which languages are the most difficult ?

deaptor   Thursday, July 24, 2003, 19:10 GMT
> Whereas a Russian might say the hardest language to learn is French,
Maybe, one Russian may say so, but I don't think that this opinion is shared by most Russians.
I don't know French, so my opinion is based on words other Russian people who have learned both languages: English and French. They say that understanding of French speech comes faster than English. In the same time, developing of French pronunciation that is good enough to be understood by natives requires at least as much effort as English. Some of them suggested that French people are more picky about accent, while English speakers are more tolerant to heavy foreign accent. There is another reason why English can be easy to learn - there is much more audio materials in English than in French. Also the English grammar is more simple than French one. Though the last point may be not such significal, as it appears, because the structure of the Russian language is more close French than to English. It is much easier to map a Russian phrase to French one than to English. It is most obvious when you compare a dubbed French movie and English one. All dialogues in a dubbed French movie sounds naturally to Russian ears, but a dubbed English movie gives strange feeling, caused by foreign locutions.
As to what is the most difficult language to learn for Russian, I think most Russians will say Chinese. Though it may be no more than stereotype. I mean I know that Chinese is a difficult language, but I don't know anyone who could provide a fair comparison.
Clark   Thursday, July 24, 2003, 23:18 GMT
Deaptor, perhaps you did not understand the meaning I was trying to get at. All I was saying is that some speakers of certain languages think that languages similar to their own would be easier for them to learn.

Here is another example:

A Finnish person is going to have an esier time with learning Estonian than a German person. And the German person is going tohave an easier time learning Dutch than a Finnish person would.

Do you see what I am getting at now?
Ryan   Thursday, July 24, 2003, 23:45 GMT
With that logic, it should be easier for English speakers to learn German than French or Spanish, as both of the latter are Romance languages and English is a Germanic language. However, I'm not sure that is the case. I do understand your point though, Clark.

Saadah   Friday, July 25, 2003, 03:40 GMT
I really think that the most difficult language would be the one that you are least familiar with..and don't get much of a chance to use often. For example, my mother tounge is Malay Language, and I can speak a spattering of other languages as well, i.e Mandarin and Cantonese..I don't really find them difficult as I have a lot of Chinese speaking mates, and as for Arabic I am very familiar with the alphabets as it's the alphabets of my holy book, but I must admit European languages really does it for me. I love to hear the melodious French and the clipped Germans, but as I am not familiar with those languages, so I am not really good at it...the best French that I could get is just, "je ne sais pas, pardonnez" (I wonder if my spelling is even correct on that one ^-^)
What do you think?
Clark   Friday, July 25, 2003, 05:24 GMT
Thank you Ryan. The languages in question do not really matter; it is the native language or other language spoken fluently by a person wishing to learn another language.
deaptor   Friday, July 25, 2003, 15:34 GMT
I did not want to argue about importance of similiarity of a foreign language to your own when you're learning it. I agree with you here. I just wanted to add a few more points that appeared to be significal for me. Perhaps, I did not make them clear enough, so I will try to correct that now.
- example of French and Russian as two very different languages was not a good one, because I think Russian is closer to French than to English.
- there are many other things to consider; such as availability good dictionairies, audio material, etc... especially for those who learn the language outside native speaker's environment.
- these difficalties are not exactly commutative. I mean if French speakers consider Russian as the most difficult language to learn, it does not mean that Russians will say so about French.

I've heard from many Americans, that Spanish is much easier to learn than German. What do you think?
to Saadah   Friday, July 25, 2003, 17:23 GMT
I really agree with you, Saadah! For example I believe arabic is more difficult than german or french for a native english speaker, and it goes on and on and on... and finally there is no language most difficult, it is something very subjective.
However, I am not very good in French, but I think your spelling is correct... but you have to add "moi" at the end of your sentence: "je ne sais pas, pardonnez-moi" sounds better!
Clark   Friday, July 25, 2003, 21:00 GMT
ALl right deaptor, but still; "the languages in question do not really matter."
Me   Friday, July 25, 2003, 21:15 GMT
I'm a 14 y/o American girl. See from my point of view:
I took my first year of Spanish and it was an easy class for me. (I got a 102% in there.) I think it's easier for me to learn Spanish than French, German, Latin, or Japanese. (My school has Japanese classes.) Spanish is very easy for me to pronounce and I can read words in Spanish that I haven't seen before even though I don't understand.
I had a few times where I stumbled over the pronunciation of English words. I.e.: one was the word "irrevocable" (ir'REV' voc'a'ble) I pronounced it right actually but I emphasized to wrong syllable (I said, "ir'rev VOC' a'ble) Another word was "queue" (from a Harry Potter book) I said "ku-WEH-weh." It was pronunced "koo." I'm an American so English is my native tongue; you'd think it'd be easy for me.
German is not as easy as Spanish but isn't so hard. French, I will have to get used to the nasal sounds and the rules to speaking and pronunciation it's alot harder for me than German. I sung many songs (in chior) in Latin and I picked up the pronunciation there. So it's easy for me to read Latin aloud (like with Spanish) but I don't understand it at all.
Japanese is the hardest. It has so many levels of formality, the number system is confusing though the main number system I know (Ichi, ni, san, shi, etc.) Also I can't get the high pitch voice as I heard on an undubbed Japanese cartoon. The voices were higand "squeaky: to my ears. I have a lower developing voice so my voice would crack if I tried to speak that high. (I.g.: I'm an Alto but I try to sing Soprano and my voice won't reach. If that helps.) <<>>From what I know, talking in Japanese involves accurate pronunciation and voicing is important. I.e.: If one wanted to ask a question, and they did the wrong voicing, they probably would end up asking for something entirely different from what they wanted. If anyone knows different about this, tell me because I might be wrong. I really don't want to be giving out false examples.
I'm not applying this entry to all Americans or English speakers, but only to me as an English speaker to be of an example.

Me. (Hopefuly, I did'nt mispel anithing.)
Clark   Friday, July 25, 2003, 21:49 GMT
Everybody gives French a hard time because the French spelling system uses vowel clusters to make a sound that is represented by one vowel in other languages. For example, the French "au," eau," "aux" all stand for the same sound the Spanish "o" makes.

Je mets mon eau dans ma bureau. = I put my water in my desk.
Each of these vowels has a set sound to them; they never change (unless you put an accent).

And the biggest reason why people think French is nt phonetic is because French pronunciation is hard to master. I know this well! I have taken French for 4 years now, and I STILL have a hard time with the French accent.

As for which languages are easier for English-speakers, I would say Spanish, French or Portuguese because English took so many Latin/French word during the Middle Ages and Renaissance that the English language's vocabulary is 60% Latin in origin! 60% !!!!!!!!!!!!! That is a lot of words.
deaptor   Friday, July 25, 2003, 23:26 GMT
> "the languages in question do not really matter."
I'm not sure what you mean by that.

> Spanish is very easy for me to pronounce
How about rolling 'r'? Is it easy for you?
Clark   Saturday, July 26, 2003, 00:32 GMT
The point I was making has no bearing on which languages I use in the examples.
wingyellow   Saturday, July 26, 2003, 01:08 GMT
As a Chinese in Hong Kong, I would say that Chinese is in fact quite difficult and easy at the same time.

Reasons why it's difficult:
1. The intonation system is very difficult if you do not learn it as a kid. As a Cantonese speaker, I admit that I cannot master Mandarin very well. Worse still, I consider many Cantonese words with different intonations as the same. I think that is why ancient Chinese did not invent alphabet, it is because Chinese pronunciation is so difficult to divide into elements.
2. There are as many dialects as you can imagine. It is very difficult for people in the same province to understand each other if they use dialects rather than Mandarin. It will be quite frustrating that you cannot understand a bit what an uneducated farmer is talking when you have learned Chinese for a long time.
3. The written system(s) is messy. Communist mainland adopts a simplified system while Hong Kong and Taiwan use a traditional, or complicated one. Not all literate Chinese can read both.
4. The characters have little, if not nothing, to do with pronunciation. On the other hand, if it is romanized, it will produce many words with the same spelling.
5. Very few imported terms! And if there are any, they are mainly nouns and from Japanese and English. No people, except Japanese, will have any advantage like a French learning Spanish.

Reasons why it is easy:
1. Verbs have no tense. Tense is indicated, and sometimes neglected, by using words like yesterday, last week, just...etc. So instead of "I ate bread for breakfast this morning", we say "This morning I eat bread for breakfast." Of course, we say it in Chinese. Strictly speaking, there are a perfect tense and a continuous tense, but they are regular as you have to just insert a standard word to indicate.
2. (This is for English speakers. And it should go for everyone here, as all of you can write in English.) As you can see in the previous example in #1, the word order is very similar to English's. Both are Subject Verb Object.
3. No gender and no plural. If there is any, you just put a standard word to indicate.
4. Chinese people like subtitles. There are a lot of movies and TV series with Chinese subtitles words by words. I don't think you can find this kind of material in other languages.
5. Chinese people laugh at accent from another Chinese. But they love accent from foreigners, especially white people. They always want to be teachers.
Ryan   Saturday, July 26, 2003, 01:28 GMT
Deaptor, I don't know much about German at all, but I think Romance languages are easy to learn the rules for in general. The most difficult thing for me was remembering genders of nouns, and that's not too difficult. Speaking romance languages with correct accent is a little more difficult, though. I think French is easier to pronounce than Spanish, actually, although the French still think we butcher their language.

Clark   Saturday, July 26, 2003, 01:35 GMT
Never heard anyone say that before, Ryan. I am a French major, and I would say that French pronunciation is harder than Spanish.

I like languages that have discarded the bulkiness of the grammar. Like gender and declensions for example. Languages like English and Afrikaans have no gender and no declensions.