Which is the hardest and easiest Slavic Language in your opinion.
My experiences :
Croatian : The easiest by far, its spelling is fairly phonetic and easy to get used to ( not to mention it uses the Latin alphabet ). Fairly regular, although some patterns take time to get used to.
Polish : The hardest by far, I thought the spelling would be easier to handle considering that it uses the Latin Alphabet. But differentiating between some of these letters feels impossible ( dz, ż, and ź will give me problems till the end of time ), and don't forget about the large amount of consonant clusters. Thank god Polish has regular stress patterns. Also, Polish seems to have rather irregular everything for a Slavic language.
Russian : Learning how and when to palletize, differentiate between Ш and Щ, and irregular stress patterns are my main trouble when reading and speaking Russian. Other than that, I wouldn't say it's too hard. Feels the most regular ( aside from stress patterns ) of the three Slavic language I've been studying.
Grammar-wise, they all feel equally as difficult. I've only been studying all three for a few months so take what I say with a grain of salt. And please, I'd like to hear your experiences with Slavic languages.
( It turns out I chose the most widely spoken Slavic languages of the three main Slavic groups ( East, West, and South ) without even noticing. )
( Also, I've heard that Bulgarian is the easiest Slavic language, is that true? )
My understanding is that Polish is generally considered the “hardest” Slavic languages due to the relatively large amount of irregularities — a legacy of extensive contact and influence by non-Slavic languages (like German, Hungarian, French, and so forth). This said, I have never studied any other Slavic languages so I can’t claim first-hand knowledge.
Hmm... I don't think that Polish was more influenced by German/French than Russian by various Turkic/Finnic languages or Bulgarian/Macedonian by Greek and Turkish. At least, that's my impression.
Some features of Polish that may be seen as "exotic" among Slavic languages are not innovations but "relicts", eg. nasal vowels, so it's a different situation than with French/Portuguese vs. other Romance languages.
As far as I know, some Slavic languages were heavily standarised during their "revival" in the 19th century so they may be more regular, while Polish wasn't modernised in this "organised" way.
For me personally....
Easiest: Russian. Once one gets the hand of the Cyrillic, it is not so bad. I might not always get the perfect pronunciation but at least I can read things quite comfortably and understand them in my head. Also, word order is flexible which is nice for me. Russians are also nice (Even times when they are excited and thrilled!) in terms of appreciating when you try to speak Russian to them, even if imperfect. It's refreshing, since other certain groups make the exact opposite reaction.
Russian of course is far from easy peasy, but in terms of comparison of course.
Hardest: Polish and Czech. (Actively learning Polish in deeper detail, while only learned some basic Czech as I was travelling in the Czech Republic this past summer as a trip)
You already discussed why Polish is tricky! And for me about Czech, the hardest for sure was simply being able to pronounce everything correctly, even with practice and some study ahead of time and during. I was even having trouble remembering how to say something as simple "Thank you". I felt so bad each time! My apologies to the Czechs again! Even with little background in the other two languages, for some reason it was just not clicking with me at all.
Just all the characters, phonology and the like was so difficult. My little language book with pronunciations on the side of each word/sentence didn't help either, apparently not even correct! :O at least with the dialect(s) I was around, I suppose.
I knew Czech was hard long prior but Oi. Mad respect folks.
I heard of many people that Macedonian (or Bulgarian) is the easiest Slavic language and the hardest Polish because of the many consonants. But grammatically, I think, is Macedonian again the easiest. The opposite maybe Serbian/Croatian, Russian or again Polish? You can correct me if I'm mistaken.
I'm a native Polish speaker and have been learning Czech for some time. The hardest thing about Czech is the accent and the conjugation endings which seem to be more nombrous than in Polish (e.g. Polish "proszę", "dziękuję" and "idę" in Czech take different ending each: "prosím", "dekuji", "jdu" - correct me if I'm wrong ;)). On the other hand, Polish has a more complex use of declensions e.g. "Widzę dziewczynę" (Acc.) - "Nie widzę dziewczyny" (Gen.) while in Czech both would be in Accusative; in Polish "Jestem dzieckiem" (Instrumental), in Czech "jsem díte" (Nominative). I've also heard that Slovene is incredibly hard but I haven't tried learning it :)
First, I am surprised by the many misconceptions of what makes a language "hard" or "easy" and hence the poor suggestions in the previous responses.
Second, let's make a clarification - "hardest" and "easiest" to whom? Your native language and your second languages would influence which new language would be easier or harder for you to learn. Your brain works by association.
Since the post is written in English, let's assume that we are talking about a learner who speaks fluent English.
For speakers of English/Spanish/Portuguese/French/Italian/Greek/Romanian or any of the Scandinavian languages, Bulgarian/Macedonian is the easiest Slavic language to learn. The reason is twofold:
1) The grammar is almost identical to that of Spanish. It is highly simplified compared to the rest of the Slavic languages and the language is classified as analytical, so very similar to most non-Slavic European languages, like the ones listed above.
There is almost complete lack of cases, there are definitive articles, there are multiple tenses and there are many verb forms. Some of the previous responses listed these as challenges, but for speakers of analytic languages these are familiar and expected constructs which make the learning process faster. When we evaluate the difficulty of a language it is important to distinguish crucial from non-crucial features. In Bulgarian you may not be able to use all tenses or verb forms fluently, or you may not even use the definite article properly (many Russians living in Bulgaria don't use any of these two when they speak Bulgarian), but you will still be easily understood. These features of the language bring nuances, but they are not crucial to communicating. Another feature of Bulgarian grammar is the fluidity of the word order in a sentence. You can pretty much move words around in the sentence and that doesn't affect its meaning, so for beginners, learning strict word order is one less thing to worry about.
2) The phonetics are highly simplified as well compared to the other Slavic languages and generally align with the Romance languages.
Bulgarian/Macedonian pretty much only has one version of each consonant and they match relatively closely the consonants in Spanish or English. For comparison - Polish may have up to 3 or 4 different sounds for the same consonant. For example, it has ź, ż, and rz, which are all letters for variations of a sound, for which English does not even have a letter and phonetically loosely resembles the SU in meaSUre.
On the other hand, the hardest Slavic language to learn would be Polish and close seconds - Czech and to some extent Slovak, due to their complicated grammar, crucial accentuation and challenging sound system. For example přespříští, which reads something like "przhesprzhishti"; notice the accents over the í vowels - they are not there just for fun; accentuated vowels actually change the meaning of the words so they all need to be learnt.
Russian and Serbo-Croatian would have an easier phonetic system than the Western Slavic languages, but they still have pretty complicated grammar with infinitive forms and up to 6 cases which are indeed crucial to understanding and communication, and a completely foreign concept to someone who only speaks an analytic language like English or Spanish and the rest mentioned above.
Okay, Russian's my native, so I've been learning it since I was born being fully immersed into the language environment. According to my mom, it took me about 2 years to start uttering distinguishable words, and 2 years more to deal with complex sentences. Vocabulary was still poor at the time. I learned to read and write on my 6th or 7th year and stopped making stupid mistakes in writing in some late teenage. Then it went better, and now, many years later, I am fluent. Still cannot decently maintain conversation on quantum physics or sophisticated maths though, because I know neither.
My travelling experience has proven that while I've never deliberately learned any other Slavic language for even a minute, I can:
- grasp verbal Ukrainian or Belorussian if it is slow, and reading is relatively easy, with only few words here and there I cannot guess the meaning of.
- get the overall meaning of a text (no nuances) in Polish or Montenegrin; verbal speech is beyond me.
- pick a few words in a text in Czech, too few to understand the overall meaning though.
I cannot speak or write any of the languages above.
To illustrate, the Croatian phrase you used above looks like a distorted Russian phrase bearing the same meaning. Compare:
- Znaš govoriti hrvatski? - initial
- Znaeš [kak] govorit' po-horvatski? - Russian, transliterated into Latin
- Знаешь [как] говорить по-хорватски? - Cyrillic Russian. It's not the standard way to say it in Russian, and punctuation and the conjunction 'как' opening the dependent clause are omitted, but the meaning is 100% clear. The difference is just a few characters, really.