If you, like many millions of people all over the world, are excited at the prospect of a truly globalized culture – the mixing and blending of different thoughts, ideas, traditions, and exciting pastimes from all corners of the globe thanks to the power of modern technology and the web – you’ve probably considered taking up a new language.
English-language speakers (especially those that are native English language speakers) are able to quickly learn a tremendous amount of different languages from across the globe, provided that they share many of the same grammar structures and are built on the back of the Roman enough of that.
However, native English speakers are challenged with a number of different languages from a close the globe – with the 10 most difficult represented below.
If you’re able to figure out that these languages (or even gain any real proficiency, let alone fluency) you certainly are a master linguist!
A very specific dialect spoken by Basque people in Spain, this is one of the most challenging languages for native English language speakers to try to figure out – for any different number of reasons.
Sure, it is built on the back of the Roman alphabet and has a relatively easy pronunciation breakdown – but because of the different grammar structures and the way that new words are formed with prefixes and suffixes, it can be quite difficult to figure out without years and years of consistent study and practice.
Arabic certainly ranks right up there with some of the most challenging languages to try and learn, not only because so few English-language citizens are exposed to Arabic on a regular or routine basis, but also because the entire system is completely and distinctly unique from the Roman enough of that.
Arabic script is a challenge to read and understand, with many of the letters in the Arabic alphabet having four different written forms – and that’s not even considering that vowels are left out while writing. Combine that with the multitude of dialects that exist in the Arabic language world, and you’re really looking at a challenge.
The predominant language spoken in the Canton region of China (a region that lays claim to Hong Kong as well as a number of other towns, villages, and cities), as this is a language similar in structure – at least as far as the written word is concerned – with Mandarin Chinese, but a spoken much differently.
Using a unique alphabet that it borrows from other Chinese dialects (and with no “foundational” alphabet of its own), and the only way to read Cantonese is to memorize all 20,000+ characters that make up not only words but phrases and even complete and total sentences – with the reading going up and down as opposed to left to right.
Because the Finnish language has absolutely no Germanic or Latin (also known as romance languages) influence whatsoever, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it is so difficult for English-language speakers to struggle trying to learn it.
With 15 different noun cases and a truly total language, it can be rather difficult to figure out any initial and early stages – but it’s a relatively phonetic language that you should be able to pick up with a bit of study and it still built on the back of the Roman alphabet.
Ranking right up there with Finnish as far as difficulty is concerned, hung Gary and does use the Roman alphabet but with a completely different pronunciation from English that will really throw you off.
Vowel sounds in particular are rather difficult to handle, and consonant clusters can tie up an English speaking tongue in knots without any difficulty whatsoever – making it rather hard to speak or write this language with any confidence early on.
There is a reason that the United States used Navajo “code talkers” during the Pacific campaign in World War II to transmit different secret codes, messages, and battle orders to all of the troops throughout the theater of action – it’s such a difficult language to speak, to write, and to read, that they knew the Japanese would have absolutely no idea how to proceed.
What they also understood was that many of the English-speaking Marines, sailors, and airmen also had absolutely no idea what they are now the whole code talkers were saying, mostly because of the hierarchal vocabulary that the Navajo language is built off of.
Chinese languages in particular are rather difficult for English-language speaking citizens of the globe to try and learn, but Mandarin is one of the most difficult – if not the most difficult.
A total language through and through, a small adjustment in pitch or inflection can change the meaning of a word dramatically – making it rather difficult for English-language speaking citizens to figure out exactly what they’re trying to convey war get across.
The written language is just as difficult to try and figure out, as it has absolutely no basis whatsoever in the Roman alphabet and is instead a collection of different symbols that can represent words, phrases, or sentences.
As opposed to Chinese languages (including Mandarin and Cantonese), Japanese is relatively simple and straightforward for English speakers to pronounce and enunciate, making it easier for them to pick up as they go along. The vowel sounds, consonant sounds, and grammar structure is simplified and quite easy for an English-language speaker to go along with – but the written language is a whole different story.
Far more difficult than even the most challenging Chinese, Japanese writing is next to impossible to decipher without years and years of study – and even many native born Japanese citizens struggle with certain written parts of their language today!
With 14 different cases (each and every one of them creating a different inflection depending entirely upon where a word is in the grammatical structure of a sentence), Estonian can be quite a headache and hassle for English-language speaking citizens to try and figure out on their own.
There also are a number of “seemingly arbitrary” Estonian grammar rules that fly in the face of traditional Estonian grammar rules, making the language even more challenging to master even with years of practice and study.
The Polish language is another language that leverages different cases, but instead of having 14 Polish only has seven – but make no mistake, it’s just as challenging trying to figure it all out.
The Polish language also is filled with rather arbitrary grammar rules that can be thrown out and discarded or adhered to religiously depending entirely upon who you are speaking with, and it’s important that you focus on mastering the grammar of sentence structure above almost all else!
Hopefully this quick breakdown of the 10 most difficult languages to study as an English-language speaker doesn’t put you off from pursuing any of the languages outlined above if you are passionate about mastering them.
Remember, learning a language is much easier when you are excited, passionate, and interested in figuring the puzzle out – and if you are truly set upon learning one, you will blow through any and all obstacles to accomplish exactly that!
If, on the other hand, these languages prove to be too daunting and challenging, do not be afraid of picking up a different language that is more in line with the English language – learning any new language (or two, three, or even more) will only serve to help you become a more effective and efficient citizen of the world!