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5 Hardest Languages to Learn (As An English Native Speaker)

Russian

It's commonly thought that Russian is the hardest language to learn. In fact, it has many positive aspects that make it much simpler than first meets the eye. While the Russian alphabet and writing system may look complicated at first, it can be memorized in under a week. Once you've got the sounds of the written alphabet is mastered, most pronunciation is very simple. The Russian language also has very uncomplicated grammar or even articles (like "a" or "the). 

All of this combined means that Russian is not the most difficult language for English native speakers to learn, even though it's still high on the list. With practice and careful study, Russian is a rewarding language to learn. Studying Russian with a tutor or taking courses gives you the ability to communicate with over 165 million people. 

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Hungarian

Hungarian is a difficult language for English speakers to learn. Really, it's difficult. It's both incredibly complex, and beautifully poetic. Although it was originally created from Latin, and shared similar roots to Estonian and Finnish - it bears nearly no resemblance these days.

Hungarian is full of exception rules, difficult verb conjugations and a unique structure that uses prefixes and suffixes. With 14 vowels and many words for the same thing, Hungarian can get very confusing. Altogether, these things total up to make Hungarian hard to learn. But it also makes it one of the most rewarding, and sure makes you appreciate the language a whole lot more. 

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Japanese

The Japanese language is difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there are various different levels of respect, and the language is influenced by the situation that you are in. The context of the conversation determines which type of verb ending, and sentence pattern you will use. Depending on the politeness, you'll be required to use various types of verb conjugations. On top of this, there are 3 different writing systems that all work together. Japanese is ALSO one of the fastest languages spoken, so when you combine all these things, the Japanese can leave you in a bit of a spin.

But it's important to note that Japanese is not often spoken outside of Japan. To be a foreigner who has mastered the Japanese language means that you will not only have a rare and highly sought-after skill, but you will have a plethora of job opportunities, a wide range of anime that will never need subtitles, and the opportunity to explore one of the most complex and fascinating cultures to have existed. 

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Arabic

Arabic is a difficult language for English native speakers, as it's almost the complete opposite in many ways. In Arabic, there is an incredibly large vocabulary, in fact, there are often over 10 synonyms for the exact same word. 

For a host of reasons, Arabic – as beautiful as it is to the native speaker – is a complete headache to the average (or even more advanced) language learner. The grammar is extremely complex, requiring a deep understanding of English before you even begin on the intricisitiies of Arabic.  12 pronouns (that’s 5 more than English). Pronunciation is a whole other issue with sounds like ح، خ، ع، غ، أ، ق…. Just to top it all off, there are over a hundred Arabic dialects, so you can either learn classical Arabic and never be able to communicate naturally with any Arabs, as ironic as that is, or learn a dialect that’s specific to a certain region and never watch TV or read a newspaper, classical Arabic being the official medium of communication in the Media, educational institutions, government departments, etc.

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Chinese (Mandarin)

One of the most daunting things about Mandarin, is the extensive writing system. The syllabary of Chinese symbols is huge and sometimes can feel like a tough task. It's estimated to require 88 weeks of dedicated study in order to reach proficiency.

Here’s the good news: There are nearly 100,000 unique Chinese characters. The average Chinese person only knows about 8,000. To be able to fluently read a newspaper you need about 3,000. However, if you learn the most commonly used 200 characters, that covers about 50% of daily interactions. Chinese isn’t as hard as people think it is and although the writing system IS a nightmare, the grammar couldn’t be any simpler (finally some good news).

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As a whole, all languages have a certain level of difficulty. It just depends where you come from, what your native language is, and how much time you have to practice each week. You can reduce the confusion by keeping a consistent teacher, by making time to practice regularly, and by talking to as many other speakers as possible.

 

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