Categories
Languages

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”

I’ve lived in Poland for a year now and the language is absolutely absurd. I picked up Spanish and Japanese with absolutely no problem. This author is on to something. Just repeating a word after you hear it is insanely difficult.

Hi,
I am a Polish native speaker, although I can be considered bilingually raised since I have been in a British school in Poland since being three years old. My point is, that I speak fluently both languages, even having switched to American English a few years back. Both me and my sister are great at foreign accents and languages, for instance I barely know any Spanish or French, but reading out loud texts in those languages I can fool any native speaker into thinking I’m a local. My mother on the other hand has been trying to learn English for several years now, with measly results.
Thus, my point is that it’s not a rule for Poles to easily learn languages, although by percentage I think we might outrank most countries in that department.
Polish is indeed a horrifically difficult language for foreigners to learn, declination, conjugation, tenses, genders, pronounciation and all exceptions included, but we, as a nation, rarely try to stop people from speaking it. I have a few friends from New Zealand, Germany, Syria and Argentina trying to speak Polish fluently and it has already taken years for some of them to be at least understandable in conversation. We are extremely proud of the fact that anyone actually wants to learn how to speak Polish, and so we encourage it greatly.
In conclusion – go learn, fellow linguists, cześć Waszym próbom i wysiłkom, nawet jeśli idą na marne! (roughly translated from a very poetic dictum: Hail to Your efforts even if you don’t succeed.)
pozdrawiam,
Iwona Emilia.

Seven genders in Polish?! You’re kidding. There are three genders in singular and two in plural. The fact that there are three types of male plural form is caused by the flectional morphemes. Try to compare that with the te-form or short past form in Japanese (there are much more schemes dependable of the last mora).
In Polish there are less tenses than in English or French, and from my own experience I can say that it’s really hard to learn the concept of past perfect when in your own language it’s been already unused for about 100 years.
As a Pole I can say that I’d already been fluent in usage of my mother tounge when I still was in fifth year of elementary school (about 11 years). The only deficit of young users of polish is the lack of broad vocabulary. Orthography issues exist in any indoeuropean language.
The fact of bad language usage is based on the thoughts about Polish lessons – children think that learnig they own language is unnecessary and not interesting at all, so they don’t put their hearts into it and don’t pay attention to the teacher. Secondly, most students in universities don’t have Polish language lessons (unless they’re studying Polish philology). Also it’s caused by the decisions of parents in the past – many of my friends who would go to English classes in kindergarten, whithout the good knowledge of Polish, weren’t able to learn both properly.
I’ve been learning English for about 10 years, and I’m at the level of C1. French – for 7 years, level about B2. This year I’ve taken up Japanese, so I’m at the beggining (A1). From my learning experiences I would rather list them differently. From the hardest to the easiest: English – French – Polish – Japanese.
You should re-think your point of the view at the subject – you’re not objective at all.

What about your view of the algorithm? Does an algorithm=objectivity?

Exactly.
Now a little feedback from Polish native speaker, and English speaking person.

1. The problem with small knowledge of Polish ortography among small kids is not different than problem with English ortography among English speaking kids (and other languages probably too). English-natives under 7-10 have problems with writing, and this is not because of difficultness of language, but because they do not master writing good enough at this age. They simply learn reading when they are about 6 years old.The same thing is in Polish.
2. And that sentence about mastering language at age of 16 – who made this up?? Polish kids speak good Polish before they are 3 years old like everyone else. OK at the age of 16 they need commentaries to let’s say Polish late renaissance literature, but in the same way you could say that people can’t speak English before they are 16 because they can’t read Sheakespeare fluently. The statement is a pure nonsense.
3. The map is wrong. There are English/German/Spanish etc. speakers outside Europe included, but you forgot about that 21 mln of Polish-speaking people all over the world. Polish language can be heard in: USA, Germany, Brasilia, Ukraine, Canada, White Russia, Lithuania, Russia Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, UK, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Bohemia, Latvia, Netherlands, Belgia, Austria, Greece, Italy, South Africa, Danemark, Hungary, Switzerland, Romania, Norway, Ireland, and other countries (about 50 – see “Polonia” in Wiki).
4. We are also open for helping people learn Polish, and we encourage people to try. Pronounciation is no more difficult than German and Russian. English is more difficult here – in Polish you read exactly what is written. In English you must memorize pronounciation (it’s even worse with French).
And of course we have Latin alphabet too. So Polish is a bit like Russian with Latin alphabet and some exceptions.
5. Grammar is not that terrible as it says. It is based on Latin language. 3 genders, 7 (mostly practically 6 or 5) substantives, 3 tenses in 3 moods (indicative, subjunctive, imprerative) and 2 forms (active and passive) – like everyone else. Not a big deal. OK, you can say that masculine gender can be divided for 3 (personal, animate, inanimate) – but it doesn’t count when you speak, you just learn one right form, like in every language you are speaking.
6. Pronountiation. It’s not as bad as you think. This is common european language, with common sounds like “sh” “ch” “j” etc. Nasal vowels are exactly like in French, other like in German. We don’t even have sounds like “ö” or Turkish “h”. Chinese is much worse here.

As you see it’s not that bad. 🙂 The only problem is with exceptions.
Thank you forn interesting article!

Why do you think Chinese pronunciation is so hard?

Przecież to komplement, że nasz język jest najtrudniejszy. Czym się dziewczyno denerwujesz? Na ten temat czytałam publikacje naukowe, że polski nalezy do 3 najtrudniejszych języków świata. Czy to nie cudowne?

Musimy podtrzymać ten hype, trzeba eskalować. To jest wspaniałe, że mamy najtrudniejszy jeżyk na świecie i tego należy się trzymać.

Claiming such things in an article means being a pro but also consider relativity. Please remember that every language is complicated on different levels when compared to other languages. Ie English is fairly easy when it comes to grammar, but it is very difficult on the pragmatic level which means that only learning the grammar won’t help you speak it. German is more ‘grammatical’ and less ‘randomized’ when compared to English AND knowing the grammar means being able to speak it. Take an indigenous person from South America and tell them to learn English (or any other Indo European language): they’ll tell you it’s the weirdest language ever.
It all depends on where you start from.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t even considering orthography when analyzing a language because orthography is ARTIFICIAL, language is not (here’s why ortography issues appear in every language)

No offence to Polish folks, but I would say that Czech is a little more harder to learn than Polish. We have seven cases, too. Three genders in singular and three genders in plural. Plus the letter “ř”, no other language in the world has that letter and it’s hard to pronounce. And the grammar is insane even for Czech native speakers who uses the language everyday for 50 years is sometimes difficult to get it right.

Well, I would say that Czech and Polish are equally hard in grammar, but our ( I’m Polish) is harder to prononounce. It even sounds harder, if you know what I mean. No offence, but we have a lot of jokes, beacouse your usual words sounds like our diminutives. I mean no disrespect, but it’s really hard to take you guys serious with your funny language which sounds like childish cooing to us. 🙂

No hard feelings, this is excatly how we feel about you mate. We call you “pšonky” as for all you say we only hear “pšpšpšpšpššpšpšpšpššpšpšp..” 🙂

I don’t know Czech, so I can’t discuss which language is more difficult, but if I’m not mistaken, you don’t know Polish, so we’re even. While you have that letter “ř”, in Polish language we have ‘ł’, ‘ż’ and ‘ó’. Other languages don’t have them I think. Also that letter ‘ż’ is the same pronounced like ‘rz’, so we also have to learn the rules, in which cause use which. The same problem which ‘h’ and ‘ch’. Oh and ‘u’ and ‘ó’. The same pronouncation, various rules when to use which 😉 Of course in Czech you probably have so problems to learn as well I believe. Like pronouncation of that letter ř.

Well in Swedish there are the letters “u” and “y”. You have them in Polish, Czech, Xhosa, English, French, German, Finnish, Swahili, Romanian and maybe a few hundred other languages.

None the less they are tricky to pronounce for non-native speakers of Swedish, so it’s not so much about how they are written 😉 (our special letter “å” by the way is extremely easy for most non-native speakers to pronounce, it’s like the “ou” in “four” or like the “a” in “wall”; “ä” and “ö” aren’t that tricky either).

As for Polish I like the “ł” – it’s really convenient given that “w” was already taken (but what happened to “v”??).

In Czech I’m not so worried about “ř” (but maybe I should be), I’m more worried about the “ů” that I’ve seen aroud some time and which felt a bit intimidating.

Elias and Maya,

There are no letters x, q, v in Polish alphabet, however we use it in word borrowed from other languages, like taxi, veto etc.

Maya gave us pretty bad examples of Polish sound system, writing about the letter “ł” which is just a Polish way to write the sound “w” known in many languages (like English). Polish sounds ch/h, ó/u and ż/rz and their usage is mostly a question of ortography, and, learning the rules where to use – it’s pretty easy. I am sorry to say that, but most youngsters (and not only yungsters) who use “semi-Polish” abbreviations while using chats/forums/texts is not a question of their lack of fluency but laziness only. Well, we all learn these rules in schools, and it someone can’t remember is – well, it’s their problem.

The real challenge is the correct pronunciation of these sounds:
ż (rz) – which exists in a couple of languages like French
ź – never heard outside Slavonic area
dz – never heard either
dź – I think Hungarian has it too
dż – more or less like “J” in English “jam” but harder
sz – more or less like “sh” in “shame” but harder, Russian “Ш”
ś – more or less like “shame” but… softer,
ć – Russians have this sound (Ч)
cz – Present in Russian again (but Russians pronunce it a bit softer then we are, so this one (Щ) is rather a combination of Polish “ść”
ń – like the Spanish “ñ”
ą – exists in French I think
ę – in French, too (please correct me if I’m wrong)

as I wrote ch/h is not an issue as is is one sound (however historicaly these were two, and some still say they can hear the difference between them).

Regarding the Czech “ř” – It took me a while to find out how it’s pronunced and… well, we have the same sound in Polish, and it sounds like Spanish “rr”. An I right? Buuuuut… on the other hand… I am 100% sure that most Poles learning Czech have lots of problems with ť and u/ů/ú. And the accent in Czech (stress on the first syllable) is insane 🙂 compared to “always-second-last” in Polish (well, with some exceptions of course – this is Polish, the only rule of this language seems to be “there is always an exception somewhere here”)

Sorry, but you are wrong: we also have the letter “ó” in the hungarian language.

(And we also have the same problems with “j” and “ly”, because of the same pronouncation, like you have with ‘u’ and ‘ó’.)

Dude, I am Polish and I want you to know that you are so wrong. You wrote that:
“the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language after age of 16”

I would say that 95% of Polish people are never fluent at all. No disrespect intended, and I mean it. The worst thing is they don’t even realize how many terrible mistakes they make in almost every sentence they say. And I don’t mean uneducated people. Most of the TV speakers in daily news don’t know how to use polish language properly.

I live in Poland, I’m 15 years old and I really can’t say, that I can use polish language free of mistakes. Grammatic in polish language is really hard and there are many archaism – sometimes, I can’t even undestand text which I’m reading because of them. So, if you think that u can fluently speak polish, ther are always something what destroys your point of view. 😀

As a native Polish speaker I must say: Polish teens become fluent in Polish in age of 16 NOT because of difficulity of this language but because of poorer education system than before. Really, saying that it’s because of the language is really exaggerating. The education system in Poland has changed for worse in merely past 10 years (mostly because of European Union directives) and effects are visible in the usage of Polish language and in knowledge of it the most. The biggest damage has been caused by creating profile-education system. Before that everyone had been learning Polish in an equal ammount in every school. Now – because of profiles – lessons in Polish are more frequent in humanist type of schools. Please, include this in your research in the future and do us justice.

Well, it is simplifying things. Everyone says there are only three tenses in Polish, comparing to other languages. It is false and due to used nomenclature. There are future/present/past tenses which correspond to “simple” in English and considered as “tense” in the sense used in this article and comments of Polish natives. But there are also coniunctivus or imperativus, called “constructions/tryby” in Polish which are regarded as separate tenses in other languages. There is also plusquamperfectum tense, rarely but still in use. Etc., etc.
So please, stop messing up with and start to think rationally.

Thank you. I was going to make the same point. Allow me to add +1 to your post.

I am Polish and I have got a problem with polish grammar and orthography, still. I’m 20 (thanks god they invented the vocabulary list in M. Word ). And I am not the only one, my friends also. But I think this language is very rich, poetical and beautiful.

Of all the Asian languages, who would ever compare Korean to any other complex language? There’s a reason you wouldn’t, and that’s because Korean was developed specifically to be easy. I don’t by this article because it makes non-comparative cases for difficulty, additionally, there’s lack of sources.

I strongly agree with you on the Polish, and generally on the ranking.

I’d just add Portuguese (from Portugal) as being the hardest from the Latin based. Comparing with French grammar, verbs would be at least as difficult, while all the others to harder to learn: monotonic (as opposed to the Brazilian Portuguese), accentuation of written words, grammar exceptions, pronunciation (especially nasal sounds), etc.

John Paul II (Polish Pope), a master of multilingual communication, once considered Portuguese to be the hardest language he learnt. He was able to communicate fluently besides his mother tongue Polish (and other Slavic languages), in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin.

I can communicate fluently in English, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and Japanese.

Polish? Have a look at Czech. Some words containing for example ř, ch and so are inarticulable even to some Czech career diplomats! Exceptions from exceptions, false friends with German, Polish, Russian, writing y/i which are pronounced same. And much more then in Polish. Ok there is just about 10millions of native Czech speakers plus lets sat 5 millions Slovak (very much similar to Czech). I speak English, Polish, Czech, German and partly Russian and was learning Finnish and Spanish. Czech is the winer! Or looser?

As for Hungarian…..not that I wish to argue but do a little more research here…

there are around 18 cases + vowel harmony

“the cases are more like English prepositions added to the end of the root word” and this is silliest oversimplification I have ever herad about agglutination

and you seem to have forgot about the fact that Hungarian has free word order which is not free at all of course

finally what seems difficult for an English native speaker might not seem that challenging for others of different native tounges

Kinga

I agree with Kinga. Finnish and Hungarian are not simply languages that have letters slapped on the end of each word to conjugate them, way too oversimplified.

Furthermore, if you want to lecture others about how easy the English language is, perhaps you should get a better editor for your posts first before you write with such botched grammar. I can hardly take this post seriously.

@Magdalena
There are 5 genders in singular (e.g. en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Polish/More_on_nouns_-_genders)

I think the author means 7 cases instead of genders. I’ve been learning Polish for the past 4 years and finally I can start to have a conversation with people there even if my grammar is hit and miss. Once you get over the initial hurdle of how alien the words look and sound to English, things start to get a bit less demoralizing. I think it’s a really nice language over all – Polish people should be proud!

The author doesn’t take in account the fact that the complexity of a language is relative to your mother tongue. For a Czech or Russian speaker, Polish is easier than Spanish. For a Cantonese Chinese, Mandarin is easier than English. An Arab will learn Hebrew much faster than a German.

The fact that Polish are fluent in their language later than English speakers is quite dubious, where is the source. And is it about oral, or just about writing skills, or formal language? Anyway, if true it can be due to different education systems or inappropriate alphabet or orthographic rules.

It is no coincidence that, according to the author, English is one of the easiest. English is his own language, and look, it is so simple, isn’t it? I know many Slavonic language speakers who will never understand how the articles work. The verbal system is also quite sophisticated, the phrasal verbs are hell… But you don’t know it, if English is your mother language… German, Spanish, Italian, French are closer to the English in vocabulary or grammar. It is normal that English speakers find them easier.

If anyone wants to prove that are languages more complex than others should make a study measuring how long takes to a baby to learn to speak.

This is the best comment here, really.

Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak (and a couple of other Slavonic languages) are practically equally difficult for an English/Spanish/German speaker. For some learners Polish sounds may be more challenging, for some others: Czech sounds, or the “melody” of Russian.

However, It will not change the fact, that a Czech/Slovak/Polish learner will understand a lot of Ukrainian or Russian due to language proximity of these languages. I am 100% sure it is much easier to learn Czech if you are Polish native then an English one. However, it does not change the fact, that it is easier for both Czech and Poles to learn English then Russian.

And, by the way, I do not agree that Slavonic languages are the most difficult to learn for English speakers.

TheguywhowrotethisarticlehasahardonforPolishsays:

Thank you Carlos! Finally some intelligence in the room. Also, I love how the author’s description of all subsequent difficulty levels each have reference to the hell risen be damned Polish 🙂 Polish isn’t that bad, it has rules (which apparently most don’t know/use) and is in a family of languages. Relativity to the learner is something that none of these ‘statistics’ ever considers. I study Hungarian currently and have been told that it is anywhere from the hardest to the 3rd hardest language in the world. Pronunciation, grammar, verb prefixes (that modify and become suffixes, on occasion) and exceptions are unlike any other language I’ve studied. I worked in an office with 5 Poles who spoke Polish day in and day out and I could communicate in Polish with them after a few months with no formal study. I do give credit to the author however, because you got a ton of reaction here and hey, if it’s on the internet, you are an authority 😉 Want a challenge (to all of you English speakers here, everyone I think) go try your hand at Tuu or Khoe.

Carlos, Polish is my mother tongue, and English is my second language, learned fairly late in life (after 20 years of age). I find English grammar far easier than Polish, and in formal communication I prefer to use English. At some point in my life I took lessons in other languages as well. I have not found any that approaches English in its grammatical simplicity and logic.

The problem with Polish language is that it takes so much effort to use it that there’s very little “computing power” left for any other brain activity. I experience this too frequently.

I am a 17-year-old Pole and I absolutely agree that Polish is a very difficult and complicated language to l learn. I know English at C2 level, I can also read and speak in Russian and German, and I have recently started studying Spanish. I do not have problems with these languages, but when I sometimes compare them to my native language, I get astounded how convoluted Polish is. I know a few foreigners who have tried to study this language and neither of them succeeded. That is because Polish grammar is really intricate. When it comes to genders, there are seven different forms of genders (although Polish grammarians use slightly different classification: they speak about three singular genders, one of which is also subdivided into three separate kinds). There are also seven cases with different, both currently used and rather archaic, declension forms, and many Polish people (including me) are often unsure which form to use. There are also many other issues, such as pronunciation, that make Polish language so unintelligible for many foreigners. As far as tenses are concerned, there are three basic types of tenses (past, present, future), but both past and future has perfective and imperfective forms. In addition to these tenses, there is also a kind of ‘past perfect tense’ which is however used very rarely and often unconsciously, and is rather indistinguishable by most Poles.
If somebody wants to study Polish, he or she has to be prepared to experience a real shock. Yet, Polish is very beautiful and tuneful language with multitude of idiosyncrasies which may be irritating, but also make Polish a fascinating field for exploration

“multitude of idiosyncrasies” ? What the heck.

konstantynopolitańczykowianeczkówna i chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie

So em, whilst I have read your article and then the following comments it seems to me that you, as the author, seem to have personally an issue with learning the polish language hence making it “number 1”. As a Scotsman growing up in the south near the English border and having friends from other parts of Scotland, I am pretty used to several different dialects, not to mention the Scots language(meaning the official Scots, not this common slang which other people people seem to view it as) and that I have several friends who speak gaelic and I myself having only learnt a little gaelic can read the news online in the language. I am 20 and currently live in Germany. I can speak fluent English, very good French and German and have a basic understanding(i.e the abilty to describe myself and ask for things) in Chinese(mandarin), polish, Welsh, Gaelic and Russian. Having managed to find time to learn a bit of each of these languages I can state directly that by no means is Polish the most difficult. Have you personally tried to learn German grammar? You state that in French and German “everything is logical”. You could not be more wrong. I have a very good grasp with foreign languages and to say something like that makes you appear to be a king of languages knowing the answer to learn every language. There is no ruled grammar in German which one can simply learn. It is all to do with brain training and having a good ear. Polish is pretty easy in comparison to most other languages. Probably best to do some more research young sir before blasting out such a full-on statement as you have. I think you will also find to state English as the easiest is also complete nonsense. It may be one of the easiest languages to start with in terms of vocabulary but to understand such a language takes skill. For example English uses of form of “you” in writting, not like German with “du, ihr and Sie” but when it comes to speaking, although you personally might not notice it, the form of “you” is rather expressed for a variety of tones rather than another form of word. How you say how are you to you mother, you say differently to the old woman you see everyday on the bus, or your best friend, or wife or daughter etc. Learn your own language to a good enough extent before trying to compare every language in the world with each other.

Peace out .

This is absurd, really. Why is it that Poles always like to put themselves, their language & culture above anything else? Saying that Polish is the most difficult language in the world is just completely laughable. .. But yeah, whatever…. Poles like doing that. (btw, I’m half Polish myself and married to one. But I’ll never get used to this…)

“Above”? How is stating that one’s grammar is absurdly overcomplicated putting it above others? If anything, it is putting it below other languages. Much of Polish grammar is unfortunately designed by committee, and the rules do not make sense. Try Polish punctuation rules. You will go grey trying to figure out the logic.

Sześć przestępstw w Pszczynie.
Poczmistrz z Tczewa.

Enjoy 🙂

It really depends on which your primary language is. If you speak another Slavic language, you could learn Polish much easier than, for example, Arabian. I am by no means an expert on languages, nor I speak Polish, but mu mother language is Serbian (also a Slavic language, although from the South-Slavic group), and I have some basic knowledge of Russian, and when I try to read Polish, I can pick out single words and sometimes figure out even whole sentences. Polish really has weird pronunciation, but it really comes from altering some sounds, for example -t into -ć (something like “tshe” for English speakers), also, sounds like -zh, -sh, -lj are present on a far greater scale than in other Slavic languages, but when you figure out what those sounds are equivalent to in other Slavic languages (which comes pretty intuitively), words start to get much more familiar shapes. You can then, as I said, start to figure out whole words, and if you really take it slow, you can even figure out whole sentences from time to time. I suppose that it would take not much learning to be able to have conversations in Polish.

Also, when learning foreign language grammar, it depends on how that language’s grammatics is similar to the one of your mother language. For example, native English speakers have a hard time learning cases when learning Slavic languages, and native Slavic speakers have a really hard time with particles in English and differentiating between simple and continuous tenses (because those structures, especially particles, don’t exist in Slavic languages). When talking about particles, only a small percentage of people in my country learn to use particles in English properly, and even really advanced speakers (like English teachers etc.) sometimes make mistakes when using particles.

I’d say do more research on languages similar to Polish or with similar structure if you’re looking for difficult languages. Im from Czech republic and I must say our language is pretty damn hard to learn =D Well compared to other languages I studied like English, Italian, French and Slovak (Slovak is very closely related so I picked that up pretty fast).

I am Polish native speaker, and I don’t understand why you count Russian as harder language than Polish (I know Russian on B2 level). The grammar in Russian is equally complicated + they have another alphabet. And there is mistake in the tekst: in Russian are 31 leters + 2 (“soft” and “hard” mark) so we have 33 simbols to learn. Pronunciation is harder? I don’t think so. In Russian wery important is accent – if you thin that you can speak Russian without accent you’re wrong. For example you have word “мука” (“muka”), and if you will read that “muká” mean “flour, but if you will put an accent on another way like “múka” mean “”torture”/”torment”. And try for example to pronunce correct word “достопримечательности” [dostapr’im’yech’atyel’nosti] whats mean “attractions”/”places worth to visit”.

Hello,

This blog took my attention for 2-3 hours and I could not stop reading it. 🙂 Also I wanted to see what other sites say about the most hardest languages to learn and I found that:

http://mylanguages.org/difficult_languages.php

It seems Polish is in one of 10th languages that is hard to learn.
However I like to see, as I am Polish, a sentence written there regarding Polish language and I will cite here:

“German for example has four cases all which are logical, Polish cases seem to have no pattern or rules; you have to learn the entire language. ”

As I know, many languages have rules (and I learned Japanese, English, Swedish). It seems in case of Polish you need to learn the entire language from scratch and the best while being in Poland by communicating with Polish so you can learn exception by feelings, as it seems. As for example: I am Polish but I really have to think how to call a person who lives in city “Zielona Gora” – ZielonaGoraczanka? I think I am wrong – not sure.

Anyway – other languages are also hard.

I think…. There is no one language harder than the other. It is all up to you how you approach the language and how much effort you put in.

I am fluent English and Polish. Yes, my Polish is not perfect and I do make mistakes (speaking, writing etc) I left Poland 17 years ago so I am not at the level I would want to be. I have been studying Spanish, German and Japanese on and off for 10+ years. All of them are easy to learn because I spend a lot of time practicing.

For one person English might me easy and Spanish might be bards. For others Spanish might be easy but English might be hard. It depends on the person, how much effort they out into learning, how much time they spend and how serious they are.

I know people who learn Polish within months so it is doable.

Everything is possible if you out your mind to it!

Sorry, I did mistake. Probably it is ZielonoGoraczanka 🙂 And I will try to fix ma keyboard so if it work then in polish letters: “ZielonoGóraczanka” – but I am still not sure. BTW I just picked up a normal name of a city.

BTW ZielonoGóraczanka is for women, for men hmm ZielonoGóraczanek or ZielonoGóraczanski?

guys which one sounds better in a sentence:
” Hi, ZielonoGóraczanek, can you help me? ” or
“Hi, ZielonoGóraczanski, can you help me?:

of course in polish is “Cze, ZielonoGóraczan…, czy mozesz mi pomoc?” but I wrote in English for non-polish readers

Nonsense 🙂

A male from Zielona Góra is “zielonogórzanin”
A female – “zielonogórzanka”
More people (with at least one male): zielonogórzanie
More then one woman: zielonogórzanki
adjective: zielonogórski

Well, what’s interesting, you seem to play a game with Polish grammar giving such an example, but… you made a mistake with capital letters here 🙂 There is a rule saying that all the names of people which are created from city names starts with a small letters like “bydgoszczanin” (a person who lives in the city of Bydgoszcz) or “zielonogórzanin” (a person who lives in Zielona Góra). As you mentioned here (“I am Polish but I really have to think how to call a person who lives in city “Zielona Gora”) that you mean a person who lives in the city, I am pretty sure you made a mistake here. However, starting these words with capital letters could be correct, but it would change its meaning slightly. A word “Bydgoszczanin” means “a person who is indigenous to the city of Bydgoszcz or the region”…

Dear All,

I want to elaborate more about polish and give examples to non-polish readers of cases (just only few examples) that might show difficulty of polish. So people might compare it and maybe say that the same in their language (probably often in other slovian languages but maybe also other)

Referring still example of a men who lives in let say “Zielona Góra”

I had thought about that and I believe it should be actually
” Hi, ZielonoGórczyku, can you help me?”

and now,
I agree with many other people that Chineese and Japanese (as simplified version of Chinese) is one of most difficult language to read and write. However to speak and communicate it is not difficult. Just you need to learn vocabulary and some rules to properly use. Of course, you have to be careful with tones, spelling etc in order to make less confusions and to avoid being rude.
Actually in Polish it is the same – little bit different but the same, example

1. Hi, ZielonoGórczyku
2. Hi, ZielonoGórczanek
3. Hi, ZielonoGórczanski <- I do not have polish n
4. Hi, ZielonoGórczanianek
5. Hi, ZielonoGórczuju
6. and so on and so on – In Poland for fun we can make many suffixes
All these suffixes have meanings – sometimes just created by our feelings (I do not know how to explain that)
In above case it means
1. A calling a person from a city ZielonoGóra in neutral way
2. calling the person but slightly lowering his ego ranking related to me
3. This might be the case when I call a person when I am not happy about him
4. I would use it when I call the person while a little laughing about him and to show it to others
5. I would call him like that to disrespect him and prepare for fight with him

These are just siffixes. And in polish it is possible to use many variations of suffixes to any noun and verb just to differently express ourselves.
But there is more – in polish there are also prefixes which make the language even more complicated. And while playing with possibility of making random order of words in sentences it make polish language very very beautiful – as any sentence can have double and even tripple meanings.

I just would like to give a examplea of prefixes and suffixes using only one word (commonly actually used in polish so maybe you can even learn a little bit 🙂 )

The word is "Pierdolic" <– no polish (if some polish readers have polish letter please re-post it with polish letters)

Pierdolic means: sometimes "to ignore", Pierdole to – I Ignore it
sometimes means "to " – Lubie ja pierdolic – I like to her
In general it is considered as a swearing – but commonly used

Now prefixes:

u-pierdolic sie (it should be upierdolic sie, but I want to show prefix)

u-pierdolic sie – it means: to be drunk, or to became dirty on my clothes
na-pierdolic sie – to become drank
na-pierdolic someone – to beat someone
wy-pierdolic someone – to take out someone from , e.g. my apartament
wy-pierdolic someone – might also mean that I ed one women
s-pierdolic – it means I made mistake let say in my work or I just let say made to my pants
z-pierdolic – it means I run away from somewhere (almost the same prononcation as spierdolic)
do-pierdolic – to beat someone or to add to many thing to let say one bucket (it dependenlty on the content of the sentence)
po-pierdolic – it might be the same as z-pierdolic
and so on

now if we add suffixes to it
then
only for hmm s-pierdolic
s-pierdoli-lem sie – I made a to my pants (or something like that)
s-pierdoli-l mnie – someone made trouble to me (he ed up with me)
s-pierdziel-ilem – I run away. s-pierdziel-il – he run away (similar as in spanish as I know) moze it should be spieprzylem
s-pierdziel-ony – it does not sounds good (some some combinations of suffixes and prefixes does not match and it is based on feelings)

Ok. we can play with suffixes and prefixes at will with almost every verb and noun. And people understand easily the meaning why we used such combination. How we learned it – I do not know. I guess by playing with friends. Sure you cannot learn that in school. There are too many of such combinations so schools do not have time for that and sure it would be probably impossible to make rules.

Simply by playing with word like that and making then in any order at will in polish it is possible to add expressions to sentences and you have to be careful how you do that. Sure it is similar in Japanese, Chinese and any other languages. Whether to do that in Polish is most difficult – I do not know.
Still you have to learn which and when some suffixes you can use (for what 7 cases) and for which gender. Plus learning how to write properly where there are also some exceptions: example every polish knows that -UJE is writen with "opened u" however there some few exceptions for "-OJE" I do not remember now. Also for prononcasions: you heard the famous sz, cz, rz that whenever you see these there is a special sound. But it is not true, for example: Tarzan – this is normal R and normal Z. Unfortunatelly for non-polish people they have to learn that for Tarzan you do not say "rz"

So I hope I saw difficulties of this complex language but beautiful. And many people say (especially Czech ones) that Polish people speak like SNAKE 🙂 cool

Thanks again for this lovely blog. I enjoyed it 🙂

Hi Zbigniew, just to be clear – nie ma czegoś takiego jak “Hi, ZielonoGórczyku”

Cześć Zielonogórzanko,
Cześć Zielonogórzaninie (chyba)

Thanks for corrections 🙂 Yep Polish is not so easy 🙂

You are 99% right, however you should start these wards with small letters like “zielonogórzanin” or “wrocławianin”. 🙂

I’m Polish and I love my language ^^

Also I know (more or less) English, Spanish, French, Lithuanian, Russian and some basics of Italian, Ukrainian, Serbian (srpski), Belarussian and German. I love learning languages.

Yep, Polish is not very easy 🙂

Well, first at all, your “suffix theory” is an absolute nonsence. None of your “cases” exists in Polish language and no one is correct. The explanation is an absurd. Apart from that, there is nothing like “ZielonoGórczyk” – and by the way, what I wrote above, such words start with a small letter, and we never use capital letters in any Polish words.

Regarding your prefixes, well, first at all they exist in many languages like German (abbrechen, verbrechen etc) or have some equivalent like phrasal verbs in English.

On the other hans, there is nothing like “z-pierdolić”. You cant combine “z” with “p” as in Polish language does not allow such combination. That’s a mistake, unfortunately.

And, “Tarzan” is not a Polish word, so the letters R and Z do not form a single sound and should be pronounced separately. Of curse this rule has got exceptions (as always) and you also separate this in words like (marznąć = to freeze), but the general rule is to read is as “RZ” (/ʐ/). Of course if there is no k/p/t before this combination – which would soften the sound and make if rather a “sh” (but, of course, there are always exceptions like pszczoła to make your Polish adventure more enjoyable!)

s-pierdzie-liem – might also mean that I destroyed something or I made mistake (I ed up with something).

Of course in english you can make similar using word ed, but I do not think that any variation of word “” (or most probably the way how it was said) would mean that I have dirty clothes. It ed me up – it means more like someone made me annoyed or beat me up – in polish using word pierdolic – wpierdolil mnie – maybe (it beat me) . “annoyed me” would wkurzyl mnie. Of course, between languages is always hard to compare.
But whether the language is hard to learn – it is always depends if it is possible to learn quickly vocabulary, pronounce it and to learn rules.
Polish: vocabulary OK, pronounce difficult, rules – almost no rules. reading; difficult (e.g read my name: Zbigniew (easy case, more difficult names exist: grzegorz). Even my name Zbigniew french and english learned after 1-2 months how to pronounce it. At first I am Z-men)
Chineese: vocaublary OK, pronounce difficult, rules – exists – reading extreme diffuclt (simply we do not know simbols and we need to learn meaning of them and patterns)
Japanese: vocabulary OK, pronounce OK, rules OK – reading extreme difficult
English: vocabulary OK, pronounce OK, rules OK, reading OK (there are some cases to hard to pronounce but not so many exceptions)

OK GOOD night. I hope I tried to show what difficultes are in Polish. Good sources are in wikipedia also.
Sure there are some similarities in other languages what also makes these languages hard to learn.

Excuse me, but Russian alphabet has 33 letters.
The article is written, I assume, by a native English speaker, that’s why he probably ranks Polish as the hardest, I am Russian and I have learned Polish at the age of 9. it took me 3 months to be able to read, write and to go to a polish school, and come on, the seventh case, vocative, is not even a case.

I’m a native Hungarian speaker and I couldn’t agree more that the Hungarian is really hard. I’m 17 years old but I don’t understand half of the grammar: I can use it, but I can’t say why. It’s true that we only have three verb tenses and no gender but there are three different things which are put after the words, we call it “képző” “jel” and “rag”. There is an example:
szentség (noun)
szenségtelen (adjective)
szentségtelenít (verb)
megszentségtelenít (verb, its meaning is nearly the same)
megszentségteleníthetetlen (adjective)
megszentségteleníthetetlenség (noun)
megszentségteleníthetetlenséges (adjective)
megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedés (noun)
megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitek (noun)
megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért (noun)

it’s like: holy, unholy, unholiness, it is unholiness, you act unholy, your unholinesses, for you unholinesses, and yes, this is the meaning of the last word.
But it is also true that the pronunciation is very easy, because we pronounce the words as they are written.
But speaking Hungarian is a very exciting and special experience, so if you like the challenges, try it, you won’t regret it.

When you learn another language, the difficulty surely depends on your own mother tongue. This article can only make sense for a person who has English as mother tongue, in my opinion. If your language is Slavic, then it’s obviously much easier for you to learn another Slavic language than it is for an Englishman to learn a Slavic language.

Furthermore, I think there should be a distinction between “learning to speak” and “learning to write” a language. You can learn a language without knowing anything about genders or any grammatical rules, if you learn it by example, by actually speaking the language. This article downplays pronunciation, and focus on grammar. Perfect grammar is not needed for communication.

Let’s not forget that all languages are primarily spoken languages, and they all have an origin in a language with no written form. Thus they are not “meant” to be taught as written languages. In fact, if someone learns my language in it’s written form, they will have problems communicating verbally with native speakers of the language, if their mother tongue is English. It doesn’t matter how perfect their grammar is.

Just think of all the English speakers who cannot pronounce “über” as they don’t have the ü sound in their language.

Dear Mr.Biernat, would You please give the sourse about 26 letter in russian? As for now you are only deleting my questions. Please, be so kind to provide the source 🙂
Thank You!

What source would you like to have, Lena, if there are none? 😀
There are exactly 33 letters in russian alphabet, and these are:
А а, Б б, В в, Г г, Д д,
Е е, Ё ё, Ж ж, З з, И и,
Й й, К к, Л л, М м, Н н,
О о, П п, Р р, С с, Т т,
У у, Ф ф, Х х, Ц ц, Ч ч,
Ш ш, Щ щ, Ъ ъ, Ы ы, Ь ь,

Э э, Ю ю, Я я.
And even if one disregards both yers
and treats Ё & Й as Е & И with diacritics
there is no way to bring that number down to 26 ^^

Michał Ryszard Balicki, thank you i knew it and i just wanted Mr. Biernat to explain his claim. He says he is a linguist, but at the same time he is writing such an absurd. He also forgot that russian language has no fixed stress (like in polish language.. ALWAYAS on the same syllabe). Stresses in russian language are different and you can not guess unless you understand the context.

I understand the love to the country, but this is not a enough to write such articles and claim the things, he doesnt know.. or doesnt want to know 😉

I’m Polish.

Languages i speak fluently:

Polish
Swedish
English

Languages i speak less then fluently:

Thai
Japanese
Spanish

So let me put these in a correct order as i see it.

From the most difficult one to the easiest:

1. Polish
2. Spanish
3. Japanese
4. Thai
5. Swedish
6. English

If you can put yourself outside your own language group you’ll see things differently. Asian languages are NOT as difficult as they seem. Only because the grammar is upside down it doesn’t mean it’s hard to learn.

Spanish or Polish are extremely hard to learn for Asian people. It’s much easier for a Polish or Spanish speaking individual to learn Thai or Japanese.

Having that said, the “knowledge” you get when you learn a language is nothing compared to “usage” of that language.
For example. If you’re 28 years old and move to Poland you will probably never speak Polish fluently. The same goes for most languages in the world although not at the same level of difficulty.

Cultural knowledge, understanding and expressions, traditions etc. play a huge part in being able to actually “speak” a language.

If you are learning a language you should study everything about the country in which it is spoken. Without that, you have nothing except “excuse me, where the train station”. That’s not being able to speak, that’s “Polly want a cracker”.

I’m Ukrainian, who speaks Russian, English, Korean and Polish. Polish language is quite similar to Ukrainian, so that’s why its easier for Ukrainian people to learn it. It took me only 1.5 years to be fluent at it. Korean was harder to learn.

Written language is a higher level of communication. Speaking is intuitively while for writing more advanced thinking processes are required. Besides how good speaker you’re depends not just on your verbal skills but also on your temperament and if you feel relaxed. After beer usually people are better speakers. Those people who achieved a passive acquaintance with a language need only a beer.:) Besides language economy is positive rather, not those who speak more are better in communication but those who can speak accurate. In this question I don’t agree with the author.

Well, all these languages are extremely hard for native English speakers who generally lack the motivation and willingness to learn another foreign language. And I doubt that the average English speaker is fluent by the age of 12, especially in writing: the most atrocious written content comes from native English speakers who don’t know about and don’t care much for their grammar and/or spelling. And that sadly often includes so called educated people.

How easily one picks up a language depends a lot on the person’s background. However complicated Polish may be, I am pretty sure that a native Russian speaker would find it easier than French. For someone who is fluent in, say, Spanish and Italian, French is a piece of a cake.

Slovenian language has 7 cases, 8 declinations (depending on the gender of the word), 3 genders, singular, plural (2 forms depending on the gender), dual – for 2 persons (again 2 forms depending on the gender); “e” and “o” are pronounced differently depending what letter is before or after (and we don’t write any help on top of the letter like é,…) and there is a lot of exceptions in everything.
we have 5 letter words that have only 1 vowel or none inside it like čmrlj, čvrst and even a 6 letter one vzbrst…try to pronounce that 😉

O and there is around 40 different dialects, some of them are so complicated that even slovenes that are not from that part of the country don’t understand them. 😉

I’m Hungarian and I agree that Hungarian is one of the hardest languages for non-natives, but I think the reason isn’t the lots of noun cases. The reason of the hardness of Hungarian language is more likely:

1. most European people got used to Indo-European languages; Hungarian logic and grammatic (e.g. agglutinativity, vowel harmony) is different from the logic and grammatic of other European languages, Hungarian way of thinking (in grammatical meaning) is more likely similar to Finnish, Turkish, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese
2. international vocabulary is less likely present in Hungarian than in other European languages; we have our own words for e.g. computer, passport, gendarmerie, police, engineer, data, finance, economy, university, president, these words usually are similar in other European languages (e.g. policia, pasaporte, ingeniero, economia etc.), we translate almost everything, or create our own words
3. the verb conjugation is also complex (one verb can have 70 different forms due to conjugation) including objective conjugation which can be found only in Basque and Hungarian
4. the pronunciation of extra sounds can be hard if the speaker’s native language doesn’t include that sound, in Hungarian it’s important to make difference between e.g.: e-é, o-ó-ö-ő u-ú-ü-ű c-cs z-zs s-sz t-ty g-gy, wrong pronounciation can change the meaning, or in writing: the lack of accents can change the meaning absolutely (e.g. kor, kór, kör, kőr are 4 different words with 4 absolutely different meanings). Slavic languages have extra consonants, but they lack extra vowels, however Germanic languages have extra vowels but they lack extra consonants so none of them can pronounce all Hungarian sounds correctly by nature (Latin languages lack both)
5. the primary stress is usually put on the first syllable of a word
6. there are lots of exceptions in conjugations (+ phrasal verbs)
7. word order can be strage for the speakers of Indo-European languages, and it’s not always consequent; if there is a sentence of 3 words: A-B-C and if we add a 4th word D, then it can change the word order of the original 3 words as well, e.g.: A-D-C-B or A-C-D-B etc. (phrasal verbs, negating words, auxiliary verbs can also overthrow the original word order)

Usually Turkish people learn/speak Hungarian very well (and Finnish people would as well, but they don’t have motivation to come here) because their language is also agglutinative, they also have vowel harmony, they have almost all the extra sounds that we have and their word order is almost the same as ours. Nor is it impossible for other people to learn Hungarian but some time is needed to spend in Hungary or other Hungarian environment to get used to the logic of Hungarian language and also to get used to the pronounciation.

few more things:
If Turkish, Finnish or Hungarian people want to learn each other’s language, then they have to learn more or less only words (and maybe some pronunciation). Our languages don’t share lot of international words, however we don’t even share so many words with each other (way lower than 1%) and even those few words of common roots cannot be recognized because of significant changes, “deformations”. So actually what we Turks, Finns and Hungarians do share is GRAMMAR, including: (in brackets whether it’s easy or hard for the European language learner)
1. word order (-> hardness)
2. agglutinativity (-> hardness)
3. vowel harmony (-> hardness)
4. lack of grammatical genders (-> easiness)
5. possessive affixes instead of the European possessive determiners (this is also true for Semitic languages like Arabic or Hebrew) (-> hardness)
6. lack of the agreement of adjectives (and numerals) to the noun, which means that the adjectives are only comparised, they don’t get plurar endings nor noun case endings (unlike Spanish: bueno chico, buenos chicos, buena chica, buenas chicas) (-> easiness)
7. lack of the verb “to have” -> “for me there is” (-> hardness), in Finnish and Turkish also the lack of “to be”, in Hungarian: limited usage of “to be” (this is also true for the most Slavic languages)

I think I’d learn Finnish or Turkish easier than let’s say a German, French or Russian guy, however Swedish, Danish or Norwegian would be much more easier even for me than Finnish. The reason is my English and German knowledge. My English and German knowledge would help me in Swedish, Danish or Norwegian much more than my Hungarian knowledge would help me in Finnish. The above mentioned Scandinavian languages share lot of international vocabulary and their grammar is similar to German and English grammar.

I think for me the hardest languages to learn (out of those that I’ve met and are widely known) would be Polish and Arabic.

POLISH:
1. Because they have even more sounds than Hungarian. Like I have no idea what’s the difference between the following pairs of sounds: ż-ź, dź-dż, sz-ś, ć-cz. Once I asked a Polish girl to explain it to me, but for me these pairs seemed exactly the same sounds. (Just like for my Ukrainian friend the Hungarian E and É vowels sound the same)
2. They have less noun cases (7) than us (18), but in Polish for different genders there are different endings, also there are different groups of nouns that get different endings in the same noun case. And in Polish e.g. the Plurar Accusative suffix has nothing to do with the Plurar Nominative and the Singular Accusative. In Hungarian the Plurar Accusative suffix is the sum of the Plurar affix + the Singular Accusative affix and all the nouns in Accusative get the same affix (true for all noun cases). That’s why I mentioned in my previous comment that I don’t think that the numerous noun cases are the reason of the hardness of Hungarian languages (the verb conjugation is way much harder).
3. Adjectives have to be agreed to the noun that it applies to. The adjective has to mach with the noun in GENDER, NUMBER, NOUN CASE, which has its hard rules. This is what I usually forget about in Spanish (because Hungarian and English doesn’t have this adjective agreeing thing), however Spanish adjectives only have 4 possibilies (-o -os -a -as) or 2 in case of some other adjectives (-e -es), Polish has who knows how many endings for adjectives.
(Just to confirm my 2nd and 3rd points: I’ve found this in wikipedia under the article “grammatical case”: “in Polish, the genitive case has -a, -u, -ów, -i/-y, -e- for nouns, and -ego, -ej, -ich/-ych for adjectives”. Good luck to learn them! 🙂 )
4. Polish language just like all the western and southern Slavic languages is tolerant to the consonant cluster, which means that they are able to pronounce 3 or even 4 consonants together. Hungarian – just like Turkish and Finnish – doesn’t tolerate more than 2 consonants, so usually when we borrow a Slavic word that has consonant cluster, then we miss the consonant in the middle or put vowels inside. Or when a word begins with two consonant then we also “repair” that word to be pronouncable for us. E.g the Slavic word for plum / prune is “slivka”, “śliwka” or “слива”, which we pronounce like “Silva”. So anyway it’s hard to learn how to pronounce more than 2 consonants after each other.

ARABIC
1. the letters have 4 different forms and the Arabic writing seems like Latin handwriting and although I tried to learn to read Arabic I never know where one letter ends and the other begins
2. they don’t write every vowels
3. they have a lot of sounds that are not known here in Europe and hard to pronounce them
4. conjugation is not always consequent, there are lot of exceptions and some forms (like plurar or accusative of a noun or past tense of a verb) are formed by changing a vowel inside the word (called: fusional language) instead of putting an affix after the word; e.g. there is no definite rule for putting the words to plurar, the plurar form should be learnt word by word

I mean no disrespect, but there are 2 main languages spoken in ‘China’; Mandarin and Cantonese.
Mandarin is a relatively straight forward language to learn as there are very few intonations and the sounds are fairly easy for a westerner to make. Cantonese on the other hand is quite different. I agree that the words are short, and verbs/possessions are non existent, however with each word having 7 possible pronunciations, and each version meaning something very different, it is by no means an easy language to master. The sounds themselves are very alien to a western language and as such there are very few westerners who can truly speak the language well, especially when you consider that you could go to the market and ask for four ladyens and actually be asking for a something that I can not mention here.

People of Poland, we need to escalate and spread the good word that our Beautiful Language is the most difficult on Planet Earth. Let them know.

Hello,
I’m a French student and I’m learning English, German and Polish. I wouldn’t say that Polish is hard to pronounce for me. I think it depends on your mother tongue…
I think French is awful because of its exceptions – you never have a general rule without exceptions !
As for English… It’s sometimes hard to know if you should use the present perfect or the past perfect, etc. It’s more about learning specific aspects of the language all the time.
German is different : very logical, rigorous so its grammar is less complicated compared to others…
I don’t really know how to explain what I mean exactly. Hope you’ll understand but my point is -yes it is – that I think that Polish is not the most difficult language to learn. It has – to me – a quite easy pronunciation and there is a lot of logic in its grammar ! 🙂
Have a nice day !
Alexandra

“Most difficult language on the planet”?

Once again, I beg to disagree. Try taking a gander at Navaho, as I already posted.
There’s not even a dictionary in the language because it almost defies codification:-)

And while we’re on the relative subject of “difficulty”, English spelling’s GOT to be the most nightmarishly chaotic on planet earth. Rarely if ever is any English word pronounced the exact same way as it is spelled.

Polish, Hungarian, Turkish, for instance are all phonetic languages, practically without a single exception, whereas English is one exception after another, a language with plenty of examples but barely a hard-and-fast rule on which to hang a peg!

I am an American trying to learn Polish. I have studied German, Spanish, and Italian in the past with great success. I thought that since I truly loved learning languages, I had a knack for it and would be able to learn Polish fairly easily. Boy, was I wrong! Polish in no way compares to these other languages. It is unbelievably harder. I started studying Polish two years ago when my son confided to me that he planned to marry a wonderful Polish woman. I have been studying Polish for nearly two years now and can barely speak or write anything in Polish. The grammar is atrociously hard. The pronunciation is difficulty. Even figuring out how to say a number correctly makes me insane. It is hard to even figure out the sounds I hear, much less repeat them. In addition, it is tough to know how to use the correct verb aspect, not to mention the correct verb prefix. I will continue trying, but, realistically, it will take me a very long time to master Polish. But, (smile), I am going to keep trying. Eventually I may get decent at it. Something is better than nothing. And, I love learning it. By the way, the very few Poles I have met in Texas are excited when they find out I am trying to learn their language. They tell me how hard Polish it. They seem very happy that a foreigner want to learn their language.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.