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World’s Hardest Foreign Language

bigstockphoto_Earth_People_Translate_Languag_6541063If you had to guess, which language do you think is the hardest to learn?  Many people have said that English is the most difficult but “English is pretty simple: verbs hardly conjugate; nouns pluralise easily (just add “s”, mostly) and there are no genders to remember.” Says, The Economist when they explored this idea last month in an article entitled: Difficult languages, Tongue twisters, In search of the world’s hardest language.

The article explores several of the most difficult words/concepts to learn in many languages.   A few things to think about.  Is it:

1. Pronunciation?
2. Cases or conjugation?
3. Gender of words?
4. Understanding complex concepts put into a single word?
5. Tones, clicks and unfamiliar sounds?
6. Grammar?
7. Encoding information that does not translate at all?

So out of 6,000 languages, what is the world’s hardest foreign language?  The Economist suggests that the Tuyuca language from the eastern Amazon is the most challenging.   Not in pronunciation but in concept and structure.  The crazy thing?  There are only 1,000 people in the world who speak this language.

What do you think?

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  • View 6 Comments
    • I’m having to guess, and I’d say Japanese, … but I’m willing to get English is very tough for non-native speakers.

      In fact, I’d think almost all non-native languages can be difficult to learn, unless you’re immersed within the culture.

    • I’d dare anyone to learn Zulu (or related languages) for *clicks* and also amazing noun class systems.
      But most mature languages have quite hair raising properties. I gave up on Russian when my very fast-paced class hit “aspects”.
      Should I mention Chinese Kanji?

      I think only English native speakers would vote for English, for reasons of language patriotism. In terms of structure and pronunciation, it is really fairly simplistic compared to most other languages.

    • My dad says that he heard once that English is very difficult to learn to speak correctly – mostly because we have so many exceptions – but that it’s one of the easiest languages to be understood in – because so many mistakes in grammar, word order, or pronunciation don’t seriously affect meaning.

      • Freya – I agree. When I was teaching ESL, one of the hardest things about the English language is all the exceptions. My students would get so frustrated to learn the rule and then have to learn all the exceptions to the rules.

    • English is the most dificult??? You gotta be kinding… Brazilian Portuguese native voting for Hungarian – impossible gramatics.


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Mango Languages

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