Polish – the hardest language to learn in the world
What is the hardest language to learn for English Speakers? Take a guess; it is not Chinese or Japanese. It is Polish. Polish has seven cases and Polish grammar has more exception than rules. German for example has four cases all which are logical, seem to have no pattern or rules; you have to learn the entire language. Asia languages usually do not have cases, or at least like that.
Polish – hardest language pronunciation
The Pronunciation is eons harder than Asia language as it usually has long tong twisting consonants. For example a Polish sentence might look like this:
W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.
Wyindywidualizowaliśmy się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.
Further Polish people rarely hear foreign speak their language and with no accent or regional variation than pronunciation must be exact or they will have no idea what you are talking about.
Here is my argument that dispels the myth of Asian or other languages the most difficult
The Polish language has a Latin Alphabet, but the free ride stops there. Just how hard is Polish to speak? Well consider this, I have studied Polish most of my life, my parents speak Polish and I lived in Poland for about a decade and my wife is Polish, I have citizenship. Oh and some more, I have a passion for learning and even a nack, yet I would not say I speak the Polish language anything close to perfect. Here is how to a friend of mine learned the hardest language in the world. If I were to study French, Spanish or even Chinese I think I would gain a command of the spoken language that would surpass my ability in Polish perhaps in months. Norman Davies a lifelong champion of Poland has made a similar comments. It is not just the crazy grammar, or pronunciation, it is that the people who use it are so soft-spoken.
Many people will argue that other languages are more difficult based on some official textbook understanding of linguistics. Hogwash, they ignore the most vital component in this ranking formula, that is the culture where it is spoken. For me it an unbelievable oversight. They perpetuate a paradigm of lies based on skewed weights and measures.
American English vs Polish – the way people speak determines how accessible a language is to being absorbed
Here is a concrete example. If you have ever heard some American coming from a club chances are you heard their rounded American English vocalized all the way from down the street, and that would be the girls, mind you. In contrast Slavic people, maybe because of their experience with communism like to stay in the shadows and conversations are almost in whispers. Or perhaps they are just more modest and there is not such a premium placed on self-assertion. It is very refreshing to be in a group and everyone is not trying to impress the other.
A linguistic group’s social conventions regarding openness, receptiveness and how people communicate with each other and foreigners, is the most important aspects of language learning. It is eons more important than grammar or the script they use.
Consider this metaphor, it is like comparing a group of friends inviting and welcoming vs an elitist closed club that has little conversation. This is only a metaphor or analogy to convey a point. Where would you learn more? Similarly it is easy to go to the USA or converse with people in English as the English speaking culture is extroverted. That alone makes it a breeze to learn.
In contrast Slavic countries are good people but there is not a lot of boisterous openness. If you try to speak their language they will switch to English. It is just the culture or laugh and switch to English.
If you take a class in the language it is geared toward grammar rules and lessons. This is what they were taught in a post communist Eastern European classical education with a focus on form, than practicality.
It is the culture’s attitude, even is subconscious that determines if a language is child’s play or arduous. Polish are polite and kind but they are not even aware how introverted the culture is, which makes a formidable hurdle for your Broca’s and Wernicke’s area.
Again not that any of this is wrong or bad, it is just an obstacle that many people do not calculate when they are drawing up a list of the hardest languages in the world.
What about pronunciation?
When it comes to pronunciation, I remember when I first started to study Polish, my own family, who understood the context could not make out what I was saying. They were use to me still could not understand me. The Polish ear is not accustom to foreigners speaking their languages so they reject any sound that is not precisely native. This was not the case when I attempted to speak other languages like French, Spanish, Chinese with strangers. Basically when you try to communicate with a Pole and your pronunciation is off by an increment, you will be shut down. Therefore, pronunciation is interdependent on the cultural aspect of language.
Grammar seven cases and uncountable exceptions
Grammar in Polish is hard but what makes it harder is similar to the above, if your grammar is less than exact you get a wall. It is less so than with pronunciation, but think about how many foreigners speak English poorly and no one bats an eye. Well in Poland you miss a case than you get a smirk. They are just not use to foreigners speaking Polish.
Again this is not a criticism of the culture at all, I love the people and country, it is just all the world does not interact like Americans do with linguistic, flexibility, extraversion and assimilation.
Lechitic languages or Western Slavic languages are universally laborious because of the grammar, but have had many friends to learned it and it is worth the effort. If you can speak on your brain is opened up to new experiences and you would be part of that inner circle, plus there are many beautiful girls in Eastern Europe to connect with, I am just being honest.
If God did not exist, everything is permitted – Is Ivan’s in The Brother of Karamazov’s by Dostoevsky philosophy in a nutshell.
Dostoevsky did mean to convey this, contrary to revisionist misinterpretations on the web such as Andrei I. Volkov’s secular article which is an academic Ivory tower play on worlds. If you read the book you can make your own judgement.
A look at the The Brother of Karamazov’s by Dostoevsky universe with and without God
We will never know what the Universe would be like without God, because God exists. I know it for a fact. Deus Absconditus (the hidden God) becomes Deus revelatus (God revealed) to those who have faith.
When the self-righteous atheists proclaim – Cogito ergo Deus non est or translated, I think, therefore there is no god, it does not make any sense because Deus est ergo cogito (what do I know of Latin, I am sure I got this wrong with the grammatical cases here).
If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.
You can see how intertwined God is with our biology. Dr.Andrew Newberg makes this point in his book How God changes your Brain.
Our brains do not have the cognitive reach to perceive all aspects of the universe but there are logical interferences or the signature of God everywhere as well as the experience of the Divine in our lives.
So to speculate with metaphysical philosophy about the universe with or without a Divine creator, it is like speculating about the warmth of the sun minus fire. The Universe would be the absolute zero of non-existence without the Absolute. We are all sparks off the Divine flame and all that is seen and unseen in our perception including ourselves is only possible because God exists.
Therefore, when you ask the question ‘if God did not exist, would all things be permissible or possible’, the answer is yes, but a universe without God is impossible.
Russian novelist and psychologist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 800 page novel – The Brothers Karamazov, as well as this earlier work Crime and Punishment, deals with the issues of religion, God and the moral philosophy of men acting on their free will to commit acts of good and bad. 19th century Russia produced many brilliant minds that could see reality as it was without the technological distractions of the 20th century.
If anyone thinks I am off base and that a moral life is possible without God let me know. I do acknowledge humanists and ethical atheists can develop a personal ethic, yet they
Atheists and ethical humanists often delude themselves in thinking that ethics without religion is possible. To an extent it is possible. An individual gets a lot of psychological juice, in taking pride in the fact that you are acting for the good. I think it is part of our evolutionary programming as man is a social animal. You receive a psychological reward for having behavior that conforms to the greater good of the group you live in. Ideas of sacrifice and contribution have both instinct and external rewards.
It makes sense because from a genetic evolutionary standpoint nature is concerned with the survival of the species rather than the individual. The whole is more important than a part so it embeds a genetic mechanism which regards altruistic behavior.
This is why you have the delusion of ethics without an absolute. In a word it just feels right, to behave a certain way. Further, ethical humanism conforms to much of what the religions teach.
Personally I have no problem with ethical humanism, except if you take your logic to its corrosive end like Friedrich Nietzsche or Albert Camus did, you will find that you are in an existential abyss. Nothing is there or left. Ethics without an objective reality can be acted on but has no basis.
Further, I fully acknowledge the problems with religion. The purity of the message is interpreted through the lens of an imperfect human psychology and God does not give us a set written code of behavior as with any law, it is the spirit rather than the letter of the law that counts. Many people think they have the liberal prescription from God in a book. A book written by imperfect humans and change and interpreted through history. What you do have is one way that God reveals himself to us. It is one aspect of how we experience God in our lives. You have to experience God yourself and whether through prayer or scripture or logic or your imagination it does not matter as much as the experience and what you do with this.
Dostoyevsky was criticizing Roman Catholicism and atheistic Socialism in his dialogue.
At a pivotal point in the novel, Ivan (John), the atheist, take the stance there is no objective reality. Why not lie, cheat and steal if is to your advantage’. Moral absolutes are an illusion. Ivan’s brother murders his own father (symbolic of destroying the idea of God the father). The act is not wrong if God does not exist. If you think about it in the measureless universe it is just an action by organized organic chemicals to change them into inorganic.
It sounds crazy but I would tend to think that ethics without God are possible but probable. Many good atheists have the light of God in them even if they do not see it in themselves. Yet pushed to the limit of philosophical thought their ethics are on shaky ground. I think this is why so many people cheat on each other and get divorced and do all kinds of immoral things, they do not really have the love of God in their heart. They might even be religious but they lack the courage of their convictions, so it really is a matter of faith that God exists.
I believe like Plato says, a person will not knowingly do wrong because good is congruent with the whole picture. An immoral action is a result of a distorted picture of reality. If you do not have the Divine in your worldview you will have a distorted moral action. That reality has a God who loves us in it.
Sequential processing as ECP the juggling artist in your brain
Sequential processing is our ability to take in, store, process and use information in an orderly way. It it important in everyday life, even if you are not aware of it. Your super computer brain does magic to get your to complete simple tasks like reading and speaking.
Although sequential processing is a part of short-term memory, it is not intelligence in itself, but a building block that supports intelligence and even IQ. It is an elementary cognitive process or ECP. ECPs are the basis of our intelligence, as they support higher cognitive functions. It is like having sharp and useful tools in our shed. Tools which we can subsequently deploy to build ideas and be genius that we all are.
If your sequential processing is better, every mental process will be easier because you can take in more of what you see and hear. Further any ECP, is closely connected with working memory, or the ability to hold several ideas in your stream of consciousness at once. This means, with improved sequential processing you can five or ten bits of information in your brain at once.
Imagine as you are thinking now, there are clouds of separate ideas floating above your head. Like in a mind map if you will. Then all of a sudden, you start to connect those ideas and expand on them to create a higher order. If you can juggle information in such a way, your brain produces better, clearer ideas.
Poor Sequential processing is like have a low graphics card in your computer
Have you ever used a computer with a graphics card with more memory or a computer with low RAM? This was more common in the past. Computers now are all supped up with RAM and high graphics for gaming. However, if you have poor hardware or graphic cards in your computer you know what I mean. Your computer will act slow and not perform well. You might even not have the ability to do the task you wanted to. This is the same ideas behind sequential memory processing.
Increase you’re sequential processing and increase your capacity to learn languages
So what does this have to do with language learning everything? You want to convey and idea? Then you have to make a sentence. A sentence is a very complex thing. It has multiple grammatical concepts, it has complex new ways to pronounce things, it has abstract ideas, word order, word meanings and more. To create, use and understand a simple sentence your brain has to store several things in its working memory and process them sequentially.
How sequential processing is related to language learning
If you could increase your building blocks of memory, you can increase you ability to learn a language. Conversely if you learn a new language, I believe you will increase things like working memory and sequential function.
So what is sequential processing in its raw form?
Here is an example: 18602651107673 the ability to recall these bits of information in a sequence if seen or heard. Most people have about 7. That is they can recall seven digits. Some people have less and some more. If you could increase your ability to process bits of information in sequence to 12 digits, your language learning ability would be greatly improved.
You can practice to develop this, as your brain is like a muscle. You can develop your elementary cognitive processes and this will help you with all tasks in life. However, unless you have a real problem, I recommend just trying to learn a language as it will stretch your brain anyway.
If you want ideas on how to improve your brain’s power leave a comment and I can guide you.
One of the most confusing words for me in Polish is the shortest. The Polish word for ‘Yes’ is ‘tak’. The Polish word for ‘No’ is ‘nie’. Ok, that is easy. However, more common than ‘yes’ or ‘tak’, I hear, the word ‘Yeah’, which in Polish is pronounced or said ‘no’. If I would ask a girl to the movies and she says ‘no’ in Polish this means ‘yes’, or ‘yeah sure’.
To add to the confusion I speak Polish, at a reasonable level. Most of my conversations are a mix of Polish and English. So I get confused often when I hear ‘no’ because there is a little context for a one-word answer.
Lucky the accent for ‘no’ which really means ‘yeah’ or ‘yes’ is different from the ‘no’ meaning ‘no’. Usually, I ask for clarification so I do not get myself in trouble.
Sometimes while driving I ask my wife for directions. She says go right, I say right, she says ‘no’ (which means ‘yeah’ in the Polish language). Then between the English word ‘right’ and the Polish word ‘no’ we miss the turn and I always say next time just say ‘tak’ or ‘nie”.
Other terms for negation in the Polish language might be:
wcale ‘at all’
Example: – Jak czesto ćwiczysz jogę? – Wcale.
How often do you do yoga? Not at all.
wogóle ‘at all, not even a bit’
Example: – Piszesz dużo sms-ów? – Wogóle nie używam komórki.
Do you text a lot? I don’t even use a cell phone.
niekoniecznie ‘not necessary’
Example: – Chcesz iść na randkę? – Niekoniecznie…
Do you want to go on a date? Not necessary…
raczej nie ‘rather not’ – when a girl says it means ‘there is no way’
Example: – Chcesz zobaczyć magiczną sztuczkę? – Raczej nie.
Do you want to see a magic trick? Rather not.
Example: Nikt mnie nie kocha.
Nobody loves me.
Example: Nigdy nie mów nigdy.
Never say never.
nigdzie ‘nowhere, anywhere’
Example: Nigdzie nie mogę znaleźć moich okularów.
I can’t find my glasses anywhere.
ani ‘nor, or’
Example: Nie widziałem ani Star Trek ani Star Wars.
I haven’t seen Star Trek nor Star Wars.
skądże or ‘a skąd’ means ‘not at all, are you kidding me?’
Example: – Oglądałeś się za tą dziewczyną? – Skądże!
Did you just checked out this girl? Not at all! (What an idea!)
żaden ‘no one, none’
Example: Żaden super-bohater nie umywa się do ciebie.
No superhero has anything on you.
a gdzie tam ‘whatever, not really, no way’
Example: – Oglądałeś wczoraj “Teorię wielkiego podrywu”? – A gdzie tam, musiałem się uczyć do examinu.
Did you see ‘The Big Bang theory’ last night? No way, I had to study or an exam.
szkoda mówić ‘there is no need to even talk about it’
Example: – Jak poszła randka? – Szkoda mówić…
How was your date? There is nothing to talk about…
The Amish of America speak a hybrid dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German. It is a Germanic language with a good amount of English mixed in.
If you sit and listen to two Amish speaking, you may be surprised that what seems like every fifth or tenth or twentieth word is actually English. Occasionally you find you can sort of follow along as they speak.
PA Dutch is a largely unwritten language. When the Amish write notes and letters to one another, they usually use English.
But the typical Amish child will not speak much or any English until he or she reaches school age. PA Dutch is the first language they learn as toddlers, and the language that most Amish are most comfortable conversing in. Once in school, the teacher, who is almost always Amish, teaches the children English, and all lessons are held using English as a base language. In fact, many if not most Amish are actually trilingual, because in addition to English and ‘Dutch’, they speak and understand High German, which is the language their Bibles are written in and the language typically used in their church services.
Amish language MP3 program by an Amish family in Southern Pennsylvania
Oh, by the way there is an Amish language learning program coming soon, by the Amish for you. I will let you know when ready. Sign up below and I will let you know when complete.
The Amish are not the only ones who have been known to speak PA German, though they are the largest group. Speakers of the dialect, including Mennonites and non-Amish, have been found historically in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania, as well as in the Shenandoah valley region stretching south through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. The three languages of the Amish
The Amish language is used at home and day-to-day life.
In church they use Hochdeitsch or high German.
While the English language is taught for business purposes and to interact with outsiders.
Amish linguistic tree
One of the things I like about the language of the Pennsylvania Dutch, spoken by 281,675 people. Actually close to 400,000 if you define it broader. The linguistic tree looks something like this:
Indo-European -> Germanic -> West Germanic -> High German -> West Central German -> Pennsylvania German.
The actual PADutch word for their own language is Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch, although some Mennonites speakers actually speak, Plautdietsch or Low German. It is also similar to Alemannic German a dialect on the Rhine and even Switzerland.
Palatinate German which is spoken by 2.4 million South West Germans in Europe is linguistically related to the Amish language and they are mutually understandable, but at times challenging. A lot of people forget that, Europe is all about dialects, like American is about regional accents.
Of course it is not really directly related to Dutch, rather it is a folk rendering of the German endonym ‘Deitsch’ which of course sounds like Deutsch, which is the modern German word for their own people. You can see how the word changed historically in English once it got into American English-speaking conversations through the years.
The Amish language has evolved over 300 years in America. There are even regional variations between the Ohio and Lancaster county speakers.
How does PA Dutch sound like?
It sounds l German English. When listening the English speaker can almost understand it without any knowledge if spoken in a plain context.
When the Amish speak English they have a ‘Dutchfied’ accent and sometimes hard to understand if you are not accustomed to this accent. I think it sounds quite nice.
Amish immigration waves and vocabulary
The Amish came in two waves. The 17th and early 18th century and the middle of the 19th century.
Both groups came from Southern Germany, Eastern France and Switzerland. However, the timing of the immigration is key.
The first wave settled in Pennsylvania. The second wave settled in Ohio and Indiana. The difference is the second wave came with German vocabulary rich in industrial and technology words. While the first wave that settle in Pennsylvania use load words in English to describe things like electricity and telephone. Therefore you have a divergence in the Amish lexicon in America.
The Written language
Not really a written language but people do write it. There is actually an Amish publisher called Pathway Publishing Company and bulletin newspapers.
The IPA or the International Phonetic Alphabet is useless. I taught languages for years and never used it once. It is archaic and for academics and only adds to the confusion. Better is simply get an mp3 of the words. Phonetically Pennsylvania Dutch is like English and you can sound out the words. This is because one thousand years ago Old German and Old English were basically the same language. I know this is a simplification but English is a Germanic language.
What does Pennsylvania German grammar look like?
There are four cases where nouns and pronouns change. If you do not know what a case is (because they are not prevalent in English) consider this example. ‘She’ is my girlfriend. I date ‘her’. Note how the pronoun ‘she’ changes to ‘her’ because it changes the context or case which it is use. In this sentence it chances from the nominative to the accusative.
Well in a case base language all nouns and pronouns could take different forms. However, these changes, like in German are pretty regular.
One importance I would underline in Pennsylvania German is the robust grammar around plurals.
What if you spoke Amish
Can you imagine the surprise of an Amish person if an Englisher starts to speak Pennsylvania Dutch in the market. I experienced this when I was in Poland and would start to speak Polish on the street to people. Since few foreigners spoke their language I was welcomed and seen as maybe not one of them but accepted in a positive different way.
If you spoke even a few words and phrases of the Amish language, then you would have a rapport and insight into their culture beyond an average tourist to Amishland.
Why learn the Amish language?
You could use the language:
In the market or in a local Amish shop.
At the Inn in Amishland.
A cordial rapport when, for example talking about the weather.
If you are reading Amish fiction and the author sprinkles in these Pennsylvania Dutch words.
To exercises your brain in a unique way, better than crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
Confidence builder, even if you are not good with languages there are so many free vocabulary words because of its proximity to English, you will make progress.
Practically you could go to Germany and use it with Millions in parts where there is dialect similarity. Perhaps you might sound to the Germans or Swiss, like a you were speaking in an old fashion way, like Shakespearean English, would sound to us, but you could be understood. I think it would be marvelous.
If you wanted to write a letter to an Amish person for a rapport (although it is primarily a spoken language)..
If you wanted to take on a more serious interest in Amish ways.
If you have ever thought of joining the Amish.
For the pleasure of it.
There are other reasons, but I personally and trying to learn a little. It is an interesting part of our culture and I am a native of Pennsylvania.
Etymology of the word Amish
The Amish come from the Anabaptist movement, which ‘means to be baptized again’. And Amish come from Jakob Ammann a Swiss brethren Mennonite leader.
Is the Amish language is becoming diluted away? On one hand, the Amish community is the fastest growing subculture in the Americas. On the other hand, it is being diluted with English with younger generation. Bilingualism is the norm. The good news is it is not and endanger language, rather it is evolving. With the sparse use of technology you have a unique linguistic laboratory.
External linguistic Amish resources
Erik Wesner is an expert on the Amish.. Erik even has a real live Amish man sometimes answering questions, I think he has a computer hidden in his barn or something, really. Go here Pennsylvania Dutch in Amish land.
Let me know if you need more information on the language and I will be creating an MP3 program soon that teaches it and it will be professional.
How to get married in Poland and have a Polish wedding
Finding a Polish lady friend might not be as hard as jumping through the maze at the Polish government offices to actually make your marriage legal.
How to marry a Polish citizen
There are two types of Polish marriages, Polish civil marriage, and Church marriage. If you have a Polish church wedding this is legal. I will explain the Church wedding, as this is more common in Poland. As with any official or significant event in your life you need to learn to be patient and collect paper. All church documents must be up to date in the last 6 months. All Polish government documents must be up to date in the last 3 months.
1) You need a letter from you Embassy, saying you can get married or they do not have the information regarding this. This is free.
2) You need your birth certificate translated into Polish. You can order a copy of your birth certificate from the Internet. Then you have to go to an official Polish language translator and translate this into Polish. This is about 100 Polish zloty. Or better if you have a Polish Akt Urodzenia then the process goes much easier, and its only 20 Polish zloty. You get his from Urzad Stanu Cywilnego in Polish
3)Then you go to a Polish court with your future wife/husband and partition them to marry a Polish citizen . This will cost about 100 Polish zloty. You will need an official Polish translator if you do not speak the Polish language. This will take about a few months or more in a city and much quicker if you do it in the Polish countryside.
4)At the end of this, you get a piece of paper from the Polish court that says you can marry a Polish citizen. And you take this to the priests. (After you are married by the priest you take another Piece of Paper and bring it to Urzad Stanu Cywilnego, this is some Polish office where you simply register your church marriage. Urzad in Polish is a Polish government office.)
The Catholic Church marriage
1) You need to go to classes over four weeks, these classes are kind of interesting and in Polish, so if you are learning or want to learn Polish, here is your chance and the classes are fun. Your there with a bunch of other Polish couples.
Then you have to meet together as a couple twice with a layperson from the church and each individually once. After this process, you will get a piece of paper with 7 stamps. You each need this. I think this only cost about 30 Polish złoty and the counseling is actually solid advice, not this crazy media pop psychology you might get in the west. 2) You need your birth certificate and your baptism certificate, you need your confirmation certificate or a letter from your priest back home that says you were confirmed (This is the only document that does not need to be to update). 3) You make an appointment with the main church office in your town with all your papers. They check it. 5)Your future wife’s priest and your priest will need to announce, in her and your church, that you will be married. These announcements occur on three Sundays. That is it.You are all set for your Polish wedding. How long does this take? It depends on you. I would say 6 months is good but if you wan to do it in 3 months I think this can be done.
Can you pay anyone to make this go faster? No. Can I get married in the church without the government paper? Technically yes. But it would not be a legal Polish wedding and I do not know if this done. But in the eyes of the Church, you are married happily ever after.
So what do I need again to get married in Poland?
1) A court decision that says you can marry a Polish person
Extremely Hard: The hardest language to learn is: Polish – Seven cases, Seven genders and very difficult pronunciation. The average English speaker is fluent in their language at the age of 12, in contrast, the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language after age of 16.
Very Hard: Finnish, Hungarian, and Estonian – The Ugric languages are hard because of the countless noun cases. However, the cases are more like English prepositions added to the end of the root word. However, anyone arguing Asian languages like Korean trump Uralic languages in complexity, really needs to hit the books and do more research.
Simply Arduous:Ukrainian and Russian – Second language learners wrongly assume because these languages use a different script (Cyrillic) that it out ranks Polish. This is not objective, as an alphabet is only lets say 26 letters. It is really the pronunciation and how societies use the language that influences ranking. Ukrainian and Russian complex grammar and different alphabet, but easier pronunciation. (the Poles use a modified Latin alphabet which does not have a neat orthography fit to the sounds of their language). Slavic languages have sophisticated case and gender systems, also something that approximates a complex tense system with aspects of time-verb relationships.
Challenging contender jockey for position: Arabic – Three baby cases which are like a walk in the park compared to the above, but the unusual pronunciation and flow of the language makes study laborious and requires cognitive diligence if you want to speak it.
Fairly Hard: Chinese and Japanese – No cases, no genders, no tenses, no verb changes, short words, very easy grammar, however, writing is hard. But to speak it is very easy. Also intonations make it harder, but certainly not harder than Polish pronunciation. I know a Chinese language teacher in NYC that has even authored an the authoritative book on modern Mandarin says people meet Chinese very easy. This same teacher, if multilingual yet could not learn Polish. I am learning some Chinese, it is not the hardest language maybe even one of the easiest language to learn. Despite prideful proclamations of armchair linguists, to verbalizes Asian languages in general are not top ranked by any measure. Try to learn some Chinese and Polish your self and you will see which is the hardest language.
Average: French – lots of tenses, but not used and moderate grammar. German-only four cases and like five exceptions, everything is logical, of course.
Easy: Spanish and Italian – People I know pick these up no problem, even accountants and technical people rather than humanistic language people.
Basic to hard: English, no cases or gender, you hear it everywhere, spelling can be hard and British tenses you can use the simple and continues tense instead of the perfect tenses and you will speak American English. English at the basic level is easy but to speak it like a native it’s hard because of the dynamic idiomatic nature.
Some people cocooned in innocence, go around parroting linguistic relative difficulty ranks by looking at a list created in the ivory towers. This list might be based on the number of hours required to achieve a degree of fluency, or intermediate conversation in a language, in an academic environment of teaching, in contrast to most people in the real world. This simplistic one variable model is simply wrong. I suggest a more robust model.
The following is support for my argument.
The way you approach this is a simple equation that illustrates hypothetical rankings of variables importance.
Formula for difficulty in a language = O*(G+V+(w*.1)+(A*2.0)+S+V(1.5))
O= Openness of the society to communicate in their own language to a foreigner as opposed to English.
G = Grammar, specifically the number of exceptions in each cases
V= Verbs Conjugation complexity
P= Pronunciation and Phonology.
W=Complexity of the written language, including script and alphabet variation.
A=Average number of syllables in each word. Do not underestimate this as the working memory for the brain to hold bits of information in your brain is manifold more if you are considering a language with a long orthographical constructions.
S=Speed of the language.
V=Vocalness of the people speaking.
If you can assign an O factor as the major determinant variable then you have your answer. The openness of a society to transmit their language on a person to person, on the street level day-to-day experiences is what really makes communication hard to easy to absorb. I can attest to this after living in Europe for about a decade.
Are you a citizen of Stratos or trying to speak to you boyfriend or girlfriend?
What good is a theoretical understanding of a language, if in reality you can not practice it to fluency beyond the classroom. Lets separate the academics from real people, when trying to analysis the question.
This is not just a ranking of the hardest language to learn mind you, rather a ranking for realistic, practical people who are in the trenches of life and want to learn a new language for communication purposes. Not a ranking for academics who are living on Stratos, the city of clouds or lost in the labyrinth of the stacks in their university library.
I have not considered languages that have under one million native speakers. Even through humanistically important on equal par with all other languages, they are too remote or inaccessible for any real life learning. Patois dialects are excluded. These are important languages, just not for the average person. I also have not considered extinct or ancient languages which have even a more alien grammatical structure.
People write me and say hey Mark here is a language that has a hundred cases and sounds mostly like whistlers, and people often talk backwards, certainly this must be the most difficult. My reply how many people speak it? Similarly, you might say well there is a language spoken by some children on my block, they made it up. For me unless there are a million speakers does not pass the cut.
My reply to the FSI’s rank of the number of hours needed to learn a language -Anti-glottology at its best
There is an annoying mythology of language difficulty, that is perpetuated by Foreign Service institute. How many hours it takes to achieve various levels in a language after academic study. This is no valid. Unless you are 18-21 and a full-time student at a university and giving equal or greater weight to written language as compared to spoken, then that is bunk.
Who has the time to study in the ivory towers a language university or prepare like a diplomat except someone in some cushy government job? It is not the real world. Speaking is much more important than writing and reading.
Written language for the masses only came into significance in the last 100 years, in contrast to the 7 millions years of Homininae communication when there was first a divergence in our evolutionary tree and changes in our heterochrony gave us the capacity for prolonged language acquisition. Further the written language is in the process of a strange de-evolution with rise of texting messages and ADD. Lets be honest here, few people can study like an egghead, rather they want to just communicate.
Example of how people learn in Africa and the Middle East
When I was in North Africa (several times) I was amazed people could talk in the open market in several languages with little effort. They never opened a book or wrote in a foreign language. Language is about speaking. It is about communication not something you learn in a book. How long was it like that? The first one million years of human evolution from Primates until about 1950 when world illiteracy went from less than 1% to over 50%. So for tens of thousands of years for most humans, language was about the speaking, that is it. For a few thousand the landed elite and first estate class has some form of written language but this was not most people. Lets be real language has nothing to do with a book, only the tongue and ear. Therefore when FSI or any other person assets Chinese or Asian languages are hard, they are not if you strip away the crazy characters to a non-Asian person.
The worst thing about the modern communication
It irritates me that one person will state something on the web and it is recycled by every content mill blogger ad infinitum. People take ideas for fact without looking at them objectively. I call this the flat earth syndrome of language learning. Just because an expert says it does not mean it is true.
Aristotle believed the heart was the center of human cognition and the brain was an organ of minor importance. For centuries people took this as fact.
That does not mean the academics are wrong, and Asian languages are not more difficult for an English native speaker to achieve a level of mastery, but look at this objectively.
Modern linguistic snake oil salesman
Also when someone says on the web, you can learn a language in three hours or even three months, and they are trying to sell you something, I would say, ‘I have some swap land in Florida to sell you that will appreciate in value any day now’. I would like to personally like to call them up and test their fluency in Polish. My point is the web is a great place but discern sensation seekers and academics from someone like myself who is linguistically challenged, yet has dedicated his life abroad to learning foreign languages.
How linguistic science is different from physical science
Despite my quantification above, there is no way you can objectively measure linguistic ranking or difficulty like the hard sciences like physics or chemistry measure a phenomenon in a vacuum. Even in physics things are tested, regression are run and retested. There is debate and paradigms are challenged every few decades.
So are you telling me, that in not a social science but a humanities like Language that because some government organization for a very specific program makes a statement fifty years ago, everyone including people on the Internet take it as fact and recycle it ad nauseam?
Evolution of phraseology and variance from linguistic universals as a measure of difficulty.
Departure from universal grammar and linguistic universals and structures is that are natural constructs of the human brain could be a measure of difficulty with some objectivity, however, how you measure it I have no idea how you would do this. Typological universals and other measures are left for future research.
Why Asian languages are not hard – Palaver about Asian foreign language acquisition
No grammar to speak of, no cases, not complex plurals, short words. People argue they have tones but these are subtle pronunciation differences and in my experience I am understood when I speak Mandarin for example with poor pronunciation easier in comparison with Polish. I know author and teacher of Chinese in NYC and he says most of the people who walk in off he street learn Chinese pretty fast. He has a book called Easy Mandarin. It is only the written language that is hard.
Errors and omissions statement
Yes I know in the image I typed Finish and Hinidi, need to fix this, when I get my computer back from Amishland. I am writing an Amish language program. Also the scope of this article can not be comprehensive because the proliferation of languages, for example, I need a follow up to cover, Turkish, Greek, Armenia, Georgian etc. When writing you have to make choices to make a point rather than cover ever detail, however, these are worthy for discussion in the comment area.
Back to Polish – the trophy winner
When you speak of Phonology, sound approximation from the native language to the target Polish ranks near the top as the tongue twisting, multi-syllabic mixing of consonants and vowels are unmatched by any shorter Asian word, even with tones. I stated at the top that the average Polish learner is not fluent until the age of sixteen. It sounds like a bold statement but read on.
Yes Poles can communicate before that, but subjectively, for such an intelligent population of people (and Poles are highly intelligent and educated) proportionally I have seen an inordinate amount of Polish youngsters struggle with their own orthography, pronunciation, grammar at disproportionate levels compared to say English speakers.
Factor out any genetic differences by comparing Polish Americans who are identical genetically to Poles in Poland, yet learn English as their native language at a different rate than Polish as a native language. My daughter who is bilingual finds English much easier than Polish. There are differences in the rates humans learn languages based on the complexity of the language, and this is seen in native speaker language acquisition.
Examples and references that back up my theory of modern of linguistics that give a better understanding of how people acquire a second language:
In social linguistic acculturation Model or SLA, was proposed by John Schumann and focused on how an individual interacts with the society. Some societies more easily transmit culture.
Gardner’s socio-educational model – Similar to above and deals with the inter-group model of “ethnolinguistic vitality”.
Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky developed a theory of zone of proximal development.
I want to know your feedback and research so they may benefit second language learners.
This post will give you a short history of the language of the Elves and some ideas on how to learn it. To give you a visual overview I made a linguistic map of the how the Elvish language developed over time. There is a lot of verbiage on the web, so I thought a clear language tree would clarify how Elvish changed into its modern forms.
Elves and their language
What was the language of the Elves? It was created by Tolkien and contained elements of Finnish and Welsh and I think ancient old Norse. Elvish also took inspiration from Anglo, Saxon, Old Germanic and the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien worked on the languages of the Elves his whole life. The primal Elf language was Quenya and Sindarin. Tolkien being a fan of philological studies was able to create a grammar and structure that people actually learned. I know a few people who were really into the Lord of the ring books and learned the language of the Elves.
Any mention of the Elves and or fantasy worlds and reality conjures up the likes of Sheldon Cooper, however it has a serious academic basis and value as a linguistic study. If there was a college course in Elvish I am sure it would have full enrollment.
Mythology of Elvish The Elvish languages came about when the Elves awoke in the land of Cuiviénen in ancient times in the years of the trees. The Elves started to communicate with each other in a Primitive Quendian is the proto-language Elvish. Cuiviénen has since been destroyed and the Elves left this land. From Qundian two other modern Elvish language groups evolved.
Avarin (the ones that did not come to Land of the Valar). From this six other languages evolved.
Common – kwendī – Eldarin ascended into three branches:
Quenya, Eldamar Elves who live beyond the great Sea;Telerin
Teleri Elves, who live in Alqualondë and Tol Eressëa.
Nandorin the language of the Nandor and Sindarin is a derivative of Nandorin.
The detailed history of the language can be found in the writings and notes of J.R.R. Tolkien. The Elvin tongue was started in 1910 and he worked on it until his passing in 1972.
Invented languages are always interesting. Most are based on some ancient human language. Elf language is similar to the Old Norse language for example. If people can create a language and learn the vocabulary, then speak it, learning a language that is spoken by millions, such as a modern European language is can be done.
The phonetics of of the language is often written in a Latin script but there are a few variation of the a Tolkien created script called Tengwar. I have wanted to create the fonts in aphotoeditor and then see if I could integrate it in some way with a qwerty keyboard overlay. Or at least make the fonts available for upload in aphotoeditor so you could write or produce art in the language of Middle Earth. I do not know anyone who has done this. If you have interest in this project let me know.
I think it would be fairly popular over the long-term because interest in Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin and lesser known work are not going out of style.
I think it would be a worthy study to learn some of the language because it is classical and inflected and although it would be a cognitive challenge you could extrapolate what you learn to other languages.
To learn the Elf language do the same as any language:
I would create language flashcards to develop vocabulary with pronunciation on the cards until I understood how to read the letters phonetically.
Focusing on verbs at first are the hardest but allows you to express ideas
Build the basic vocabulary of about 2,500 words
Practice by reading Elvish text and try to at least communicate with someone else who is learning it.
Also take a lot of clues from Scandinavian languages in terms of structure and pronunciation.
Can you imagine if there was actually a community of people who spoke this language? I think it would be interesting.