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6 Most Difficult Languages In The World To Master

Posted by Anne Q. on March 25, 2020.

Have you wondered what makes a language so difficult to learn? There are 4 main factors that make a language trickier to excel than others namely Grammar; Vocabulary; Written system; and Dialects. Sometimes, it also depends on the learner’s native language. Chinese people, for example, might not think picking up Japanese is too difficult while the rest of the world would find it hard to learn.

Based on these factors above, we have chosen the 6 most difficult languages in the world to learn for today’s post.

1. Mandarin

Chinese language - Mandarin language - Difficult language to learn

Mandarin is the most widely spoken form of Chinese and the second most spoken language in the world, with over 1.1 billion speakers all around the world and also one of the most difficult languages to learn. The language has 4 distinctive tones including level, rising, falling, and falling-rising to distinguish homophones – words with the same vowels and consonants but different meanings. To make it more challenging, Mandarin is full of aphorisms and idioms. Even if you can speak Mandarin, there is no guarantee that you can read it well due to its complicated logographic written system.


2. Arabic

Arabic language - Difficult language to learn

To learn Arabic – one of the most difficult languages in the world, you will have to get familiar with a completely different alphabet which is written from right to left. Letters are written in 4 forms depending on their position in a word, meanwhile, vowels are not included in the writing. Additionally, Arabic has about 30 dialects or varieties – Gulf Arabic, Levantine Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, or Modern Standard Arabic – to name a few. Some dialects have such huge differences from others that non-native speakers might have a hard time understanding them.


3. Finnish

Finnish language

The grammar of Finnish is a real challenge for anyone learning this language. Finnish has 15 different cases (divided into 5 groups) of nouns compared to only 3 cases in English – Subjective, objective, and Possessive. The Basic Cases include nominative, genitive, and accusative; The General Local Cases include partitive, essive, and translative; The Interior Local Cases include inessive, elative, and illative; The Exterior Local Cases include adessive, ablative, and allative; and The Means Cases include abessive, comitative, and instructive. The good news is, the pronunciation and written system of Finnish are quite straightforward.


4. Japanese

japanese language

The writing systems in Japanese are a huge obstacle for new learners. Japanese use three distinctive writing systems – kanji, katakana, and hiragana – each of which has a different alphabet. One kanji letter can also have many ways to pronounce, making it more confusing to learners. Plus, the Japanese language owns an extensive grammatical system to express formality to reflect the hierarchy of society. When or how to use politeness words depends on relationship types, age, gender, and social class. However, if you are already good at Chinese, studying Japanese will not be too challenging since both languages share many similarities.


5. Hungarian

Hungarian language

The Hungarian language is a member of the Uralic language family which also includes Finnish. The grammar of Hungarian is significantly different from that of Indo-European languages such as English. The language has no grammatical gender and it uses suffixes instead of prepositions which makes Hungarian one of the most difficult languages in the world. What’s more, Hungarian has 18 cases and 14 vowels which means the pronunciation is very tricky for learners.

Fun fact: The longest word in Hungarian is Megszentségtelngueníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért – 44 letters


6. Vietnamese

Vietnamese language

To master spoken Vietnamese, learners will have to get used to six different tones including level, hanging, sharp, asking, tumbling, heavy tones and various cases of nouns. The language owns a rich vocabulary, with many borrowing words from Chinese as well as original Vietnamese words. But vocabulary is nothing when compared to its grammar in terms of difficulty. A small change in the position of words can make a completely different meaning. For example, “Sao anh ấy bảo không đến?” (Why did he say he wouldn’t come?” and “Sao bảo anh ấy không đến?” (Why did you say he wouldn’t come?” Just a switch in two words “anh ấy” – “he” and “bảo” – “say”, the whole meanings of the sentences change, making it a difficult language to master.

Above is the list of the most difficult languages in the world that takes foreigners a long time to master. How many of the above difficult languages can you speak? Let us know in the comments.