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 pick up 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.

Published 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.

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1416 Comments

  1. Very interseting text. I have a question though. Why have you left Portuguese out? In number of native speakers, it is the sixth most spoken language on the globe. I’m a native of Brazilian Portuguese and I can also speak English, German, Spanish and French. From my teaching experience, I would classify the language as more difficult to learn than German and French. It’s got a similar verbal tense organization as French, but with many composed variations. There is quite a good number of exceptions as well. Apart from these features, the language has a peculiarity which makes it very difficult for Spanish speakers to learn, despite the clear similarity between both languages. Portuguese speakers find it relatively easy to understand Spanish, but Spanish speakers find it very difficult to understand Portuguese. That happens because of the many variations in pronunciation of each diphthong and combination of syllables. A very interesting and musical language is Portuguese!

    1. Thank you Luciana! I was thinking exactly the same!
      I am a Portuguese from Portugal and everybody says Portuguese is the second hardest language to learn! I agree with you abou the Spanish vs. Portuguese. That happens a lot, Portuguese get Spanish easier than in reverse.. Spanish people hardly understand Portuguese, though we have so many similarities..
      Anyways, I think this always depends on the individuals capaccities and on their mothertongue!

    2. In Spain, besides Castellano, there is also Catalan spoken which resembles a mix of Spanish (Castellano) and French. I wonder how difficult it is in comparison to Castellano, French and Portuguese.

    3. Greets from Poland 🙂
      Swoją drogą to całkiem ciekawe że mamy najtrudniejszy język 🙂

      1. Polski chyba rzeczywiście jest najtrudniejszym językiem świata, skoro tak wiele naszych rodaków nie potrafi mu sprostać.
        To trochę przykre, ale chyba nawet nie próbują.

      2. To “GreetINGS..” po angielsku, Patrycjiu:-)

        Jezyk angielsku ma najtrudniejsza ortografia w swiecie, bardzo trudniej niz polski!!

    4. He couldn’t mention all the languages of the world. In this case of study, I guess you can take Portuguese to the group with Italian and Spanish.

    5. I’m an American who’s been living in Spain for nearly twenty-five years, so, as you can imagine, I speak Spanish quite well, though not perfectly.

      I’ve been studying Portuguese for the past ten years, I visit that country frequently, and I must say it is quite a difficult language, especially the variety spoken here in Europe. I find that spoken Brazilian Portuguese is much easier to understand.

  2. Once again, the question as to precisely WHAT constitutes “difficulty” has yet to be sufficiently addressed! Polish for example surely has components, both structural as well as morphological, which will confound, say, an Anglo-Saxon or native Roman-speaking learner, but which would hardly faze another Slavic-language native speaker, such as a Czech, a Ukrainian or a Russian:-)

    The Navajo example which I cited earlier was done because this particular language seems to retain characteristics which don’t even exist in most known languages outside the Da-Dene (??) grouping. Until recently, it had neither a written alphabetic representation nor an extant dictionary, hence, it remained essentially uncodified, therefore all but impenetrable to outsiders.

    German, long since dubbed “The Awful German Language” by none other than Mark Twain (himself, by the way, a fluent German speaker), actually has a much more uniform and unified inflectional morphology than Polish. The difficulty with German, particularly for Americans and Romance speakers, lies in its often dizzying sentence length and ambiguous word order inversions depending upon the type of clause. Detachable or “separable” prefixes too compound the degree of comprehensibility, requiring even advanced foreign German speakers to search for the very end of the sentence in order to finally grasp its meaning. Such is largely absent in Polish!

    1. I agree with the statement that Polish would greatly trouble a native English speaker, but would not puzzle out anybody with a first language from the Slavic group. All Slavic languages have similar grammatical and phonetic structure, so I as a Serbian speaking person can understand some Polish, even without ever learning it.

  3. I just so wish you had had the chance to understand why India as a sub continent does not fit into your little graph here. The country boasts 21 official languages. Hindi is just poor cousin of Sanskrit ( The language with the first ever Grammar book in the world is Sanskrit if you did not know).. There are about 30 languages in India alone with more than one million Native speakers. The total number of languages in India number about 150 with multiple dialects and unscripted languages. Please stick to your observations but call them Eurocentric. “Hardest language in the world” is a title that even Lord Dasaratha would not bestow on the world languages despite having lived for 1000’s of years.!! You are but a mere mortal.

  4. “Korean ” originally used Chinese characters
    But one of their kings felt its too difficult and came up with the Korean alphabet to allow those who weren’t that educated to at least learn reading.

    The upper class, nobles and royals still continued using Chinese characters until closed to modern age.

    As for Chinese characters, for a fluent conversation it’s pretty easy. Writing is horrible of course since you’ll need to memorize the words and some words have cultural origins.
    Even then the “Chinese ” we’re using today is more for commoners and simplified.
    Classical Chinese would have you pulling your hair out.

    I do not know if hindi/tamil is easy
    But Tamil script is enough to put me off the language just by looking at it. At least I can make out Chinese characters. Maybe because I’m Chinese.

    Tamil script gives me cancer trying to find out where it starts and where it ends

    1. Oldbreadstinks,

      You think Korean was invented for the less educated that couldn’t read Chinese? Well, there goes the typical Chinese ignorance that you see when Chinese people do not even bother to ask their native country, but straight up talk to you in Chinese. Chinese was only lent, while Korean people were creating their independent language/state which was disturbed by the Japanese occupation. Before you put your insolent knowledge to the comment box thinking that you know something wise, think twice and do some research. After all, your language ‘Chinese’ was created just to yell at people.

      Have a nice day, Ching chang weng.

    2. It is Japanese that had easier Hinayana invented for less educated / women. In case of Korean, the Hangul writing system was all about being independent.

  5. Sanskrit further serves as the base for the Japanese Hiragana script as well as possibly an ancient relative of at least one of the two extant Baltic languages, namely Lithuanian:-) Bodmer, the famed Swiss-German linguist, once classified ancient Sanskrit as possessing nearly 239 or so conjugation forms of the same verb.

    In addition, it was once (mistakenly) believed that if listening to a Sanskrit text read or hymn chanted ever so slowly, a modern -day Lithuanian peasant might be able to decipher its meaning, as though in contact with some ancient, ancestral tongue come to lifeLOL

    1. Hm, I was taught exactly the same about the Lithuanian peasants understanding Sanskrit when I studied English at University in Lublin 🙂

  6. Seems that we’ve largely ignored ENGLISH as possibly the truly most “difficult language on the planet” in terms both of its spelling/pronunciation, absence of grammatical consistency and a plethora of vocabulary, i.e. umpteen phrasal verbs, e.g. “get in”, “get over”, “get with” etc., each with both a literal along with a figurative meaning…..

    I gladly welcome any to take me on:-)

    1. Hi Marek,

      I do agree with you that English is not quite as simple as the article states, mainly due to the reasons you posted. Although it’s in a common usage I think that the variety of pronunciations and the level of its grammar inconsistency makes English both beautiful and challenging. However, I believe – please, forgive my ignorance as I know just three languagues – that the other languagues have similar misteries and tricks that make them much more complex than a short (though certainly interesting and genuine) artcile may explain.
      Cheers,

      Adam.

      1. Adam,

        By “tricks and mysteries” might you perhaps be referring to certain quirks of Polish, e.g. the so-called “fleeting vowel”with certain nouns when moving from singular to plural,i.e. “paczek” to “paczki”, “domek”/”domki”, rather than (logicalLOL!!)”paczEki”/”domEki” etc…?

        While I’ll certainly grant you and others that Polish phonology as well as her case morphology (including numerals)do indeed give particularly the foreign learner a run for their money, Polish is scarcely any more or less complex than say Welsh consonant mutations, Icelandic noun stem chaos and so forth.

        I speak here exclusively from languages which I’ve either studied (such as Polish, Italian, Hungarian and Turkish), know fluently (German, Dutch, Swedish)
        or have come across in my studies (Welsh, Estonian, Japanese)

        1. “paczek” to “paczki”:
          “pączek” to “pączki”
          or
          “paczka” to “paczki” 🙂

          1. Indeed!

            Mam jeden paczek, dwa-cztery paczki, ALE: piec paczkOW itd….

            jedna paczke ” ” paczki piec paczEK

          2. @Marek
            omg, what just happened?

            Mam jedenĄ paczkĘ, dwIE-cztery paczki, pięć paczkEK

            you should lear about polish declension of nouns

            mianownik (kto? co?) – PACZKA/PACZKĘ
            dopełniacz (kogo? czego?) – PACZKI
            celownik (komu? czemu?) – PACZCE
            biernik (kogo? co?) – PACZKA/PACZKĘ
            narzędnik ((z) kim? (z) czym?) – PACZKĄ
            miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) – PACZKA
            wołacz (o!) – PACZKA

            and it’s just singular. So there’s plural:

            mianownik (kto? co?) – PACZKI
            dopełniacz (kogo? czego?) – PACZEK
            celownik (komu? czemu?) – PACZKOM
            biernik (kogo? co?) – PACZKI
            narzędnik ((z) kim? (z) czym?) – PACZKAMI
            miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) – PACZKACH
            wołacz (o!) – PACZKI

          3. And while we’re on the subject, Grzegorz, leave us NARY confuse “paczka” = package with “paczek” = jelly doughnutLOL

            Sorry about the missing diacritical marks:-))))!!!

          4. Singular wołacz should paczko, not paczka.

          5. In Serbian language there are exactly the same questions for cases, like in Polish. I am starting to study on The Faculty of Philology in Belgrade Polish language, and I hope to find more similarities with Serbian. Pozdrav iz Srbije! Sorry for my English..

          6. I do agree with this remark: BCS (Bosnian – Croatian – Serbian) group should for sure stand next to Polish. There are 7 cases in singular and 7 in plural, in total we have 3 genders but each adjective and participle (if not more) should agree with the noun/subject/object of the sentence… there are numerous combinations, at least 5 noun groups for the cases (remember Latin!) and four verb groups. We only have 4 tenses + modal verbs, + conditinal and Croatian even has subjanctive. Almost all verbs can have two aspects (perfective and iimperfective) and one word can give you approx. 20 different ones – from verbs to adjectives…
            So when you speak about the most difficult languages take this into consideration as well. For me personally Polish is not that difficult, but Chinese or Tamil on the other hand having completely different mind set and culture are a disaster. As is Japanese with differences between women and men speaking it…
            Every language has its challenges, and even though English is considered to be the easiest one, I wouldn’t bet on it. Take a correct EN spoken by an highly educated native speaker of linguist and you’d be surprised how many of those who “learnt” it wouldn’t be able to follow…

          7. Jovana,

            Probably Serbian pronunciation is less vestigial than Polish, with it’s remenant Old Slavic nasals:-)

            Your English isn’t too bad either!

          8. 7 cases and you made 4 mistakes…

            mianownik (kto? co?) – PACZKA

            biernik (kogo? co?) – PACZKĘ

            miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) – PACZCE
            wołacz (o!) – PACZKO

          9. Wrong.
            It should be:
            Wołacz/vocative – (o!) paczko!

      2. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that standard Czech has certain charactaristics in her use of the transgressive mood which Polish doesn’t! I’m discovering additional aspectual possibilities in the former which appear to contain subtle shades of usage not even found in Polish:-)

        A scholar named Pauer from Prague came out with a thesis several years ago which I managed to print out and contrasts Czech with English. One can easily access the site with simply the last name and topic.

        As always, I’m looking forward to your comments.

  7. Hello,

    I just happened to stumble across this article tonight, and as a lover of learning languages, it was fascinating to see a reasonable ranking that comes to different conclusions than those that are commonly espoused (e.g. “Chinese, Arabic, etc. are the hardest languages to learn”).

    However, as a PhD student in East Asian Languages and Civilizations, I would like to point something out in your section on “Chinese and Japanese” that seems problematic to me. Specifically, I would agree that everything you say is true of Chinese (although you should specify what you mean by Chinese, which really refers to a whole group of mutually unintelligible topolects, therefore separate languages–I’m assuming you mean Mandarin, since everything you say is applicable to it?)–but some of the information there is actually incorrect in the case of Japanese. I suppose that whether or not the “grammar is easy” is ultimately a matter of opinion, but in any case, there is much, much more grammar in Japanese than in Chinese, and most of it is totally different from the grammar of Western languages (so it’s not like speakers of Western languages can rely on previously-learned grammar as an aid). Furthermore, Japanese DOES have verb changes and tense. Words are often quite long in Japanese, additionally. Furthermore, Japanese has no tones (which actually makes it easier to pronounce than Chinese, though I would argue that everything else about it is harder). This section in your article is worded in such a way that it sounds as though it is referring to both languages, when clearly it is referring mostly to Chinese. This therefore might lead readers to have some misconceptions about the nature of the Japanese language.

    If somebody has already pointed this out to you, then my apologies. I obviously didn’t have time to read through all 1, 100 of the comments. In fact, most likely it has been pointed out, but just in case, I felt obligated to highlight that, aside from the fact that they share a few thousand characters in their writing system, Japanese and Chinese are not at all alike (I don’t know how this would affect your ranking–maybe Japanese above Chinese but below the others?). Overall, though, I still really enjoyed this. Thanks for posting.

    1. @Gina Elia :
      You are absolutely right about the Japanese language, except regarding this point :
      Japanese does have tones. It’s obviously not the distinctive feature you can study learning Chinese, but it’s important.
      Check it saying “candy” and “rain” in Japanese. Basic, but very representative.

      1. Unlike Chinese, Japanese does not have tones. It has pitch accent.
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_pitch_accent
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_accent
        quora.com/Whats-the-difference-between-a-tonal-language-and-a-pitch-accent-language
        Traditionally languages are divided up into tone, pitch and stress languages. Mandarin, Vietnamese, Thai have tones. Ancient Greek, Japanese have (or had) pitch accents. English and Italian have stress accents. Of course, these are classifications and reality is much more subtle than words.
        Here’s another interesting article that clarify these concepts:
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_%28linguistics%29
        Although the pitch accent in Japanese is reminiscent of tones, no syllable rises or falls or has intonations, like in tonal languages. It is closer to the contrast in English between import (as a verb, with the stress on the second syllable) and import (noun, first syllable stress).
        Also, Japanese has a very complex system of verb conjugation very similar to Korean and the Turkic languages. It has polysyllabic word roots and nouns do have case markers, much like in Turkish and Korean. Another feature shared with Korean are the system of honorifics, marked as verb endings or affixes: plain language, formal language, humble language, language of respect. The two hierarchical levels of humble-respectful can combine freely with the two speech style levels of plain and formal so you can speak respectfully in plain or formal style and so forth.
        Although I am familiar with Japanese, I still find Hungarian and Finnish far more difficult to learn than Polish, which has syntactical and lexical features that are much closer to other Indo-European languages.
        Still, great article. Just needs a bit more research. Thanks!

    2. Think you need to do more research on Japanese. Verbs may not be conjugated based on gender but to say there is no change in them is a gross understatement. It also has three different character sets, one of which is not phonetic.

    3. Exactly. Japanese grammar is way more complex compared to Chinese. Also a nice fact to keep in mind, is that Polish grammar still shows lots of basic similarities to most Indo-European languages. Though in many languages the use of cases has disappeared, most of them had it in their early stages and lots of them still do. And as someone who has studied most of those languages that stand in that list, for me Japanese was still one of the most challenging one.

  8. You know those 2 countries between Poland and Estonia: Lithuania and Latvia – that is the only 2 countries in the world that speak Baltic languages, and they are extremely hard, particularly Lithuanian.
    The Baltic languages are of particular interest to linguists because they retain many archaic features, which are believed to have been present in the early stages of the Proto-Indo-European language.

    1. Baltic and Slavic laguages group has almost same (with tiny exceptions) grammar. Vocabulary is different. It doesn’t say which branch is harder.
      In Europe, I state, Finno-Ugric is two/three times harder than Baltic and Slavic. Albanian is just a bit harder.

      Comparing languages like Russian, Belorusian and Ukrainian, maybe Serbian and Bulgarian with written in Latin alphabet, I think is not big deal. Once you learn Cyrillic letters and you can read same speed as Latin. Actualy, I don’t use to read in Russian much and I am a bit slow.

      P.S. I wrote ”in Europe” but I forgot about Basque, Celtic about which simply I don’t know…

  9. Giedrulyte, by “hard”, I take it then that you mean conservative, i.e. containing, that is, REtaining vestigial forms heretofore discarded or simplified in other languages.

    I tend to agree. Icelandic, for instance, is possibly the most morphologically complex of the extant Germanic languages, with an elaborate system of noun declension, making even the predictability of certain Polish patterns seem intuitive:-)

    In addition, the latter is highly irregular. I’ve had daliences with the Baltic tongues, as well as with Estonian on the Fenno-Ugric side, and find both Finnish and Estonian equally intricate in their declensional inflections! How about you?

  10. I have a big problem with your classification of Chinese. I think you completely underestimate the importance of the tones, which are very difficult to pick up for non-native speakers. Although you will sometimes be understood without using them, on other occasions you will not be. If you don’t use the tones at all, you won’t have an easy time getting around in China.

    Between the tones and the characters, I think classifying Chinese as only averagely hard is pretty baseless. I am pretty sure Polish is easier for a European anyway.

    1. “I think classifying Chinese as only averagely hard is pretty baseless. I am pretty sure Polish is easier for a European anyway.”

      I’m a Pole living in China, 5 yrs already. I have studied sinology and I disagree with you: putonghua tones are much more easier to master than Polish cases. The problem with ‘Chinese’ is that there’s no one Chinese language, but it’s a whole familiy of distinct languages. I live in Shanghai and my putonghua is useless when I try to understand shanghaihua.

  11. I think that the most important thing about learning languages is your native language. As someone said, learning Polish for Czech would be much easier than english, because of similarities in spoken language and stuctures.
    My native language is Polish and yes, as you wrote, we mix up the gramar structures, sometimes we have problems with ortography, but (I guess) it is common, even in english.
    I’m learning (or used to learn) German, Spanish, English and Chinese. For me everything is about looking for similarities. I understand Czech or Slovak – I can’t speak in it a single word but I understand the meaning while someone is talking to me. Learning english hepls in spanish and german. Probably the chinese will be helpful with Korean.

    In my opinion the difficulty depends on languages you’re fluent in.

  12. Ania,

    As a German speaker who learned Polish in young adulthood, I can only reiterate that had my native tongue been a Romance rather than a Germanic, Polish would have been practically insurmountable for me!

  13. The phonetics of the Polish language is similar to lots of different languages which is why, of all Slavic people, it’s easier for Poles to acquire the “melody” and pronunciation of other languages.

    1. You have very right. If we people from Poland had something easier in learning new languages is pronountion. And maybe we learning it more faster, cous many variation of our native language. I learned English in one month, not very best but I can talk whatever I want and Englishman or American will understand what I want to tell. Try to do it in other case, when someone from other country wanna learn my language. Never gonna pronoun like we do it. But sometimes I thinkin about it and I dunno why they can’t do this. It’s lot easier than German and they 30 letters words

  14. It is hard to classify the languages by their difficulty. What I can say is that the Polish language structure is different than the Spanish language structure. Nobody can compare them and say that one if much more difficult than the other one. The Polish language has more cases, but less verb tenses compared with the Spanish language. From one point of view is harder, but from another point of view is much more easier.

  15. Nearly every language has its special stumbling blocks for foreigners! Polish inflectional morphology can look chaotic and scarcely predictable to beginners, same for Icelandic (also a language with three genders). The latter is supposed to be related to English, as with the rest of the Scandinavian languages except for Finnish. Yet, all Icelandic nouns have attached articles and there is little to any foreign word import, so most Icelandic words are unrecognizable to English speakers, save for those who’ve studied Old English in grad schoolLOL Spanish seems easy which is why it’s still the preferred language to study in US highschools. Then again, it has TWO separate verbs for ONE English verb “to be”, SER and ESTAR:-) Polish has verbal aspects which are quite different from our tense system, for example. German has on the basic level numerous similar words with English, e.g. “Hut” (hat), “Mann” (man), “Haus (house) etc…, only check out its case declensions, its often unpredictable plural formations, plus that dizzying sentence structure.

    Therefore, there really is no such thing as a language which makes other languages “easier” to learn.

    As far as Poles having an easier time pronouncing other languages, I’ve found as an ESL teacher for many years, that Poles appear to have the most difficulty pronoucning English. Russians though have them beat in this regard:-)

    1. The main reason people in the USA study Spanish is because it is a foreign language that we can actually use on this side of the pond. 25 million people speak Spanish in the USA and pretty much most of the New World countries are Spanish speaking. Nothing to do with laziness more to do with usefulness.

      1. While it is certainly true that, compared with, say, Poles, Swedes can and often do seem to switch “effortlessly” to English when talking casually with foreigners, the QUALITY of their English frequently leaves much to be desired!
        Indeed some Swedes speak quite respectably, albeit with either a forced kind of American-style accent or a slight British inflection. Nonetheless, they usually don’t appreciate either the subtlety or the nuance of the English language, e.g. clever (as opposed to vulgar)puns, wordplay or certainly dialectal variation.
        As with many Europeans, the Swedes claim to know English-language literature, yet have read it exclusively in Swedish. When I was a much younger student of Swedish (foreign languages not even having been my major at the time), we read Strindberg in the original, watched Bergman films without English subtitles, preferring in fact, Swedish subtitles in order to see what the actors were saying!!
        Nonetheless, it remains a fact that more Swedes percentually will watch foreign-language movies in the original vs. having the moved synchronized/dubbed than Poles, Italians, French, even Germans:-)

  16. I haven’t seen the greek language in your list. I am amazed it has been excluded, as it is the oldest one and certainly one of the hardest. I would have liked to see where it would fit in the difficulty chart. I am not a linguistics expert, but I certainly believe, including grammar, spelling, pronunciation, structure ecc, it should be up there with Finish no?

    1. For starters you aren’t addressing a legitimate linguistics expert either, but an amateur with bizarre ideas. This whole article is subjective speculation, at best. Greek is not a particularly complicated language and comparing it to Finnish (not “Finish”) is absurd. On any legitimate scale, Greek would place somewhere in the less difficult languages (perhaps 2 on a scale of 1-5).

  17. Just curious as to who is being characterized as “an amateur linguist with bizarre ideas”:-) No need to defensively recite my resume, but I’m a PHD with a doctorate in the field as well as a translator of many years.

    1. You can put a sign on an outhouse that says “Country Club”, but that won’t make it a country club.
      Education is input, theoretically. Credentials are like signs. Anyone can buy credentials. Writing is output. Output tells the most about what made it in. I’m most interested in output, and yours is bizarre.

      1. You know, just because you don’t agree with the thesis, you should not call it bizzarre. Ad personam arguments are not suited for discussion, but a brawl. Answer with arguments, please. And calling anyone with both a degree and practical experience in the field, amateur, is definitely incorrect. Which does not mean, that you have to agree with him.

        Personally I think, that language difficulty is extremly subjective. But for english native (who I’m not, so I can only speculate) this article stands it’s point. For slavic language natives, for example, the scale will be completely different.

  18. Dziwna sprawa. Znam język polski, a mimo wszystko nauka języków obcych nie przychodzi mi łatwo. Angielski wprawdzie nie jest trudny, ale chińskiego ani arabskiego nie rozumiem ani trochę. Jak można odczytać takie znaczki, krzaczki i robaczki? Dla mnie język francuski z kolei brzmi tak, jakby ktoś próbował mówić ze sprężyną w ustach. O języku węgierskim, czy suomi to w ogóle nic nie powiem.

    Pozdrawiam wszystkich, którzy odczytali i zrozumieli ten tekst! 🙂

    1. Znowu tam nie przesadzaj z ya trudnoscia. Ja nauczylem sie angielskiego, trochę liznąłem niemiecki i hiszpański. A arabskiego bym chciał. Mamy łatwiejszy start bo nasz język jest tak furtki se możemy wypowiedzieć każde słowo w innym języku. A Jak czasem słyszę obcokrajowców próbujących mówić po polsku to aż trzeba się odwrócić i spróbować z całych sił powstrzymać śmiech 😉

  19. I failed to include Greek, not to mention a bazillion other languages, simply because I chose to confine my remarks to those languages I’ve studied and/or know fluently. I didn’t mention any of the extant Baltic tongues, for example, not to mention the major Asian languages, Arabic, Turkish, Hindi etc. as I’ve never pursued any serious study of them. I’ve published prinicipally in the field of Germanic linguistics, I therefore feel most comfortable discussing issues in those areas:-)

  20. It’a not clear in your article but even though much of Japanese vocabulary comes from Chinese it isn’t a tonal language. It also has the smallest variety of sounds of any language, mostly a subset of the English sound set.

  21. Joe, “bizarre” is entirely a relative matter, much as language ease vs. difficulty.
    Think we’d all be most curious as to what you alone find bizarre about my output:-)

    @Wroobelek,

    Wszystko rozumialem z Twojej wiadomosci a zgadzam sie z Toba, ze to jest dziwna sprawa, jednak bardzo interesujaca, prawda?

  22. Well, I’m Pole (as it seems you are also 😉 ) and I live in Poland thus I know how it really is. Most Poles can’t use properly their language even at age of 50. There are plenty of people that say “wiąść”, not “wziąć” (I can’t even write how to read it), the same as “tą książkę” or “tę samą książkę”, not “tę książkę” or “tą samą książkę”. It’s terrible! What’s even worse, many people know the proper form, but they’re such ignorants that they don’t even try to improve their language. I don’t even reminisce people, that don’t the proper ortography just because they didn’t want to learn it at school, or people that all the time makes a lot of mistakes at punctuation.

    1. Rest assured, Anna, it’s not only Polish which is in such danger of decline. I too lament everytime I hear “poszlem” instead of “poSZEDlem” etc. coming our of teenager’s mouth:-) It’s the same though in Germany, Britain, and the US.

      It’s a worldwide malaise, so it would seem.

    2. Yes, Anna, what a punctuation mistakes. I would love someone to explain me the difference between “tą książkę” and “tę książkę” though, as I seem to have missed this Polish language lesson in my grammar school.

      1. “Tę książkę”, “tą książką”. It’s that simple 🙂

      2. Tą: you use it with narzędnik.
        Tę: you use it with biernik.
        Although due to the fact that most of the zaimki przymiotne (sorry, no idea how you call those in English) end with an ‘-ą’ (tamtą, moją, każdą), rather than ‘-ę’, there is a tendency to use ‘tą’ in all cases. And it is acceptable in speech (not yet in writing though).

        So:
        Biernik (kogo? co?) Widzę TĘ PANIĄ
        Narzędnika (kim? czym?) Gardzę TĄ PANIĄ

    3. @ Anna

      After reading your comment – about Poles being ignorant, not using the proper word forms, making all kinds of mistakes and so forth – I should say…

      People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones 😉

      Or should at least think about using a dictionary before they try to be “bossy” in a foreign language on tha’ internetz.

      Pozdro z Warszawy

    4. Anna, actually you’re wrong about “tę samą książkę” – it is perfectly correct to say that. sjp.pwn.pl/poradnia/haslo/te-sama-cene;10995.html

  23. Tomek,

    The explanation which Anna attempted to give is namely one of case ending agreement:-) It’s even clear to me (and I’m not Polish)!

  24. Polish has got 3 genders, not 7 !!!
    -feminine
    -masculine
    -neutral

    Please, change the description 🙂

    1. You have to consider living non-living etc to these genders.

  25. I would agree Polish is not easy but then if you are aiming at communication this would be false. For example you don’t need to have correct person in Polish to be understood.

    Secondly learning any European language is considerably easier because you know already 30% of Spanish or English because you know polish already.

    Chinese is more difficult because you learn it from scratch but true it’s very logical. Chinese family, has four tones, so that what sounds just like “ma” in English has four distinct sounds, and meanings. That is relatively simple compared with other Chinese varieties. Cantonese has six tones, and Min Chinese dialects seven or eight. One tone can also affect neighboring tones’ pronunciation through a series of complex rules.

    Being learner of Chinese I have to say it not difficult to say but to spot vitiation when someone talks to you is far more difficult.

    On top of that the most difficult language is Xhosa, widely spoken in South Africa, is known for its clicks. The first sound of the language’s name is similar to the click that English-speakers use to urge on a horse.

    For sound complexity, one language stands out. !Xóõ, spoken by just a few thousand, mostly in Botswana, has a blistering array of unusual sounds. Its vowels include plain, pharyngealised, strident and breathy, and they carry four tones. It has five basic clicks and 17 accompanying ones.

    1. Najwieksza trudnosc jezyka polskiego dla obcyh sa aspekty werbalne! Kiedy sie pisac n.p. “cwiczic” vs. “pocwiczic”, “mieszkac” vs. “ZAmieszkac” itd.?? Kazdego razu nadrobie moje lekcjie oraz klasowki ukazuja sie bledy aspektow werbalnych:-)

      1. It’s obcych, ćwiczyć, poćwiczyć and lekcje. It’s also missing some “Polish” letters but I’m assuming that it’s due to lack of possibility to use them.

        1. Quite correct, Paulina!

          I’m using an American keyboard, unfortunately(:-

          Have you perchance any suggestions?

          Jezyk polski ma wiecej morfologii niz jezyka angielski, n.p. odmianina liczbow z koncami przypadkowych oraz rodzajow itd…

          1. Najwieksza trudnosc jezyka polskiego dla obcyh sa aspekty werbalne! Kiedy sie pisac n.p.
            “cwiczic” vs. “pocwiczic”, “mieszkac” vs. “ZAmieszkac” itd.?? Kazdego razu nadrobie moje lekcjie oraz klasowki ukazuja sie bledy aspektow werbalnych:-)

            I’ll try to explain to you a little bit :).
            It seems to me that above all, “ćwiczyć”, “mieszkać” etc. puts the emphasis on the duration of the action in time, whereas “POćwiczyć”, “ZAmieszkać” doesn’t, it just tells us such an action happened and it’s completed. Let me show you that in the following sententes:
            Mieszkałam tu, kiedy byłam mała. – I lived here/I used to live here when I was little. (it lasted for some time)
            Zamieszkałam tu, kiedy byłam mała – in English we could translate it as: I moved here when I was little (and I probably still live here) – now the emphasis isn’t put on time, but simply on the one-time act of moving in, “zamieszkanie”.

            or:
            Ćwiczyłem bardzo długo – I was doing exercises for a long time
            The duration is important here. We could never say “Poćwiczyłem bardzo długo”. But we could say: “Trochę poćwiczyłem, a potem poszedłem do pracy” – “I exercised a bit and then I went out to work”.

            I hope it’s a bit clearer for you now :).

  26. Did you know?
    Poland have over 24(!) types of encoding our diacritic chars. Over 24 code pages to just tell your computer how to save this: ąćęłńóśżź ĄĆĘŁŃÓŚŻŹ. Nowadays, we’ve all using UTF-8, but the sad this is that young Polish users (not only) completely ignore diacritic chars in digital communication, so you may see “paczek” (which is and plural form of “paczka” [packs]) but they may mean “pączek” (which is just a donut ;). After reading some sentences like that, I’m losing faith of humanity, especially Poles ;(

    Further reading:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_code_pages

    Greetings from Cracow.

    P.S: Sorry for my bad grammar, as someone said before, English is not easy to learn too.

  27. Ok, wszystko, ale jak możemy mieć w języku polskim “seven genders”. Zawsze myślałam że jest on, ona i ono to daje mi trzy a nie siedem. Teraz nie wiem czy mam problem z językiem czy z matematyką?

    1. Był chyba jeszcze rodzaj “męskoosobowy” i “niemęskoosobowy”, nie jestem pewna zdaje siebie, że dotyczył odmiany przymiotnika? Nie pamiętam, co nie zmienia faktu, że w mowie potocznej jakoś tego nie zauważam.

    2. rodzaj męski to są tak naprawdę 3 rodzaje – zupełnie inaczej się odmieniają (żywotny: osobowy i nieosobowy oraz nieżywotny). Do tego dwa rodzaje w liczbie mnogiej: męskoosobowy i niemęskoosobowy.

  28. This is a short movie showing workers of USA embassy in Poland (including ambassador himself). They try to speak polish. Result? Well, watch for yourself.

    youtube.com/watch?v=jniKtV-ny5o

  29. Pronunciation is hard,95%+ Chinese people can’t pronounce 100% correct.For example,50% or more can’t read zh/ch/sh,they still go to school,go to work and make money.

    Writing is pretty hard, but you can write almost everything if you can write 3000 words.

  30. Dobra tam z tymi paczkami/pączkami.
    ’26 dzieci’ w miejscowniku poproszę i tyle w temacie.
    (to było jedno z egzaminacyjnych pytań, gdy się do dostawałam w początku lat 90-tych).

    1. Miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) od ’26 dzieci’ to: dwudziestu sześciorgu dzieciach… chyba (lub dwudziestu sześciorga dzieciach.

  31. I would be very interested in those Polish 7 genders that make the language so incredibly difficult entre autre. Polish is my mother tongue, I also speak English, obviously, French and German. I studied linguistics too and never heard of 7 genders in any language, and definitely not in Polish. Polish had 3 genders like German. 7 cases like Latin, the 7th vocative is never used. There are harder languages to learn than Polish.

    1. You have to account for animate and non animate for each gender and neuter and you make the matrix in a cross reference format and you will find seven genders in the Polish language. When you do this let me know the results.

      I use vocative case all the time as I call my daughter and wife from upstairs as I am waiting for them to get in the car or my wife calls us for dinner. In fact it is one of the most common cases when you are married.

      1. There are 3 basic genders – masculine, feminine and neuter – and 2 sub genders – masculine animate and masculine inanimate. Animate and non animate only apply to masculine gender. Which in total give 5.
        To be precise we have:
        1. masculine human
        -masculine non human animate
        -masculine non human inanimate
        2. feminine
        3. neuter

    2. Polish certainly is not “transparent” to someone learning it whose mother tongue is Dutch or French, even English, for example!

      Whether or not it is the MOST difficult remains of course an entirely moot issue, since, as has been stated innumerably here and elsewhere, language ease vs. difficulty is always relative to the barriers or expectations one sets up.

      Polish is for instance no more “complex” than, say, Lithuanian, Estonian or Icelandic etc.
      English spelling/pronunciation is frightfully involved in comparison with Chinese, whereas Polish has a nearly phonetic orthography, but an intricate case system combined with a quirky system of numerical measurement.

      The hardest language to learn?? Gee, it’d be anyone’s guess:-)

    3. Polish is my mother tounge too and I use vocative quite often.

    4. język polski ma 7 rodzajów gramatycznych, w licznie poj.: męski, męskozwierzęcy, męskorzeczowy, żeński i nijaki. w liczbie mnogiej: męskoosobowy i niemęskoosobowy.
      Yes, Polish has 7 genders: 5 in singular, and 2 in plural.

    5. Actually , it is the motivation which makes learning a language easy or not . I am Estonian and I can see how foreigners learn this Finno-Ugric language . Some people learn it in three years others do not know how to greet their neighbors in thirty years . Its the issue of personal openness.
      I love Polish and it is not hard for me .

  32. I really enjoyed this blog. I have always wanted to see languages graded by difficulty to speak alone, as opposed to difficulty of writing.
    That said, since a fair number of people (even if not a majority) learn languages either in a classroom or in their spare time using various materials, shouldn’t writing difficulty be factored in as well? Most people (in India at least) have no problem in picking up the dominant languages of the place where they live.
    Also, if you are going to analyze major languages alone, isn’t 1 million too low a number? According to Wikipedia there are at least 100 language with more than a million native speakers (the list ends at Balochi with 7.6 million).

  33. Greek has also been left out although it is spoken by way over eleven million people just in Greece and Cyprus alone (if we include Greeks that live in the UK, USA, Germany and other countries with big Greek communities then the number gets bigger).

    Also as a not native English speaker, i believe that the article itself could benefit from some proofreading.

  34. Having the privilege and luck of being fluent in 3 languages, Polish being my native language, it also does not take much of an assessment to realize certain benefits and shortcomings in using the Polish language for specific tasks. In summary, the Polish language, if properly mastered, is a magnificent language for flirting, for a convoluted dialogue, for meaningless BS, for sitting with friends at a table with food and drinks and laughing your asses off all night long. It is a genius tool with nothing to match it for messing with people’s minds, with the benefits of being able to quickly negate all that has been said for hours now in an instance, thus a wonderful medium to reduce or eliminate any liability in any conversation. Now, for the bad part: Best not used in business, legal documents and of significant detriment in technical applications. Have a great chat, but keep it out business, as most likely you will always somehow lose in the game.

  35. You should probably have a look at Caucasian language families – like Kabardian, Abkhazian, Ubykh etc. My wife is native Kabardian speaker, I’ve tried learning a bit of it and it has a few difficult parts:

    * pronounciation – throat sounds that are difficult (for me as a native Polish speaker and fluent English speaker), and there are very subtle but important differences between some sounds (several variants of K and H),
    * words – most key words are very short, which makes catching them in a course of sentence quite difficult,
    * grammar – I’m no specialist in linguistics, but it has unusual (again, from Polish and English speaker point of view) sentence order, not sure about genders but small change in gender changes endings in the whole sentence I believe,
    * alphabet – they use Cyryllic, but it’s horribly inefective in encoding Kabardian sounds – some of them are composed of 4 or 5 Cyrylic characters, so even simple words can get very long in writing,

  36. I see a lot of problems with this, but to stick with just one:

    Your statement about the intelligence of Poles strongly implies that there are other modern nation-states which have empirically less-intelligent populations. Since your formula seems to indicate a great interest in quantifying these things, can you show us where you got that data, and how it was acquired and analyzed? (When I read a statement like that with no other context provided, it reminds me of certain books I’ve seen from the 1920s and 1930s proclaiming the genetic superiority of certain populations–not a road I think you’re aiming to go down!)

  37. The section on Japanese is so completely wrong–no verb changes? short words? very easy grammar? really?–that I have to question the writer’s credibility on the other languages. Although Japanese has a huge body of loan words from Chinese, the two languages can’t be more dissimilar grammatically, and tones do not exist in Japanese in the same sense that they do in Chinese (in the former tones are dialect-sensitive and often completely ignored; in the latter words are unintelligible without tones).

  38. I’m a native Polish speaker but it looks like I’m not fluent yet (even though I’m much older than 16)-I’ve always thought there are 3 genders in my language, rather than 7. What are the other 4?

  39. This is the most close-minded article I have ever read what this topic concerns.
    Why?
    – Language learning is always difficult. Time consuming, needs a comprehension of the particular culture. I believe professional help is always needed for an ideal outcome consequently it is also expencive.
    – Languages belonging to different language families are not comparable in terms of ‘difficulty’. How would you compare the difficulty Zulu with Chinese? For whom for a Cantoneese speaker, or for a non Zulu speaker from the neighbourhood?
    – I have the impression that such articles are motived by inferiority complexes.

  40. I think difficulty of a language depends on how well your brain sucks up information, how well you can associate it with other languages, which languages you already speak and if you are learning from textbooks, courses or have access to native speakers. And of course your willingness to learn.
    Being Dutch, speaking Dutch and Drents (dialect), I learned English in basic- and high school and both German and French in high school. I’m quite fluent in both English and German (use it a lot), but French a bit less due to less use. Dabbling a bit in Japanese too, want to learn it, but haven’t really sat down for it yet.
    At 22 I moved to Estonia and was able to speak practically fluent Estonian in about 9 months. Never touched a book or went to a course, learned it by communicating with Estonians. I got (and still get) a lot of comments how well I can speak Estonian (in some cases even better than natives) considering I’m a foreigner. I do have a little accent though (a specific sound I can’t get right with the “õ”), but most Estonians just can’t put their finger on it. Usually they think I’m from one of the islands.
    But being able to speak Estonian had me thinking of learning Finnish too (quite similar), but after listening to that language after some visits to Helsinki I changed my mind. Nothing against Fins, but it sounds even worse then Estonian sounded to me at first.

  41. Ci, co wiedzą, co znaczy “mitrężyć” umysł, niech czują ukojenie
    w przeciwieństwie do stada gżegżółek, szczebrzeszących bynajmniej nie w pszczynie
    niczym chrabąszcze – języka tego gąszcze
    sam z siebie to jeden bajeczny poemat.

  42. Finnish is incredibly easy. There are only 15 of those “countless” noun cases and they’re all easy to learn and use.

  43. Next time do more research on Cyrillic base languages ( not just Wikipedia). All the Russian, Ukrainian ,Serbian, Macedonian ect. are based on Bulgarian language

  44. Marek,

    Why, in your opinion, do we have 7 genders in Polish? I am certainly aware of only 3 of them – Feminine, Masculine, Neutrum. Am I missing sth?

    There are still some incorrect forms in the declination of PACZKA [package] you presented:

    “Mam JEDNĄ (not jedenĄ) paczkĘ, dwIE-cztery paczki, pięć PACZEK (not paczkEK).”

    mianownik (kto? co?) – PACZKA (not PACZKĘ)
    dopełniacz (kogo? czego?) – PACZKI
    celownik (komu? czemu?) – PACZCE
    biernik (kogo? co?) – PACZKĘ (not PACZKA)
    narzędnik ((z) kim? (z) czym?) – PACZKĄ
    miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) – PACZCE (not PACZKA)
    wołacz (o!) – PACZKO! (not PACZKA)

    and it’s just singular. So there’s plural:

    mianownik (kto? co?) – PACZKI
    dopełniacz (kogo? czego?) – PACZEK
    celownik (komu? czemu?) – PACZKOM
    biernik (kogo? co?) – PACZKI
    narzędnik ((z) kim? (z) czym?) – PACZKAMI
    miejscownik (o kim? o czym?) – PACZKACH
    wołacz (o!) – PACZKI

    Regarding the fact, that Polish is extremely hard to learn, I would summarise it with one sentence “Polish has more exceptions than general rules”. When you learn a grammar rule and hope to make a practical use of it in spoken language with your Polish friends, then (always) come lots of exceptions, which make the rule quite useless until you memorise and understand when and how to use all exceptions first 🙂

    Btw, have you seen T-shirts saying “I speak Polish. What is your superpower?”. Love that! 🙂

  45. “A Jak czasem słyszę obcokrajowców próbujących mówić po polsku to aż trzeba się odwrócić i spróbować z całych sił powstrzymać śmiech”

    Sorry to break this to you, but Poles speak English with a very strong accent which in most cases makes it almost unbearable to listen to. The Poles’ English is unfortunately exclusively school bench English and not the true language that natives speak. One of the main reasons for this I think is that we have almost no opportunities to listen to proper pronunciation on a daily basis, because ALL foreign TV programmes have this ridiculous narrator guy reading all the lines instead of having subtitles! Even video games switched from English to Polish and deprived the kids of unconsciously acquiring at least a bit of knowledge simply by having fun playing! I learned my accent from Cartoon Network when it was still being broadcasted in English and this made me realize how crappy and harmful our “narrate everything that is aired” policy is. The Swedes for instance abandoned this policy long ago and you can immediately tell that they get their vocab from TV. They switch from Swedish to English with remarcable ease, whereas Poles waste time on trying to remember the grammatical structure of a sentence in their heads and eventually end up stammering. This way we will never catch up with others.

  46. I say it’s for sure that the difficulty of the language depends of where you stand, from where you look at the language or the languages.

    I’m a native Finnish speaker. And yes I would say Finnish is a difficult, also for the cultural point of view. As for instance Spanish in that way makes it easy, because they mostly are glad when one even is trying to make the effort to speak their language, and even though one don’t even know how to speak it they will speak it to one, and if the person doesn’t understand the words then they add hands and gestures. 😀 there are no other way around than to learn it. 🙂 As in contrary in Finland, most of us think it’s so difficult to learn that we change really fast in English when we notice that the one doesn’t speak well or doesn’t get as. So the foreigners stay in a English-zone without learning Finnish. Also even though one has lived in Finland for years, we can still hear the accent. ..as well as for the native speakers we can hear for the dialect where the person is from in Finland..if he/she hasn’t learned the dialect of new origin really carefully.. So for a foreigner to really go deep into Finnish is quite hard. But for those who don’t speak English, they have it better, cause then there are no other way to just Learn. 😉

    Also there are the motive, why one wants to learn a certain language, and how much is one eager to suffer for it..as well as appreciate it. As well as how it is spoken, in this I mean, for instance English is a language that is spoked mostly with your head, and Spanish with your heart. And to get what I mean with this you have need to get in a certain level with the language.. Or much better said, within the culture. It’s not the language what you need to learn, it’s the culture: where the word, the saying comes from, what’s behind it all. 😉

    And then just for fun, a bit of Finnish. 😉

    In Finnish you can invent words, and one of the longest word is
    Artturi Kanniston’s word invention:
    kumarreksituteskenteleentuvaisehkollaismaisekkuudellisenneskenteluttelemattomammuuksissansakaankopahan (102 letters). Don’t make me translate it. 😀

    Once in a long word contest, where compound words weren’t allowed, this word won:

    epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän (49 letters).
    “I wonder if – even with his/her quality of not having been made unsystematized”.
    It has the derived word epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyys as the root and is lengthened with the inflectional endings -llänsäkäänköhän. However, this word is grammatically unusual, since -kään “also” is used only in negative clauses, but -kö (question) only in question clauses.

    The Guinness World Records mentions a non-declined compound word giant: lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas (61 letters)airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student.

    But one nuclear component, atomiydinenergiareaktorigeneraattorilauhduttajaturbiiniratasvaihde (66 letters) is even longer.

    The Finnish language uses free forming of composite words: new words can even be formed during a conversation. One can add nouns after each other without breaking grammar rules. So go ahead! ;D

    And to write Finnish and to speak it is a totally other thing. 😉

    And for little fun for the end.. ;D
    The sentence “kuusi palaa”, can mean 9 different things:

    Kuusi= a spruce, six, your moon
    Palaa= on fire, to return, pieces
    ..so:

    The spruce is on fire. = Kuusi palaa.
    The spruce returns. = Kuusi palaa.
    The number six is on fire = Kuusi palaa
    The number six returns = Kuusi palaa
    Six of them are on fire. = Kuusi palaa.
    Six of them return. = Kuusi palaa.
    Your moon is on fire. = Kuusi palaa.
    Your moon returns. = Kuusi palaa.
    Six pieces. = Kuusi palaa.

    So, basically you need to a divine what the people mean. ;D

    Have fun with the learning, cause it’s a lifelong journey! <3

  47. I am Hungarian, and I speak English, German, Dutch,French, Italian, Spanish, intermediate level Russian, and I am trying to learn Arabic. I have been to Georgia recently and I tried to learn a bit of Georgian. I also learned some Polish at school just because a lot of my classmates were Polish.
    I totally disagree with your opinion that Polish is the most difficult language. I suspect you probably don’t have wide enough experience with learning different types of languages, that’s why you have come to this conclusion. So Polish is probably the most difficult language that you have personally encountered. However, that doesn’t make it the most difficult language.
    For a start it’s very similar to other Slavic, and especially West Slavic languages: they all have very similar grammars and vocabularies. That fact alone should refute your claim.
    Also have you ever tried to learn Arabic or Georgian? I would say give it a go and see if you still consider Polish the most difficult language after that.

  48. More then 40 cases, sounds very unusual, only 100,000 native speakers
    ,

  49. Greatings! My name is Pavel and Polish is not my native language. I know this language on C1 level, that is pretty close to a native speaker. And I can say, that Polish was the easiest language, that I learned in my life. I started to speak it in 2.5 months after I’ve started to learn it and I needed 1 year more to correct the knowlage of it. Why it was happened? Because my native language is Russian. It belongs to Slavic languages and many of the words, grammar rules and logic of making the sentences are more than similar to each other. The pronounciation of Polish is not simple, but probably almost all of the sounds, that Polish language has, more or less exist in Russian language. The only one thing, that I cannot change is my intonation, that says to a native speaker, that I’m not from Poland.
    So, if you want to know, what’s the hardest language to learn, I’ll give to you this formula.
    For example, you have English as your native.
    1. English is a part of Germanic group of languages. So, for English speaker the easiest languages to learn will be: Dutch, Sweden, German etc.
    2. Germanic group of languages is a part of Indo-European group of languages. It is the second level. Of course, some of the groups are harder, some of them less, but Polish belongs only for this group of languages, and it should not be so hard for our hypothetical English speaker.
    3. Indo-European languages belong to so-called Nostratic macro-family of languages. To that macro-family belong different families of languages (Uralic, Kartvelian, Indo-European, Turkish etc.), that still have the same proto-language, dated with aproximately 15000 years ago.
    4. Languages, that belong to different marco-families, than English.
    Of course, you need to observe the difficulty of each of the language compared to other in more particular way, but this formula is much better and has more scientific background, than this research.

  50. I speak Polish. What’s your super power? ;D

    Maybe it’s difficult, but as we say “dla chcącego nic trudnego” (transl. – nothing is too difficult if you really want it).

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