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Hardest language to learn

Hardest language to learn might not be what you think. Polish is the hardest language to learn. Why is this not common language uncommonly hard to learn? Read on.

What is the hardest language to learn?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Average: French – lots of tenses, but not used and moderate grammar. German-only four cases and like five exceptions, everything is logical, of course.
  7. Easy: Spanish and Italian – People I know pick these up no problem, even accountants and technical people rather than humanistic language people.
  8. 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.
The most challenging language only for the strong and the brave is Polish. Most others are easy in comparison.
  • 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.
If you learn Polish your third language will be easy to learn. It is like training and conditioning for a sport.

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.

Ordinal ranking on how hard a student has it to for second language acquisition.

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.

Map of difficulty with green being a breeze and red being, well more arduous foreign languages.

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.

By Mark Biernat

I live in with family between two worlds, US and Europe where I create tools for language learning. If you found my site you probability share my passion to be a life long learner. Please explore my site and comment.

1,417 replies on “Hardest language to learn”

“These languages are hard because of the countless noun cases” – what’s actually so difficult in it? When you say “talosta” you just add the affix to the stem, when you say “from the house” you do the same, only the affix goes to another position. The real difficulty comes not from the amount of affixes, but from the peculiarities of their usage. In this respect “z domu” is two steps more complicated as 1) you have to put the noun into the Genetive, and 2) you should use the right ending for the Genetive.

As a native English speaker who learned Polish I wish I could agree one hundred percent with you.

On one level your right. English and Polish are not harder than each other, rather just different. But that is coming from the perspective of, if you learned Polish as a native. But the reality is Polish cases are hard for English speakers as they are virtually non-existent in our language, as is gender. So it’s no just a matter of steps but engaging and area of the brain what was never used in this way. Whereas if you are Polish speaker learning another language its simple a matter of steps as analogous concepts exist in Polish when trying to learn another language. To make an analogy, to teach an English speaker how to use cases is like teaching someone to read; they have never used this type of thinking. However, for a Polish person, whose language has most grammatical concepts found in the target language, its like learning how to read new words, not the process of reading.

Further verbs change not only in ending but the whole words change for past and present in some cases.

Every word in Polish has about 24 forms for every English word. And you must know how and when to use it. In English you have ‘my’ in Polish mój, moje, moja, moją, mojego, moje,mojemu, mojej, moim, moi, moich, moimi, etc.

That’s why Polish people are very good with languages and do not understand why foreigners have trouble speaking their language.

I think there are few people who speak Polish who were not born speaking it, and it’s not just because of usage its difficulty. That being said I love Polish, and am still learning.

Got a question here, which is the best way to earn Polish?
haven’t been in Poland, but my best friend is half Poland and half Swedish. She is nearly fluent in Polish.

I am a native speaker of Swedish. English is my third language, so I am not so that skilled in English.
Anyway, hope you can answer my question.

I have a hundred things to tell you about learning Polish. My first recommendation is build up words rather than grammar. The grammar is too hard to get simultaneously with vocabulary. Once you have about 3,000 words via flashcards or audio flashcards then do a book on grammar. I wrote this. https://claritaslux.com/how-i-learned-a-language/ and I recommend you read it on how to learn a language.

I fully agree with what you have written: my comment was just to re-habilitate the agglutinative languages like Finish, Hungarian and Estonian you had mentioned as the hardest to learn. This difficulty is mostly psychological: the sentence in them consists to a great extent from the same components you find in English, they are simply written together. In Finnish ‘talo’ is the house, ‘talo-sta’ – from the house, ‘talo-ssa’ – in the house, ‘talo-i-sta’ – from the houses, ‘talo-i-ssa’ – in the houses… Of course, there are more complicated forms, but the overall structure is very transparent and modular. Forget about noun cases, these are basically the same combinations of words with modifying particles you are used to in English 😉 If you can keep in memory “house”, “-s”, “from” and “in”, you can do so for “talo”, “-i-“, “-sta” and “-ssa”, just don’t forget to join them according to the Finnish order. The Polish and other flective languages are another story, as the words there are much more compact, and there is often no such transparency. That’s why I suggest to move Finnish etc. below Polish in your list.

I know absolutely nothing about Polish, but to a native Finnish speaker it looks like a nightmare, pronunciation-wise at least.

I have been taught English, Latin, Swedish, German, Italian, Spanish and very little Estonian at school and at university. What I have noticed is that from a Finn’s point of view “all” Germanic and Romance languages are very much like each other, and I imagine it would be easy to learn languages within the same group.

Finnish is very easy in certain things: pronunciation and spelling is pretty straightforward. And there are no grammatical genders and no irregular verbs to worry about. Free clause order may be difficult or easy, depending on your viewpoint..

Difficult things would include inflection. The newer the word, the simpler the inflection. Some very old words may have several different stems or lost phonemes (or both) which add to the difficulty. And yes, we inflect almost all words in our language.

The really difficult thing (I guess) for a second language learner would be the different varieties of Finnish. There is standard written Finnish, which you can learn in books, and which is extremely useful when reading books and writing coherent, cohesive and concise Finnish, which is what you want to do if you want to make yourself understood in writing. Then there is standard spoken Finnish, which follows the norms of standard written Finnish, and it is very useful in more professional/ formal situations, but it is not the everyday language of virtually anyone.
We come to the mother tongues: the colloquial Finnish and the dialects. They are sometimes very different from the standard language and each other in their vocabulary, phonology and especially grammar.

I’ve only dabbled into Finnish, but in terms of phonetic consistency, Finnish is pretty regular, I’m told:-)

Polish is far less predictable, so it appears to yours truly!

I wanted to list Polish as the hardest language in the world, but I did not have a full understanding of Finno-Ungrician languages, with your comments I will list Polish as the hardest, I know I have been learning it and there is nothing like this. Unless someone can intelligently refute my listing as Polish being the hardest, I will list it as so. The good news is if you can speak Polish you can do anything you want with languages or other in your life.

I will have to look into Old Irish. If you learn the grammar as a child your brain does not know its hard of course. I tell Polish people all the time that they are geniuses because they speak the Polish language, so well and almost without thinking about it with near perfect grammar and pronunciation.

Well, the hardest one I know was the Old Irish – incredibly irregular due to numerous phonetic changes and inconsistent orthography. An author of its grammar even writes that it is hard to understand how it could have been spoken at all 😉

Why haven`t you included Serbian? It`s one __very__ hard to learn language. It has seven cases, three genres, 15+ tenses, very hard-to-learn grammar…. Just wondering….

Serbian is another language I have to look into. Certainly intresting,  and studied by people like JRR Tolkien.  Although a southern Slavic language I think its very close in construction to Polish a Western Slavic language. I have to look at what a language has in theory and what it has in practical use.  In English we have a lot of tenses but as an Americans like myself only, use a few in practice, and even if we Americans do know all the tenses we do not use them right, like the king’s Cambridge Engish. I need to update this list and give it more robustness. I have not even included many American Indian languages which has completely different grammatical ideas, for example.

The problem with the Old Irish is not in the grammar but in the irregularity. The history of this language is a good example of the language evolution in general: the more or less typical Late Indo-European grammar in the Common Celtic period (evidenced by the Gaulish, Celtiberian and Lepontic inscriptions), then dramatic phonetic changes (3-5 centuries) which created numerous variants within each grammatical pattern, then a period of some stabilization (5-9th centuries), and then a collapse at the time of Viking invasions: the language changes rapidly loosing most of its morphology and irregularity (like in the Old English, only the latter was much more regular). If we ask about the reasons, the most obvious are those related to how children learn to speak: at some point the irregularities become too intolerable, and children introduce more normalized forms, while in some periods children accept the nuances of the language they are offered to learn.

In Serbian, in my view, the most complicated is the stress, not the morphology, which is fairly typical for the Slavic languages.

Its been added to the a top list, but I need more research for making it number 1. Thanks for the comment. My only rebuttal to your last statement is the Slavic languages are the most closely related, compared to the other European languages. I would say that almost 50% of Polish and Serbian vocabulary is similar as is the grammar, therefore it would be like an Italian learning spanish or Romanian. I am looking at it from an native English speakers point of view. However, I will consider it the number 1 spot, when I do more research. Polish holds it because it has an edge with its crazy pronunciations. Try to say: W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie.

Still, the morphology and especially the syntax are fairly complicated as well. According to my opinion, Serbian should also be classified in the same group as Polish, because I know many Serbian people that have learned Polish without having any problems.

I think Slovak language is one of the most difficult language… A lot of exceptions…

I will consider Slovak also. I can kind of understand Slovak just because I have studied Polish. I will have to look at this more objectively, I am obviously partial towards Polish as the hardest language to learn as that is what I had to painfully learn myself.

Do more research, but Serbian is definitely far more complex than Russian! I agree that you should find out the facts, but he fact is that Serbian is NOT easier or as easy as Russian!
Best Regards,
Stefan Borovic

…. and try to say this: чоканчићем ћу те, чоканчићем ћеш ме, or разрасхатлеисалисте ли се, or на ливади коњ ућустечен и расћустечен!!!

I agree with Stefan Borovic when he says that Serbian should definately be included. My mother tongue is English, but I also learned Serbian ( because my mother is Serbian) and I know how hard it is! I’ve personally experianced learning Serbian as a second language and noticed that it is a difficult task. Even now, after spending a ceratin amount of time of my childhood in a public Serbian school, I can hardly “guess” if I should use accusative or genitive case because they are too similar, but at the same time distincively different. The stress of the Serbian language is something impossible to learn. Whenever i come to Serbia, people laugh at me because my pronunciation isn’t right!

Yeah, I know what you mean…. Well, keep up with the good work….

If literary analyzed from an ortorical point of view, one can comprehend the complexity which is weaved into apprehending the Serbian language. If one naive and unlearned being such as yourselves truly regard Russian as the most difficult language, I have two very sophisticated words for you.

Life is an art and not a science. I am a native English speaker, who spoke no other languages as a child. I am looking at the hardest language to learn from my point of view but I want to make a better objective determination when I have time. I have friends that learned both Russian and Polish and Polish is harder. Serbian I do not know. I openly confess my partial view on the hardest language to learn, but I do not think its wrong.

I would treat Slavic languages as one group, with subgroups. They are generally difficult for people from outside this group. Polish and Slovakian and to some extend Serbo-Croatian are very closely related, so that you can communicate between them. That’s why I would not try to distinguish which is harder as they are on the same level. Russian, Ukrainian and possibly Bulgarian is another group and another story.

There is one group of languages missing in this article – Scandinavian. For me as a native Polish speaker French is easy, but Danish is impossible. Maybe Swedish and Norwegian would be OK, but Danish is terrible. It has very simple grama, which is generally similar to German but simplified but the pronunciation is a nightmare.

Some people make an argument that Cyrillic languages are harder based on the alphabet. An alphabet is only 26 letters, give or take. That is it. When making a determination regarding the hardest language to learn, this is one small factor. Other factors weight much heavier for an over all evaluation for the hardest language to learn.

Mr.Biernat, would You please give the sourse for your claim about russian alpahbet and the 26 letters? Thanx in advance 🙂

From my point of view Serbian is the hardest language to learn. I completely agree with those of you who say that all Slavic languages are quite similar and hard. However, I must emphasize the fact that people who speak Serbian can understand most of even all other Slavic languages, but it is not the same the other way around. This I saw when I was speaking to some of my Russian friends. Furthermore, Serbian is one of the very few languages that use both Latin and Cyrillic letters. Moreover, most of the languages are used with etymological grammar orthography, but Serbian has phonetic one which results in having multiple complexed alterations. All things considered, Stefan Borovic is the one to be trusted regarding this issue.

I would say that you should not make any changes on the list prior to having made that decision by yourself. My “trustworthy words”, as they seem to be regarded by other readers of this blog, should just make it easier for you to find out the facts, and not primarily influence your opinion! One advice – listen to others…

i have quite a bit of knowledge on this topic, and therefore i consider myself the most competenet to give my professional views. I deduce from all your previously discussed language thoughts, that the main clash on this web-site is whether Serbian or Polish is generally more of a challenge to apprehend…and i must say that from my professional opinion, the clash is non-existant, because all the complexeties present in Polish, are considerably harder in Serbian, which proves the fact that all Serbian-speaking individuals are truly geniuses. I believe this best portrays the evident stupidity of some people on this web-site, as either Finnish or Serbian, from my professional opinion, are not easy languages to learn the grammar off, let alone speak fluently…thank you for listening to a strictly professional opinion…i shall part now…farewell…

Thank you for your feedback. One of the reason I did not want to make a judgement on Serbian either way was I did not have enough concrete information. I think Serbian is an interesting language, however, I need to be objective. What level did you learn Polish to? I know in the book famous book ‘How to learn a language fast’ the author states he learned dozens of languages, with polish the only one that he could not learn. So he choose something easy like Bulgarian and learned it. But Polish he stated he could not learn it. I as a native English speaker learn and am learning Polish and I have experience with this as I teach languages. How long did it take you to learn Polish fluenly as a native English speaker with no contact when you were young?

I just want to be objective. The people I know who study at my language school, not in theory but in reality, universally say Polish, not Finnish or Serbian is the hardest but I will have to look at it objectively and perhaps change my ranking.

I think that you did NOT study Serbian comme il faut. Study it well! My ex-wife was Serbian and I couldn’t understand her a word!

Gosh… First I was afraid, I was petrified, but then I killed her and she stopped speaking that freaky language! Bro… She kept saying: Dubocica Leskovac Mikica je kralj!?!?!?

It’s nice to know that I know hardest language of all – I’m Polish
I know German, Russian, Latin and off course English. I agree that for people with Polish as a primary language learning other languages (especially from Europe) is quite easy. You can learn English grammar in few weeks and be able to speak and write grammatically correct 95% of time. Try to do that with Polish grammar – You will be lucky genius if polish speaker won’t be rolling on the floor laughing from what you said.
And you can add spelling as another “funny” bit of polish

“h” and “ch” it’s the same sound in polish but they can’t be exchanged in word. Worst case is “rz” and “z”(there should be a “dot” above letter “z”) used in “morze” and “moze”
morze = Sea
moze = maybe
And there can exist next to each other “moze morze” = “maybe sea”
Both word sound exactly the same and only way to know what they mean is sentence context.
But don’t worry probably there’s more people fully understanding Einstein’s Relativity theory than people understanding fully polish grammar and spelling.

For me – hardest languages – Welsh, Hungarian, Finnish – mainly due to different pronunciation

I agree that Serbian is a hard language to learn and it should be with Extremely Hard or very Hard but not Pretty Hard. I’m macedonian i tried learning Serbian (Serbian and Macedonian might be the same but the grammar is very very very different). In serbian you change your noun depending on your sentence which is really hard
e.g in my house = u mojoj kući. Come in my house = Uđi u moju kuću.

One sentence in english can be said in a lot of ways in Serbian which might confuse english speakers.
e.g I dance and sing in English
1. Ja plešem i ja pevam na engleskom
2. plešem i pevam na engleskom
3. na engleskom plešem i pevam

“One sentence in English can be said in a lot of ways in Serbian which might confuse English speakers.
e.g. I dance and sing in English
1. Ja plešem i ja pevam na engleskom
2. plešem i pevam na engleskom
3. na engleskom plešem i pevam”

The same applies to Polish.

Hi,
You wrote: ”the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language not until age 16”, but I would not agree. There are many people in their 40-ties and 50-ties who have problems with speaking correct Polish. This refers mostly to the words used as the names of the Polish cities, such as Wloszczowa (very popular city in Poland recently) but also to many, many other nouns. Some people must think hard whether they should say ”we Wloszczowej” or ”we Wloszczowie” although in this case only one version is correct (the first one!). There are cases when all versions may be correct.
The truth is that Polish people who finished their education after A levels make a lot of small mistakes when speaking Polish, but they do not care. So you should not worry either!:)
I agree that Polish may be difficult to learn. It requires special kind of perceiving reality (to think of the table as ”he” and of the glass as ”she” and of the sun as ”no gender” etc.) which, I imagine, must be difficult to teach and not only that.
After living 5 years in UK/US you can speak perfect English (I do not mean accent), but after 5 years in Poland you will not be fluent in Polish.

Anyway, powodzenia w nauce polskiego!:)

For those who claim that Serbian is the hardest language to learn I advise them to read:
on Polish (although, there are some mistakes!)
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_language

and on Serbian:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbian_language

Serbian is at least as hard as Polish! Did you even hear about all vocal changes that change the word`s letters? Or about inconsistent cases (seven of them)? There are two writing systems completely different from one another. Or maybe those are grammar irregularities that you have never herd of? Serbian language is EXTREMELY hard to learn! Please, group it appropriately! THANKS!

QUOTATION: I agree that Polish may be difficult to learn. It requires special kind of perceiving reality (to think of the table as ‘’he’’ and of the glass as ‘’she’’ and of the sun as ‘’no gender’’ etc.) which, I imagine, must be difficult to teach and not only that. /QUOTATION

Also, the genders… For example, to think of a table (сто) as he, a glass (чаша) she, and of the sun (Сунце) as no gender/neutral gender.

P.S. I was really astonished when I`ve realized that the gender system is so similar, that even the words have the same gender in some cases (like the aforementioned three). Good luck!

I wonder where on this “scale” Romanian would fall. It is a Latin language, descended from Italian, with Slavic influences (due to geographical position). If I were to guess, being a Romanian-American that is fluent in both Romanian and English, I would say it falls somewhere between Average and Fairly Hard. It is definitely harder than Italian and Spanish, possibly harder than French.

What makes it unique is how articles work. In all romance languages, as in English, the article is put before the word; in Romanian it is appended to the end of the word:

No article – English: telephone; Italian: telefono; Romanian: telefon
With article – Eng: the telephone; Ita: il telefono; Ro: telefonul

A language hard to learn should be regarded, with modern standards, as an inefficient language — provided you can express what you wanna (I want some comments on that ;)) express.

My wife knows Russian and Finnish and recently learned Polish. She tells me polish wasn’t all that hard to learn, but Finnish was hard. I think what’s hard i also depends on what languages you already speak. Going from Italian to Spanish is not as hard as going from Italian to Russian (crossing language families).

Also, I think participants here mostly know of European languages, so I guess there are some really tricky ones to learn out there.

Oh well,

what will be the first prize? And who will get it? The native speakers of the winner language?

I am Hungarian. I was taught Russian at school for 8 years. After high school I went to Poland for a month. Before the journey I bought a manual, and learned the first 30 lessons. When I returned from Poland I was fluent.
I especially enjoyed to discover the differences, because the two languages – boze moj – are as similar as Spanish and Portuguese. It was fun! Later I studied two years of Polonystika at the university… I am a zaczarowany kon…

However, to learn Finnish was a shameful failure, though in theory the two languages have the same structure. I just could not capture the logic of it!

For many years I believed that I had a good English. Had accomplished several exams, spent a year studying English filology at the university, translated a good number of scientific articles into Hungarian, worked as interpreter. And, alas, this year I spent six months in England, and I was shocked. I could not understand half of what people said, and I noticed that my style was more than ridiculous. What a shame.

In the meantime, to speak Spanish is pure joy and happiness. It was easy to learn (alone), and the best tool to express myself orally. Apparently it has less stylistic strata than English, so it doesn’t feel so hopeless.

Summa summarum, it is up to you and your personal standing and experience which language you consider difficult. Polish is definitively an easy language. For me, at least.

What does it matter which is the most difficult language? Learn English, that’s all you need.

Hmm, it’s difficult to categorize what a “hard language is”. Hard as in what ? And hard for who ? Japanese writing is easy for Chinese people and visa versa. Japanese grammar is also easy for Koreans. Swedes can understand Icelandic but it would be hard for me to learn. But maybe it would be easy for someone who already spoke three languages or who was naturally gifted at languages.

Men tend to be better at learning vocabulary and grammar rules and women usually have better aural skills. (Not always but usually)

I don’t consider myself naturally gifted at languages and I was always at the bottom of my Japanese class however I really enjoyed studying it.

Passion is the key and tends to negate the difficulty of a language at least in my experience.

What makes a language hard? Its it having a great memory to remember all the cases, suffixes, genders, etc? Or is it like many native american/south american languages putting your mind into a totally different space to not think of everything being able to be labelled but as a concept. Many languages in the Indo European family are very literal, where as some native american languages don’t have words for things because they see the world differently.
I guess Polish is one of the harder Slavic languages FOR AN ENGLISH SPEAKER because of the alphabet, nasals, pronunciations of some letters (eg. w pronounced v, l pronounced w etc). I guess our question is what is the hardest language/s for English speakers. I think English would be a difficult language to learn as it has a wildness, mixed quality about it. Where did I see years ago that for a non native speaker of English that seeing the word
GHOTI
could be pronounced FISH
gh – enough, rough (=f)
o – women (=i)
ti – function (=sh)
Now how difficult is that, its not even consistent with its pronunciation, we have to memorise those words. I think memory retention is probably the easiest part of a language, its like anything driving a car, its scary at first but after a while doing it all the time (something many people trying to learn a language don’t do unless they are living in the country and attempting to learn and speak the language constantly) it comes easier. For me, having a conceptual language is totally more a different beast and would take a total change in attitude, beliefs, and way of life. NOW that makes a language difficult!
Loving life
Carmilla :^)

have you tried learning arabic? the phonetics of it can be incredibly difficult for someone who was not raised speaking arabic, and this is the formal arabic, as the colloquial arabic spoken across the region can vary in so many different ways.

Polish sounds amazingly difficult but when it comes to noun cases NO ONE beats our friends from northern Spain… Basque language

A note on being a bit more objective in your ratings…
I half agree, half disagree with your rating of English difficulty (“Basic to hard”). Yes, perhaps if you learn it to a “basic” level, it can be fairly easy; but so can other languages if learned to a “basic” level. (What is “basic” anyway? That’s quite subjective.) I think you should choose a standard level of language acquisition before ranking languages to make it more consistent when comparing them; you could, for example, choose to consider the amount of time and effort necessary to learn a language such that you cannot be identified as a non-native speaker. I think you should also give English more credit for its irregularities; you only mention spelling being difficult, but pronunciation can sometimes be a bit tricky (especially with the “ough” combination), and there are so many exceptions to rules (including irregular forms of verbs, most notably the many seemingly-random past participles).
Another note on objective ratings…
Is there any particular reason why you did not include an explanation of your ranking of Spanish and Italian as you did with all of the other languages? I completely agree with your ranking here, but it might be good to mention, for example, how Spanish is essentially a phonetic language (or simply that its pronunciation is easy), and that exceptions are fairly uncommon (and that there are even rules to often explain exceptions!). (Please excuse me for neglecting Italian in my examples, but I have not learned it.)

(Just for the record, I am a native [American]-English speaker.)

You’re an idiot. Check out Icelandic, Chinese, and Arabic. All are more difficult than Polish. I’m not even going to try to explain how they are more difficult, as the reasoning you presented for Polish being so difficult doesn’t make any sense. How about how governments and corporations rate languages? My salary includes foreign language incentive pay. Pay scales reflect that Chinese and Arabic pay more than Polish (Russian and Polish are on the same scale). Spanish and Italian are on the lowest rung (at least you got that right).

I am an American English speaker who learned Polish and lived in Poland for roughly two years. Cases make Polish hard to learn.

The fully phonetic alphabet, very strict grammar, (no exceptions, everything works the same on any word, all the time), make it an easier language to learn. Most words are almost compound, and so after building an initial vocabulary, you have a pretty good guess at what a word means just from the way it sounds.

I think its a trade off. If I had to learn a language again, (and Polish was more useful), I’d learn Polish again, just because its structured and normalized, (and easy to rhyme 🙂 ). Basically, once you understand the rules, all you need to do is learn vocab.

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