The irony is that one of the hardest languages to learn, Mandarin, is also the most widely spoken native language around the world.
Languages enable us to be the social animals that we are.
From ‘hi, how are you’ to ‘bye, see you later,’ we entirely depend on language to communicate and understand each other, and learning a new one can expose you to new cultures and experiences.
There are thousands of languages, each with a varying degree of difficulty, and our ability to communicate has made it possible for us to develop our societies and civilizations.
One of the hardest languages to learn, Mandarin, is also the most widely spoken native language around the world.
Some languages are easy to pick up, others are hard to learn and comprehend.
This article lists the 15 hardest languages to learn for English speakers – you have to put in some serious study time if you are going to speak one of them.
Why Learn A Hard Language?
If you are asking why you should learn a hard language, here is another question for you:
Why learn another language at all?
Well, the most common reason is communication, but learning a language (especially one that most people won’t learn) has more advantages;
Congratulations! You are a Translator.
Hey, that’s how translators and language specialists are made you know; from the online Mandarin and Hungarian classes.
With foreign language skills, knowledge of the English language, and a little patience, you will ace it as a translator. You can even apply for positions as a tour guide or as an interpreter.
If you are not a native speaker, the next best thing you can do is learn from a native speaker.
Or Are You a Teacher?
So if everybody wants to learn the hardest languages in the world, who teaches them?
Native speaker, of course, and other learners who have mastered the language well enough.
Wait, it’s a Bragging Point!
Being able to speak a foreign language, and a hard one at that, is a definite bragging point to your friends and family.
You can even throw around a few words to impress your date.
Expand Your Brain
Did you know that learning a new language greatly improves your memory and critical thinking skills?
Here are some of the other skills you will sharpen if you learn one of the hardest languages in the world:
- Listening skills
- Mental flexibility
- Social interaction skills
- Problem-solving and multi-tasking skills
Learning a new language can improve your ability to make well-informed and rational decisions.
1. Mandarin Chinese
There are over 900 million speakers of Mandarin, making it one of the most widely spoken native languages around the world.
What does this mean for learners?
The learning process for Mandarin is a bit easier because there is a large number of speakers to practice with and learn from, but that’s about it.
The fact that a lot of people speak the language doesn’t make Mandarin any easier to learn.
What Makes Mandarin One of the Hardest Languages to Learn?
It is a very tonal language, meaning that the definitions of words vary greatly depending on who the speaker is and the message they are trying to convey.
Mandarin also uses a lot of cultural idioms in conversation, making it almost incomprehensible to learners who are not familiar with the Chinese culture.
The struggle with learning Arabic begins with the fact that you need to learn a new alphabet and adjust to reading your words from right to left.
Pronunciation is also a major challenge as many Arabic words are hard for English speakers to grasp.
Lastly, different Arabic-speaking nations have different dialects. The Arabic you learn in Iraq might not the one you hear in Morocco.
Korean is a unique language that comes with its own alphabet and order of words.
In addition to this, Korean also uses very complex grammar.
This language has no relation to any other languages found in the region, making it very difficult to speak.
Learners may find it easier to read and write in Korean than to speak it.
Need to hire a Korean voice over?
Navajo is a verb-centered language that is concentrated in the Navajo Nation which straddles Southwestern USA.
Very few foreign words have direct translations to Navajo.
There are different sounds in the language which makes it very difficult to pronounce words. It is one of the reasons the allies used it for communication during the war to deter code breakers.
This language has developed in an isolated environment since the tenth century. For this reason, Icelandic has developed into one of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn.
Icelandic is Hard to Learn Because…
The long words and letters that can vary in sounds make it very difficult to speak.
This language carries what many would consider an unusual noun system containing four cases, three genders, and two sets of numbers with varying moods – the only way to understand Icelandic is to understand the context of the message.
Icelanders also create new words for new inventions and products coming to the island nation, meaning you have to be on the ground to properly learn the language.
There is an upside to learning Turkish; the language does not contain any genders or articles.
Turkish is Hard Because…
The language carries more than 30 tenses for verbs as well as six noun cases.
The use of vowels in Turkish can also shift within a conversation depending on the context that the speaker is trying to project.
The Japanese language has developed on its own for centuries, including the period of isolation prior to world war two.
The Challenge of Learning Japanese
The difficulty in learning this language starts at the very beginning as there are three independent writing systems. Each system has its own characteristics and alphabet that one must master.
The nature of Japanese culture also requires that learners know the existing hierarchical forms to show respect and authority to whoever they are speaking with.
Many Persian words are incorporated into the English language and are used on a daily basis. You’ve probably heard of bazaar, caravan, kiosk, checkmate, and you’ll never guess this one; candy.
Persian has greatly influenced the English language, so English-speaking learners may find some of the words familiar.
Is it Hard to Learn Persian?
- The main difficulty lies in the writing of the language.
- Persian uses the Arabic alphabet and adds four extra letters.
- Learners may also find it hard to write from left to right.
This language only has three verb tenses; the past, present, and the future – something that can resonate with a lot of English speakers.
But don’t let this fool you.
This is Why Hungarian is Hard to Learn
It has a complex grammar that is accompanied by 14 different vowels.
This language can also be hard to master because of the limited number of speakers and their geographical location.
Are you looking for a Hungarian voice over?
Basque can barely be compared to other languages because there are so few similarities. This language, however, uses a script based on Latin. Some learners might therefore find writings in Basque familiar.
Basque is Hard to Learn Because…
- Only a limited number of people speak it and they are located in specific places.
- Basque does not have common roots with other languages.
- Verbs in this language can be changed from the beginning as well as the end.
As one of the most widely spoken languages in the world (close to half a billion people), there is no shortage of motivation to learn this language.
It is a highly phonetic language, which makes it quite easy to read as words sound the way they are spelled.
Hindi speakers can be found in all major urban centers around the globe, and this makes it one of the most versatile languages to learn.
Challenges of Learning Hindi
The main challenge when learning this language comes in the writing system which has forty-seven characters: fourteen vowels and thirty-three consonants.
There are versions of the language where using a Latin alphabet is acceptable. However, the Devanagari script is recommended for further understanding and pronunciation of words once a learner has a grasp of the basic Hindi characters.
This language is mainly spoken by the nomadic tribes found in the desert and plains of Southern Africa, particularly in the Kalahari desert.
It is one of the most difficult languages to learn and to speak due to the huge variations of sounds and tones used in communication.
There are more than one hundred consonants including clicks and over forty vowels.
The speakers of the language are widely distributed, making it hard for learners to find people they can communicate with.
Khoisan has the largest sound inventory in the world.
The Mongolian nation is very friendly and welcoming, with some of the best lamb barbeque in the world.
Learning the language only gives you a better experience of the country.
Why Mongolian is Hard
According to many speakers, the most difficult part of learning the Mongolian language is the pronunciation.
It takes a lot of cultural experience and education from a local speaker for one to truly understand Mongolian.
The next challenge comes in the form of grammar. Unusually, Mongolian grammar is closely related to the grammar used in the Finnish language.
The Mongolian alphabet, therefore, is also closely related to the Finnish alphabet. However, Mongolians also borrow from the Russian and Chinese alphabets.
The hardest part of learning this language is the alphabet. It is not related to many others in the region and is the predecessor to many other languages in the region.
The grammar format is unique and is accompanied by a lot of rules.
Greek also requires a lot of native experience in order for a non-speaker to grasp the sounds and pronunciation.
This language is a bit easier than most that appear on the list because it is based on a Latin script.
Gaelic has close relations with England, so the language shares a lot of words with the English language.
The grammatical structure and presence of multiple Gaelic dialects make this language hard to learn.
There are fewer than 200,000 native Gaelic speakers in Scotland and Ireland.
Do you want to hire an Irish voice over or a Scottish voice over?
Learning Can be Fun
Languages play a critical aspect in our ability to communicate and share information with each other.
As the world becomes smaller and we are able to travel more and experience other cultures, the ability to speak more than one language is now considered an essential skill.
Don’t let the difficulty of the language deter you. Learning some of the hardest languages in the world is not easy, but once you do, you’ll be surprised at the myriad of opportunities that open up to you.
Go ahead and pick one language to start practicing today, you won’t be disappointed.
If you need a translator, reach out to the best in the biz!