What is the hardest language to learn?


Our response to What is the hardest language to learn?

If you ever hear anyone claim to know which language is the hardest to learn, they may benefit from you letting them know that they are answering the wrong question. There is no “hardest” language to learn. That’s subjective. The right questions to ask are the following:

  • How different is the language you are trying to learn from your first language or another language you have learned (i.e., sound system, grammar, vocabulary, writing, culture, etc.)?
  • How well do you want to know the language?
  • How well do you already know the language?

The answers to these questions will begin to show how hard a language might be for a person to learn. The answers will still be subjective, but they will be more useful than a general, baseless opinion about which language is the hardest one to learn. Remember, subjective is okay when applied to the subject.

There are a few more factors that will determine how hard it is for an individual to learn a language:

  • Aptitude – the student’s natural ability to learn a new language
  • Age – studies show that those younger than 18 find it easier to learn a new language
  • Learning environment – when studying a language within its native land, the student will likely find it much easier to reach fluency

Most adults will retain a foreign accent when learning a new language. Here are some examples of how the spoken form of a language can be difficult for an adult to master:

  • Zulu children learn to do clicks
  • Chinese children learn how to do tones
  • French children learn to do nasal vowels
  • English children learn to do retroflex

Those learning the language as an adult will have a nearly impossible time learning those language constructs. The inability to master one of those elements will result in a foreign accent.