Why are the hardest languages to learn not so hard?

You might ask yourself: What are the hardest languages to learn?


The answer to this question is not as simple as It might seem as lots of factors should be taken into account.


Native speakers learn a language unconsciously without giving much thought to rules by which these languages might be governed.


We cannot talk about the hardest languages to learn as no studies have been able to identify the most difficult language to learn so far.


Related languages like Spanish and Portuguese are easier to learn than e.g. Spanish and Chinese as Chinese is sign language.


The greater the differences between native and the second language, the harder It will be to acquire proficiency in that language.


Our first language reflects our ability to attain the second language but various other factors are at play when it comes to learning foreign languages.


Difficulty of languages lies in learning methods not in the language itself. We cannot say one language is more difficult than the other.


The secret to learning foreign languages is in hours of intensive studies e.g. mainly conversations with native speakers. Without developing your speaking competence you will lose lots of your precious time. Speaking is a requirement, an undeniable part of learning process.



The following chart displays information about the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers. Languages are divided into 5 categories based on the level of difficulty of acquiring the proficiency in that language.




The category 1 languages are the easiest to learn and take around 24 weeks to grasp the basics in that tongue. Of course, these statistics do not take into consideration whether the person speaks the second language or not.


Many studies have discovered that the second language influences the speed of learning the third language tremendously.


Factors to consider: Geography and genealogy


Geographically closer languages tend to have smaller differences. Also genealogy defines similarities and differences between two languages e.g. languages with same genealogical relations are less distinct.


Genealogy means whether the language belongs to the same language family. Language belonging to the same language family is easier to learn than unrelated language.


Learners´ educational background and learning input are the factors that shall be considered when evaluating the difficulty of acquiring proficiency in foreign languages.


The hardest languages to learn are mostly those that have different writing systems. As learners have to study the writing system of the language, the learning process takes longer e.g. Chinese, students have to memorize pictographic symbols with various meanings, sharing almost identical features.




Sources: http://cysouw.de/home/articles_files/cysouwPREDICTING.pdf

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Lenka Filická- Lektorka Anglického Jazyka 

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