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Japanese for English Speakers coming, but... "Most Difficult Language"? I don't buy it.

So yeah I saw this:


This is great and all, but what is this "most difficult language to learn" thing? I studied Japanese from books and CDs for a few months several years back and found the language enjoyable and fast to learn. It's sensible grammatically, the words are easy to remember and pronounce, and declension and conjugation are some of the easiest-to-grasp I've seen in any language.

The only stumbling block in Japanese is the written language—a similar situation with Korean, Chinese, and Russian.

German, on the other hand, is a fricking bastard language.

German spelling is some of the most difficult I've seen. I have trouble remembering when to use an umlaut, which is the difference between a bird (Vogel) and birds (Vögel). I haven't quite gotten the hang of pronunciation. Good luck getting the declension right—ever; nouns are masculine, feminine, or neuter, and it's semi-arbitrary. German was half-finished before humanity invented the concept of regular verbs.

Check out the German declension for negation via kein:


That's easy enough to grasp if you can remember, say, the accusative pronouns:


Meanwhile Japanese just marks out subject, objects, and verbs via particles. wa wo ga . There are a few irregular verbs. Plural is taken by context (a deer, five deer).

I'm not buying that Japanese is difficult. It has a writing system and you need to learn to read; structurally, Japanese is ridiculously-easy compared to Germanic languages.

May 29, 2017



It actually says 'one of the most difficult'. Big difference.

German spelling is a doddle compared to most European languages (including English), as it's entirely phonetic. Also, I certainly wouldn't say that the only stumbling block with Japanese is the writing system- there are various registers of politeness, dozens of particles with no direct English translation, words used only by particular sexes, and more.

Both languages have their challenges. Difficulty is entirely relative the learner.


I found the particles easy, although I'm pretty decent with abstracts. One of the things I noticed quickly was that the 'ka' particle is an uncertainty marker, e.g. it's a voiced question mark ending a sentence, and makes words indefinite (doko = where, dokoka = somewhere = a place whose location is left unexplained)—these are both the same function (a question mark indicates a statement without a definite explanation). The blunt explanation that wo, ga, or wa mark off things like the subject, object, or topic was sufficient for me; it's robust punctuation.

German spelling doesn't get me so much as keeping track of whether I need to use ein, eine, einen, etc. That requires keeping track of genders and plurals, and a lot of brute-force memorization. Words pluralize differently, as well, depending on what word it is rather than whether it's feminine or neuter or what. It's also kind of annoying they use the same word for "She", "You", and "They", such that "Sie hat einen Apfel" and "Sie haben einen Apfel" mean three different things. Written, there's a difference in "Sie Haben" if the Sie is capitalized—which doesn't much help if it's the first word in a sentence, or spoken.

The whole language is basically word-salad. Difficulty is a feature.


Words in German pluralise much as they do in English, due to their common ancestor. Like German, English features plenty of nouns which pluralise through ablaut- goose / geese, man / men and so on -and also features strong and weak verbs.

Sie may be a minor annoyance for English speakers, but German speakers find the same problem in the fact that we translate du, dich, dir, Sie, Ihnen, ihr and euch with a single word- you.

Gendered (and sometimes animate) nouns are a common feature in the majority of languages, and combined with a case system they make for a lot more precision in speech. English would still feature them if it wasn't for the confusion between the mostly mutually intelligible Old English and Old Norse leading to a gradual meeting in the middle for both languages.


You're going to need more than a few months to be able to judge a language. I learned it for 2 years in a university formally and off and on on my own for years before and after that.

With all of the different ways to say something based on one's own gender, level of formality, flexible word order, dang Keigo.... It feels like being sucked into an abyss where no matter how much you learn, you still have mountains and mountains left to go.

Japanese spoken in real life can be way different than what you learn in books/CDs/school. And then there's that writing system... The part that really frustrates me on the Kanji is how the characters have different readings and different meanings depending on how it's used.

That's not to say there aren't easy parts of the language depending on the person, though.


Dude I feel that way about English. The more you learn, the more there is. I'm pretty sure that's every topic in history.


The way you described German sounds a lot like Latin - feminine, neuter and masculine nouns, tons of declension (that is, five different declensions), and quite a few irregular things, plus the order of the sentence being basically any. Still, I enjoy learning Latin. Sometimes harder languages are more fun, especially when something clicks in your head ; )
But these are all our opinions, like Partick.Phang said. I don't have any experience with Japanese, so I can't really agree or disagree with you when it comes to it be easy. What's the flag your at level sixteen at? I don't recognize it : )


That level 16 flag is for Esperanto. It's an artificial language developed in the early 20th century.


Well yes it's easy......for you. Every person is different. I have a friend who studies German and he said it is really easy for him. Every person has different strengths and weaknesses.


Each person has its own thought about certain languages, for example, I found Chinese and German easy, but Vietamese and Hungarian are extremely hard, for other person, Hungarian may be easy for him, but German not, it all depends on perspective.


See, I find Hungarian, Vietnamese, German etc to be extremely easy, but for some reason, Russian and Swahili I find absolutely impossible!


I thought Swahili was supposed to be pretty hard?


I don't think most native English speakers would find Hungarian easy. I'm only on level 3 but getting there still felt like a ton of work.


Yeah. I gave up Hungarian because of the flexible word order.


I studied both Japanese and German in college, and definitely found Japanese to be the more difficult of the two. Mostly because of the kanji, but you really do need to study for more than a couple months to really get a feel for a language. Some languages have a tendency to trick you in the beginning and make you think they're easier than they actually are once you know more.


I have trouble remembering when to use an umlaut, which is the difference between a bird (Vogel) and birds (Vögel). Try to see Umlaute as completely different letters. They never sound the same than an a, o or u even if they look alike.

Pronunciation will get easier once you get the hang of it. It's phonetic and always the same and you will be able to read a word you've never seen or heard of before with the correct pronunciation one day!

Cases are hard though and lots of Germans have problems with them. There's even a saying and book "Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod" (dative is the death of genitive), because Genitiv gets used so sparingly. Well "Deutsche Sprache, schwere Sprache".

I can't say anything about Japanese. Never studied it and never tried to. My sister loves it though and doesn't think it's too hard, but her native language is German. My French cousin married a Japanese woman and moved to Japan, so he somehow managed to learn it as well. He never spoke any German so I have no idea how he'd compare the two languages.


I only know a little bit of Japanese, but have studied German for several years, and I can tell you that I find German easier in general. The trick with remembering whether the "Sie" is meant to mean "you" or "she" is to look at or hear the verb, because the ending will tell you. "Sie haben" is "You/they have" and "sie hat" is "she has." But the capital "Sie" is only for the formal "You" rather than the informal "du," so you probably won't need to worry about it as much, as "du" would work in most situations. Also, most plurals use the feminine article "die," so that helps when you are stuck trying to think what article to use at times.


Motivation is key. Although language learning experience does help a bit. To me German is very easy while Russian was medium. Anything that was hard? Well it used to be French and German at school because my motivation was very very low.


Because it's not well taught. The beta need much improvement and is very frustrating what they expect you to do.

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