Hardest language to learn

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

Hardest language to learn in the world

What is the hardest language to learn?

  1. Extremely Hard: The hardest language to learn is: Polish – Seven cases, Seven genders and very difficult pronunciation. The average English speaker is fluent in their language at the age of 12, in contrast, the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language after age of 16.
  2. Very Hard: Finnish, Hungarian, and Estonian – The Ugric languages are hard because of the countless noun cases. However, the cases are more like English prepositions added to the end of the root word. However, anyone arguing Asian languages like Korean trump Uralic languages in complexity, really needs to hit the books and do more research.
  3. Simply Arduous: Ukrainian and Russian – Second language learners wrongly assume because these languages use a different script (Cyrillic) that it out ranks Polish. This is not objective, as an alphabet is only lets say 26 letters. It is really the pronunciation and how societies use the language that influences ranking. Ukrainian and Russian complex grammar and different alphabet, but easier pronunciation. (the Poles use a modified Latin alphabet which does not have a neat orthography fit to the sounds of their language). Slavic languages have sophisticated case and gender systems, also something that approximates a complex tense system with aspects of time-verb relationships.
  4. Challenging contender jockey for position:  Arabic – Three baby cases which are like a walk in the park compared to the above, but the unusual pronunciation and flow of the language makes study laborious and requires cognitive diligence if you want to speak it.
  5. Fairly Hard: Chinese and Japanese – No cases, no genders, no tenses, no verb changes, short words, very easy grammar, however, writing is hard. But to speak it is very easy. Also intonations make it harder, but certainly not harder than Polish pronunciation. I know a Chinese language teacher in NYC that has even authored an the authoritative book on modern Mandarin says people meet Chinese very easy. This same teacher,  if multilingual yet could not learn Polish. I am learning some Chinese, it is not the hardest language maybe even one of the easiest language to learn.  Despite prideful proclamations of armchair linguists, to verbalizes Asian languages in general are not top ranked by any measure. Try to learn some Chinese and Polish your self and you will see which is the hardest language.
  6. Average: French – lots of tenses, but not used and moderate grammar. German-only four cases and like five exceptions, everything is logical, of course.
  7. Easy: Spanish and Italian – People I know pick these up no problem, even accountants and technical people rather than humanistic language people.
  8. Basic to hard: English, no cases or gender, you hear it everywhere, spelling can be hard and British tenses you can use the simple and continues tense instead of the perfect tenses and you will speak American English. English at the basic level is easy but to speak it like a native it’s hard because of the dynamic idiomatic nature.
The most challenging language only for the strong and the brave is Polish. Most others are easy in comparison.
  • Some people cocooned in innocence, go around parroting linguistic relative difficulty ranks by looking at a list created in the ivory towers. This list might be based on the number of hours required to achieve a degree of fluency, or intermediate conversation in a language, in an academic environment of teaching, in contrast to most people in the real world.  This simplistic one variable model is simply wrong. I suggest a more robust model.
If you learn Polish your third language will be easy to learn. It is like training and conditioning for a sport.

The following is support for my argument.

The way you approach this is a simple equation that illustrates hypothetical rankings of variables importance.

Formula for difficulty in a language = O*(G+V+(w*.1)+(A*2.0)+S+V(1.5))

O= Openness of the society to communicate in their own language to a foreigner as opposed to English.

G = Grammar, specifically the number of exceptions in each cases

V= Verbs Conjugation complexity

P= Pronunciation and Phonology.

W=Complexity of the written language, including script and alphabet variation.

A=Average number of syllables in each word. Do not underestimate this as the working memory for the brain to hold bits of information in your brain is manifold more if you are considering a language with a long orthographical constructions.

S=Speed of the language.

V=Vocalness of the people speaking.

If you can assign an O factor as the major determinant variable then you have your answer. The openness of a society to transmit their language on a person to person, on the street level day-to-day experiences is what really makes communication hard to easy to absorb. I can attest to this after living in Europe for about a decade.

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

Are you a citizen of Stratos or trying to speak to you boyfriend or girlfriend?

What good is a theoretical understanding of a language, if in reality you can not practice it to fluency beyond the classroom. Lets separate the academics from real people, when trying to analysis the question.

This is not just a ranking of the hardest language to learn mind you, rather a ranking for realistic, practical people who are in the trenches of life and want to learn a new language for communication purposes. Not a ranking for  academics who are living on Stratos, the city of clouds or lost in the labyrinth of the stacks in their university library.

I have not considered languages that have under one million native speakers. Even through humanistically important on equal par with all other languages, they are too remote or inaccessible for any real life learning. Patois dialects are excluded. These are important languages, just not for the average person. I also have not considered extinct or ancient languages which have even a more alien grammatical structure.

People write me and say hey Mark here is a language that has a hundred cases and sounds mostly like whistlers, and people often talk backwards, certainly this must be the most difficult. My reply how many people speak it? Similarly,  you might say well there is a language spoken by some children on my block, they made it up. For me unless there are a million speakers does not pass the cut.

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

My reply to the FSI’s rank of the number of hours needed to learn a language -Anti-glottology at its best

There is an annoying mythology of language difficulty, that is perpetuated by Foreign Service institute. How many hours it takes to achieve various levels in a language after academic study. This is no valid. Unless you are 18-21 and a full-time student at a university and giving equal or greater weight to written language as compared to spoken, then that is bunk.

Who has the time to study in the ivory towers a language university or prepare like a diplomat except someone in some cushy government job? It is not the real world. Speaking is much more important than writing and reading.

Written language for the masses only came into significance in the last 100 years, in contrast to the 7 millions years of Homininae communication when there was first a divergence in our evolutionary tree and changes in our heterochrony gave us the capacity for prolonged language acquisition.  Further the written language is in the process of a strange de-evolution with rise of texting messages and ADD. Lets be honest here, few people can study like an egghead, rather they want to just communicate.

Example of how people learn in Africa and the Middle East

When I was in North Africa (several times) I was amazed people could talk in the open market in several languages with little effort. They never opened a book or wrote in a foreign language. Language is about speaking. It is about communication not something you learn in a book. How long was it like that? The first one million years of human evolution from Primates until about 1950 when world illiteracy went from less than 1% to over 50%. So for tens of thousands of years for most humans, language was about the speaking, that is it. For a few thousand the landed elite and first estate class has some form of written language but this was not most people. Lets be real language has nothing to do with a book, only the tongue and ear. Therefore when FSI or any other person assets Chinese or Asian languages are hard, they are not if you strip away the crazy characters to a non-Asian person.

The worst thing about the modern communication

It irritates me that one person will state something on the web and it is recycled by every content mill blogger ad infinitum. People take ideas for fact without looking at them objectively. I call this the flat earth syndrome of language learning. Just because an expert says it does not mean it is true.

Aristotle believed the heart was the center of human cognition and the brain was an organ of minor importance. For centuries people took this as fact.

That does not mean the academics are wrong, and Asian languages are not more difficult for an English native speaker to achieve a level of mastery, but look at this objectively.

Modern linguistic snake oil salesman

Also when someone says on the web, you can learn a language in three hours or even three months, and they are trying to sell you something, I would say, ‘I have some swap land in Florida to sell you that will appreciate in value any day now’.  I would like to personally like to call them up and test their fluency in Polish. My point is the web is a great place but discern sensation seekers and academics from someone like myself who is linguistically challenged, yet has dedicated his life abroad to learning foreign languages.

How linguistic science is different from physical science

Despite my quantification above, there is no way you can objectively measure linguistic ranking or difficulty like the hard sciences like physics or chemistry measure a phenomenon in a vacuum. Even in physics things are tested, regression are run and retested. There is debate and paradigms are challenged every few decades.

So are you telling me, that in not a social science but a humanities like Language that because some government organization for a very specific program makes a statement fifty years ago, everyone including people on the Internet take it as fact and recycle it ad nauseam?

Evolution of phraseology and variance from linguistic universals as a measure of difficulty.

Departure from universal grammar and linguistic universals and structures is that are natural constructs of the human brain could be a measure of difficulty with some objectivity, however, how you measure it I have no idea how you would do this. Typological universals and other measures are left for future research.

Why Asian languages are not hard – Palaver about Asian foreign language acquisition

No grammar to speak of, no cases, not complex plurals, short words. People argue they have tones but these are subtle pronunciation differences and in my experience I am understood when I speak Mandarin for example with poor pronunciation easier in comparison with Polish. I know author and teacher of Chinese in NYC and he says most of the people who walk in off he street learn Chinese pretty fast. He has a book called Easy Mandarin. It is only the written language that is hard.

Errors and omissions statement

Yes I know in the image I typed Finish and Hinidi, need to fix this, when I get my computer back from Amishland. I am writing an Amish language program.  Also the scope of this article can not be comprehensive because the proliferation of languages, for example, I need a follow up to cover, Turkish, Greek, Armenia, Georgian etc. When writing you have to make choices to make a point rather than cover ever detail, however, these are worthy for discussion in the comment area.

Back to Polish – the trophy winner

When you speak of Phonology, sound approximation from the native language to the target Polish ranks near the top as the tongue twisting, multi-syllabic mixing of consonants and vowels are unmatched by any shorter Asian word, even with tones. I stated at the top that the average Polish learner is not fluent until the age of sixteen. It sounds like a bold statement but read on.

Yes Poles can communicate before that, but subjectively, for such an intelligent population of people (and Poles are highly intelligent and educated) proportionally I have seen an inordinate amount of Polish youngsters struggle with their own orthography, pronunciation, grammar at disproportionate levels compared to say English speakers.

Factor out any genetic differences by comparing Polish Americans who are identical genetically to Poles in Poland, yet learn English as their native language at a different rate than Polish as a native language. My daughter who is bilingual finds English much easier than Polish. There are differences in the rates humans learn languages based on the complexity of the language, and this is seen in native speaker language acquisition.

Examples and references that back up my theory of modern of linguistics that give a better understanding of how people acquire a second language:

  • In social linguistic acculturation Model or SLA, was proposed by John Schumann and focused on how an individual interacts with the society. Some societies more easily transmit culture.
  • Gardner’s socio-educational model – Similar to above and deals with the inter-group model of “ethnolinguistic vitality”.
  • Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky developed a theory of zone of proximal development.

I want to know your feedback and research so they may benefit second language learners.

Author: Mark Biernat

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

1,422 thoughts on “Hardest language to learn”

  1. As a Hungarian I think the hardest language is Hungarian for an English speaker (I have an American husband trying to learn – he gave up). One of the reasons: it is not Latin based. I think Slavic languages are, but I can be wrong.

  2. Kili it is a very common argument to quote the number of cases in a language and say aha this is the hardest language to learn. But that is only one of many factors that go into how hard a language is to learn.

  3. the arabic alphabet is only half the story. verb conjugations and roots are like crazy. and reading is a big obstacle if there arent vowels. cases arent actually too hard btw finnish has 15 cases polish only has 7 so it shoudnt be too hard maybe like latin

  4. italian is the hardest language to learn. of course it is. for example, the number one is entitled UNO, which, you will agree, means one. It is very rare for a language to say a number in relation to what it means. for example, dog is said BLU BLU, and blu blu is the definition of a dog. even though i, precisely, do not like broccoli, i think i am cool. thank you for listening. love you a lot. i am proud to be italian.

  5. Zgadzam sie, polski jest najtrudniejszym jezykiem na swiecie!!!!!

  6. I’m polish and I live in Ireland 😀

    Try to say:

    Wyindywidualizowałem się z rozentuzjamowanego tłumu 😀

    Chinese and Japanese ARE hard

  7. r u kiddin? chinese is sooo easy as a native chinese speaker i think it is becuz of its baby grammar compared to arabic or english or languages with cases its sooo easy k? there r no verb conjugations and cases….

  8. you know, i actually speak both of the langauges: polish and english and both fluent. i had no problems to speak fluent polish at the age of 9! and english was never a problem either.

  9. I think Hungarian is hard for me. It sounds like a tongue-breaker. My native language is Polish. And it’s not that hard ;D

  10. Average English speaker is fluent at about the age 12; the average Polish speaker is fluent in their language not until age 16. .
    It is a joke. I have never meet English person speaking correctly in their own language, no matter what their age was.
    They have no idea about basic grammar constructions. And every other person apparently suffers from dyslexia.(great excuse for lazy people)
    No offence, but English schools failed.

  11. I was disappointed that you didn’t give more detail on Chinese vs. Japanese: in reality, these 2 languages are VERY different. I am a student of Japanese, so I’m not a Chinese expert, but I have a close friend who is Chinese and she briefed me on the comparison of both (mandarin).

    Speaking Chinese is much harder. The sounds are very different from English, so for an English native to learn Chinese speaking, it is very new: Japanese speaking is pretty simple. 50 to 60 syllables or so, and that’s it, I believe all of which are found in English already.

    Writing (and reading) Japanese is much harder. Chinese usually only has one reading of the characters, while Japanese has at least two to three readings per kanji. Multiply that by the 2,000 Kanji that is considered “fluent”, and that’s a ton of brute memorization. On top of that are all of the exceptions and weird occurrences. Remember that in ancient times, the Japanese borrowed the Chinese writing system, but had trouble pronouncing the words when they returned. Thus, the Japanese created their own “chinese pronunciation” of the Chinese words, but simply adapted the already oral Japanese language to other characters. For example, in Japanese, 新しい is pronounced “[Atara]shii”, while 新宿 is “[Shin][juku].

    Also, Japanese grammar is really different than English, and my Chinese friend also has trouble. She said she thinks they’re equal in the overall sense, but have huge disparities in certain qualities.

    My friends from Finland think Finnish is harder than Japanese, so your ranking looks to match up with my personal rank system. Now I just have to find a Polish person…

  12. @ markbiernat May 31, 2008at 8:48 am,

    I haven’t studied Polish, first off, but some of the things you said about Japanese are just wrong. You said Japanese “does not have long multisyllabic words.” Unless my interpretation is wrong, you’re saying that Japanese words don’t get long. ha.

    the bracket is “kattekudasattearigatoogozaimaa”. Note that most people learn this in Japanese 2, it’s not a hard expression. The whole sentence means, “teacher, thank you [very much] for buying me a book”.

    And Japanese grammar IS hard (at least for English speakers). While in English we add words in front of verbs to describe the sentence, most words are attached to the verb. For example, the potential in English is simply “Can do” something, while in Japanese you change the verb, from say 食べる to 食べられる. It’s a small change, but you have to know how to change a few types of verbs, irregular patterns, but more importantly, be able to hear somebody speak and still remember the beginning of the sentence when they’re done saying the verb.

    I’m not saying Japanese is harder than Polish: I have no knowledge of the latter. But you saying that Japanese grammar is easy and words aren’t multi-syllabic needed to be addressed.

  13. polish isn’t that hard if you take it one step at a time,
    try learning a combination of langauges at the same time! that would be confusing…..

  14. hahaha… Polska rządzi matkojebcy 😛 JEbać KubuSia PuChaTka i Sierotkę mArYsię, ELO 😉

  15. I’m a Polish native speaker, currently learning Japanese, and… Those languages are just too different to compare them and decide which one is more difficult! Plus, I think we shouldn’t all speak about our mother tongues and quarrel which one is harder to learn… How can we know, we’ve never had to learn them as foreign languages, have we?
    Personally, I think Polish is not so terribly difficult. I guess there are some course books which can find some logic in our conjugations, declinations and so on… 🙂

    Dear Mr Jacek, good that foreign people can’t understand your sophisticated post. Are these the only words you’ve learned during your literature classes? Or maybe you don’t even understand what I’m writing right now? :/

  16. Oh, I forgot one more thing: why the hell the author of this article, or whatever it is, thinks that Polish people can’t speak their language until they’re 16?!?!?! Of course we speak Polish, FLUENTLY, already when we’re children!!! You have to speak the language when you’re going to school, which is 6 or 7 years old, that’s obvious!!!

  17. Oh, I forgot one more thing: why the hell the author of this article, or whatever it is, thinks that Polish people can’t speak their language until they’re 16?!?!?! Of course we speak Polish, FLUENTLY, already when we’re children!!! You have to speak the language when you’re going to school (6 or 7 years old), that’s obvious!!!

  18. couldn’t sleep and found this article.
    Let me tell you sth. English speakers, with some exceptions, consider any other languages as extremely hard. I speak: Polish (native), English (fluent, british accent, Cambr. FCE), Russian (intermediate) and just started German. Plus educated at MSc in Mechanical Engineering, 3 yrs of experience in automotive and certified ISO/TS16949 auditor.

    Surprising enough, having applied to Aston Martin recently, I was replied I didn’t meet the criteria cause… I didn’t have enough UCAS points. Doesn’t it sound radicoulous? As “wiewiora” said: “English schools failed”. However, that doesn’t stop British thinking they are the best and only in the world.

  19. Serbian is the most hardest language to learn(to speak correctly)!

    Zato mani se i ne pali se!!!

    Ja idem u grad:

    U grad idem ja
    Idem ja u grad
    Ja u grad idem
    U grad ja idem……………

    Salute to all of you!!!

  20. Where some arabic languages? I think they are preaty hard as well and hard to learn writing as well as in Japanese and Chinise.

  21. what the hell is fluently??? who can do that in every situation???
    i think that maybe the only lenguage that u can really understand is your mother-lenguage. it create the basement for all the mental process. the other that u will learn will be only images of your mother-lenguage.

    why nobody talked about spanish or english?? and i mean…high level…not enough to talk and survive in a city…

    more vocabulary than english??
    more difficult verbs than spanish???
    can u say the ggg,hghgh,,hhhh of arabic?
    and understand japanesse? the whole simbols???
    ok, just say 330 in czech.
    and the 12/18 esetek in hungarian??
    and tones in chinesse??


  22. I am learning Spanish (Castellano) in Chile, and I must say I wouldn’t say it is an easy, maybe easier compared to others and its verbs are not straight forward at all. Although we have many regular verbs we also have the same number of irreuglar verbs. I think there is something like 28 different verb tenses in spanish.
    I also find auxillary verbs very hard as well.

    Other than verbs I would say Spanish is straightforward if you are only learning the basics, but to become fluent it is actually more difficult than I think this article gives credit for. As well as each region of Spanish is insanely different, a person from Ecuador could visit Chile and not understand Chileans that is how vastly different and varied the language is.

  23. Hey

    People are quick to declare their own language or the one they’re having trouble learning as the hardest in the world. I have even heard Spanish speakers maintain that their language was the hardest – which is a curious statement to say the least.

    First you need to decide – hard for whom? For a speaker of another Slavic language Polish is *NOT* the hardest language to learn – by far. Neither is any other Slavic language.

    This is “the official” list of hard languages for English speakers as prepared by the Foreign Service Institute .
    Hardest language to learn.
    These guys need to know how long it takes to train a person to become proficient in a language. Slavic languages are in the second group – very hard. They are considered twice as hard as Spanish, French etc. Polish is not considered any harder than other Slavic languages. Hungarian, Finnish and Vietnamese are in the same group, but are considered somewhat harder.

    The hardest ones of all (among major languages) for English speakers are Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.

    Japanese is considered extra hard within the group even though they use “only” about 2200 characters. Chinese has a lot more. Hiragana and katakana are a breeze to learn.

    Japanese and Chinese do not have “complex” European tenses etc. yet they are able to express complex ideas.
    How? Well, this is the “hard” part you need to figure out.
    These languages belong to completely different cultures. You need to “learn” from scratch what you take for granted in the West.

    Arabic uses a script – the script is nowhere near as bad as Chinese and Japanese characters.

    Korean is considered very hard even though they use a relatively simple alphabet.

    Regarding Polish and its “seven” genders:

    The Polish gender system, like that of Russian and of almost all the other Balto-Slavic languages, appears complex, due to its combination of three categories: gender (masculine, feminine, neuter), personhood (personal versus non-personal) and animacy (animate versus inanimate).

    Nice blog, btw, if you find any of this interesting or would like to comment drop me a line:


  24. Polish is really the hardest language to learn – I’m saing this but i live in poland.
    Nelly_Serbian said,
    November 11, 2008at 11:52 am

    Serbian is the most hardest language to learn(to speak correctly)!

    Zato mani se i ne pali se!!!

    Ja idem u grad:

    U grad idem ja
    Idem ja u grad
    Ja u grad idem
    U grad ja idem……………

    Salute to all of you!!!
    I think that we(polish) can learn to serbian because I’m understanding 1/2 verbs this text

    Faktem jest to, że każdy najlepiej czuje się w swoim języku 🙂

  25. Jacek – from POLAND said,

    October 30, 2008at 4:17 pm

    hahaha… Polska rządzi matkojebcy JEbać KubuSia PuChaTka i Sierotkę mArYsię, ELO


    Wymiatasz gościu 😛

  26. Spanish is easy?

    Yes, it’s not hard to learn to speak it as the pronunciation is pretty simple, but that’s it.

    There’re a lot irregular verbs and too many verb tenses, even some native speakers have trouble with them.
    Let’s not talk about spelling and homonyms or regional differences, because even in different cities in the same country people talk too differently and some words have different meanings.

  27. I’m pretty sure you really have to give credit to the idea that languages are more than grammar and tenses. Yes, German only has 4 tenses, but have you ever taken a look in a German dictionary? The versatility of combining words is outrageous, and the complexity of actually understanding those words is hard to comprehend, especially when you smack 4 extremely “logical” cases. French is mainly hard because of how its spoken, and its incoherent with how it’s written. The difficulty of the French and German language don’t lie in “average”, but more towards the top of the list. Using German to its fullest use, with all tenses, cases, and words perfectly arranged forms a perfect machine of language, and not many people in the world are truly fluent in German.

    Jedem das Richtige

  28. This whole list is a joke, the sole attempt at categorizing such a thing is a sad joke.

    First of all, we’re talking about a social construct here -the language-, it’s meant to be biased, and that applies from whichever side one’s coming from, whereas it’s the X language or the Y language.
    We can only make humble, innocent and useless approximations, NOT an absolute valorization like this one (and coming from here, no less).

    What implies to learn a language, and to what extent? when a person is fully considered as bilingual?; how about the individual itself?: how apt you’re at learning languages? at understanding idioms, noun cases, abstractions in general? etc, etc, etc.
    When all these questions and all of the other factors are involved and taking into account -which is almost too meaningless to consider I reckon- then we can talk business.

  29. hey turn off your pc and go get some language lessons OK …..whats that u dont know any thing aboiut language …….. French hardest language to learn

  30. Hi again! 😉 I see this topic is still in charge. In Poland we’d call it topic-river or something like that. 😉 My language is surprising me all the time. Some time ago I found out that that Polish seems to sound a very like Japanese in pronunciation.

  31. I wouldn’t say so, abdou. That’s true that French language has really strange pronunciation form but yet I didn’t have chance to learn French, so I won’t go any farther. The fact is that Polish language has 17 grammatical forms for ‘two’ used in specific occasions. The other problem is that you have to learn at least two forms for every words in Polish language. 😉

  32. Polski wymiata, a głupi angole nigdy się nie nauczą mowić biegle w naszym języku 🙂

  33. zgadza się, Polski wywraca angolom czache na drugą stronę

  34. I have not tried learning Polish or Serbian, however, I agree with the DOD language categories. Arabic is a very difficult language to learn, as short vowels aren’t written, and the difference in vowelling can make a tremendous difference in meaning, cases also contribute to this and aren’t written.
    ما اجمل السماء, ما اجمل السماء
    من لا يرحم, لا يرحم
    اللغة العربية لغة جميلة

  35. Excuse me. To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
    I am from Macedonia and now study English, give please true I wrote the following sentence: “Whilst doing this watch her reactions and body language to see which thrust speed pleasures her the most.”

    With respect :-D, Tanaka.

  36. I believe that there is no single language that is the most “difficult”, as it varies depending on the root of your primary language. Someone who knows an East Asian language will have an easier time learning another East Asian language, and so on and so forth.

    I would like to state that to become fluent in Serbo-Croatian is definitely very difficult. There are three different dialects (Ekavski, Ijekavski and Ikavski), two alphabets (Cyrillic, Latin), and notoriously difficult grammar. There are a lot of subtle pronunciations involved as well. Serbo-Croation is very phonetically straightforward however.

  37. Hi, I know that polish is hard language. Believe me!
    Chrząszcz brzmi w Szczebrzeszynie, a Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie!
    Nasz język! Nasz kraj!
    Poland forever!
    And I know that Finnish is hard too.

  38. Hi, I love languages like of you guys do as well. My primary language is Spanish and to be honest, most European languages are just TOO complex. It is true the more complex, the more beautiful it is, but let’s not forget that this European languages change over the course of the centuries. Isn’t Polish a combination of Slavic, Russian and Germanic dialects (correct if I’m wrong)? Remember when Latin was spoken and then all those outside Barbarians influenced the West? All European languages have gone through so many stages of change that creating a new language, more complex than the others, is no big deal. However, we do not see this in other Middle Easter and Asian languages: the influences do not change the language because they have been intact for centuries. Are you guys understanding what I’m trying to say?

    As for the question… I think Arabic is indeed the hardest because it is not only one language… it’s many. THere is colloquial, which is the spoken Arabic combined with local terms, one in each different Arabic speaking nation. THere is modern Arabic, which is of course, the Arabic that unites the Arab world through writing, formality and media, but seldom spoken with other Arabs. ANd there’s classical, which is the language of the Quran, and the oldest, dating back 4th centure AD. Classical is indeed really hard to master. My Egyptian friend says even scholars with years of indepth study have a hard time making correct sentences. Whenever I’m learning Arabic, I wonder, which one to choose? Egyptian colloquial? (because it’s the most understood around all the Arab world thanks to its movies) or MOdern Standard? (the type of Arabic that I will read whenever I get a piece of writing, but then get weird glances b/c I speak WAY too formal) [I did not include classical because this is mostly for Muslims].

  39. I like languages. I love them more than life. English is hard.

  40. First off, every single fluent poster with a Polish name, who has boasted of their English language prowess on this board has made it obvious that they do not think in English. Sentence structure in English is completely different to that in Polish and they are obviously thinking in Polish. Laboriously translating their thoughts into Polish.

    Second off, Polish grammar depends on word endings.

    W jezyku polskim, niezaleznie od kolejnosci slow, ten zwrot, bedzie mial sens dzieki deklinacji. = makes sense. In Polish, the linguistic relationship of the words to each other is dictated by their endings. So, at the end you might have to read a sentence for it to make sense. In English, you can pretty much expect that a sentence will start making sense at the beginning, and will resolve itself at the end. Like the previous sentence.

    In the Polish language, regardless of word order, this sentence, will make sense, thanks to to declination. = almost gibberish. Polish is Yoda speak.

    Polish is irregular as .

    The grammar is a nightmare.

    The spelling in Polish however is much much simpler than English spelling. The spelling of the oldest English words is mostly based on Old English (i.e. Saxon) and has an almost complete lack of relationship with the pronunciation of those words. Runic words translated into the Latin alphabet = massive problems. Cniht in Old English became knight, except the k became silent. Unless you have seen the word knight, you have no idea that a k should appear before n.

    Apart from a few problematic pronounced syllables where two written letter forms can appear, Polish does not suffer from these sort of issues.

    The surprising thing is that so many Poles have problems with remembering to use the proper forms of z, rz, o and u.

    That said, the insane grammar more than makes up for the simplified vocab.
    Cram, your English is godawful.

    No i rodacy. polish to pasta do butów lub do podłogi.

    Jesteście Polish. Write it in capital letters.

  41. Hi all,

    This Blog has provided me with a good few hours of entertainment. I thought
    at one point that for fun, I would take each English speakers comments,
    and correct their grammar. Even you “markbiernat” are making grammar
    mistakes in your comments. Frankly, it’s not as important as the content
    of what you are saying, which in the aggregate and although biased (i.e. from
    an English Speakers perspective) is thought provoking and interesting.

    I too, am a native English speaker. I studied German in Jr. High and
    High School, only because my ancestry is German but not because
    anybody in my family speaks it. So, as might be expected, after 6
    years of studying German in school, I couldn’t speak a word of it
    in normal conversation. That, because I never heard it, read it or
    used it outside of the classroom.

    About 6 years ago, I started coming to Poland. I am a musician and performer
    and was invited to tour Poland. I fell in love with the people, the culture
    and the language. Within a few years, I had met the woman of my dreams
    (Czy jestesmy zaskoczone ze …ona jest Polka?). She speaks 5 languages,
    her native Polish, Russian, French Italian and English. She didn’t speak
    a word of English until she was 28 years old, as she was forced to because
    of a job related period of time spent in a foreign country.

    She, I have always considered, is a linguist. She would disagree and simply
    say “My dear husband, when we were in school, we were all obligated
    to study Latin (she is now 45). Once you have studied Latin, within many modern
    day languages (of course Occidental and Arabic languages being an exception),
    it is not so difficult to find similarities in language vocabulary.” She also
    says that she had no idea how difficult Polish was until she watched me
    trying to learn it (again,as an English speaker).

    She often says “simple English, is simple”, rather meaning “basic English,
    is easy”. Complex English, idiomatic English and spelling, are somewhat
    difficult for her even now, although she made it through watching
    “The Sopranos” quite heroically. (She did need subtitles from time to time).
    She is now watching a 30 year old British Television show entitled
    “Upstairs, Downstairs”, (I would recommend this TV series to all you
    “English as a second/third/fourth language users!) and is finding it
    easy to understand without subtitles. She has a much easier time generally,
    with British English and accent, than American English.

    We were having breakfast one morning a while back, and during the
    conversation she used the word “obsequious”. Well, I had to look
    that one up as I couldn’t remember, but she knew it, defined it, and used
    it twice in two different sentences. She then told me the Polish word, defined it in Polish and used it in three Polish sentences. Smart cookie, that one!

    I then said to her “Goodness darling (well, I’m cleaning it up a bit here!),
    well done. Lovely word and …JESTEM POD WRAZENIEM (I’m impressed).
    So honey…how many words in the English language do you know? She said,
    “for goodness sake darling (I’m cleaning it up here!), who cares? Well,
    that wasn’t enough for me. I simply had to get my smaller Oxford
    English dictionary (only 80,000 words…by the way, there are over 600,000
    words in the English language, more than any other in the world) and proceeded
    to test her. Long story short..

    After 1/2 hour and perhaps 50 words, she had correctly answered all of them,
    given the proper definition and used all of them correctly in a sentence.
    I spurted out “How in the world can you do that? That’s amazing!”.
    She said “my darling husband (she actually said that this time!), all of the
    words you have found, even though complex, are LATIN BASED
    WORDS!!! You haven’t given me ONE ENGLISH WORD YET.
    Well, although a fairly good word-smith in English, even I hadn’t caught
    that. Finally, I found a word she didn’t know.

    PINCH (szczupak po polsku).

    She said “Hon..I have no idea what that word is”. HOWEVER I KNOW, that
    it is an English word!”

    Ok…to the point..

    I have now been studying Polish for a little over three years. On my own
    at times in the beginning (impossible as a beginner English speaker), and
    later in private lesson and classroom study. I have finally begun to get
    comfortable with remembering when and where to change endings
    based on cases and gender. It is massively complicated to be sure.
    (One of your bloggers earlier mentioned the word “Dog” in four
    languages. Shall we remind our readers of how many ways there
    are to say “dog” in Polish, depending on the case and it’s singularity
    or plurality? Ok…let’s!

    [Pies, psy, psa, psu, psem, psow, psom, psie, psach, psami], these as they
    are only the ones I can think of off the top of my head!

    Just the other day, I sent a text message to my wife, wanting to say
    “You are the love of my life”. Easy enough in English. And what did
    I text to her? As follows:

    Moja ukochana, jestes milosci moim zyciu….

    Well, for you Mark and all our Polish friends out there, three years
    of study “ain’t enough” is it? As my loving wife, she kindly wrote back to me, the following correction:

    “Dzieki moj ukochany. Jestes miloscia mojego zycia

    I called her the next day and said “God..of course….how could I be so
    stupid to forget the following….”

    1) Milosc (love) although appears to be masculine is in fact a feminine noun
    2) Milosc, placed in this position in the sentence takes the instrumental case,
    changing milosc to miloscia.
    3) “my” in Polish as we know is moj, but “of my” translates to “mojego”
    which is the Genitive Case. This, even though at first thought, milosc
    being a feminine noun, would lead one to think that the pronoun should
    be “mojej” (feminine)
    4) Zycia (life) one would think would be altered by the Genitive (of my),
    “mojego”, but alas, it is not.

    So, JUST to impart a simple phrase of love to my wife, I have to mentally
    process at minimum 4 different case-ending rules, as well as the gender of the word
    for love and although a pronoun can change via the Genitive
    case, it does not necessarily indicate a change in the noun…to which it refers ( I almost wrote “which it refers to”, but that leaves a “dangling participle” which is grammatically incorrect English!).

    I have had numerous classroom studies and private lessons and over the course
    of three and a half years, a number of wonderful Polish teachers (in Warsaw,
    with English as their second language). All of them, have said that
    English speakers have the MOST difficulties, with Polish (second are native
    speakers of Korean).

    I think it’s important for all to remember in that in THIS PARTICULAR DIALOG, the “absolute” statement (you aver that Polish is “the hardest language” to learn), makes this statement an “absolute”. We must always be very careful when we are speaking “in absolutes”. Your statement, although might be agreed to by millions of English speakers, is however predicated on the fact that this statement is coming from an ENGLISH SPEAKERS perspective. Obviously, anybody born in a country of Slavic speaking peoples (other than Poland) will not find Polish “the hardest language” to learn because of the similiarites in vocabulary AND grammar.

    The reason that Hungarian and Finnish are considered to be more difficult,
    is that their language and grammar ARE NOT related to any other linguistic
    group. Polish being one of a number of Slavic languages will give rise
    to cross-border similarities in vocabulary and gender, allowing considerably
    more “non-Polish” speaking peoples, being able to understand and speak Polish.
    (i.e. Chechs, Slovaks, Ukranians and even to some extent Croats, can
    all in-part manage some communication between each other. Not so
    for Hungarians and Finns. They are “islands unto themselves” in Europe.

    Keep up the interesting debate.

  42. Addendum….

    I have just proof-read my above comment, and much to my dismay, found about a half-dozen very small but to be sure, errors in grammar. Most of them are with punctuation, but a few sentences could have been worded more succinctly. I challenge all to find them!


    And for you English speakers, a prize to anyone who can punctuate (using periods, commas, question marks, exclamation marks, colons, semi-colons are any such markings) the following words, (without changing any of the words or the word order), so it results in one or more sentences, all of which are logical, simple and make perfect sense in English.

    that that is is that this is not is not is that it it is



  43. addendum #2

    I made a mistake with the Polish translation of “pinch”.




  44. I’m learning Korean at the moment and just like Finnish and Hungarian, it is also agglutinitive. But what language is hardest to learn is also based on what your native language is. It’s going to be different for everyone.

  45. Arabic is the hardest ever, at least for Poles. That is from my Experience with Polish students learning arabic!
    In fact there some sound in Arabic which do not exist in Polish but:
    e,g. habibi: ‘H’ in Arabic does not correspond to neither ‘Ch’ nor ‘h’ in Polish
    ‘H’ in Arabic is softer than ‘Ch’ and ‘h’ in Polish.

  46. Hey what about czech??? Ive been looking at a few sight and they mention Polish… but Czech is ridiculously hard!.. Im an Exchange student from Canada living in the Czech Republic for a year and this language is crazy, I think it deserves some credit for being such.

  47. Difficulty in learning Polish comparing to those other languages is mostly amount of words, which are mostly synonyms. You have more variety to describe something in Polish than English. I know it from my own experience, since i’m in US for exchange for one year, and I’m from poland.

    The same about Czech, Slovak, Russian, Hungarian, and another similar languages.

  48. I´m from Slovak and I think that the Slovak is very hard for grammar because we have decline ,timing etc. A lot of Slovak people don´t know all grammar .But it isn´t hardest language .Czech ,Polish…it´s hard too .Sorry for mistakes my english is not good

  49. Well… Polish, Czech, Russian, Serbian are difficult, but Basque language is definitely the hardest. The grammar is 100 times more difficult than Polish and is almost impossible to learn.

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