In today’s increasingly global society, being multilingual is a crucial skill for both social interaction and financial success. While learning a new language always involves some level of memorization, practice, and exposure some are certainly harder than others to pick up. There are hardest languages to learn. We’ve compiled the 6 hardest ones here, regardless of your native tongue.
While Chinese is the most spoken languages in the world (over 1 billion) it is also the most time-consuming languages to master for both foreigners and native speakers. This is because of writing, speaking, and listening each requires their own set of skills. Thus, being able to read the language does not necessarily mean you are an expert at writing or speaking it, and vice versa.
Also, because China is such a large nation there are some varying dialects with their idiosyncrasies. In addition to these variations, there are upwards of 50,000 available characters to learn while only a fraction of these is necessary for getting by in everyday life. The characters themselves are much different than what most westerners are used to. Specifically, they are categorized as logographic which means they represent concepts rather than sounds, unlike alphabetic languages like English.
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Modern Arabic is based on Classical Arabic which is the basis for the Quran and the religion of Islam. However, the modern form has undergone many evolutions and is described as a very poetic language.
This means that many of the underlying meanings possess a kind of richness and uniqueness that separates them from those of other languages. Thus, it is difficult to use the concepts of your native language as a guide when learning Arabic.
Additionally, pronunciation is a critical component of the language and some words have vastly different meanings based on tone or inflection used. This only adds to the poetical nature of the medium of course and forces the learner to be very detail-oriented.
Navajo is one of the most widely spoken of the Native American languages. Yet there are still only about 170,000 native speakers. It is also a relatively young language when compared with more ancient languages like Chinese and Arabic.
This means fewer influences has evolved in greater isolation from the rest of the linguistic world thus making it quite distinct. Another feature that makes the language difficult is its unpredictability as it possesses elements of both agglutinative and fusional language types.
Furthermore, the language does not use adjectives and relies heavily on verbs to communicate which is radical for most English speakers. But the language is hard for more than just English speakers. In fact, the US Army employed code talkers fluent in Navajo during World War II to ensure the receipt of secret messages.
Like Arabic, Hebrew is a Semitic language, but with even more ancient origins. In Hebrew, the consonants are the main way of delivering meaning, and the language uses very few vowels which might be difficult for native speakers versed in Latin-based languages to master. In fact, most modern Hebrew writing does not even use vowels. And the Torah – the main text of the Jewish Religion – does not use any vowels.
This characteristic is embraced by the Jewish community, however, and forces the student to engage with the oral tradition of the language which is said to be of a divine nature. Many words have the same letters and must be distinguished based on context.
This adds an element of ambiguity to the language which can be positive or negative depending on your perspective. For someone just trying to master the basics, this could make the language quite difficult. To someone trying to deepen their knowledge and interpretation of the more complicated, religious concepts, this could make the language much more powerful and dense. And potentially easier to remember and learn.
The Taa Language is one of the most esoteric languages in the world. And is spoken by only a few thousand people in Botswana and Namibia. The unique feature of the language is perhaps the presence of click sounds, of which there are five types. Additionally, the language has at least 80 consonants and 20 vowels, the most of any known language.
This means that a lot of information can be packed into every sound. Oration is critical when trying to master the language. And this delivery is often dependent upon an anatomy that is unique to native speakers. Thus, the language is not only conceptually difficult but physically impenetrable to some degree.
Getting Immersed in Language Diversity on The Hardest Languages to Learn
While the unique features of these languages present obstacles to mastery, uniqueness, beauty, and poetics make such effort worthwhile, especially in the diverse global society that we live in.