Non Indo-European Languages In Europe: The Hardest?

ronanpoirier

Senior Member
Brazil - Portuguese
I was thinking last night, what would be the hardest language in Europe which is not from the Indo-European group of languages. I guess they're 5: Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Basque and Turkish (Turkey has lands in Europe). If there's another one, please, tell me.

I got to learn Hungarian, and although it was "scaring" at the very beginning, it is not anymore. It's phonetical system is easy. I just have some problem to remember the words.
I had this overview on Finnish and it seems harder than Hungarian.
The other languages I haven't had any contact (although I've seen some Turkish and Basque around the forum).

So, I'd like to know your opinions! :)
 
  • modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    There are also the Sami languages and Maltese. And depending on your definition of Europe, you can find a whole bunch of non-Indo-European languages in the Caucasus, like Georgian and the Chechen.

    If you count the latter, I'd have to say the hardest (from my very very slight knowledge of these things and my biased opinion) is Georgian. From what I've seen it looks extremely complicated, especially in its conjugations. I don't think I even understand the Wikipedia article about its grammar :).

    The only other language that I've more than glanced at is Turkish, which looks very regular in the way it builds up various words (plus it has participles which are very nice in my opinion), although its verb system does seem a little overwhelming and I'm not sure I can pronounce ı correctly. But I'd call it easier than Georgian.

    And just to add that I'm judging hardness here by how much work it would take to be able to read real examples of the language, so more complicated declensions and inflections would make things harder, although in the end I think all languages are equally hard.

    That's basically a non-answer since I have so little experienced. About the other languages you brought up, though, I'm wondering if some of them would be easier because their vocabulary would be more "standard Europeanish." Do Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, and so on have lots of Latin-based words, e.g., that would recognizable to me than say the Turkish equivalents. If that's the case, I'd call them easier since they would be easier to get into.
     

    Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    I was thinking last night, what would be the hardest language in Europe which is not from the Indo-European group of languages. I guess they're 5: Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Basque and Turkish (Turkey has lands in Europe). If there's another one, please, tell me.

    I got to learn Hungarian, and although it was "scaring" at the very beginning, it is not anymore. It's phonetical system is easy. I just have some problem to remember the words.
    I had this overview on Finnish and it seems harder than Hungarian.
    The other languages I haven't had any contact (although I've seen some Turkish and Basque around the forum).

    So, I'd like to know your opinions! :)
    Hi ronanpoirier,

    First off, I recommend that you see this topic, if you haven't. It might be helpful for you as well.

    Secondly, there's an article which I've read and think you should take a look at: here.

    I've just found out this list which is quite interesting and informative.

    So, according to the list and the languages you named:

    Basque: not listed
    Finnish:
    Category II*
    Estonian: Category II*
    Hungarian: Category II*
    Turkish: Category II

    * Languages preceded by asterisks are typically somewhat more difficult for native English speakers to learn to speak and read than other languages in the same category.
    There are also the Sami languages and Maltese. And depending on your definition of Europe, you can find a whole bunch of non-Indo-European languages in the Caucasus, like Georgian and the Chechen.
    Yep, Georgian languages are also spoken in Europe but I think ronanpoirier's definition is quite what we normally know Europe as. Geographically and officially, Republic of Turkey has lands on Europe as well as in Asia and these two continents links to each other through Bosphorus Bridge, when you cross the bridge to European side: you're officially in Europe. And our neigbour, Republic of Georgia is considered as an Eurasian country, which lands on Eastern Europe and Western Asia just like Turkey. :)

    I'd also like to share some interesting facts relating to this topic:
    • In Gagauzia, an autonomous Orthodox Turkic region in Moldova, one of the closest language to Turkish, Gagauz, is spoken by Gaguz people, the folks which we, Turks of Turkey, share the same ancestor and most culturally linked with.
    • In Germany, Anatolian Turkish is spoken by the vast Turkish community(well, approximately 1,764,300 people) as well as in different 32 countries of Europe.
    The only other language that I've more than glanced at is Turkish, which looks very regular in the way it builds up various words (plus it has participles which are very nice in my opinion), although its verb system does seem a little overwhelming and I'm not sure I can pronounce ı correctly. But I'd call it easier than Georgian.
    Exactly. As this claims, Turkish along with Esperanto, an invented language, has no irregular verbs. Oh, by the way, ı seems to be a big problem for learners really, my Dutch relative who's been learning Turkish is having the same problem, she just can't pronunce it in the right way, usually mixes up with ö. :)

    About the other languages you brought up, though, I'm wondering if some of them would be easier because their vocabulary would be more "standard Europeanish." Do Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, and so on have lots of Latin-based words, e.g., that would recognizable to me than say the Turkish equivalents. If that's the case, I'd call them easier since they would be easier to get into.
    All these languages (except for Basque, right?) are Uralic and Altaic but Turkish is the only one from Altaic branch. I believe Basque has more Latin-based words than any languages in the list. Am I right or not?
     

    mansio

    Senior Member
    France/Alsace
    The traditional Eastern limits of Europe are the Ural range and the watershed (ridge) on top of the Caucasus mountains.

    Georgia is on the Asian side of the Caucasus, even if culturally it could belong to Europe (with Armenia).
     
    Do Finnish, Hungarian, Basque, and so on have lots of Latin-based words, e.g., that would recognizable to me than say the Turkish equivalents. If that's the case, I'd call them easier since they would be easier to get into.
    Well, in Finnish we do have quite a number of words that are recognizable to e.g. English and French speakers. Some loanword examples:

    elefantti = elephant
    kamera = camera
    bussi = bus
    sokeri = sugar

    Then there are the so-called "sivistyssanat" (lit. civilization words) which mean the learned words that have come from Latin and Greek and that are used in culture and science but rarely in everyday speech. Examples:

    teologia = theology
    elektromagneettinen = electromagnetic
    meningiitti = meningitis
     

    modus.irrealis

    Senior Member
    English, Canada
    * In Gagauzia, an autonomous Orthodox Turkic region in Moldova, one of the closest language to Turkish, Gagauz, is spoken by Gaguz people, the folks which we, Turks of Turkey, share the same ancestor and most culturally linked with.
    That is very interesting. This is the first I ever heard of the existence of this people.

    Exactly. As this claims, Turkish along with Esperanto, an invented language, has no irregular verbs. Oh, by the way, ı seems to be a big problem for learners really, my Dutch relative who's been learning Turkish is having the same problem, she just can't pronunce it in the right way, usually mixes up with ö.
    That's even more regular than I thought. And it also has no gender, which means fewer forms to learn before you can read actual examples of the language. And ı is giving me problems, both in pronouncing it and in distinguishing it when spoken. :(

    Well, in Finnish we do have quite a number of words that are recognizable to e.g. English and French speakers.
    Thanks. I wasn't sure but it sounded likely. Although there are many languages, I guess, even in Europe, that prefer to create words from their own resources instead of borrowing.
     

    Chazzwozzer

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Well, in Finnish we do have quite a number of words that are recognizable to e.g. English and French speakers. Some loanword examples:

    elefantti = elephant
    kamera = camera
    bussi = bus
    sokeri = sugar

    Then there are the so-called "sivistyssanat" (lit. civilization words) which mean the learned words that have come from Latin and Greek and that are used in culture and science but rarely in everyday speech. Examples:

    teologia = theology
    elektromagneettinen = electromagnetic
    meningiitti = meningitis
    I think daily technical terms are kind of similar in the languages spoken in Europe. At least for Turkish: teoloji(theology), elektromanyetik(electomagnetic), menenjit (meningitis), otobüs (bus), kamera(camera) etc.

    That is very interesting. This is the first I ever heard of the existence of this people.
    They are incredible. Although they have been Christian since about early 2nd century, they fought against Crusader armies in Balkans to protect their cousins, Anatolian Turks. They still keep our ancestor's traditions and language. The difference between their Turkish and ours is that they have many Slavic words because they encountered Slavic peoples and had to live with them for years but they have never borrowed any words from Arabic or Persian because they took Northern way to continue the migration which was impossible to see any Arabic/Persian peoples. According to a Gaguz I've read on the Net, they've been contumaciously practising Christianity in pure Turkish with some flavors of our ancient traditions and belief. By the way, anyone who knows Turkish can easily communicate with them, they are not very crowd people actually. :)


    That's even more regular than I thought. And it also has no gender, which means fewer forms to learn before you can read actual examples of the language. And ı is giving me problems, both in pronouncing it and in distinguishing it when spoken. :(
    If you'd like us to help you, which we'd love to, I recommend that you start a new topic with the problems you have about the letter ı/I, then everybody will do their best to solve it. :)

    Don't we take the verb to be (olmak) as irregular? Bana sorsalar tek düzensiz fiilimiz budur derdim de ondan soruyorum:)
    I thinks it's controversial among linguists. I'm just an ordinary people who has a great interest in his native, so I don't get why some claim it's irregular. I mean, is this because the suffix -im or what? To me, it seems regular because of the fact that we can use it in every forms just like other verbs.
     

    BaraniskoDyskoteka

    New Member
    Poland Polish
    Tere are many languages of this kind in European part of Russia...
    but i don't know thyeir names well in English:
    Komi, Karelian, Mari, Mordvian...and many more...
     
    I think the hardest languages are the ones spoken in the Caucasus , if this is Europe in your book. Tabasaran has got 48 cases, for example. And, on the whole, over 100 languages, most of them quite difficult to learn, are spoken in Dagestan. Chechen is very difficult, that`s the only one I know more or less. Georgian is not easy but it could never compare to Abkhaz, the language of one of the regions. I had cited some links to these languages in the Resources section.
     

    avalon2004

    Senior Member
    UK- English/Spanish
    Basque is an incredibly difficult language to learn- I find it amazing that a language so different would be located in Spain.
    I initially thought "surely it's had plenty of Hispanic influence, how hard can it be?". But indeed, it is surely one of the most unusual of languages in Europe, if not the hardest. Whilst Basque has experienced a wave of Spanish words, the language hasn't particularly changed or simplified so unless you are willing to put aside a lot of time, Basque is truly very hard. I don't really know much about the other languages mentioned on here, but I think even Finnish and Hungarian are easier in some aspects, because they at least seem to be somewhat similar in syntax (I may be wrong here).
     

    konungursvia

    Banned
    Canada (English)
    I think it must be Basque, which seems to be hard. I wonder, however, if that language is related to Etruscan? I've heard no one can decipher much of Etruscan, except it's clear what the alphabet was.... I mean, even the names the people gave themselves are similar... Euskadi, Etruski
     

    Etcetera

    Senior Member
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    I think the hardest languages are the ones spoken in the Caucasus , if this is Europe in your book. Tabasaran has got 48 cases, for example. And, on the whole, over 100 languages, most of them quite difficult to learn, are spoken in Dagestan.
    I've wrote once a report on the languages of Dagestan, so this subject is more or less familiar to me. :) Apart from having a really hard grammar structures, these languages have a very difficult pronunciation: there's a lot of specific sounds.

    Speaking of the hardest Non-Indoeuropean languages in Europe, I can't but admit that Finnish is really, really difficult. Its rules are well-defined and rather strict, the pronunciation's not so tricky as the English, for example, but still it's difficult to learn Finnish, especially if you're doing it outside Finland and can't devote it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
    All in all, the hardest language for me proved to be German. I'd been studying it for a grand total of 6 years while being at school, and still I couldn't speak proper German. :)
     

    !netko!

    Member
    Croatian, Croatia
    I heard Basque is the most difficult one. Sami is a non-Indo-European language too. It's spoken by the Sami people (Lapps).
     
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