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7 Most Difficult Languages To Learn On Earth

So you have decided you want to learn a new language. To learn something spoken well by millions of other people is no small task. But there are techniques to help make it a little easier. It can also become very difficult to learn, depending on what you do.

The most important part of learning any language is adjusting to the different grammar and new vocabulary. If you are going to go all in, why not tackle a language more difficult than Spanish? To give you some ideas, here are some of the hardest languages in the world to learn:

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1. Mandarin

Belonging to the Chinese language group, Mandarin is surprising the most spoken language on the entire planet. If your first language in English, becoming well-versed in Mandarin will be a daunting task.

Mandarin is also called a “tonal language,” meaning that the pitch that something is said at determines its meaning. It also has a phonetic transcription system, a visual representation of sounds similar to the Hiragana system in Japanese. The system of this language has four distinct pronunciations.

So rooted in Chinese culture, Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages for any English speaker to learn.

2. Arabic

If English is your first language, then learning Arabic might be just as difficult as the language above. Firstly, letters have four different forms depending on their placement in a word. The hardest part of Arabic to grasp? Vowels are not used in the written language, making translations from this language to another extremely difficult.

Like with Spanish, the dialect of Arabic spoken depends on the country you are in. The Arabic you hear spoken in Afghanistan or Syria may not be the same as what is spoken in Egypt or Pakistan.

3. Japanese

For some people, Japanese might seem impossible to learn because of the multi-character system. The language is said by its speakers to have kotodama, or a language soul. Japanese is written using three character systems known as syllabaries: hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

The hiragana system is used to write out noises or spoken sounds. Katakana, a system derived from more complex kanji characters, is used to represent the vowels a, i, e, o, and u. It is also used to transcribe foreign language. Kanji are Chinese characters adopted into the Japanese writing system.

To add to the difficulty of learning, Japanese does not have the letter “L.” In place of ‘l,’ Japanese people use an ‘r’ sound as the former is not a letter in their language.

4. Korean

This language is one of the few referred to as a “language isolate,” meaning it has no distinct relation to any other spoken language.

What’s odd about the Asian language for English speakers is sentence structure. It goes subject > object > action. Where in English a sentence would be “I drink water,” directly translation of the equivalent in Korean would be “I water drink.”

5. Basque

This is another that falls into the category of “language isolate. Many of its traits are taken from other language, but its written and spoken forms have no equivalent in any other language.

Only 700,000 people in the world speak Basque, less than the population of San Francisco, California. Even with so few people speaking it, the language has still given birth to five different dialects.

If you plan on learning Basque, it might be a good idea to learn about the different versions and decide then which one you want to learn.

6. Navajo

A language spoken by Native tribe of the same name, it focuses heavily on descriptions using verbs. To make things even more complicated, English adjectives do not translate well. In addition, many Navajo sound have no English translation.

The complicated nature of the language might be why it was used by the Allies during World War II to keep messages from being intercepted.

7. Icelandic

The language is not a “language isolate” like Korean or Basque, but it is spoken by less than 400,000 people. Largely unchanged since the island’s settlement in the ninth century, Icelandic creates new words to describe things if none exist. Unlike English, the language does not give new meaning to old words.

According to research, the only way to truly learn the language is to spend time on the island utilizing its resources.

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