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What are the easiest and the most difficult languages in the world?
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 01:04
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Jun 22, 2009

My votes:

Easiest = Esperanto.

Just a handful of rules to learn and no exceptions. If you can learn by heart just 100 roots, prefixes and suffixes, you can coin thousands of new words - and be sure they are correct!

Most Difficult = German.

The different declensions (der, die, das, dem, den) and the myriad plural forms are enough to fox most people, not to mention inconsistencies like "das Mäedchen" (the girl) being neuter rather than feminine. Then there are the long words formed by stringing several words together, so that an idea like "deputy commander of the National Fire Department" would be one word in German. Then you have the fact that particles like "ab" are sometimes joined to the word (as in "Abfahrt") and other times separate.

[Edited at 2009-06-22 19:37 GMT]


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Miroslav Jeftic  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:04
English to Serbian
+ ...
It depends Jun 22, 2009

How much it's familiar to you. Usually Japanese is considered very difficult to learn, but if your native language is Korean or Chinese, then it's not so difficult anymore, but then English and such languages might become a problem.

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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:04
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree Jun 22, 2009

Miroslav Jeftic wrote:

How much it's familiar to you. Usually Japanese is considered very difficult to learn, but if your native language is Korean or Chinese, then it's not so difficult anymore, but then English and such languages might become a problem.


I agree. This is a very subjective question, and your native language is a major factor.

For me, German was rather difficult to learn. Spanish was far easier, and I would think I would have a similar experience learning French. French and Spanish are very similar, so I think I would have an edge over some people learning French.


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
English to German
+ ...
... Jun 22, 2009

The easiest: German
The most difficult: the language you don't know yet


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Finnish? Jun 22, 2009

I was thinking about Finnish. But maybe that is unfair, as I speak German...

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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
My 2 cents Jun 22, 2009

First of all I think that the level of difficulty of a language is very subjective and first of all depends on what languages one already knows. For instance to people from Europe, used to non tonal languages very difficult may be learning tonal languages like already mentioned Chinese. On the other hand to speakers of one tonal language learning another one may be relatively easy.

When it comes to the easiest language - especially when we are talking about learning a new language from a scratch, not just learning another language simmilar to that already known - Esperanto sounds, for all reasons mentioned by Paul, very likely to me. After all it has been designed with ease of use in mind.

When it comes to natural languages I have no idea - it really depends on what we already know

BR
S


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:04
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Only if you are used to the Latin script! Jun 22, 2009

Paul Dixon wrote:
Easiest = Esperanto.


I beg your pardon if I am missing something here. But clearly esperanto will be as hard as Spanish, Italian or Romanian to anybody who has to learn the Latin alphabet. If you have to learn another script, things get very tricky.

I wonder why nobody mentioned Chinese yet?


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Word_Wise  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:04
English to Romanian
+ ...
.. Jun 22, 2009

Russian is another difficult language. And I find that after not speaking Russian for about 6 years, I understand, but I find it difficult to speak in Russian.

As far as I know, Hungarian is another difficult one, unrelated to most other languages in Europe.

Easy???? I language related to your mother tongue is easy. Other, especially in unknown cultures, are not.



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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 05:04
English to Croatian
+ ...
Finnish? Jun 22, 2009

A lot of linguists and classic languages professors claim it's Finnish. Apparently, it's the language with the least number of familiar roots and paths to follow out of which you can draw meanings in a linguistic way, and this is regardless of what your native language is.

Japanese comes second, of course.

The matter of " familiarity" and language families is very questionable. For example, Russian is in the same group as my native language, and it can be very misleading when it comes to the " false friends" concept, i.e. you can't rely absolutely on the familiarity ( perhaps only for comprehension but not for speaking proficiency).

Edit: To me, German is not difficult at all, as I started learning German aged 9. It was the first foreign language I was introduced to in fact. My teacher insisted on learning grammar and structure and I went on learning it throughout my high-school ( along with French and English). Sadly, I used only English and French later on, and am not in form when it comes to German, although I try speaking it whenever I have the chance. At some point things began mixing up, and when a German guy asked me, after I spoke in German with him for a while, " How come you speak German with French accent and you are Serbian?", - then I knew it was time to focus only on two foreign languages, and not more.



[Edited at 2009-06-22 21:01 GMT]


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Boris Rogowski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
English to German
Navajo anyone? Jun 22, 2009

The Navajo language is considered to be among the hardest languages to learn, I think. After reading about the Code Talker paradox in "The Atoms of Language" (a book I warmly recommend to every single linguist out there) I became so fascinated with it that I vowed to learn at least the most basic basics - my ambition lasted for about four hours, until the sheer intricacy of this language made my Super-ego give in (my ego had been out cold for quite a while already so my id could take full command and made me rewatch the entire first season of 90210 - not the remake of course). Well, maybe next life

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:04
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Code Talker Paradox Jun 22, 2009

http://books.google.com/books?id=xi4MxM0Ov5QC&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq="code%20talker%20paradox&source=bl&ots=Ui9N43s5et&sig=PXGqQ10Q4q_6JYC5J30yc6WWzpg&hl=en&ei=tP4_StvLH9uptgf4ptz5Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3


Boris Rogowski wrote:

The Navajo language is considered to be among the hardest languages to learn, I think. After reading about the Code Talker paradox in "The Atoms of Language" (a book I warmly recommend to every single linguist out there) I became so fascinated with it that I vowed to learn at least the most basic basics - my ambition lasted for about four hours, until the sheer intricacy of this language made my Super-ego give in (my ego had been out cold for quite a while already so my id could take full command and made me rewatch the entire first season of 90210 - not the remake of course). Well, maybe next life


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Swedish to English
+ ...
Depends on which languages you already know Jun 22, 2009

All languages have their problems, but for some reason I can understand Danish and Norwegian without actually having studied them. And my understanding of Spanish is pretty good as well. Could that have something to do with my knowledge of Italian?

Mandarin really gets me - I can say thank you with a decent accent according to a Chinese colleague, but that's really it. And my Finnish is limited to yxsi, kaksi, kolmi (if that's how you spell them).


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:04
Swedish to English
+ ...
Laungage Matters Jun 22, 2009

Seem to remember there being an essay about no language being harder or easier than another in this book:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Language-Matters-Laurie-Bauer/dp/1403936285/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1245708240&sr=1-1


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Boris Rogowski  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 05:04
English to German
Thanks Jun 22, 2009



Thanks Jeff, I forgot to include a link!


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Riccardo Schiaffino  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:04
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
All languages are equally easy or difficult Jun 23, 2009

In one sense, all languages are equally easy: children learn their respective native tongue equally easily and become proficient speakers of it at the same age, no matter whether their native language is Navajo, Finnish or Spanish.

In another sense, the only possible answer is "it depends": for an Italian, learning Catalan is easier than learning Finnish or Russian, but for an Estonian, learning Finnish will be easier than learning Italian, and for a Bulgarian learning Russian will be easier than Catalan.

Finally, it could be argued that Esperato (and Interlingua, Klingon, and other artificial languages) are actually the most difficult to learn: if we admit that the easier language to learn is our own native tongue, which we all learn as children, since there are no children whose native language is one of these artificial languages, hence, these are all languages learned, in the aggregate, with more difficulty.


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