What Is The Hardest Language To Learn?

Read this before you sign up for any classes


Picking up a foreign language is never easy. It’s not just a matter of attending the lessons — there's a lot more to go through before one can get anywhere near conversant. In other words, don't count on those 10 beginners’ lessons to equip you with the essentials — you’d probably need to put in hundreds to thousands of hours depending on the language of your preference.

There are close to 7,000 languages being used in the world — have you ever wondered which among them are the easiest or hardest to learn? This study by the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State reveals the answers to that question.

Conducted to compile learning expectations for native English speakers who are picking up foreign languages, the study was based on factors including the complexity of the language, resources available, the number of hours devoted to study each week, and student motivation.

It turns out that these are the easiest languages for native English speakers — Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian, among others pointed out in the study. They require just 23 to 24 weeks of study to achieve proficiency, and are the easiest because of their closeness to English.

On the other end of the scale of difficulty are Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese, which require, on average, 1.69 years to reach speaking and reading proficiency.

These non-alphabetic languages require the native English speaker to learn and memorise a whole load of unique characters (for Japanese and Chinese), while Arabic is hard to read because of its lack of vowels. Don't quite have the patience for these complex languages? Perhaps you should seriously consider dropping those Korean classes for French instead.

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