Language acquisition can be great fun, opening many doors with joy and laughter at every step. Or it can be like beating your head against the wall. How one language is more difficult than another, depends greatly on your first language.
While some scholars such as Noam Chomsky argue that we are born with an innate universal ability to understand grammar patterns and language, the truth is probably that we are just better learning stuff as babies. So if your mother tongue is English, try picking up French or German before moving on to Mandarin. But which languages are the toughest to crack? That’s what we’ll find out, in this episode of the Infographics Show, – The Top 20 Hardest Languages to Learn
Number 20 – Tagalog
Spoken by the majority of those dwelling in the Philippines, this language features bizarre sentence structure and quirky grammar rules. But don’t worry too much about learning the language if you’re visiting Manila, as most of the natives there go to English speaking schools. Well, in the cities, at least.
Number 19. Navajo
This Southern Athabaskan language is spoken in the South West of the United States and wasn’t transcribed onto the page until the 1930s. It’s pretty much alien to most Germanic and Latin languages and is therefore a tough linguistic nut to crack.
Number 18. Persian
It is a puzzling beast to acquire, belonging, as it does, to the Indo-Iranian branch of Indo-European languages, and being the native tongue in Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan. But it can’t be that difficult with over 100 million conversing in the language day to day.
Number 17. Dutch
This West Germanic language is closely related to English and German but does seem to have some interesting vocabulary that makes it really difficult to pronounce. In Dutch you have words like Slechtstschrijvend (worst-writing) and angstschreeuw (cry of fear); try pronouncing those after a couple of cans of Heineken.
Number 16. Slovenian
Part of the Slavic language group, Slovenian is spoken by 2.5 million speakers and is one of the most difficult of the 24 official EU languages to learn. In Slovenian, like Russian, nouns have cases. This means noun endings change in accordance with the proceeding preposition and many a misspoken noun.
Number 15. Afrikaans
This South African language is also spoken in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana and is like a strange offshoot of Dutch and just as difficult to learn. Most South Africans do learn English at school too, so don’t be too put off by this strange impenetrable tongue.
Number 14. Urdu
This, the Lingua franca of Pakistan, is identical to Hindi in terms of grammar and structure, so if you’re coming at it from an Indian perspective, this difficult language may well be manageable. If English is your first language, then we wish you the best of luck.
Number 13. Hebrew
An Afroasiatic language first used by the Hebrews and Israelites over 3,000 years ago, it’s still used in modern Israel today is an absolute nightmare to acquire.
Number 12. Sanskrit
These ancient Asian languages are often a recipe for major headaches too, and this, the primary language of Hinduism and Buddhism is no exception. But if one is to enjoy the rich poetry, philosophy, and history of India, Sanskrit must be learned. So good luck and happy studies.
Number 11. Korean
Spoken by 80 million people in both North and South Korea, this language is difficult to crack for Westerners but the Japanese have no real trouble at all being as they are, so close physically and linguistically.
Number 10. Croatian
Back in Europe, this standardized version of the Serbo-Croatian tongue is based on the dialect of Eastern Herzegovinian and can prove a real challenge to pick up.
Number 9. Hungarian
While Hungarian’s have probably the cutest accent (while speaking English in Dracula movies), their mother tongue is a strange language and a difficult beast to tame.
Number 8. Gaelic
The Celts know how to confuse us outsiders with the strangest witches brew of old Irish dialects and Scottish lingo. Approach with serious caution this bizarre tongue.
Number 7. Japanese
Japanese may not seem difficult at first but try putting together a sentence with stacked relative clauses and multiple dropped pronouns and you soon realize that your noodle needs some major brain readjustment.
Number 6. Icelandic
This language has been near impossible to figure out due to the difficult sounding syllables and unique looking “letters” that make English feel like a walk in the park.
Number 5. Albanian
An Indo-European tongue this centuries old lingo shares similar features with German and Greek but has its own uniquely bizarre vocabulary.
Number 4. Thai
Tonal languages are tough. Very tough. With one word for example Khao (cow) meaning the color white, rice, and to enter, depending on the rising, falling, or steady tone…you will always find yourself running into linguistic circles with this language.
Number 3. Vietnamese
The pronunciation is going to give you nightmares for years, and no matter how much you drill and practice, any mispronunciation is always a source of fun for your Vietnamese peers. This comes down to tones again and some say this is the most difficult language.
Number 2. Arabic
This desert tongue has many exotic sounds, almost impossible to learn for foreigners. In fact there are only two or three sounds which are not found in English and these can be learned easily through imitation. Arabic does however have an enormous vocabulary with over 400 words for a camel, and 200 for a lion.
Number 1. Chinese
There are apparently over 80,000 Chinese characters, which can seem pretty intimidating – but guess what you only need to know 3,500 in Standard Chinese. This might still seem like a lot, but you can actually get by with only 1,000 of the most frequent characters. But Mandarin and Cantonese are both tonal languages meaning they are especially difficult for Westerners to truly master.
So what’s the most difficult language you ever learned? Can you still speak it? Or did you give up learning when the going got too tough? Let us know in the comments. Also, be sure to watch our other video Smartest Countries In The World. Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t forget to like, share and subscribe, and see you next time