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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  2. extremely hard hm… Polish (my native) and Russian . Diffrend alfabet, hard and soft voices, hard grammar. 🙂

  3. I’m also from Poland.

    Polish is definately hard. But no one should bother themselves with sentences like “Chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie”, because these are really difficult. In normal situations you’ll probably never use such a sentence (maybe because it means “A beetle is humming in reed” ;]). If you brake the mental blocade, you can learn Polish on basic level quite fast. Gender is simply German Der, Die, Das, so it can’t be that difficult. Polish is also very, very melodic and easy to rhyme, so listening to Polish poetry or songs is a great experience. English is quite simple, at least for me, but I hate conditionals! I think I even used the wrong one in this text 🙁

  4. The whole pronounciation thing depends on what you’re used to in your own language. Many of you probably heard of the term “Engrish” which makes fun of how Japanese tend to hurt english language badly. In English there are two different consonants “r” and “l”. In Japanese, there is one (and this one can be spoken as either “r” or “l” depending on the person speaking.
    And try to introduce Japanese person to the concept of plural form. (Japanese language has no such thing as distinction between singular/plurar; they have one verb form for all persons). Therefore it’s very very subjective which language is the hardest one. Of course, for any native, his own language will be the easiest one, because he knows it already, therefore I’m trying to say polish is not that bad 😉
    It’s usually an easier task to learn a language of the same family that your native language is, so usually it’ll be easier for Poles to learn other slavic languages than roman ones let alone Japanese or Chinese.
    Japanese, OTOH seems relatively simple in terms of grammar itself, but it’s got so many polite forms you have to learn not to offend the person you’re talking to, and kanji is sooo complicated (although both kanas are quite simple; you just gotta get used to it).
    But Chinese beats all those languages from the European’s point of view because it’s a tonal language. Therefore the same word, pronounced the same way but with slightly different intonation can mean completely different thing. And that’s something we don’t have in european languages at all (AFAIK).
    So, every language has its niceties and its hardships, and it’s hard to say that one language is objectively the hardest one.

  5. Fronika said:
    “What does it matter which is the most difficult language? Learn English, that’s all you need.”

    Yeah, right, because everyone speaks English, right? Not. And people love it when you arrogantly expect them to learn English because you refuse to learn any other languages…

    Jared said of Polish:
    “The fully phonetic alphabet, very strict grammar, (no exceptions, everything works the same on any word, all the time), make it an easier language to learn.”

    Um, no. It’s more phonetic than English, granted, but it still has weird stuff like rz=ż, ó=u, ch=h, and that “ę” at the end of a word sounds like “e” and “d” at the end of a word sounds like “t”, etc. The grammar has plenty of exceptions. Word inflection is a nightmare of complex rules with many exceptions. Things do NOT work the same on any word all the time in my experience. Just look at comparative forms of adjectives, for instance: why do we say “bliski, bliżej”, “niski, niżej”, but not “śliski, śliżej” (must be “bardziej śliski”)? Or masculine genitives and the often random choice between -a and -u. Or numbers.

  6. I think – and agree with several people above – that this whole discussion is not scientific at all. Here is the first paragraph of the original post:

    “Extremely Hard: The hardest language to learn is: Polish-Seven Cases, Seven Genders and very difficult pronunciation. Average English speaker is fluent at about the age 12; the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language not until age 16.”

    1. What are the seven genders in Polish?? As far as I know, there are the “usual” three. Untrue statement. Although it’s true that for instance adjectives do get different endings for the genders, and that they do have seven cases, same way as nouns.
    2. The statement about the fluency is extremely unscientific as well – what does “fluency” mean? using all proper endings? having a rich vocabulary? being able to communicate without problems? being understood? Spelling correctly? I don’t know where the theory about about fluency achieved at 16 came from and I think it’s just rubbish.

    I spent the first 25 years of my life in Poland, now I’ve lived for 10 years among Americans in the U.S. I’m an English teacher by profession, and for the last year I’ve been teaching Polish to American kids, so – believe me – I know how hard the endings are. Still, it could be harder, if I were teaching them Russian, because they would have to learn a different script! Which brings me to the final conclusion: ratings like this discussion are quite subjective and unless we take into account the native language of the learner, we can’t even start to talk about the difficulty of the new tongue.
    Yes, we could objectively compare how many noun endings there are, or perhaps even how difficult the pronunciation is – but we would still need the native language to compare.

    A PS for those who are quoting the tongue-twisters about Szczebrzeszyn etc: how about trying these in English, which is supposed to be so much easier:
    She sells sea shells on the seashore.
    How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A wood chuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck, if the wood chuck could chuck wood. (heh, I wonder if I wrote it correctly? 🙂
    And… ta-dam..
    supercalifragilisticexpialidociouos. Making as much sense as Konstantynopolitanczykowianeczka.
    [more tongue-twisters in various languages: http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister%5D

    PS do cytujacych Szczebrzeszyn: “Lamacze jezykow” istnieja w kazdym jezyku… Nie ma sie co chwalic, ze tylko od Szczebrzeszyna ludzie pluja po sluchaczach. Polecam stronke: http://www.uebersetzung.at/twister/

  7. Fronika said:
    “What does it matter which is the most difficult language? Learn English, that’s all you need.”

    Yeah, right, because everyone speaks English, right? Not. And people love it when you arrogantly expect them to learn English because you refuse to learn any other languages…

    Jared said of Polish:
    “The fully phonetic alphabet, very strict grammar, (no exceptions, everything works the same on any word, all the time), make it an easier language to learn.”

    Um, no. Polish is more phonetic than English, granted, but it still has weird spelling/pronunciation stuff like rz=ż, ó=u, ch=h, and “ę” at the end of a word sounds like “e”, and “d” at the end of a word sounds like “t”, and “ł” disappears in “jabłko”, etc. (If it’s so phonetic, how are there difficult orthography contests?)

    The grammar has plenty of exceptions. Word inflection is a nightmare of complex rules with many exceptions, and not just endings but changes in the middle of the word (ł/l, ó/o, and lots of other random alternations that do NOT strictly follow rules). Things do NOT work the same on any word all the time. Just look at comparative forms of adjectives, for instance: why do we say “bliski, bliższy”, “niski, niższy”, but not “śliski, śliższy” (must be “bardziej śliski”)? Or masculine genitives and the often random choice between -a and -u. Or the way numbers work. Or we learn that the -ący active participle means you are doing the verb – so why does śpiący not mean you are sleeping (and instead means you are sleepy or want to sleep)? (Not to mention how the hell we get from the infinitive spać to śpiący in the first place. 🙂

    For a language that really does have pretty simple grammar and literally no irregular nouns, verbs, or adjectives, I recommend Esperanto, which is far easier to learn than Polish, English, or any other national language.

  8. First of all: you forgot, that discussion was about hardest language to learn FOR ENGLISH NATIVE SPEAKER. So all examples “I’m hungarian and polish was easy and finish not” and so on have no sense.
    Second: you are europocentric. There’s a lot of languages that have nothing common with english (navajo, bantu, suahili, mandarin, 2000 New Guinean languages) – I’m afraid some of them may be much more difficult to learn for English speaker
    Third: there are many factors making language difficult – complicated or irregular grammar, different from english pronounciation, difficult spelling, different alphabet. There are tonal languages, which may be extremely difficult for me but much easier to some musicians.
    So the order on the list is strongly dependent on personal abilities of list creator, because some people don’t have problems with grammar and some have (me, for example)

    Personally I haven’t seen here any grammar complication in above examples that doesn’t exist in polish (sorry serbians and russians ;P) but it don’t mean anything yet. I just don’t believe in strict hierarchy of easier and harder languages. I just know that polish is difficult and there are many other difficult languages in the world.

    This whole discussion lost it’s sense as soon as everyone forgot the basic assumptions of this list….

  9. Over 50% of Polish people leaving a comment here have just undermined the concept of them being able to learn proper English. Poles apparently can learn languages fast, but most of them is hardly able to speak native-like English – they mix up prepositions, they often can’t tell the difference between ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’, not to mention their innate tendency to get them completely wrong while speaking. Therefore, the idea of one language being more difficult to learn than the other is highly dubious and depends tremendously on what your native language is.

  10. I am from Poland but i think Polish is the second hardest language to learn. The most difficult language is…. the language o women :). WHY? Words has different meanings depending of time of the day, time of the month, progres in a relationship, mental condition, etc. etc. . Sometimes sentences means the opposite of what you have heard and your words can( and will be) undestood by them in the completly different meaning. I think that there are very few people in the world who mastered that language. I wouldn’t be suprised if there was no one who can fully mastered and undersand that language. 🙂

  11. As a native Finnish, may I point also that I have never met a foreign persons (so a person who hasn’t been raised in Finland with Finnish as first or second mother tongue), who would have spoken Finnish compleatly without an accent or without making some kind of grammar mistakes. Most of the time foreigners Finnish is actually so painful to listen and understand that everybody turns to English.

    Just think of the misunderstandings stemming from the mispronounciation of the following words, which are very close to each other in pronounciation, but still very different and have compleatly different meanings:
    tuli = fire
    tuuli = wind
    tulli = customs

  12. I do not think Polish is so hard to learn. I know children 3-4 years speaking fluently. It can not be so difficult.

  13. Polish is hard for people from Britain or America because it’s different, in fact much different but of course English is easy I live in Poland in Suwałki and I was learning English about 5 years and I’m still learning but I speak freely English. Someone said ‘Polish has more exceptions than rules’ It’s only half true. I make example: You are pretty.-Jesteś piękna. She is pretty.-Ona jest piękna. That’s of course easy but what if somone say: Odnośnie twojej niedokładnie przetworzonych, bądź mógłbym rzec niekompletnych informacji… 2 years or more of learning Polish is for you (I think) becoming a nuisance. Our language is just hard from spelling because grammar have exceptions but (again I think) it’s logical when you uses Polish often even more… And 3-4 years speaking fluently tell me where because if they’re in Poland just tell when you had 3-4 years you could’t speak fluently? I was speaking fluently when I was about 3…

  14. people, polish is not the hardest to learn:P read: Teraz piszę po polsku. what means “I’m writng in polish now”. 😀

  15. Olka,
    I beg to differ about the hardest language

  16. As a Polish native living in the UK I would like to thank you for taking on the venture of learning my language. I know the concepts like stem-words and different endings can feel completely useless sometimes :]. Nonetheless, it’s very easy to joke in a complex language by just inventing new words and by coming up with new endings. Even when you take a name for example. You can grade the levels of affection to a person by modifying the name itself.
    My birth name: Rafal
    Other names that a Polish native full understand immediately:
    Rafalek, Rafico, Ralfiatko, Ralf, Rafaleczek, Rafalinski, Ralfinski
    The endings can be non-existant in any other words than peoples’ names but they are understood right away.

    Cheers, mate! Good luck.
    If you have any questions on Polish, drop me an email.

  17. Rafał – how do people in UK say Your name? In this freakin’ USA they mix it with Rafel and Rafael. that’s so ridiculous. i try to tell people: RA-FAL, so slowly and with accent on the second “A”. They still call me Rafael or Rafel.

    I got the MVP prize from Volleyball from my school. It says: For the Most Valuable Player from Brighton High School: Rafel Chelstowski.
    I thought I am gonna go crazy. shame.

    I know english little worse than polish. i think i am very fluent in my native language. i go crazy when i hear “Poszłem” instead of “Poszedłem”. I also was trying to learn German. I was taking classes with that language at school and just learned basic sentences and some verbs and adjectives. Same thing with French(though my class didn’t really want to learn it so my teacher wasn’t eager to teach us as well as my classmates).

    few years ago i went on a camp to italy. my camp’s campmates were Slovakian. To communicate with each other we didn’t use english but… our native languages. I found it very interesting experience. The most funny thing was when my friend was trying to help our Slovakian friends to find a bag, he said: “Ja tobie poszukam”(In English – I will find it for You/in Slovakian- I want to have sex with You). She looked and him with a huge surprise on her face and together with her friends they started laughing.

    Best Regards, Vielen Grussen, Serdeczne pozdrowionka 🙂

  18. I would love to know (more) about the seven Polish genders. 🙂 Any reference would be welcome.

  19. No one mentioned that the same sentence in polish can be a question or announce. For example ‘Możesz wstać?’ as a question ‘Can you stand up?’ and ‘Możesz wstać.’, which means ‘You can stand up.’ Sometime it’s difficult for native polish speakers to remember that and they’re trying to ask someone ‘Can you stand up?’.
    On the other hand there in polish is a latitude in order of words in sentence. I think it makes polish more flexible and more approachable, but less logic.

    ps. There is a sentence in polish, which can be translated like ‘I speak polish, because I think polish’. It’s easier to learn foreign language when you’re trying to thing in that language.


  20. As a native Polish speaker, I must say that beauty of our language is in its flexibility. You can “mold” your ideas i various directions and it can be pretty comical most of a time. For those who speak and understand Polish, I recommend some readings by Slawomir Mrozek or Stanislaw Lem.Kapuscinski was another master of grasping reader’s attention.

    you can also visit my website, to do some readings, have fun

  21. As far as the cases, I think the author is referring to nominative, accusative, dative etc. There are 7 in Polish, so he is correct.

  22. guest said “And you write it without mistakes”

    I know and sorry for that. I hope You understood :). As I said, sometime it’s difficult (for example for me)

  23. Język polski wcale nie jest taki trudny.
    Spróbujcie się nauczyć Chińskiego …

  24. stefan borovic je to napisao

  25. stefan borovic is a dog

  26. stefan lives in belgrade

  27. hey there guys i read some of the comments that u sad about the hardest languages to learn, u mentioned slavic languages but nobody mentioned albanian language
    Albanian language is a unik language and and one of the most oldest languages in europe i would like to kno w what do u guys think of albanian language… welll not serbs because they’re gonna insultit so ……

  28. Niezly popis daliscie drodzy rodacy. Po co sie w ogole wypowiadacie skoro nie potraficie pisac poprawnie po angielsku i tylko wstawiacie jakies durne teksty i nas osmieszacie??? Po co piszecie po angielsku, ze jak Polak mowi, ze zna jezyk to go tak naprawde nie zna??? Pojedzcie sobie do Wloch, Hiszpanii i Francji, a moze wtedy docenicie znajomosc jezykow obcych naszych rodakow.

  29. Polacy znają angielski bardzo dobrze.
    Carrie, I teach English to foreigners. Polish people speak better English than any other nationality I know. Since the Polish language is so rich in sounds they can imitate English sounds very well, but the converse is not true. Further since their language is so complex in grammar, easier languages like French, English, Spanish and Italian are easy for Polish people. Polish people may complain about learning languages and how hard it is, as complaining and self doubt runs rampant in Poland, but the reality is they speak it very well and have amazing language abilities. However when an American or English or French or Italian person speaks English they have problems, forget Polish. But American (which I am) and Brits full of confidence, will often times think the converse. Polacy znają angielski bardzo dobrze. IMO (In my opinion).

  30. Bardzo ciekawy komentarz, wziąwszy po uwagę że kolejność słów w zdaniu w języku polskim można zmieniać bez uszczerbku dla sensu zdania. Myślę że “Polacy znają angielski bardzo dobrze” jest tak samo poprawne jak “Polacy bardzo dobrze znają angielski”. Pozdrawiam 🙂

  31. The above comment by neovigo and my reply in Polish is case in point, that Polish is the hardest language to learn.

  32. markbiernat, it’s indeed easily recognizable that you’re not Polish native speaker :). The syntax of “Polacy znają angielski bardzo dobrze”, while actually correct and understandable, is an obvious transformation of English sentence word-array to Polish (“Poles know English very good”). A Pole would actually say this phrase with a slightly modified word order: “Polacy bardzo dobrze znają angielski”. The previous one is correct, notwithstanding.

    (There’s one interesting thing I personally notice about English native speakers. While their pronunciation’s excellence is rather impossible to achieve, their SPELLING seems to be worse than many people who learned English as their secondary language. It looks like native speakers a little disregard “writing skills”. For example, it is common among English people to write “your” instead of “you’re”. I think it just slips out as they sound practically the same. This leads to sentences like “I think your right”.)

    Back to the topic – as a Polish native speaker, I would like to point out an issue with English that is the most difficult to master for a Pole: the tenses. Their variety often seems “ridiculous” to people who actually have THREE main tenses (past, present, future), excluding conditionals.
    In Polish, there are no tenses like Present Perfect, Past Perfect (+Continuous). The function of these tenses is not achieved by giving them a correct grammatical form, but it rather depends on the context in a sentence/paragraph or supporting words like “before”, “then”, “during” etc. etc. etc.

    I hope this helps a little 🙂

  33. Ale np. nauczyciel uzna ci zdanie “Polacy znają angielski bardzo dobrze” za błąd składniowy. Czyli trzeba się trochę zastanowić.

  34. Answering jani’s question about genders:
    There are five main genders. fale, female and neuter. There’s also “male-plural” and “female-plural”.
    The gender affects the form of adjective.
    For example, let’s consider three words and an adjective:
    1. MATKA (mother) – female gender
    2. OJCIEC (father) – male gender
    3. DZIECKO (child) – neuter gender
    adjective: BRZYDKI (ugly).

    Proper forms of above together would be:

    brzydka matka (ugly mother)
    brzydki ojciec (ugly father)
    brzydkie dziecko (ugly child)

    As you see, gender affects the adjective. In plural form it would be:
    brzydkie matki (ugly mothers) – female-plural
    brzydcy ojcowie (ugly fathers) – male-plural
    brzydkie dzieci (ugly children) – female-plural

    This kind of gender “transformations” can be quite confusing at first! 🙂

    Gender also affects other words, such as verbs. In Polish, for example “Ja zjadłam” (I ate) is different from “Ja zjadłem” (also I ate). First one is used when the speaker is female, the other one – male. Also, the subject of the sentence is REDUNDANT. It’s one of the most significant differences between English and Polish.

    In English you would say:
    he killed, we killed, they killed, I killed

    In Polish it is:
    zabił, zabiliśmy/zabiłyśmy, zabili/zabiły, zabiłem/zabiłam

    “zabił” already sets the gender of the subject to MALE, as the English equivalent uses “he”. However, “we killed” is not specific enough in English. “We” in Polish is different when “we” consists of females only and when it consists the other gender too. . .

    One could talk all day long about this… Regarding one aspect brings up three more (if one wants to be strictly specific and correct), so it’s pointless to analyze whole Polish gender stuff here. If you need/want more information about this topic, let me know, I’ll see what I can do 🙂

    And, believe me – I know how extremely CONFUSING and OVERCOMPLICATED it does look. You would be fairly surprised how these rules are *obvious* and natural to every Polish native speaker. In fact, for a Pole it takes more effort to actually name these rules and try to explain them than just use them. It’s natural 🙂

  35. And, by the way, I hope that my English skills are good enough to explain some things. I’d feel fairly ashamed if it turned out I’m making stupid grammar mistakes every now and then… you know, we’ve equivocally annoucend English the easiest of all languages…! 😀

  36. ljubo said:”I dance and sing in English
    1. Ja plešem i ja pevam na engleskom
    2. plešem i pevam na engleskom
    3. na engleskom plešem i pevam”
    Polish is similar:
    1.Ja tańczę i śpiewam po angielsku
    2. Tańcze i śpiewam po angielsku
    3. Po angielsku śpiewam i tańczę

  37. Maybe You know this. German language is easy:


  38. Hello all of you!
    I was born in Poland, but 2 years ago I’ve moved to England. I’m still not perfect in English language, so please forgive me for my mistakes.
    I was always interested in English when I was a kid. I was actually growing up watching American movies and listen to John Lennon and Michael Jackson.
    When I came to England, the whole language was totally different! It wasn’t like an American, so I had to learned everything again from the basics. I never learned English at school, and it was a good thing, because it helped me to learn it again by listening and practicing.
    After a year in England, I’ve decided to take a course. It was actually the BTEC 1st Diploma of Music Technology- I am a musician b.t.w. I was the only Polish in my group, and the only one on the course 🙂 So that course gave me another chance to listen, but this time from an English teenagers. I’ve passed this course as the best in my group, but the funny thing is, I didn’t pass exams (IT skills, communication, math), probably cos I’m dump 🙂
    I’m 20 years old. My accent is much better then a normal guy from Polish community. Some people thought that I’m an English, or a German 😀 But I’m still struggling between American accent and an English. I hate, to be honest, I hate British accent.
    Polish language is very similar to Slavic. Once I’ve met a Slavic guy, here in England, and we had a conversation in both languages, he in his Slavic language, and me in my Polish. We understood of each other perfectly, only some words are different, but I knew what he meant to say anyway.
    Czech is like a funny Polish 😀
    Russian- we borrowed many words like “paszol”- means go, and we used it as “paszol won”- as a funnier form from “go away”.
    German- just like with Russian, we borrowed many words. You can find most of then on wikipedia.org , just search for “Polish language”.
    here is an example
    I – ja
    she/he/it – ona/on/ono
    with “you” I can use for one or more persons, in Polish we have “ty”- as a one person (male or female), “wy”- as more then one person with (males or/and females)
    for “they” we have quite the same thing like with “you”. You might say “oni” as for a group with only males. “One”- only for females.

    In Polish language you can create your own sentences. As I hear in England, most of English people, they are following learned sentences, or they picked some of them in TV or somewhere else. I actually don’t understand their jokes…and they don’t know how to drink alcohol ]:->

  39. I’m from Poland and I have to say, that Polish IS really difficult 🙂 You’ll never say: Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz or chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie w Szczebrzeszynie, ‘couse you haven’t got those linguals and nasals. We have the never-ending words too, f.e.: …pięćsetdwadzieściajedenmiliardówdwieścieczterdzieścisiedemmiloionówtrzystaosiemdzisiątpięćtysięcyczterystadziewięćdziesięciopięcioletni etc 😀 and believe me: the Polish can say that!

    kupować (to buy)

    past simple (perfective) imperfect
    I (girl) kupiłam kupowałam
    I (boy) kupiłem kupowałem
    you(girl) kupiłaś kupowałaś
    you (boy) kupiłeś kupowałeś
    he kupił kupował
    she kupiła kupowała
    it kupiło kupowało

    we (girls) kupiłyśmy kupowałyśmy
    we (boys) kupiliśmy kupowaliśmy
    you (girls) kupiłyście kupowałyście
    you (boys) kupiliście kupowaliście
    they (girls) kupiły kupowały
    (they (boys) kupili kupowali

    przyjaciel (friend)
    singular plural
    M. (what, who is) przyjaciel przyjaciele
    D. (what, who is not) przyjaciela przyjaciół
    C. (what, who I give something) przyjacielowi przyjaciołom
    B. (what, who I see) przyjaciela przyjaciół
    N. (what, who I go with) z przyajcielem z przyjaciółmi
    Msc. (what, who I dream of) o przyjacielu o przyjaciołach
    W. (oh my!) przyajcielu! przyjaciele!

    And is it hard? 😀

    Pozdrowionka dla wszystkich Polaków 😀

  40. @DJ

    What do government pay scales in your country have to do with the complexity of a given language? In Canada, knowing (Quebecois) French is highly valued. Chinese is also highly valued, but neither for the complexity of the language. Some things are more valuable simply because of the need for translation capacity. Most countries definitely need more translators for various Chinese dialects than say, Polish dialects. That’s all in the numbers.

    Also if you aren’t going to “waste your time” explaining things, then why should we care what you say? Get your head out of your plumbing.

  41. Hello

    I think that persian is very easy for learn

    i suggest persian

  42. Very fascinating, I fully agree with all the content with one excepction – by writing such nonsense as “Polish speaker is fluent in their language not until age 16” you made me feel that it is not fully professional article. You suggest that Poles under 16 stammer in search of proper form of a verb? It is not exactly so 😉

  43. Well yeah, that one is true 😛 Nevertheless Polish people can use their language fluently, before reaching the age of 16 😉

  44. 3-5% polish ppl can use proper polish language 😉 It’s true!

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