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The hardest language

[deactivated user]

    This one will be easier for those who currently are learning or have already learned several languages.

    What was the hardest language to get into? Being the alphabet, the grammar, the spelling, the accent... what was THE ONE hardest to crack.

    And kind of a sequence to this question...

    Have you ever given up on a language? I'm not saying after a couple of lessons... more like one or two months into it and reaching a point where you just felt like throwing your computer out the window and saying that's just not for me.

    (here's hope this discussion won't disappear)

    January 12, 2018



    English is quite difficult. The pronunciation makes no sense, so you have to learn it word-by-word. If you hear a strange word, knowing how to write it is challenging. It is, in fact, so difficult that they have spelling contests at school where they practice it.

    The prepositions are quite arbitrary, but this is the case with every language.

    English does not appreciate native words, but loans freely from every other language it encounters. This means that the vocabulary is very large and the spellings are even more nonsensical.

    I have given up trying to understand the system English people use for the clock. When is 12 pm or 12 am? What about 0 pm or 0 am? To make matters worse, they start their week from Sunday, not Monday.

    They also use obscure units of measurement, completely divorced from international standards. Cups, feet, miles, etc.

    They use capital letters for ordinary words like almost every word in a title, weekdays, months, Christmas, etc. Lots of excessive capitalization.

    They have not figured out combined words, so they have a different word for even related concepts. Even when they use combined words, their language is ill-suited for it. Consider the word "multiindex", and compare with the obvious solution of "multi-index". Which one is easier to understand?


    12 P.M. is noon. A.M. is midnight. 0 P.M. does not exist and 0 A.M is midnight on a twenty-four hour clock. Albeit twenty-four hour clocks are only really used by the military, hence the term military time. As for on Sunday and not Monday, well this is the way it was explained to me. The Sabbath is supposed to be the seventh day of the week and is on Saturday. When Rome adopted Catholicism they wanted to ❤❤❤❤ something up and made Sunday the holy day. I'm not sure why but maybe it had to do with Roman paganism. Anyway, since the holy day was now Sunday but was supposed to be the seventh day, many predominantly Catholic countries changed their calendar. I will admit that the imperial system of units sucks, but to my understanding it is more common in the United States than any other English speaking country. So saying that it's English's fault is a bit inaccurate. Oh! And as for the "excessive capitalization," the rules of English demand that all proper nouns be capitalized. What is a proper noun? In short, it's a noun that acts as a name. Monday, for instance, is the name of the second day of the week. All your other arguments I agree with whole-heartedly. As a final thought, I put more effort into my grammar in this comment than I usually do. My intention was to be a good representative of my language. Anyway, Have a nice day.


    For me, English was much easier than any other languages!


    Hungarian. Started learning it about 20 times because it's gorgeous and well... Budapest but I just cannot get the accent right. :D


    That's something I didn't expect. I expected Hungarian grammar to be hard but not phonetically tho.


    For me it is anyway. The different "a"s and "e"s, especially in a long word, make my head hurt a little. So it is either generally difficult or my teacher is too tough on me.


    I think I can safely say that classical languages are extremely hard to get fluent in, as the material to actively engage with the language is very scarce and the more traditional methods are more (in my opinion, too much) focused on grammar and translation.

    I have been learning ancient Greek and Latin for quite some time now, but even though I have a bachelor in Classics, I am ashamed of admitting that I cannot read these two languages fluently, except maybe for easy Latin texts, but mostly medieval, not classical. Granted, there are some methods to train one self in reading with more ease and without the dictionary, but it's still a very different world from modern languages.

    Considering the modern language I know, I think modern Greek is still a challenge. Not because of the alphabet (it's a misconception to think that a different writing system is necessarily such a great obstacle, at least in the long run), but because every other language I know are quite close to each other: English, German, Dutch (native), French and Italian. There are even linguistic theories that state that these languages, including also Spanish and possibly others, form a Western-European Sprachbund, a group of languages that aren't genetically related (at least not necessarily; in this case they are, but Romance and Germanic languages are still genetically quite distinct) but share many common syntactical and conceptual elements. But my knowledge of ancient Greek helps with the modern variant, so I wouldn't consider that impossible either.

    I have never given up, although I admit I should start reviewing modern Greek in the near future. It would be a shame to forget all I've learned.


    Modern Greek is quite hard for me because of the spelling. I think having knowledge of Romance or Slavic grammar helps with Greek quite a bit but it’s not a Romance or Slavic language, so you need to treat it a little differently.


    Spelling is not that much a problem for me, I think, as words tend to be written more or less the same as in the ancient variant. But I am by no means advanced in modern Greek, so I might be dealing with wholly different problems than you!


    Hungarian and Arabic are the most difficult ones I’ve been trying at so far. Hungarian has 16 cases, high agglutination and a large inventory of sounds while Arabic has a complex writing system paired with prefixes, suffixes and infixes (tiny word-changing pieces that go inside a word), in addition to consonants not common to other languages. I really want to learn Arabic and I love the way Hungarian sounds, so I’m trying to push forward despite their difficulties. Hungarian might be easier once I actually have some more Korean under my belt, and knowing a little bit of some languages that borrowed Arabic words (Swahili, Turkish) will give me advantage over some of the Arabic vocabulary, with the addition of the fact that Arabic is widely spoken (MSA and several dialects).


    Just curious, why would knowledge of Korean help with Hungarian? They aren't really related, right?


    Hungarian and Korean aren't related, though....


    Filipino, even I, as a native, views it as hard. I could simply speak Filipino fluently, but couldn't teach properly the proper usage of affixes.

    Central Tagbanwan is hard for me tho, although it is close to Tagalog, I couldn't get into its accent. Seems like I'm going to talk in Tenor to achieve it.


    This is me on Indonesian. I don't really have troubles with accents, though.


    I don't know how come Central Tagbanwan is killing my throat, it is way more difficult to pronounce than Northern Tagbanwan or any Philippine dialects.


    For me at the moment, Hebrew is really difficult purely due to the alphabet. I know quite a few different alphabets already but with Hebrew the characters look so similar that no matter how many times I practice I am still unsure of what sounds they produce. I think if I can get past this barrier, learning the language won't be too difficult as word order etc. seems straight forward.


    I haven't completely given up entirely, but I did step away from both Hebrew and Korean, because I realised that I just wasn't absorbing anything.

    For Korean, I could not train my ear to differentiate many of the sounds. In the case of Hebrew, I was really thrown by the right to left text. Those are both fairly minor things, but I was surprised at how much they tripped me up.

    Of those I've pursued further, I've found Polish to be the hardest. The case endings for nouns and adjectives are very hard for me to remember, which is funny, because I haven't found Hungarian to be as difficult.


    Japanese is not so bad, if you do not bother to learn how to write it, if you just want to speak Japanese the structur is not so difficult. I gave up on french as I could not pronounce it at all. Here is a list with the most difficult languages. https://polyglotclub.com/help/language-learning-tips/hardest-language/translate-german


    Obviously picking a language with a different letter system is harder. I'm waiting for the Arabic course here on Duolingo, though it's a new letter system because I speak Hebrew I might have a slight edge grammar wise (both are gender based and are very different than English). Also, I started learning Russian because it's more useful to me, but because I hear it all the time it kinda discouraged me. So I picked Welsh instead- it was either that or Esperanto.


    Obviously picking a language with a different letter system is harder.

    I do not agree. In some cases yes, the writing system can be an obstacle (thinking of Japanese, Chinese or other languages involving characters) but Cyrillic or Greek could be learned in a day; a week at most. I think I will have a harder time learning Turkish or Vietnamese than I would Russian; the first two are written in the Latin alphabet, but the latter is Indo-European, and thus related to my native tongue.


    Tibetan, Thai and Dzongkha: Our writing systems takes years to get good at.


    No. However, there are some languages I have not started. Ancient languages no one is capable of speaking, for instance (except for Latin, which I had to learn), or languages artificially crafted. However, I did postpone my learning of easy languages (such as Bahasa Melayu or Kiswahili) in order to do harder ones first. Which I am still in the midst of.

    But your question suggests you tend to learn via computer only. I would strongly advise against that:

    • In learning a multitude of languages, it has helped (me, at least) to approach each and every single language with another main method of learning. This prevents you from mixing things up and in my eyes even creates a more fruitful learning environment each time.

    • Personally, I even dislike language learning. It is just a means in order to speak the language properly, to be able to communicate at a later stage. I do not think cramming arbitrary things into your head is fun; but I think it is fun to be mistaken for a native speaker in terms of language production. Therefore I need to reassure myself every now and then. And this I only achieve by putting language to use or mingling with fellow learners. I would never try to learn a language on my own just using my computer -- I am afraid I would lose interest altogether if I did. It would have flown out of the window long ago.

    (By the way, it is an urban myth that language learning must be fun in order to get to a high proficiency level. That is just not true. I do not exactly hate language learning, but it is no fun to me at all.)

    [deactivated user]

      But your question suggests you tend to learn via computer only.

      Well, yes and no... Obviously when thinking about learning languages one tends to think of within Duolingo's context since well, this is Duolingo's forum. What's more, where else can you find so many languages available to learn on the same place? It's convenient... sometimes too convenient because it can give the false impression that you can master a large number of languages with ease... but that's another topic...

      But on the other hand my question really was generic... it also included language learning outside Duolingo, even if trying and testing languages on a more conventional setting (classes...) is a considerably more serious affair because you invest time and money and in theory you should use both wisely.

      Good post.


      The only language I ever got into on my own has been Japanese. It has been great fun to learn the different scripts and pronounciations and I think the sentence structure is very interesting. It does however from time to time feel overwhelming to the point where I just want to forget about it and move on with my life; the more I learn the more I realize how much more there is.

      I sort of did quit after my initial trials last year about this time, but for some reason I couldn't let it go. It lingered in the back of my mind and after talking to an online friend who already is here, well, here I am too now ;)


      I never gave up on a language, but the language I think the hardest is Javanese. Not because of its writing system, but rather its grammar. Javanese can be divided into three (and more if you count those between them) style based on honorifics and each of them have a lot of different words and sometimes the word structure changes too.

      For example, ngoko is used with close friends, siblings, or someone 'lower' than you (parent to child, teacher to student,...), krama is used for polite speech in general, and krama inggil is used if you speak with someone in really 'higher' position to you (parents, teacher,...)

      Sometimes you also have to 'influence' the sentence with 'higher' honorifics. So you may talk with your sister in ngoko but when talking about your uncle with her you have to 'krama'-nize anything directly relates to him.


      the hardest languages that I ever got into were definitely Xhosa or Tuyuca. talk about hard... these languages make no sense at all. believe me guys.


      Cherokee. Abkhaz. Archi. Sui. Navaho. Aymara. And even Tibetan are extremely complex to get into

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