languages to learn?

    For reference, I am a native English speaker. My second language is French, and my third language is Russian (though I don't speak well at all).

    To me, an Asian language, such as Japanese or Chinese would be most difficult because of the symbols. Also, I find it difficult to distinguish Arabic letters. However, orally, I think that the throat languages, such as Tuvan, would be the absolute hardest!
    FOR ME ARABIC, JAPANESE AND CHINESE IS THE HARDEST LANGUAGE TO LEARN. THOUGH I KNOW HOW TO SPEAK A LITTLE MACAO BUT I STILL NEED TO LEARN THE LETTERS.
     
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