What Are The Hardest Languages To Learn? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Learning a new language can be difficult, but some languages can be trickier than others. For native English speakers, the difficulty level of a new language depends on a variety of factors. So which are the most difficult to learn? And which languages would you be able to master in under a year? View the infographic below to learn more.

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Hardest_Languages_02 (1)

 

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Use This Infographic In Your Class

We think that infographics are an awesome learning and teaching tool, so our creations will always be available for you to print out, use with your students and embed on your blog!

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Warm-Up Activity

Before handing out the infographic, discuss the following questions with your students: Are some languages harder to learn than others? In your opinion, which ones are the most difficult to pick up?

Speaking & Critical Thinking Practice

Questions to ask your students after presenting the infographic:

  1. What is the most surprising fact that you discovered from this infographic?
  2. As the graphic describes, successful language learning depends on a variety of factors. Which of these have you found to be the most important for your own language learning? Can you think of any others to add to the list?
  3. Do you agree with the FSI’s language difficulty scale? If not, what would you change?
  4. The Foreign Service Institute’s language difficulty rankings reflect learning expectations for native English speakers only. How do you think these rankings would change for language learners with different L1s?
  5. High school and university students who are required to study a foreign language often choose the language that seems “easiest”. What arguments could you present to such students to encourage them to study a “harder” language like Arabic or Chinese?

Writing Challenge

After reviewing this infographic with your students, have them write a an essay or blog post on the topic below. In addition to using the information from the infographic, students can do independent research using the sources provided at the bottom of the graphic.

Describe your own language learning experiences. What languages have you studied, and how easy or difficult have they been to master? In your opinion, what makes them so easy or hard? Support your answer with specific examples of vocabulary, grammar, pronunciations, etc. that have either given you trouble or been a breeze to learn.

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355 Comments on "What Are The Hardest Languages To Learn? [INFOGRAPHIC]"

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Turkish is written like “Türkçe”, with ‘Ü’ not ‘U’.

Tons of the languages are written erroneously. Crappy chart 😛

how about the english and filipino?

1) Japanese uses four different writing systems.
2) You should have mentioned German somewhere, really.

There is 3 writing systems
1-Kanji(漢字)
2-Hiragana(ひらがな)
3-Katakana(カタカナ)

4-Romanji

romanji is a writing system? I don’t see the Japanese going around writing romanji in their daily lives..

I’ve seen some romaji letters in some songs and ads, but each letter takes the space of a kanji, and the words are pronounced as they would be in Katakana. So it’s just a fancier way to write foreign words.

They use it all the time. It’s quite common to write write words in Romanji for aesthetic reasons on products and business cards.

I would classify Romaji as a fourth writing system. First, they teach it first in Elementary School 3rd grade (at least where I live) as its own script and then later again in 5th grade as a part of the foreign language curriculum, and again in Junior High when learning how to write their names in English. It’s taught multiple times because there are actually 3 different versions with slightly different spelling rules: Eg: Name: しょうた can be written as Shouta/Shota/Syouta depending on which system you use. Romaji and Katakana are strongly related, BUT they’re not the same in my… Read more »

German isn’t hard to learn (compared to most). Not for English speakers anyway, as ours is a germanic language to begin with. Even as a kid, I could understand some of the German I’d hear on movies without ever having had a lesson or known any Germans. “Was is das” for ‘what is that’ and “Bringen sie es hier” for ‘bring it here’ are just a couple of examples of how similar German is to English.

“Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.” Mark Twain.

that´s why 😀

I totally agree! Where the heck in German??? I am married to a German and live in Japan. I speak Japanese at an advanced level and found German WAY, WAY, WAY harder than Japanese ever was. The grammar is a freaking nightmare!!!!

Cool chart. I also noticed German isn’t on there. I suppose it would be under easy since it uses a latin-based alphabet and isn’t too far off from Dutch. Either way, I’ve had a helluva time with it. I’m going to embed this in my blog…

German is at 30 to 36 weeks in the FSI study that this chart is based on. Here’s a link:
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

This seems quite simplified. More detail would have been good. The range on the Medium category is way too broad. There must be a huge difference between Greek and Finnish for example.

The next time use wikipedia. Goole translator gave you the adjectives meaning “from country xxx”. It hurts to look at.

Chiming in – Finnish is ‘Suomi’ as a language, ‘Suomalainen’ as a nationality…

What about English?

As in, how hard is it for learners of other languages to learn English .. especially if it’s not the same as above (i.e. much easier for Spanish speakers to learn English than for Japanese ones?)

As someone who learned English as a second language, I’d probably put it in the easy level… even if it took me years to learn it :p And even if I still make silly mistakes :p Frankly, I guess it’s easier for me to learn English than it is for someone who speaks English to learn Portuguese…

it’s very easy

Learn a foreign lenguaje is difficult for all, except to learn esperanto the international language. The grammar has only 16 rules. You can learn in the web. Go to lernu.net

Great chart, but I one thing.. Same for Dutch as Xiphiase said about Finnish, Nederlandse is a woman with the Dutch nationality, Nederlands is the language on its own. Lose the “e”!

“Korean” should be “한국어,” not “한국어의.” What you have (한국어의) means “of the Korean language” and is a glaring error to anyone who speaks Korean. Others have pointed out similar errors for other languages. You should remake the chart. Someone’s suggestion of checking against Wikipedia for the names of the languages was an excellent idea. You can’t trust automatic translators 100%. They give you a general idea but include a lot of mistakes and awkward phrasing.

Yeah, i noticed that too. I don’t think it should be in the hard category, i’m an English speaker and i learned how to read Korean in 2 days.

It may have taken you two days to understand the sounds of hangeul (the Korean alphabet), but it will take you a lot longer to actually learn the language. Also, the graphic is wrong. Although hangeul replaced the use of Chinese characters on the Korean peninsula long ago, being able to write and understand Korean requires no knowledge of Chinese characters.

i’m a Korean, and it is even hard for me
The easiest language is obviously English or Chinese

25 class-hours a week? Does anyone with a full-time job have that kind of time?

25 class-hours a week? Does anyone with a full-time job have that kind of time?

25 class-hours a week? Does anyone with a full-time job have that kind of time?

Please correct the incorrect words used for referring to the language for: Dutch,Norwegian,Finnish,Polish…vietnamese? Am I insane? Or do I know all of these things to be wrongly represented here? 🙁 I am certain about the Dutch one.

I feel ashamed to have visited this page… I cannot imagine the amount of shame I would feel being the author of this.

Please correct the incorrect words used for referring to the language for: Dutch,Norwegian,Finnish,Polish…vietnamese? Am I insane? Or do I know all of these things to be wrongly represented here? 🙁 I am certain about the Dutch one.

I feel ashamed to have visited this page… I cannot imagine the amount of shame I would feel being the author of this.

Please correct the incorrect words used for referring to the language for: Dutch,Norwegian,Finnish,Polish…vietnamese? Am I insane? Or do I know all of these things to be wrongly represented here? 🙁 I am certain about the Dutch one.

I feel ashamed to have visited this page… I cannot imagine the amount of shame I would feel being the author of this.

Thank you all for your feedback. We’re glad that you caught our mistakes – if anything, it means that you’re taking the time to read our posts! We’re happy to report that we have finally updated the infographic with the correct language names. Happy reading!

Thank you all for your feedback. We’re glad that you caught our mistakes – if anything, it means that you’re taking the time to read our posts! We’re happy to report that we have finally updated the infographic with the correct language names. Happy reading!

Thank you all for your feedback. We’re glad that you caught our mistakes – if anything, it means that you’re taking the time to read our posts! We’re happy to report that we have finally updated the infographic with the correct language names. Happy reading!

Too optimistic!! I know lots of English native speakers whom, after more than six months living and studying in Italy, Spain or Mexico are not still proficient on Italian or Spanish, and they’re not even able to hold an average conversation on those languages…

That’s because they haven’t really tried hard. My friend’s French is already at a decent level after three months of living in France. It’s all about motivation.

Too optimistic!! I know lots of English native speakers whom, after more than six months living and studying in Italy, Spain or Mexico are not still proficient on Italian or Spanish, and they’re not even able to hold an average conversation on those languages…

Too optimistic!! I know lots of English native speakers whom, after more than six months living and studying in Italy, Spain or Mexico are not still proficient on Italian or Spanish, and they’re not even able to hold an average conversation on those languages…

That’s because they haven’t really tried hard. My friend’s French is already at a decent level after three months of living in France. It’s all about motivation.

Too optimistic!! I know lots of English native speakers whom, after more than six months living and studying in Italy, Spain or Mexico are not still proficient on Italian or Spanish, and they’re not even able to hold an average conversation on those languages…

I can tell you that italians cannot pronounce good the english language(I’m living in Italy,I’m romanian).They have not some sounds presents in english language

「話す日本語?」at the top should be「日本語話す?」
But your ordinary Japanese will probably ask you「日本語できる?」or to put it more politely「日本語できますか?」.
Yes, it’s difficult 😉

No,not such”difficult” but DIFFICULT!It’s really really a great pain for me!I suffer a lot from this,even the “hardest” Chinese does not:Why there are Chinese characters exist and why each of them has 2 different pronounciation?Why adjs also have different forms?Why I always only get a predicate that I cannot understand what’s going on?And why,the verbs…just horrible…Japelish too…And I wonder why I have to pay such attention on making sentences “politely”?Any differences?Basiclly,in my opinion,it even doesn’t make scene in English anyway…GOSH,really bother me a lot

「話す日本語?」at the top should be「日本語話す?」
But your ordinary Japanese will probably ask you「日本語できる?」or to put it more politely「日本語できますか?」.
Yes, it’s difficult 😉

「話す日本語?」at the top should be「日本語話す?」
But your ordinary Japanese will probably ask you「日本語できる?」or to put it more politely「日本語できますか?」.
Yes, it’s difficult 😉

No,not such”difficult” but DIFFICULT!It’s really really a great pain for me!I suffer a lot from this,even the “hardest” Chinese does not:Why there are Chinese characters exist and why each of them has 2 different pronounciation?Why adjs also have different forms?Why I always only get a predicate that I cannot understand what’s going on?And why,the verbs…just horrible…Japelish too…And I wonder why I have to pay such attention on making sentences “politely”?Any differences?Basiclly,in my opinion,it even doesn’t make scene in English anyway…GOSH,really bother me a lot

I don’t think this graphic gives the full story. For example, Japanese is one of the easier languages to learn in regards to speaking and listening. However, one of the more difficult to learn to read and write.

I don’t think this graphic gives the full story. For example, Japanese is one of the easier languages to learn in regards to speaking and listening. However, one of the more difficult to learn to read and write.

exactly!! redo the graph!!! separate the oral/listening and written.

I agree. Same with Mandarin, I can speak it and understand it fairly well but I have more trouble with reading and writing it.

178 million portuguese native speakers? Definetely wrong? Population of Brazil: 190 millions. Pop. of Angola: 19 millions. Pop. of Portugal: 10,6 millions. Plus, Moçambique, Cabo Verde and a few more others.

178 million portuguese native speakers? Definetely wrong? Population of Brazil: 190 millions. Pop. of Angola: 19 millions. Pop. of Portugal: 10,6 millions. Plus, Moçambique, Cabo Verde and a few more others.

178 million portuguese native speakers? Definetely wrong? Population of Brazil: 190 millions. Pop. of Angola: 19 millions. Pop. of Portugal: 10,6 millions. Plus, Moçambique, Cabo Verde and a few more others.

What about Irish (Gaeilge)??? It’s one of the oldest languages to still be spoken! Where does it come in this poll?

Thanks for your question! According to the FSI, Irish falls into the “Medium” category. See this article for more information:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

What about Irish (Gaeilge)??? It’s one of the oldest languages to still be spoken! Where does it come in this poll?

Thanks for your question! According to the FSI, Irish falls into the “Medium” category. See this article for more information:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

What about Irish (Gaeilge)??? It’s one of the oldest languages to still be spoken! Where does it come in this poll?

Thanks for your question! According to the FSI, Irish falls into the “Medium” category. See this article for more information:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

German and Hungarian are not listed – and many more

Hi Frank,

We weren’t ready to win the award for the world’s largest infographic, so we chose to omit many languages. As David S. pointed out, German is in a category of its own (30-36 weeks / 750-900 class hours), while Hungarian is believed to be slightly more difficult than the “Medium” languages listed on this graphic. For the complete list of language difficulty rankings (determined by the United States Foreign Service Institute), take a look at this link:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

German and Hungarian are not listed – and many more

Hi Frank,

We weren’t ready to win the award for the world’s largest infographic, so we chose to omit many languages. As David S. pointed out, German is in a category of its own (30-36 weeks / 750-900 class hours), while Hungarian is believed to be slightly more difficult than the “Medium” languages listed on this graphic. For the complete list of language difficulty rankings (determined by the United States Foreign Service Institute), take a look at this link:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

German and Hungarian are not listed – and many more

Hi Frank,

We weren’t ready to win the award for the world’s largest infographic, so we chose to omit many languages. As David S. pointed out, German is in a category of its own (30-36 weeks / 750-900 class hours), while Hungarian is believed to be slightly more difficult than the “Medium” languages listed on this graphic. For the complete list of language difficulty rankings (determined by the United States Foreign Service Institute), take a look at this link:

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Language_Learning_Difficulty_for_English_Speakers

Nothing is written about Hungarian, which is supposed to be a difficult language for English-speakers to learn.

Nothing is written about Hungarian, which is supposed to be a difficult language for English-speakers to learn.

I am a Romanian native speaker and I tell you, our grammar is very hard comparing to English. Romanian is not an easy language, trust me.

I’m a romanian and I can tell that for us it’s easier to learn more languages ,as english that has a few grammar comparing to romanian language.

Sorry about that, but Romanian is pretty easy. I am not a native speaker, but I learned it in no time.

I am a native Romanian speaker who lives in the UK and I think that english is quiet easy, along with spanish french and italian. Dont forget we have the base of the latin language. Thats why it is easy to speak it. In the uk which is england now, 10,000 years ago b4 vikings and anglo saxons, came people from eastern europe which is now Romania, Bulgaria Greece

I am a Romanian native speaker and I tell you, our grammar is very hard comparing to English. Romanian is not an easy language, trust me.

I’m a romanian and I can tell that for us it’s easier to learn more languages ,as english that has a few grammar comparing to romanian language.

Sorry about that, but Romanian is pretty easy. I am not a native speaker, but I learned it in no time.

Complete or not complete chart. Accurate more or less. 🙂 But at least it got us thinking, talking and researching this interesting subject. Thank you VOXY for your effort and teasing our brains 😉 My 1 language was Polish, then years of studying Russian, then half a lifetime (continued…) in English speaking country, not to mention a bit of exposure to German (1.5 years in Germany) and Italian, Dutch and Chinese – because my work… The more languages you know, the easier the next comes 🙂

Thanks for reading, Barbara! There will never be a consensus on language difficulty rankings, so the best we could do was pull existing data from the FSI. As you pointed out, our goal was to get everyone thinking about and discussing this topic. Based on the number of comments on this post, we think it’s safe to say: “Mission: accomplished!”

Complete or not complete chart. Accurate more or less. 🙂 But at least it got us thinking, talking and researching this interesting subject. Thank you VOXY for your effort and teasing our brains 😉 My 1 language was Polish, then years of studying Russian, then half a lifetime (continued…) in English speaking country, not to mention a bit of exposure to German (1.5 years in Germany) and Italian, Dutch and Chinese – because my work… The more languages you know, the easier the next comes 🙂

Thanks for reading, Barbara! There will never be a consensus on language difficulty rankings, so the best we could do was pull existing data from the FSI. As you pointed out, our goal was to get everyone thinking about and discussing this topic. Based on the number of comments on this post, we think it’s safe to say: “Mission: accomplished!”

Super interesting graphic. Very cool actually. I had heard this sort of breakdown in the past, but your graphic really brings it to life and I like the classroom hours and weeks numbers as well. Of course, what is language proficiency?

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for the kind words! In this particular case, the FSI defined language proficiency as General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and General Professional Proficiency in Reading (Level 3 on a scale of 1 – 5). Check out this link for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FSI_scale

Super interesting graphic. Very cool actually. I had heard this sort of breakdown in the past, but your graphic really brings it to life and I like the classroom hours and weeks numbers as well. Of course, what is language proficiency?

Hi Aaron,

Thanks for the kind words! In this particular case, the FSI defined language proficiency as General Professional Proficiency in Speaking and General Professional Proficiency in Reading (Level 3 on a scale of 1 – 5). Check out this link for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FSI_scale

Sorry to ruin the party, but I don’t like this “infographic”, you could have done it much better.

e.g. why putting there the country maps (“no comparatively scaled”), it has no relevance to the purpose of the graphic. No added value, but diffuse focus.
Practically only the section headers contain relevant, infographical content, all the other is just some colorful thingie with numbers and words thrown together.

Sorry to ruin the party, but I don’t like this “infographic”, you could have done it much better.

e.g. why putting there the country maps (“no comparatively scaled”), it has no relevance to the purpose of the graphic. No added value, but diffuse focus.
Practically only the section headers contain relevant, infographical content, all the other is just some colorful thingie with numbers and words thrown together.

Sorry to ruin the party, but I don’t like this “infographic”, you could have done it much better.

e.g. why putting there the country maps (“no comparatively scaled”), it has no relevance to the purpose of the graphic. No added value, but diffuse focus.
Practically only the section headers contain relevant, infographical content, all the other is just some colorful thingie with numbers and words thrown together.

Oh, and you don’t even define what you mean by “language proficiency”.
You refer to ILR in the graphic, still it is not obvious which level you mean.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ILR_scale

Hi Erinah,

Sorry for the confusion! When the FSI compiled its language learning expectations for native English speakers, they specifically looked at the length of time that it takes to achieve Level 3 proficiency: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). Hope this answers your question!

Oh, and you don’t even define what you mean by “language proficiency”.
You refer to ILR in the graphic, still it is not obvious which level you mean.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ILR_scale

Hi Erinah,

Sorry for the confusion! When the FSI compiled its language learning expectations for native English speakers, they specifically looked at the length of time that it takes to achieve Level 3 proficiency: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). Hope this answers your question!

Oh, and you don’t even define what you mean by “language proficiency”.
You refer to ILR in the graphic, still it is not obvious which level you mean.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ILR_scale

Hi Erinah,

Sorry for the confusion! When the FSI compiled its language learning expectations for native English speakers, they specifically looked at the length of time that it takes to achieve Level 3 proficiency: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3). Hope this answers your question!

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