What is the hardest language to learn?
- Extremely Hard: The hardest language to learn is: Polish – Seven cases, Seven genders and very difficult pronunciation. The average English speaker is fluent in their language at the age of 12, in contrast, the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language after age of 16.
- Very Hard: Finnish, Hungarian, and Estonian – The Ugric languages are hard because of the countless noun cases. However, the cases are more like English prepositions added to the end of the root word. However, anyone arguing Asian languages like Korean trump Uralic languages in complexity, really needs to hit the books and do more research.
- Simply Arduous: Ukrainian and Russian – Second language learners wrongly assume because these languages use a different script (Cyrillic) that it out ranks Polish. This is not objective, as an alphabet is only lets say 26 letters. It is really the pronunciation and how societies use the language that influences ranking. Ukrainian and Russian complex grammar and different alphabet, but easier pronunciation. (the Poles use a modified Latin alphabet which does not have a neat orthography fit to the sounds of their language). Slavic languages have sophisticated case and gender systems, also something that approximates a complex tense system with aspects of time-verb relationships.
- Challenging contender jockey for position: Arabic – Three baby cases which are like a walk in the park compared to the above, but the unusual pronunciation and flow of the language makes study laborious and requires cognitive diligence if you want to speak it.
- Fairly Hard: Chinese and Japanese – No cases, no genders, no tenses, no verb changes, short words, very easy grammar, however, writing is hard. But to speak it is very easy. Also intonations make it harder, but certainly not harder than Polish pronunciation. I know a Chinese language teacher in NYC that has even authored an the authoritative book on modern Mandarin says people meet Chinese very easy. This same teacher, if multilingual yet could not learn Polish. I am learning some Chinese, it is not the hardest language maybe even one of the easiest language to learn. Despite prideful proclamations of armchair linguists, to verbalizes Asian languages in general are not top ranked by any measure. Try to learn some Chinese and Polish your self and you will see which is the hardest language.
- Average: French – lots of tenses, but not used and moderate grammar. German-only four cases and like five exceptions, everything is logical, of course.
- Easy: Spanish and Italian – People I know pick these up no problem, even accountants and technical people rather than humanistic language people.
- Basic to hard: English, no cases or gender, you hear it everywhere, spelling can be hard and British tenses you can use the simple and continues tense instead of the perfect tenses and you will speak American English. English at the basic level is easy but to speak it like a native it’s hard because of the dynamic idiomatic nature.
- Some people cocooned in innocence, go around parroting linguistic relative difficulty ranks by looking at a list created in the ivory towers. This list might be based on the number of hours required to achieve a degree of fluency, or intermediate conversation in a language, in an academic environment of teaching, in contrast to most people in the real world. This simplistic one variable model is simply wrong. I suggest a more robust model.
The following is support for my argument.
The way you approach this is a simple equation that illustrates hypothetical rankings of variables importance.
Formula for difficulty in a language = O*(G+V+(w*.1)+(A*2.0)+S+V(1.5))
O= Openness of the society to communicate in their own language to a foreigner as opposed to English.
G = Grammar, specifically the number of exceptions in each cases
V= Verbs Conjugation complexity
P= Pronunciation and Phonology.
W=Complexity of the written language, including script and alphabet variation.
A=Average number of syllables in each word. Do not underestimate this as the working memory for the brain to hold bits of information in your brain is manifold more if you are considering a language with a long orthographical constructions.
S=Speed of the language.
V=Vocalness of the people speaking.
If you can assign an O factor as the major determinant variable then you have your answer. The openness of a society to transmit their language on a person to person, on the street level day-to-day experiences is what really makes communication hard to easy to absorb. I can attest to this after living in Europe for about a decade.
Are you a citizen of Stratos or trying to speak to you boyfriend or girlfriend?
What good is a theoretical understanding of a language, if in reality you can not practice it to fluency beyond the classroom. Lets separate the academics from real people, when trying to analysis the question.
This is not just a ranking of the hardest language to learn mind you, rather a ranking for realistic, practical people who are in the trenches of life and want to learn a new language for communication purposes. Not a ranking for academics who are living on Stratos, the city of clouds or lost in the labyrinth of the stacks in their university library.
I have not considered languages that have under one million native speakers. Even through humanistically important on equal par with all other languages, they are too remote or inaccessible for any real life learning. Patois dialects are excluded. These are important languages, just not for the average person. I also have not considered extinct or ancient languages which have even a more alien grammatical structure.
People write me and say hey Mark here is a language that has a hundred cases and sounds mostly like whistlers, and people often talk backwards, certainly this must be the most difficult. My reply how many people speak it? Similarly, you might say well there is a language spoken by some children on my block, they made it up. For me unless there are a million speakers does not pass the cut.
My reply to the FSI’s rank of the number of hours needed to learn a language -Anti-glottology at its best
There is an annoying mythology of language difficulty, that is perpetuated by Foreign Service institute. How many hours it takes to achieve various levels in a language after academic study. This is no valid. Unless you are 18-21 and a full-time student at a university and giving equal or greater weight to written language as compared to spoken, then that is bunk.
Who has the time to study in the ivory towers a language university or prepare like a diplomat except someone in some cushy government job? It is not the real world. Speaking is much more important than writing and reading.
Written language for the masses only came into significance in the last 100 years, in contrast to the 7 millions years of Homininae communication when there was first a divergence in our evolutionary tree and changes in our heterochrony gave us the capacity for prolonged language acquisition. Further the written language is in the process of a strange de-evolution with rise of texting messages and ADD. Lets be honest here, few people can study like an egghead, rather they want to just communicate.
Example of how people learn in Africa and the Middle East
When I was in North Africa (several times) I was amazed people could talk in the open market in several languages with little effort. They never opened a book or wrote in a foreign language. Language is about speaking. It is about communication not something you learn in a book. How long was it like that? The first one million years of human evolution from Primates until about 1950 when world illiteracy went from less than 1% to over 50%. So for tens of thousands of years for most humans, language was about the speaking, that is it. For a few thousand the landed elite and first estate class has some form of written language but this was not most people. Lets be real language has nothing to do with a book, only the tongue and ear. Therefore when FSI or any other person assets Chinese or Asian languages are hard, they are not if you strip away the crazy characters to a non-Asian person.
The worst thing about the modern communication
It irritates me that one person will state something on the web and it is recycled by every content mill blogger ad infinitum. People take ideas for fact without looking at them objectively. I call this the flat earth syndrome of language learning. Just because an expert says it does not mean it is true.
Aristotle believed the heart was the center of human cognition and the brain was an organ of minor importance. For centuries people took this as fact.
That does not mean the academics are wrong, and Asian languages are not more difficult for an English native speaker to achieve a level of mastery, but look at this objectively.
Modern linguistic snake oil salesman
Also when someone says on the web, you can learn a language in three hours or even three months, and they are trying to sell you something, I would say, ‘I have some swap land in Florida to sell you that will appreciate in value any day now’. I would like to personally like to call them up and test their fluency in Polish. My point is the web is a great place but discern sensation seekers and academics from someone like myself who is linguistically challenged, yet has dedicated his life abroad to learning foreign languages.
How linguistic science is different from physical science
Despite my quantification above, there is no way you can objectively measure linguistic ranking or difficulty like the hard sciences like physics or chemistry measure a phenomenon in a vacuum. Even in physics things are tested, regression are run and retested. There is debate and paradigms are challenged every few decades.
So are you telling me, that in not a social science but a humanities like Language that because some government organization for a very specific program makes a statement fifty years ago, everyone including people on the Internet take it as fact and recycle it ad nauseam?
Evolution of phraseology and variance from linguistic universals as a measure of difficulty.
Departure from universal grammar and linguistic universals and structures is that are natural constructs of the human brain could be a measure of difficulty with some objectivity, however, how you measure it I have no idea how you would do this. Typological universals and other measures are left for future research.
Why Asian languages are not hard – Palaver about Asian foreign language acquisition
No grammar to speak of, no cases, not complex plurals, short words. People argue they have tones but these are subtle pronunciation differences and in my experience I am understood when I speak Mandarin for example with poor pronunciation easier in comparison with Polish. I know author and teacher of Chinese in NYC and he says most of the people who walk in off he street learn Chinese pretty fast. He has a book called Easy Mandarin. It is only the written language that is hard.
Errors and omissions statement
Yes I know in the image I typed Finish and Hinidi, need to fix this, when I get my computer back from Amishland. I am writing an Amish language program. Also the scope of this article can not be comprehensive because the proliferation of languages, for example, I need a follow up to cover, Turkish, Greek, Armenia, Georgian etc. When writing you have to make choices to make a point rather than cover ever detail, however, these are worthy for discussion in the comment area.
Back to Polish – the trophy winner
When you speak of Phonology, sound approximation from the native language to the target Polish ranks near the top as the tongue twisting, multi-syllabic mixing of consonants and vowels are unmatched by any shorter Asian word, even with tones. I stated at the top that the average Polish learner is not fluent until the age of sixteen. It sounds like a bold statement but read on.
Yes Poles can communicate before that, but subjectively, for such an intelligent population of people (and Poles are highly intelligent and educated) proportionally I have seen an inordinate amount of Polish youngsters struggle with their own orthography, pronunciation, grammar at disproportionate levels compared to say English speakers.
Factor out any genetic differences by comparing Polish Americans who are identical genetically to Poles in Poland, yet learn English as their native language at a different rate than Polish as a native language. My daughter who is bilingual finds English much easier than Polish. There are differences in the rates humans learn languages based on the complexity of the language, and this is seen in native speaker language acquisition.
Examples and references that back up my theory of modern of linguistics that give a better understanding of how people acquire a second language:
- In social linguistic acculturation Model or SLA, was proposed by John Schumann and focused on how an individual interacts with the society. Some societies more easily transmit culture.
- Gardner’s socio-educational model – Similar to above and deals with the inter-group model of “ethnolinguistic vitality”.
- Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky developed a theory of zone of proximal development.
I want to know your feedback and research so they may benefit second language learners.
1,420 thoughts on “Hardest language to learn”
Japanese does have tense. It is placed at the end of the verb which is at the end of the sentence.
Japanese has tense in verbs as well as in adjectives:
Sushi o tabemasu. ‘I eat sushi.’
Sushi o tabema. ‘I ate sushi.’
Sushi wa oishii desu. ‘The sushi is delicious.’
Suxhi wa oishikatta desu. ‘The sushi was delicious.’
I spent two weeks in Russia and managed to meet a decent amount in the short time. It’s a relatively straightforward in its structure, and Cyrillic can take some getting used to but not too long.
Я говорю немного по Русски. Я из Австралии.
For us, Ukrainians, Polish is the easiest of mentioned (after Russian, ofcourse)
I’m Bulgarian. And my language is close to Russian ans Ukrainian. I was living in Poland for almost 6 months and in the end I was able to talk with the polish people.. It’s not so hard for the slavic people. The pronounciation sound close to ours, the only thing is that they use Latin letters.
I know people from Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria living here in Poland who even after 10 or 15 years in Poland makes grammar, stylistic and fonetic mistakes. They in fact will be always recognizable as foreigners.
As was pointed out above, lots of languages have as many cases, genders, and verb conjugation types as Polish. Slavic languages tend to be hard for non-slavs. In fact, grammatically, Russian and Ukranian are not so very different from Polish (6 cases, but in Polish the Vocative is dying as well).
As a native Czech speaker, I recommend it for the honour: It really has 7 cases (the vocative is alive and well), a phoneme that even many natives cannot pronounce (as well as other phonetic peculiarities), and a verb aspect system so difficult that my polyglot father, who learned Czech as a third language in his early teens and spoke it all his life, made mistakes until his dying day (Hilarious, untranslatable sample for Czech speakers: “Natrhnul jsem ti kytku”.
“grammatically, Russian and Ukrainian are not so very different from Polish (6 cases, but in Polish the Vocative is dying as well).” what a laugh, a point for you but for a sense of humor..don’t compare polish to Ukrainian or Russian. You have no idea about Polish before you really start to learn it.
Still, from my experience Czech is much easier for foreigners than Polish. I think it is because of the renewing Czech language after 18th century, when there was done in many cases the language calque from the German language.
However, I find Czech as a very interesting language. And for God sake, I hope to master spelling “ř” properly.
The vocative case is emerging right now in Russian, so, to my mind, the vocative case in Polish is more alive than obsolete.
The vocative isn´t dying at all, people use it every day.
Polish is easy! Why?
– You read the way you write.
– Every wovel is the same length. There is no ship and sheep.
– The accent is always in the same place, on the 2nd last syllable (there are some exceptions, but most Polish people don’t care about them unless they want to sound very educated).
– The word order is not very important.
– You can use the nominative instead of the vocative. Big deal.
– Anyone you talk to will speak the same language you will hear on the TV, because most people find it shameful to speak dialects, especially to a foreigner.
– If your mother tongue is Slovak, Czech or Croatian, you’ll understand the most of it anyway. If it’s Ukrainian, Belarussian or Russian, you’ll still understand much.
– Ok, it’s not easy. But Polish people do know it’s difficult. Learn a sentence in Polish and we’ll love you. We love your accent and the mistakes you make. You sound cute.
Second last syllabe?? Well well 😀
how you say fizyka, matematyka or zrobiliście?
How about U and Ó, Ż or RZ? And all exceptions from rules?
How about 90% of population which speaks wrong way? Upust, przyszłem etc.
Polish is hard to learn, but if you understand meaning of words it helps a lot. No problem with grammar.
In English, for instance, some people use totally wrong pronounciation, make grammar mistakes too (wrong question tags, double negation etc.). Is it because English is difficult or just because they are uneducated or because they are just comfy with their mistakes?
90% percent of Polish people does say in informal situations fizy’ka not fi’zyka. So as Kasia said – do big deal.
“You read the way you write.”I think you couldn’t be more wrong with that one… Ask English or French man if he can read it the same way as it is written:
– skrzynka z narzędziami
– Na skali trudności najwyżej jest umiejętność gry na skrzypcach.
“You read the way you write.”(?) Really? What you mean?
“A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of. Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”
“tYpe, sIte, dYE, dIE, hEIGHt, sIGHt, AISle, ISland, bUY”
OUGH in the first example is read 9 different ways (may also depend on dialect).
All letter combinations in the second one are read the same way.
And you say, “RZ” is something hard?)))
Actually, I don’t see anything making Polish greatly different from any other Slavic languages. My native language is russian, and I’m also (not quite) fluent in Ukrainian. So I look up some Polish websites from time to time, and I can understand about 70% of information there. Grammar is very similar to Russian, most words are comprehensible (esp. if you know Ukrainian), pronunciation has some tricks, although it can be easily mastered. This proximity between Russian and Polish is illustrated by the fact that those Poles whom I heard to speak Russian have almost no accent at all.
Bulgarian and Macedonian must be easier for foreigners: there are no cases, no complex sounds, no “consonant vowels” (that’s “r” and “l” vowels, as in Czech or Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian – what a nightmare), Bulgarian also has articles, as in English. At the same point, it shares 80% vocabulary with Russian. So, IMHO Bulgarian is a great starting point for learning Slavic languages.
I’m just very tired of that chauvinistic propaganda whch is common here in Russia – of the absolute exceptiousness of Russian language, its unbelievable hardness and that no foreigner will anytime speak it as a native bla bla bla…
Every language has its hard and easy aspects. If you think of Slavic grammar as something uncomprehensible (3 genders, 6/7 cases, sg and pl forms) – just remember Latin language: it has 5 different noun declensions, 6 cases, plural forms are unique for every declension, and you can’t tell which gender a noun is (unlike Russian and, I think, Polish). And – tada – don’t forget that Slavic languages, featuring a rather complex noun system, have almost completely reduced their verbs (so that it is maybe even harder: slavs don’t have perfect tense of verbs, so they had to invent 2 sets of different verbs – perfect and imperfect ones).
Yeah, and I don’t understand why the author grouped Japanese and Chinese together. They are totally different languages – chinese has very compact and reduced grammar system, short words, but a quite complex sound system (BTW, chinese consonants system is very similar to Polish:-) with many hissing consonants and tones; Japanese has very easy phonetics (so that all their possible syllables are covered in a 46-letter alphabet with two diacritical marks), although their grammar is very strange for a european – with many particles that (at first glance) have no meaning at all. All that system resembles assembly programming language, ha ha:) And Japanese grammar is almost mirrored in Korean, however, both languages don’t share any vocabulary (except Chinese borrowings, which constitute up to 70% of all words in both cases).
Kasia, you read the sounds as they sound to you coz you know these sounds. You are a native speaker. What about ‘może’ and ‘morze’.
Seriously? Chleb- you would say cehalep or hlep?
Może dla nas polski wydaje się łatwy, ale jednak jeśli się pomyśli to jest super trudny.
Na przykład takie słowo ,,wiatrak” jak to przeczytać? “wi-atrak”, ,,łi-atrak”, ,,łjatrak”, ,,wjatrak”. No i ok, czyta się “wjatrak”, ale teraz czas na słowo “kwiat”. Przecież nie da go się przeczytać kwjat, bo brzmi dziwnie, dlatego mówimy ,,kfiat”. To jest przykład tego, że jednak nie mówi się wszystkich liter, tak jak się pisze.
Polski jednym słowem to “wyjątki”, wszędzie są wyjątki, trudno znaleźć np. kilka czasowników, który odmienia się tak samo. Do tego te wszystkie ,,ę”, ,,ó”, ,,ą”, ,,ś”, ,,ł”, ,,ź”, ,,ń”,,,h” czy ,,ch”, ,,ż” czy ,,rz” grr…
PS. I’m sorry, that I write in Polish, but my Engish is too bad to write so long text and I don’t learn Eglish 2 years, so…
I wrote only that Polish is very difficult, but we (polish people) don’t see this.
może morze zmarzłem zemrzeć Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz Chrząszczyżewoszyce gmina Łękołody and coś
Just please note that all languages have their toung-twisters. See the easy one in English (and try to say it our loud in a normal conversational pace): She sells sea shells on the sea shore, I’m sure.
But generally I agree that Polish is a difficult language to learn for foreigners. Perhaps not because of grammar, but more because of pronounciation and all those clusters (not use to the swear word;) of consonants. Plus, bear in mind that some nations do not use all the “sounds” we have in our language, case in point: “h” for the Spaniards is non-existent and they simply have problems with hearing it.
Also, because we have so many different sounds in our language, it is much easier for us to learn foreign languages, as we “hear” all the sounds and are able to repeat them. We might have some problems with Far-Eastern languages as they use vowel quantity which has been non-existent in Polish since, as far as I remember, 16th century, but still it is not something that hinders significantly the ability to learn the language.
But we do have ‘morze’ and ‘moze’ and many others like that.
Kasia, it is not true we, Polish people, read the way we write. Just take into account digraps like ‘cz’, ‘rz’, ‘ch’, ‘dz’, ‘dź’, ‘dż’ and many others. Your comment is misleading to others and proves wrong.
No sheep and ship? How bout “morze” and “może”? And many many others, should I continue?
Kasia ma absolutną rację. W języku polskim jak się mówi tak się pisze. Nie ma długich i krótkich dźwięków. Dzieci nie muszą się męczyć w szkole z literowaniem wyrazów tak jak to ma miejsce w szkołach amerykańskich. Angielskie wyrazy sheep i ship wymawia się zupełnie inaczej a polskie morze i może wymawia się tak samo. W angielskim nigdy nie wiadomo czy to c trzeba wymówić jako k czy jako s czy może jeszcze inaczej albo całkowicie je olać. Oni mają dwa alfabety jeden normalny do pisania drugi fonetyczny do mówienia. My takich problemów nie mamy bo u nas jak się pisze tak się mówi. Do tego w języku angielskim jest pierdylirad dźwięków pośrednich a,e,i,y,o które Polacy mają ciężko ogarnąć, różnej długości wymawiania nawet nie wspominając.
Każdy język ma alfabet fonetyczny… Polski też. Nie jest to do końca prawdą, że czytamy, jak się pisze – jak przeczytasz słowo “skąd”? Rzeczywiście jako “skąd” czy raczej “skont”? “Przecież” to “przecież” czy “pszeciesz”? I tak dalej. Właśnie z ubezdźwięcznianiem obcokrajowcy mają czasem problemy. Nie wspominając o pomijaniu niektórych głosek, kiedy mówi się szybko i słowa się ze sobą łączą.
I’m a professor and it’s been 2 years and I still cannot have a conversation in Polish. It is simply not easy. It’s the combination of it being almost impossible to pronounce a lot of the words, but the worst part is telling what a native polish speaker is saying. I can literally know every single word they are saying in the sentence and still not understand them. It’s truly awful, and is literally one of the only intellectual things in my life that I have still failed to tackle.
dwa, dwie, dwoje, dwóch, dwaj, dwiema, dwom, dwoma, dwojga, dwojgu, dwojgiem, dwójka, dwójki, dwójkę, dwójką, dwójce, dwójko.
You read the way you write.
haha, yes, especially chomik, chrząszcz or rzeka
– The accent is always in the same place
This is not true.
– The word order is not very important.
Another untrueth.”zośka zabiła Jaśka nożem bo ją zdradził z Kaśką” sounds better than “nożem z Kaśką zabiła zdradził Jaśka bo Zośka ją”
This discussion seems to activate especially Polish speaking people.
I’m not willing to challenge the difficulty of the Polish language but let me mention some features of my native language Finnish. It’s not easy to say it briefly but I’ll try to.
I’m not a philologian, but at school and university I studied Finnish, Swedish, English and German – but not so much as mathematics i.a. Later on I’ve had an opportunity to study also some French, Spanish and Italian, even a little Russian. And based on my knowledge in Swedish it is relatively easy to understand also written Norwegian and Danish. But sorry, Polish is not in my list so far.
In Finnish nouns have 15 cases (both in singular and plural). This is true also in Estonian, and in Hungarian they may have even a couple more as far as I know.
The verbs have 6 forms in Finnish (1 per each personal pronoun) in the 4 tenses. It is also normal to logically ‘elaborate’ to verbs by e.g. how sure the doing is.
(Example: We will do that. = Teemme sen. Will may do that. = Tehnemme sen.)
Also several types of post suffixes are used in the language as a typical means of expression.
Adjectives, numerals and pronouns are inflected like nouns.
I believe the difficulty of learning a new language depends partly on the language family. Within the same language family or subgroup the vocabulary is more or less similar. If the ‘new language’ is from another language family, the words may mostly have a totally different base. Most European languages are Indo-European. So there is a certain ‘barrier’ compared with e.g. the vocabulary of the Finno-Ugric languages.
What is EASY in the Finnish language is pronunciation. Each letter is always pronounced in the same way (99,8 % of it all I would say). This makes it so easy for Finnish school children to learn to read. We have no reason to arrange any spelling contests because that is no problem what so ever in our language. Also we do not have much letters with any ‘additives’ to the basic letters – only ä and ö which are not connected in any way to a and o. (å is also mentioned in our primary schoolbooks because of the bilinguality of the country but comes from Swedish.)
Olen aina ollut kiinnostunut kielistä systeeminä ja myös tulemaan toimeen usealla kielellä. Siksipä innostuin tämänkin pohdiskelun kirjailemiseen. Tässä vaiheessa toivotan innostusta aihepiirissä oleville viesteilijöille.
Kass Ewsti Keel On Sulle Raske?
Kas eesti keel on sulle raske?
Hyvaa paivaa, Markku,
On this very forum, a Finnish native speaker stated that the two words “kuusi palaa” can mean up to eight different things depending on the context within which they are used in any given sentence.
Is this so? If it is, then it may well share only a superfical similarity to Turkish, in which a given word can have as many as the equivalent number of varied meanings, also depending upon usage:-)
The difficulty with Polish for foreigners appears to be the following:
1)verbal aspects vs. the non-Slavic concept of straight tense (though Slavic languages have those too for sure!)
2)a quirky number system, especially after five
3)a quixotic conjugation system (though more regular than Icelandic)
4)seven cases in both the singular and plural
5)living vs. non-living nouns, incl. virile living masculine as opposed to masculine NON-HUMAN!!!
Nazywam sie Janos i jestem z Austrii! Ja mowie po czterych jezikach: Po Niemiecku, Po Angielsku, po Hizpansku a troche po Polsku. Czy jezyk Polski to trudny jezyk? Tak, moja opinia jest, ze on jest najtrudnieszym jezykiem ja uczylem. Mowie liepszy po Hizpansku niz po Polsku ale ja tez uczym Hizpanski od 2 lat a Polski od troche 1 roku. Ja nie wiem czy Polski jest jednym z najtrudnieszymi jezikami na swiecie. Ja nie ucylem jeziki jak Wegierski, Finski, Litewski, Chinski.
Ja uczym Polskie na uniwersiticie w wiedniu. Dsisaj ja nie mowie bardzo dobrze ale w 2-3 latach ja moge mowic jak David Snopek. Moja opinia tez jest ze Polski jest Jezyk bardzo ladny.
Przepraszam, ja nie mam tastatur polskiego w moim komputeru
Well, if that’s how you write after just 1 year of learning, well done. You do mistakes of course, but everybody would understand you anyway. I’m from Poland, and yes, our language is quite difficult, but not sure if it is the hardest to learn. We have students from Africa come and learn the language in one year, and then they go and study at Polish universities. Of course they continue Polish lessons. It can’t be that hard to learn then?
Nazywam sie Janos i jestem z Austrii! Potrafię rozmawiać w czterech jezykach: po niemiecku, po angielsku, po hiszpansku i troche po polsku. Czy jezyk Polski jest trudnym językiem? Tak, w mojej opinii jest on najtrudnieszym jezykiem jakiego się uczylem. Mowie lepiej po hiszpansku niz po polsku, ale uczę się hiszpanskiego od 2 lat a polskiego troche ponad rok. Nie wiem czy Polski jest jednym z najtrudnieszych jezyków na swiecie. Ja nie uczylem się jezyków jak wegierski, finski, litewski czy chinski.
Uczę się polskiego na uniwersytecie w Wiedniu. Jeszcze nie mowie dobrze, ale w 2-3 latach będę mowic jak David Snopek. Uważam też że język polski jest bardzo ładny.
Przepraszam, ja nie mam tastatur (?) polskiego w moim komputerze.
Uczylem sie jezyka polskiego z mojego jezyka ojczystego niemieckiego tez, ale jest porownienie mozliwe miedzy polskim i innymi jezykami slowianskimi, n.p rosyjskim, ukrainskim itd? Als Deutschmuttersprachler fand ich’s irgendwie einfacher Polnisch zu erlernen, als Englisch:-)Warum weiss ich’s nicht.
Just try listen well to the Chopin phrase and compare it to the other sounds in worlds music. That`s the point. Quirky maestry of notes and tempos, lirics and hidden strenght. As someone here had mentioned above – language is the vehicle of culture and it`s perfect manifestation. It`s explains a lot why Poland has only 2 Nobel prices in sciences and 3 in poetry and literature.
I don’t agree with the statement that
“Why Asian languages are not hard – Palaver about Asian foreign language acquisition. No grammar to speak of, no cases, not complex plurals, short words.”
Be honest, in Asian culture, we tend to try to understand people, especially knowing that is foreigner that tries to speak our language. We know people pronounce it wrong, but we still understand them by judging the context and give them the credit. That could be why the teacher underestimated the difficulty of it.
I just watched the video of Mark Zuckerberg completed interview in Chinese university in 100% Mandarin. A lot of news articles about that interview described that his Mandarin was fluent, well, judging with the fact that he is foreigner and also out of courtesy. But his Mandarin is worse than a 6 years old Chinese kids, if I am being truly honest.
– no grammar to speak of: That makes me start thinking how proficient the teacher’s Mandarin
– no cases and not complex plural: yes, my understanding is, more developed language tend to have more structured sentences. such as the word “already give” in Chinese replace the importance of “gave”, “have given”, “have been giving”, “have been given” and the singular form. Also, adding a number in front of the object simply make it plural, I guess that’s the product of 4000 years of evolution
– short word: again, the teacher may want to learn the actual cultural aspect of Asia. Number of word used doesn’t restrict the amount of message conveyed. Also, sentence in modern Chinese language can be constructed into even shorter one using old literature. So the length of the sentence is growing from time to time in Chinese, so as the difficulty of the language, if that’s how the difficulty of a language is defined.
And this is what I think:
– As an English as Fifth Language speaker (based on the time spent and sequence in learning languages) , I found this language hard because people estranged people who are learning the language. A lot of the native speakers even make fun of those learners who try
– Native Polish speakers maybe the people that give the learners the toughest time, which make the language sounds tougher than it is?
– I don’t object to everything in the article. But I guess the author may have been selective when getting quote from others
I just happened to visit Iceland recently. I don’t know how Icelandic (closest language will be Norwegian) will be ranked since it has 17 vowels. Maybe it has been answered by one of the comments.
Maybe my background can make it easier to judge my point of view:
– a 4th generation Chinese born in Malaysia where Malay is the national language
– a person whose parents can only speak one of the Chinese dialects fluently (not Mandarin) Will be funny if you think Chinese dialects are just Chinese or Mandarin
– grew up using mainly Chinese, but also get to learn Malay (second fluent during high school) and English in school
– learnt 2 others out of school
– realized that my Chinese is perfect for Chinese from China/Taiwan (not out of courtesy)
– came to Canada and realized that my English proficiency is just ‘learner’
So, we have 9 special signs. “Żółć” is an actual word. To cope with the huge amount of sounds we needed to invent some more like ą, ę, ń, ś, ź. More over “si”, “ci”, “zi”, “cz”, “sz”, “rz”, “dz”, “ch”, “dż”, “dź”, “dzi” are read as single sounds, so read the way you write is not quite a true thing…
In Polish negation works only when you use double negative and many more…
Here’s one (somewhat trivial, but illustrative) example of the relative complexity of languages: the number 2.
English, Spanish, Dutch: 1 form (two, dos, twee)
Portuguese: 2 forms (dois/duas) – depending on gender (2 – masculine & feminine)
Croatian: 7 forms (dva, dvije, dvoje, dvojica, dvojice, dvojici, dvojicu) – depending on gender (3 – masculine, feminine, and neuter) and case in one specific form. There were other variants historically but they’re not used anymore.
Polish: 17 forms. Depends on gender (3), case for all forms. Pretty much all these forms occur in regular speech (6-11 less often than the others)
17 grammatical forms for the number 2
4. dwóch (or dwu)
7. dwom (or dwóm)
@Grzegrzółka you forgot those (meaning ‘2nd’ or ‘the other’):
About the 2 in polish. I can think of another examples:
dwoić, dwoją, dwoi, etc. Is oba, obydwa, obydwaj, obydwie, obojga, oboje, obydwoje, obie & so on a two also? Or is it this weird leftover thing about couplear (neither plural nor singular)?
This is subjective and subjective again.
I don’t agree 100% that Polish is the hardest. Perhaps the least musical of all Slavic languages, with a lot of hissing sounds and hard consonants. Czech is probably the hardest to learn of all Slavic languages and pronunciation is a nightmare. This is due to its archaic nature as it had to be restored and taken back from oblivion. Russian is easy at the basic level and then it gets harder and harder when you improve, ending in one of the most sophisticated levels of all when you hit Russian poetry. Practically unmanageable levels for most foreigners, Slavs or not.
Vietnamese is not mentioned and I think it is harder than Mandarin, has more tones. Thai – ditto. Cantonese may be harder in pronunciation but not as sophisticated as Mandarin. Japanese – easy grammar, nice and simple, pronounciation is a breeze.
Most African languages are basic and easy to learn, but interesting in associative thinking and practical application.
Latin languages are relatively easy in pronunciation but hard in grammar and get harder at higher levels to tackle. Germanic languages are harder to pronounce, but seem to be easier in grammar. English is a nightmare in pronunciation as there are no rules and you need to memorise the sound of each and every word. Danish with a multitude of glottal stops is not to be taken lightly.
I just read some comments about the Polish language. But only 3 of them made one thing aparent: The unanswered question is, who is the learner?
If you are used to Slavic languages and their structures, you wouldn’t consider polish to be difficult.
If you live in Sweden, you surely will have less trouble learning Norwegian, than someone from South America.
I don’t know what do you mean by “fluent”, but as of my experience (27 years in Poland), I know no Polish native speaker, who doesn’t make mistakes! I even spotted a university professor making one! This language is so complex that it is almost impossible to be 100% correct all the time, unless you are a language specialist like a linguist or a translator.
For foreigners however, it is pronunciation that causes the biggest problem. I noticed that is impossible for a non-Pole to say Błaszczykowski correctly.
A propos – Americans pronounce the name “Wieczorek” as /łajzorek/
Well, a few years ago, back in High School, we were visited by a Professor from Polish Language Council (that’s the literal translation), considered to be the biggest (or at least one of few biggest) authority in this matter. And even he admitted that he can’t be flawless while speaking Polish, despite the fact that he is one of the people responsible for deciding what is right and what is wrong to say/write in our language. so the kind of proficiency when you don’t make mistakes at all is simply impossible. Although I can’t say if it’s just Polish or maybe a general thing.
By the way, about pronunciation and accents – as far as I’m concerned, Finnish people are best at speaking Polish (at least the few I’ve heard speaking it) – they have practically no foreign accent, unlike even Russians or Czech, who easily learn to communicate, but I haven’t heard anyone to master speaking it. Also, Czech people sound funny to most Poles.
From the fact that Finnish people seem to be better at speaking Polish than even users of other Slavic languages, I guess that Finnish as a language has to be pretty hard itself.
Although people from Africa seem to be able to learn much of Polish in just few months (as someone mentioned above), the big problem for them is accent – I don’t believe they could learn to speak Polish in a way that wouldn’t just sound weird to anyone from Poland, no matter how long they’d learn.
Trudność języka, nie jest jego cnotą, tylko wadą. Świetna reklama, to jakby zapraszać do kraju, gdzie się najmniej zarabia, gdzie się najtrudniej żyje. Ale to chyba element patriotycznego wychowania, podniecanie się klęskami, zamiast zwycięstwami, duma z tego jak mieliśmy i nadal mamy przejebane – kompletny bezsens, nie dość, że przerost formy nad treścią, to jeszcze mylenie przyczyny ze skutkiem.
Zatem Polacy rodacy, apeluję, reklamujcie, że nasz język jest najprecyzyjniejszy, przynajmniej potencjalnie, a nie najtrudniejszy. W jakich dziedzinach jest to ważne? Logika, Matematyka, a co za tym idzie, języki programowania, psychologia poznania, kongnitywistyka i w efekcie sztuczna inteligencja.
As far as I know the only language that reads as it is written is Serbian (after reforms of Вук Стефановић Караџић). One letter for one sound.
My Croatian friends might tell me that the same is in Croatian, but it is not, although comes pretty close. Lj or nj for example. Two letters but one sound.
I have studied both of these languages. I still struggle with Turkish because the street language is so far from the book language. Esperanto is by far the easiest language that I have learned up to now and I have heard that from many other Esperanto speakers as well. And contrary to the experiences my students have (I teach English to non-native speakers) nobody even chuckles if you goof up in Esperanto, since it is everyone’s second language. The only hard thing is trying to express everything – really everything – in a supranational way – yes there are a few idioms but only three or four that are historically tied to Esperanto culture. Most people aim at explaining themselves “internationally”. I find it a challenge but also a great exercise in internationalism.
Funny in relation to author’s conclusion about Polish language being so hard but Esperanto was created by a Polish guy called Zamenhof and it is simple because it was intended to be so.
Some remarks about my language, Polish:
Many declination patterns, of mixed character. 7 or 8 patterns – but with many mixed ones in addition. It makes together more than 30. worse than in the classical Greek.
Verb aspects (pefective and imperfective verbs): as in other Slavonic languages, but less regular.
Emotional factor in the meaning of the words, often deciding of their adequacy to the situation – it makes Polish rich. Western languages are rather dry in this respect.
Plethora of diminutives. My wife Anna can be called Ania, Anka, Anusia, Aneczka, versions with H- (Hanka etc.) are in use among older generation.
But attention: diminutives from the name of nationalities are offensive, if they exist, as they express disregard (Polaczek, Żydek, Rusek, Niemiaszek, Francuzik).
Consonants: maximum 5 one by one: beZWZGLędny.
I have been living in Poland for like five years now (as a student) and I gave up Polish for long time ago.
And you should know that I can speak four different languages fluently no problem, but it comes to Polish. I give up. This is hardcore on a completely different level and I don’t understand how Polish kids can even master their own language or do they?
A Polish friend of mine told me that this language was created by the people who were drunk and maybe he is right, who knows.
While as a language instructor of umpteen years, on the one hand, I can easily appreciate your comments regarding the “learnability” of Polish, I cannot in any wise concur with those remarks! Furthermore, if studying in Polish, how else do you expect to communicate with both fellow students, instructors, colleagues and just plain average folks if not in the common mother tongue of the country in which you happen to reside??
I teach German, and was told (even by German natives, although I knew their reactions were almost always too politically correctLOL) that a person ought just give up trying to learn a (deemed equally) “unlearnable” language for foreigners, save for the most gifted genii! As most of educated Europe communicates, even amongst each other, in English, learning e.g. German, Polish, French, Russian for an American is merely an expensive waste of time and an amusing hobby, nothing else.
My response to such benighted ignorance is that it is precisely those goals deemed “unreachable” which in the end garner the most respect from others, including oneself:-)
Further advice therefore is not to throw in the towel, but instead, to persevere in your study of Polish language THROUGH culture. In order to value a country and its language, one must first off thoroughly acquaint themselves with that nation’s culture, as language and culture are mutually intertwined and Poland will mean practically zilch to you until you bite the bullet and persue the study of Polish.
Powodzenia oraz duzego sukcesu z Twoim dalszym uczeniem jezyka polskiego!
Don’t give up. Just take advantage of your full immersion and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
The Polish dictionary of swearwords (PWN 2002) is 242 pages thick. Nothing is simple in Polish.
Hi Everybody. I’ve been living in Poland for the past 17 years, thinking that I am so stupid for not speaking this beautiful language fluently, and then I hear it’s the most difficult language on the planet – how better I feel – thank you.
P.S. theoretically speaking, one adjective in English could have 42 different words in Polish. 7 cases, 3 genders and singular and plural.
P.S.S. Polish is the language of Heaven – you need eternity to learn it.
No, you’re obviously not “stupid” if you’ve decided to learn Polish:-)More power to you!!! And yes, Polish is morphologically much more often unpredictably intricate than most Western languages, including Icelandic. It doesn’t though take “an eternity” of years to learn. I did it (realistically speaking, of course) in about five and a half:-)
Although I am Polish native speaker so my opinion is biased, your comments only concur that polish is a VERY hard language to learn.
You say that you’ve been learning it for 5.5 years and in such a simple sentence.
Powodzenia oraz duzego sukcesu z Twoim dalszym uczeniem jezyka polskiego.
You have made 5 mistakes – and i don’t mean to be callus or surly. It’s just that usually if someone learns language for 5 years it’s easier for them to write a simple sentence without any mistakes.
It shoud be
Powodzenia oraz WIELE sukcesÓW z TwoJĄ dalszĄ NAUKĄ języka polskiego.
Powiedzenie “dużego sukcesu” brzmi nienaturalnie i wymagało by dodania: “życzę odniesienia dużego sukcesu”, ale to z kolei nie do końca pasuje do kontekstu.
Pozdrawiam i życzę powodzenia,
Just curious as to how many years you studied/learned English?
Not that you made exactly egregious errors, but after (probably!!) ten or more years of learning, i.e. from highschool on up through university, I take it, I’d frankly expect perfectionLOL
wielu sukcesów w Twojej dalszej nauce języka
Polish is my native language and because I loved books- learning and reading was always a pleasure.
Then, I started Russian and English. Russian- I know how to read/write Cyrillic letters, which helped me with Serbian language.
I would love to learn Chinese or Japanese.
For now- Polish, English,Croatian, learning Spanish.
Is it easy? Never, but it is a lot of fun understanding more and being able to read, write, communicate with others.
Not necessarily. It depends on the methods and the intensity of learning. For instance, at the Language Institute where I was teaching Polish, American students achieved levels 2+-3 on a 0-5 scale (advanced intermediate)after intensive 47-week instruction.
Thank you Marek! : ) I intend to keep at it! As an encouragement to all those out there – my children learnt the language as kids and now speak it as well as anybody else – the earlier you start – the easier it is! : )
BTW – it is, when spoken perfectly, probably one of the most beautiful languages on the planet : )
Furthermore, when you stop to think about it, speaking English (typically!) for monolingual Anglophones abroad is in fact a mere concession to those who happen not to speak Polish, or what have you, right? Europeans don’t especially LIKE to speak English, they do it for “practical” purposes, ergo, if you as well as other Anglophone foreigners spoke the target language of the host country adequately, if not fluently, then there would be far less need for Poles, Germans, Scandies and what not, to feel they HAD to speak English with us, and usually wanting in charm:-)
I’ve known many a European to protest my claim, saying, “Oh, but I (resp. we) love to speak English….!” etc., to which my response is usually “Oh, but I love water color painting……but I’m not bloody good at it, either!!! Take a hint?!”
I’m glad to see you haven’t thrown in the towel, old man.
A friend from grad school, who’d been a Russian major at college (later moving for a year abroad to St. Petersburgh)confessed to me once that he found German umpteen times more of a challenge than Russian! Although of German decent, he had studied German at Middlebury, spent a summer in Bamberg, and was oh’ so, so frustrated, because it seemed that whererever he went, as soon as he began speaking German, his more than average attempts were drowned out by a “chorus” of mediocre English speakers, basically encouraging him to speak English with them and often claiming not to understand even basic utterances!!
While Phil’s accent in German is not nearly native, from my perspective he is completely comprehensible, if on occasion halting, in his speech.
Moral of the story is that he, and others, have found that due to the often random-sounding case declensions in German, a person can THINK they’ve said something, only to quickly discover that they’ve said something else entirely:-)
Word order is much more important than in, say Russian or even Polish, and of course English no longer even has cases, so this eliminates this perceived hurdle in our languageLOL
I’d be interested in people’s thoughts on this subject!
As a Pole I can’t really comment on the difficulty of the Polish to foreigners. I know it is the pronunciation that destorys the joy for non-Polish when learning, but no way around it. Your languages are all odd to compared to Polish.
Here’s why: I double dog dare anyone (non-Englishman from area) to correctly pronounce the town name High Wycombe in Bucks without ever hearing it before. Guess what – Polish people will get it always exactly the same way – albeit wrong – when they see the name written (and it will be the way the were taught to pronounce it when learning English). Now give to the non-Polish nice short name like Wrocław and they will torture it to the FUBAR point.
Which is really weird, because it is Polish which has alphabet pronunciation almost exactly Latin, accents placed almost according to Latin rules and all that, unlike whole bunch of romanic ones. And Polish is Slavic one??
This is what is meant by you speak it the way you write it. It’s not about phonetic notation. It’s all about angels and angles. Or, more to the point, just like some joker game developer did in a Polish PC game in ancient history, where main menu looked like this: sejw, lołd, opszyns, ridmi. In Polish it is doable with any language you care to name and it will be NORMAL notation (as opposed to phonetic, which is a different beast). Maybe Serbian is literal in that regard as well, but unfortunately my visits to Serbia were business types, so English in meetings. Only Navigation was bit problematic, as they stuck with Cyrillic alphabet, which I can’t read fast enough still. Would love to test the 50% convergence theory in practice, however.
Same way I really flinch every time English native speaker is trying to appear educated by invoking Latin.
But I digress, really.
I am – hopefully – fluent in English, so I feel justified in making the statement: I love Polish language, but I prefer English – it is build for verbose, yet compact communication. It may be professional bias – I’m Software developer and programmer, so. y’all know what I mean. One of the highest praises (unfortunately, professionally speaking) was when someone accused me of being literal in conversation. Which sometimes is hilarious. Let me put it this way: when asking me a question you better construct a proper query or my parser will not get it right contextually (joke for fellow professionals).
On the other hand – I can’t find another language where I can be as precise as in Polish. It is really fluent language, where I can – no joke here – write whole previous paragraph in one, maybe two sentences, not repeating a word. Which I find difficult in English (fortunately, I might add).
Anyway, as a person with a situation precisely opposite the Author’ (that is: linguistic Savant), I can basically get by in most of the languages in couple of days of “acclimatization”. Someone said I’m like a sponge in that regard.
So I agree on that the learning a foreign language is ALL ABOUT SPEAKING. Non-verbal communication is all fine and dandy until precisely the moment you hit the street.
This is the moment that separates boys from men and definitely theoreticians from poor front-line souls. That is why I also agree on discarding the alphabet and some of the grammar (that is how difficult/easy rules are) in favour of how complicated it is to construct a proper sentence while speaking.
I can make myself understood in French, German, Russian, Spanish and Latin. With the exception of Russian, they are for me, if not similar, then at least have a very high commonality threshold, especially after I delved into Latin. Except for pronunciation, where you brutes substituted your own.
I find German most difficult because you can really construct some impressive wording in order to get it right… I think it’s because Germans have no sense of humour, they will have both pronunciation and notation sometimes Welsh-like. I do prefer simplicity of “mounting brackets” over the comprehensiveness of “Befestigungselementen”, for example. It may be that this dislike makes it unnecessarily difficult.
Someone mentioned Czech. I wouldn’t say anything above and beyond what was said by prof. Miodek (memoria fragilis est, so it’s “something to the effect of”): contemporary Polish is very different one from medieval Polish, which in turn is quite alive in Silesian accent/dialect, which in turn also shows very high resemblance to Czech. So there may be something to the claim for it to be more difficult, as it may also be somewhat reanimated (while not being un-dead), therefore a bit different from others in effect.
Anyway, in conclusion, I will say this: Being native born Polish, fluent in English (CPE level -certified), acquainted with French, German, Russian and Spanish I say there are fundamental differences between Polish and other languages, which cause difficulties while learning in either direction.
Oh, one more thing. When I say I learned some language I mean to the level where I can carry out a conversation on any topic (with basic level of knowledge – unified string theory is NOT the example) where I’m not necessarily grammatically correct and perfectly fluent but understood. Or, better yet: have a civil argument about some issue.
Asking directions don’t count. Understanding TV news also. As well as reading this comment.
Hello there, Adam!
As a German speaker myself, just curious as to how you equate German compounding with German(s) lacking a sense of humor.
Afraid you lost me there on that one:-)
Czy pan sie bedzie uczyc jezyka orientalskiego?
I’m heartened by your comments because I took up Polish about 5 years ago. I thought it would be quite easy to acquire proficiency because I’ve had a career teaching Latin, Greek and German. But, as you say, the pronunciation, spelling and sheer number of cases and inflections makes it hard – even for someone who has not found anything too surprising in the syntax itself. The chapter on Numbers in a Polish grammar goes on for ever. I can read it OK but I haven’t had much speaking practice, so my aural and oral proficiency is lagging behind.
This comparison only takes into consideration the more commonly studied languages such as the languages of Europe, the Middle East, and the major languages of the Far East. None of these languages come close to the difficulty of learning some of the Native American languages such as Yup’ik and Navajo. I have learned to speak German, Spanish, Russian, and French, and I can read Arabic, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, and some others. I have also studied Japanese, Cambodian, Sanskrit, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Hungarian, Finnish, and Ukrainian, among others. All of these languages are child’s play compared to Yup’ik, Navajo, or Apache.
“I have learned to speak German, Spanish, Russian, and French, and I can read Arabic, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Italian, Swedish, Dutch, and some others.”
Very impressive but… what is your speaking proficiency level and reading proficiency level in each of those languages? The scale is from 0+ (memorized basic expressions) to 5 (educated native speaker).
You missed important factors that makes this blog post inaccurate and deemed fit only for entertainment purposes:
1. Not backed up with one single evidence of hard data or statistics
2. Not considering the demographics – the less people who speak the language, the more complex it is to learn (lack of resources.
Your stamement is meaningless. If we are looking at a hard science you can test a reaction on a physical level. However, we are talking about a language which is subjective and has too many variable exogenous and endogenous, not to mention multicollinearity. We are not studying the effects of a singular chemical compound on a fruit fly in a lab, but the complexities of the human brain in aggregate.
i do not quite understand your statement on Poles not being fluent in Polish until sixteen. I have not met with pronunciation issues reall. Ortography yes – but thought you deemed writing not important earlier in text? When it comes to grammar not everyone will be perfect at it but it still seems Poles are more fluent in their own language (and earlier than at sixteen) than English. Majority of English or other English-speaking nation representatives I had a pleasure to observe and listen to are not fluent in English even in their twenties! Grammar and especially spelling being a constant problem. It is trully hilarious tho to see foreigners correcting British in their mother tounge. If you want to teach English in the UK you need to pass a special exam and the stats proove constantly that in places like London – majority of Britons fail the exam while foreigners who learned English as a second language (whether before or after arrival to the UK) pass it 99% pof the times. Now what does that tell you? I agree Polish is difficult but I am not sure I would give it the top position in the rank, not would I give 100% trust and authority to the author as I believe lots of his examples and arguments are not objective or not realy backed up by much. I am also not going to comment on authors English as I am not first language English either. All I can do is refer to author’s own comment on people taking things they read on the internet for facts – and engourage all readers not to do just that. I must also apologise for typos as I hate touchpads – I seem to never land my fingers on the right letters.
These are all the possible translations for Ensligh verb “to do” without auxiliary verbs (52 different word forms):
“To do”/”to act”
Following the Czech one:
I think it’s all (you can also say “Ja bym działał” and it’s the same as “Ja Działałbym”).
The problem with German for many foreigners, is neither the vocab. nor even the morphological inflections (as we’ve just seen with Japanese, Navaho, Urdu, Gaelic etc..), but rather, the often perplexing word order, i.e. the inversion rule, whereby a statement could easily appear as a question, as well as when the verb may also BEGIN a statement sentence for special emphasis, though more frequently in more formal utterances e.g.:
“Koennen Sie sich fuer uns mal einsetzen?” – “Einsetzen kann ich mich schon….” (literally!!)
” Can you yourself for us just inset?” – Inset can I me already….”
Now in ‘Englisch’:
“Can you please help us out here?” – “I certainly can…”
SUch dizzying recapitualtions can drive the poor learner to distraction.
Perhaps your day is longer the some peoples’, but shorter than others’:-)
Just joking! As someone who speaks Polish, but has dabbled in Greek, I’d have to conclude that Polish is the morphologically much more intricate tongue of the two. Greek verb tenses however might be even more “irregular” than Polish, although I’d have to have studies the former much more closely in order to arrive at that conclusion.
The Ukrainian alphabet contains 33 letters, not 26.
I am Serbian and I studied Czech language for five years (now I live and study in the Czech Republic) and I can tell you – Czech language is the most difficutl language in the world. I learned Polish too, and I knew it, I can speak and I understand it, but Czech language, not only the most beautiful slavic language, but the hardest to learn, Žádná angličtina, polština, Čeština! Kdo se naučí mluvit česky, naučí se každý jazyk na světě.
Language is that even though I have never learn it I can understand what you wrote
Žádná angličtina, polština, Čeština! Kdo se naučí mluvit česky, naučí se každý jazyk na světě
which is : Not English or Polish, Czech! One who learns to speak Czech can learn any language in the world.
Correct? And I must admit I know only few words in Czech – most commonly attributed to how funny they sound (and meaning) in Polish.
So what does that tell you?
The Basque or Euskere is the worst nightmare when it comes to verbs and conjugations. We have verbs for present, past, future and posibility (inside posibility whe have the ones that are very likely to happen and the ones that are not)and the gerund, infinitive, particip, etc obviously whe do have regular and irregular verbs AND the conjugation changes depending on who, what and for whom, or just who and whom or who and what. Now use all that mixed. And now learn the 7 different dialects of this language.
For those of you who don´t know where the Basque comes from, it comes from the north of spain (the Basque Country) and it is also spoken in the sud of france (the French Basque Country). The rest of Spain dont speak this language.
For the love of everything that is holly, stop this nonsense. The difficulty of new language depends on many many factors, not only the language in question and its perceived difficulty. Linguistic background (mother tongue and possible other languages), educational background, natural ability, age, personal motivation, level that you’re aiming for. You get the picture.
The difficult (questionably, of course) examples that commenters posted are totally arbitrary and mean next to nothing, if you don’t know who you’re adressing them too. I would for example grasp Polish way faster than Finnish (that I happen to be learning atm). On the other hand, in certain aspects, the relative simplicity of finnish as opposed to my mother tongue and some other languages I got to know, specifically lack of gender, throws me off on the regular (can’t not laugh at ihana mies..
Also the ”fluency” thing? No such thing. It is very unlikely that one person will ever master all levely of a language. Try to read a quantum physich book or a highly academic legal discussion and let’s see how far that takes you.
Also, even if your language is percieved as the most difficult one – congratulations, I guess?
So please, stop. You’re making yourself and everyone arround you look ridiculous.
Love, a Slovenian
What about Baltic languages, Latvian and Lithuanian? They have also 7 cases including vocative and many special characters, just like in Polish.
Attractive as it may sound, it is not possible to “measure” or even estimate language difficulty. It makes as much sense as trying to prove which cuisine is the most tasty by measuring factors like sugar molecules, salt molecules, etc.
The calculation fails to equate the degree of markedness (=distance from universal grammar), so it even falls short to said comparison.
Besides, there are several linguistic factors completely absent. The outcome is arbitrary, now it’s Polish, but if you’d take different factors it could be Dutch. Factors missing in the equation that would promote Dutch are for example pragmatics (“mood” modifying words that affect a statement as a whole), amount of semantic information encoded in pronouns (e.g. gender, specificity, countability, emphasis, animacy etc of the antecedent), and what’s called the openness of the categories, ie. the prevalence of neologisms.
Greenlandic belongs to the Eskimo family of languages. It is a ‘polysynthetic’ language, which means that words are formed with a root, one or more affixes and a suffix.
A Greenlandic word can thus be very long and can mean what corresponds to a whole sentence in other languages.
The Greenlandic language is roughly divided into four dialects: South Greenlandic, West Greenlandic, East Greenlandic and the Thule dialect. West Greenlandic is the official language which all children learn in addition to Danish and English.
In small towns and settlements it is not unusual for only Greenlandic to be spoken and English may possibly be understood or spoken only to a very limited degree.
It is therefore a good idea to learn a few words during your trip that can open up for communication.
I’m Finnish and speak fluently Russian and Swedish (besides Finnish language, of course), and also very good English. I’m now trying to learn Danish, which reminds Swedish very much in written but, but. The spoken Danish is a language of its own. So the Danish language is the hardest to learn. You don’t learn it in classrooms or university. For communication purposes, the only place to learn it is in social with Danish speaking people in the real life context.
Ullochka, I trust you’re having us on a little:-) Danish, the hardest language to learn..???
Oh, it’s spoken variant is a far cry from it’s written form, I’ll grant you but the same can be just as easily said for any number of other languages! I speak, read and write Danish fluently, furthermore, can attest to it’s relative ease of aquisition, even though I’m a bilingual German – English native speaker.
While all difficulty is relative, for Westerners I’d have to class Hungarian, German, Icelandic, Estonian, Georgian, Euskadi (Basque) as well as Welsh and Polish to be of proverbially much more estimable challenge than the Danish tongue, love it as I doLOL
Here are the forms of the word two in Finnish. These are just different cases, and most are actively used. There are no genders in Finnish (thank god):
And then the plural forms (really):
And the particle form
27. kahdesti (twice)
It seems to take a while for many non-native speakers to figure out when to use a plural form of the numerals.
In addition to these cases, there can be certain suffixes that add context, like -pa, to signify the novelty or ad hoc nature of a statement, -kin, for (maybe) even, and -kaan, for not even. There are also five suffixes (-ni,-si,-nsa,-mme,-nne) for representing possession by persons, but these are rarely used in numerals, at they are added to the noun that is counted. These suffixes can be added to any of these forms.
Note the complex nature in which the stem of the word changes in the different cases, with a transformation of the stem from kahte- to kaksi- in certain forms and softening of the t to d.
Hmmm, Polish “dwa” “dwaj”,”dwie”,”dwoje”,”dwoch” “dwiema” “dwoma”, “dworo”, and then all depending entirely on whether the noun is virile-masculine living vs. non-living, feminine or neuter for the same criteria, not to mention the collective noun set (pant-pant-pant!!!) Whheww, I’d say Polish too gives the unanointed shrinking violet of a learner as much of a run for their markka/euro as Finnish, ANY BLOOMIN’ DAY OF THE WEEK!!!
One comment to the colleague who found 27 forms of that simple word in Finnish. I was also playing some day with digit “two” in Polish and… I found 37 forms of it. I am sure that there are several difficult languages but Polish is really difficult even for Poles with a lower level od education. I can hear that all the time anywhere around.
What about Gaelic language in Ireland / Scotland? Morphology example:
Tá leabhar agam. “I have a book.” (Literally, “there is a book at me.”)
Tá leabhar agat. “You have a book.”
Tá leabhar aige. “He has a book.”
Tá leabhar aici. “She has a book.”
Tá leabhar againn. “We have a book.”
Tá leabhar agaibh. “You (plural) have a book.”
Tá leabhar acu. “They have a book.”
You cannot say ‘the X language is the most difficult in the world, while you certainly won’t have problems with learning the Y language’. You just cannot. Why?
Because there are approx. Six thousand languages in the world, and there are no people that know every one of them. That means that Polish is the most difficult language compared to 12 others stated in the article. But is Polish harder to learn than Kannada? Is English easier than Urdu? Or maybe a language used by a tribe in the Amazonia is the easiest one, but we don’t know about it, because we haven’t heard it?
Second of all, naming Finnish a hard language is a very unfunny joke. Not so long time ago I’ve read an article written by a linguist in which he wrote that Finnish is actually one of the simplest language to learn for a foreigner. I’m a Polish native speaker trying to learn Finnish and I have to admit it. The pronunciation is so simple you can learn it in an hour, declination and conjugation is probably the most regular possible, and that countless cases? Why learning cases (it’s only adding a suffix) is harder than learning prepositions? Hungarian and Estonian work the same way. If you want to read more about how easy is to learn Hungarian.
I assume that the author of the article is a native English speaker. It means that the opinion about the hardest language to learn is biased. Why? Because an English speaker would be suffering if they had to learn e.g. Slovakian. Meanwhile, a Czech speaker would say it’s just ridiculously easy. And why the Danes and Dutch people speak English so well? Because Danish and Dutch are related to English. Polish people have many problems with articles and perfect tenses while speaking English, because we don’t have such features in our language. What I want to say – it’s always easier to learn a language if it’s related to your native language.
It’s also all about your attitude. If you think that learning e.g. French is a torment due to those genders and spelling, you will always have difficulties with learning it. Even Esperanto will be the most difficult language in the world if you think about it that way. I made this mistake while learning German – I was thinking that German cases and genders are unable to learn, but then I started thinking the other way – I realised that German is easier than Polish in many other aspects – and I have started becoming better and better. Stop thinking what makes a language so hard, start thinking what is actually easy about it.
I am a Pole who was born and raised in Greece, so I speak Greek and Polish fluently (along with English and Italian). From my experience in a multicultural level, i have noticed that Polish seems to be indeed one of the most difficult languages to learn, epsecially phonetically. I am 24 years old and since i speak Polish only at home and not very frequently, i still mess up my grammar or i need to pause and think how to pronounce a noun or a verb in a different form. (I haven’t used Italian for a long time yet i am still able to easily communicate with others) At the end of the day everything requires practice and patience, but i strongly believe that Polish seems to be one of those languages that need the most effort.
Well, I´m a native German speaker who has learned Polish already quite properbly and also looked a bit into Hungarian. I absolutely agree with people who say that Hungarian isn´t as hard as it´s reputation and it doesn´t even surprise me if you consider Polish to be harder to learn than Hungarian.
Hungarian seems to be a very logical and regular language. It´s many “cases” are infact just like English prepositions. Is “Budapesten” really more difficult than “in Budapest” or “Cecilliayak” (i don´t know if this is correct?)more difficult than “to Cecillya”? I don´t think so, it´s just different. In addition, Hungarian has no genders I believe only 3 verb tenses. The famous pollygott Bennie Lewis said, that he picked up Hungarian quicker than he did Spanish. If you want to know more about that look at the page “why Hungarian is easy”- fluent in 3 months or on a video in you tube where you can see him talking in Hungarian after just two months of studying. The major problem with this language ist, that it totally differs from indo european language and seems to be quite strange for us.
I agree that Polish is quite difficult. It has a very complex grammar and also pronounciation can be tricky but if you have managed to learn it at an immediate level it gets much easier and isn´t that hard anymore. Try to ignore the comments of people who are saying how hard it is and don´t let scare you. In “why czech isn´t as hard as you think” Bennie has described how he learned Czech effectively and I beliefe Polish will wor in a very simmilar way
nicht-Deutschen einerseits sei am Anfang vor allem die Satzstellung im Deutschen aeusserst schwierig zu handhaben, vom Flexionssystem zu geschweigen! Andererseits machen uns deutschsprachige Polnischlerner haeufig die Kollektiv-Numeralia, besonders ab “piec” zu schaffen!
Das Tschechische habe zwei verschiedene Sprachen innerhalb derselben, die Schrift- vs. die Umgangssprache, beide mit voellig anderer Grammatik voneinander:-)
Wie das Finnische habe das Ungarische ca. 23 verschiedene Kasus, nur sind sie nicht alle zusammen im Alltag gebraeuchlich.
Uczym się polskiego od 2 lat. Wiem ze język polski jest trudny dla nauki ale każdy pomoże. Ma dużo ludzie jak Stefan Moellner z Niemiec albo David Snopek z Ameriki żeby uczył się ten język bardzo dobrze. Polski i Czeski są językami bardzo podobnymi i w internecie na stronie “why Czech isn’t as hard as you think” (po polsku: dlaczego język czeski nie jest jak trudny)Bennie Lewis napisał jak on nauczył się języka czeskiego. Z metodą Bennia Lewisa pomożesz uczyć polskiego teź.
Dsiśaj mowię tylko trochę po polsku ale w lecie tego roku będę jechać do Kursu w Krakowie i tam chcę uczyć dużo.
And of course it always depends what you mother tongue is how hard is to learn a language. For English and also German native speakers Polish may be pretty hard but I have met some Czechs and Ukranians who told me how riddicolusly easy it was for them to learn Polish.
For example the answer on the question: “what is harder to learn, Polish or Icelandic?” depends what your mother tongue is. For a Norwegian Icelandic will definetally be easier, but for a Czech Polish will be easier.
Czech may be somewhat easier to pronounce but grammatically it´s diffidently much more difficult than Polish. For example in Polish you can at least recognize the gender of a substantive in 99% by the word´s ending. e,ę oand um are neuter, a and i are usually feminine while the rest is usually masculine (with a few exceptions), in Czech you usually can’t recognize the gender in this way. Czech case declension seems to be at least as irregular as the Polish one (f.e. Praha-Prahy-Pradze, the name Pavel Nedved becomes Pavlu Nedvedovi in Lok.), but there are more patterns in Czech than in Polish. In addition Czech has less Germanic and Romance based loan words, so it’s vocabulary is more alien for a speaker of a Germanic or Romance language than Polish vocabulary is and the Czech verbal aspect system is said to be the most complicated one of all Slavic languages. I have also met a Polish Czech bilingual speaker who believed that Czech is diffidently the harder language of the two.
So, it’s interesting why Polish is always mentioned on lists of the most difficult languages to learn, while Czech which is at least as hard as Polish (or maybe even harder?) is mentioned there just very rarely.
I worked with a Czech coworker. We had the European connection in the restaurant. It was wonderful because I, who’s speak polish to her and I’d understand what she would say to me in Czech. It’s not that I know Czech, I only speak a little bit, she didn’t speak much polish either but we understood each other. At times ,yes it was complicated but we just laughed if off. I do believe Polish is ONE of the hardest languages besides Slavic. Simply because Polish uses Latin in their alphabet. After being in the states for 27 years I am losing my polish pronunciation, but my writing in polish is impeccable. I still read it because it’s my native tongue. I learned Spanish just by having a Spanish boyfriend and thanks to his mother I speak Spanish which I love. I do believe English is the easiest to learn. I tried Japanese and I love it! Mówić, czytać, rozmawiać po polsku jest bardzo ciężko. Żaneta, dziękuję.
Often, learners of foreign languages originate from a false premise about the language they are studying, both as to the (perceived) level of difficulty as well as the expectations of that language by its native speakers:-)
German is such a language. Foreigners, particularly Americans, i.e. mono-lingual Anglophones, perceive German as an almost impenetrably difficult language to master, often, indeed, usually, giving up after the second year, third year tops! Why? Because German is “marketed” in this country as either the friendshipy tongue of modern-day Rhine maidens, erotic sirens a la Hannah Schygulla in Fasssbinder’s “Maria Braun”, or, the shriekingly hoarse, gutteral fustian a la Wagner of a Hitler, Goering and the rest of the usual suspects.
There’s little in between.
Mark Twain’s little essay “The Awful German Language”, though intensely humorous, did little to break down the eternal barriers to German as some language existing on a plain all her own, and somehow, almost OFF LIMITS to all non-German native speakers.
Fact is, as with any language, be it German, Basque, Dravidian, Dutch, Polish, Czech, Greenlandic or Lithuanian, the ease as well as difficulty of acquisition normally coincides with the psychological baggage the intended learner brings to bear upon it.
“Foreigners, particularly Americans, i.e. mono-lingual Anglophones, perceive German as an almost impenetrably difficult language to master”
This is odd to me. I learned German, my wife learned German, my Dad learned German.
Part of it may be that after the outbreak of World War I and America joining the allied cause, German was removed as a language of study in many secondary schools. This was the case in the school my dad attended, and he only got to take it because after some years it was restored. It served him well as he was an officer during World War II (although in a noncombatant role as a chaplain), and often was called upon to translate when German prisoners were captured.
Same thing happened when World War II broke out. The same secondary school decided that it would be a good idea to stop teaching German, and only resumed teaching it a decade after the war ended, when I was fortunate enough to be in the first class to take the course there after teaching German was resumed.
Of course, this was a stupid policy for this school to follow…you want people fluent in “the enemy’s language” when you are fighting a war!
But I enjoyed learning German, and used it (and Russian) as my two languages to qualify for the Ph.D. (back in the days when at least a reading ability in two languages was required to earn a Ph.D. in the sciences). Actually these days Chinese is the foreign language I am best in; learning it was an itch I scratched many years ago owing to my grandfather having served as a surgeon in Shanghai for a number of years, and it greatly increased my pleasure on the two occasions that I spent time teaching in China.
You’re quite correct! This remains to me one of the post-War tragedies of US education, when German was literally thrown out of many highschools. In the Midwest however, I believe German is alive and well:-)
I’m Jewish and of German descent. Yet, I’ve always decried this cockeyed notion that because the Nazis spoke German, the language is therefore tainted forever, like some well forever poisoned! Precisely BECAUSE the Nazis demonized German and denied Jews the basic rights to even use their mother tongue, it is all the more an imperative of German Jews to continue to cultivate German, if only to prove that Germany didn’t win and that the Nazis weren’t victorious:-)
German presents issues of word order in everyday sentence structure which Polish doesn’t, such as inversions following adverbs etc.
If you are in the Czech Republic, NEVER EVER tell someone you “szukat” somebody, thinking you are “szukac” someone in Polish!!! Furthermore, if you say that the Pilsen brew you’re drinking is nice and “staly”, you might not get invited back for dinner, anymore than if you say that somebody’s home has a lovely “zapach”.
Among the numerous false-friend gaffs between Czech and Polish which might cost ya a good time:-)
Very interesting approach. Enjoyed reading it.
One question. How do you account for the difference in learning difficulty for a foreign language as experienced by learners with different native languages?
While for me as a German native, Russian seems impossible to wrap my head around, to my Ukrainian friends it is not that hard. I am observing the same thing here in India where I’m currently living. Speaking an Indo-European language myself, learning Hindi is really a piece of cake, while i struggle very hard with Dravidian languages like Kannada. At the same time many speakers of Dravidian languages like Tamil or Kannada find it hard to learn Hindi which they are required to in school as it is the national language.
Besides a negative political attitude towards the northern language Hindi (and learner attitude has just as much influence on how easy a language is to learn as does openness of the language group to share their language) , I do believe a big part of the difficulty comes from the fact that Dravidian languages besides sharing a lot of Sanskrit-based vocabulary,differ drastically in their allover structure as compared to Indo-European languages, because Dravidian languages are highly agglutinating in nature.
This is the only factor I am missing in your study, unless it was meant to express only a difficulty level as experienced by English native speakers and I just missed that part.
Anyway, keep up the good work.
Just a quickie addendum! I noticed you observed that English is an “easy” language in comparision with several others named thus far. Curious as to how you gauge the ease of a language. Furthermore, does ease of acquitision necessarily lead to accuracy along with fluency of expression?
Guys, the hardest slavic language is definetally Czech, not Polish (as Krystof Kovarik said)! Enough with Polish and try to speak Czech, this is more difficult…
(Even a Polish- Czech billingual speaker who I have met said that Czech is harder)
But if you want to learn a language even worse than Czech try Lithuanian!
Learning Czech means alot more than learn to say Ahoi, Nasgreganju(i´m sure thi is not spelled correctly) and to order “Powidltatscherln” in a restaurant.
I beliefe that the author should change the list and put Lithuanian instead of Polish on place 1, followed by Czech (though I agree that Polish is pretty hard too.
Lithuanian is definetally the hardest living indo- european language and also the hardest language of Europe (maybe with the exception of Basque).
Are you equating the difficulty of a language with its conservative morphology?
If so, how do you rate Icelandic with the level of difficulty required to master the other languages mentioned, namely, Basque, Lithuanian, Polish and Czech?
Tuerkisch z.B gilt unter vielen Linguisten als stock konservativ, gilt doch ebenfalls als eine der regelmaessigsten Sprachen, die es gibt:-) Leicht zu lernen, sei es allerdings auch!
Actually, Lithuanian is the closest to the initial Proto-Indo-European (language that was spoken about thousand years ago, this is probably the oldest European language nowadays. The PIE is the original language before differentiation.
I am a student of Japanese, and you are wrong. Japanese does indeed have tenses (past and non-past) and verb conjugations – many of then. Also, you failed to mention that Japanese has many forms of casual and formal speech, and it is difficult deciding in which context to use which one.
Furthermore, failure to engage correct ‘code switching’, particularly for native Japanese speakers, can sometimes prove corpulental. I recall reading in a US-Japan Journal about a young Japanese company worker, a newbie so to speak, who, during a conversation in a bar after work, in a drunken stupor, referred to the older co-worker by a familiar pronominal address. At that point, the older colleague took an empty liquor bottle and smashed it violently enraged over the younger man’s skull, causing the latter’s instant death!!
Apparently (it later came out), the younger man used a particularly intimate form of the pronoun “you” which in traditional Japanese society was a reference to a less male, i.e. a homozexual:-)
One can never be TOO careful.
Yes, Icelandic also seems to be quite tough, but like English it´s a Germanic language and therefore for a native English speaker it´s probably easier to learn than Slavic languages like Polish, Czech, etc., or most non Indo-European languages.
For the same reason Polish should not be too much problem for the speaker of another Slavic language.
dem Polen sind z.B. Kroatisch, Bulgarisch aber schon schwierig, auch wenn beides slawischen Ursprungs sei, denn sich diese Sprachen gaenzlich anders entwickelt haben, lautlich sowie grammatisch!
Wenn ich den Sachverhalt dessen, was du eben gepostet hast, richtig verstehe, meinst du, Islaendisch solle einem Englischmuttersprachler im Vergleich zu einem Slawischmuttersprachler relativ leicht sein, sich zu erwerben, weil sie typologisch verwandt sind. Stimmt das?
Leider kann ich dieser Aussage ebenfalls nicht komplett zustimmen, da das Islaendische vom modernen Englischen so weit voneinander vertrackt worden sind, vielleicht nur ein Sprachgelehrte(r) des Altenglischen u.a. koennte sich Islaendisch “relativ leicht” aneignen, allerdings im Handumdrehen nicht:-)
Meiner Erfahrung nach ginge es ja einfacher aus einer romanischen in eine andere romanische Sprache sowohl zu uebersetzen, als auch erneut zu erlernen!
Icelandic is very hard to learn.
Even if you’re Icelandic you can still have a really hard time learning it, preferably the grammar.
But it’s a very beautiful language and definitely worth learning.
Without question, the most morphologically complex, therefore inflectionally rich, of ANY extant Germanic language (including German itself).
I can read some, but don’t speak it:-)
People often argue that German is relatively easy to learn because it has only 4 very regular cases.That´s true, but there are many other things in our language which may be indeed a nightmare for foreigners. For example: The German gender system is totally irrational, there are no real rules what´s feminine, masculine, neutrum, for example the door is feminin (die Tür) while the window (das Fenster is neutrum), the dog is masculine, while the cat is feminine, but Lion, Tiger etc. are masculine again.
The way of making the pluralis as irrational as the gender system (though there are only singular and plural while in Polish there are in fact three numerals).
The German sytax may be also complicated for foreigners and it´s impossible to ignore the correct word order in a sentance (if you do, you will not be understood). In addition German is said to have more than 200 irregular verbs es well as a large variation of dialect (in most parts most native speakers never use standart German (Hochdeutsch)in common language).
As a bilingual German-English speaker, I can attest to, rather, confirm the fact that the difficulty for English monolingual native speakers learning German, isn’t so much the case endings, or even the three genders, but rather the often dizzying word order, along with unfamiliar sentence length, whereby a first timer English speaker in their intermediate semester of German might easily forget how the sentence even FORGET how the sentence started which they begun!!
While I never had this issue with German, Polish on the other hand, continues to dog me with choosing the correct aspectual form of the verb. What to me might appear as a completed action in English, really could be a continuous action in Polish, for instance “brac udzial” (teilnehmen) vs. “wziac udzial” etc.:-)