Is Dutch harder than German???

nic   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 07:44 GMT
Adam   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 10:05 GMT
English is the most difficult European language to learn. Just because there's no gender doesn't make it easy. There are other things in English that are difficult which are easier in other languages.

"Despite being the world's lingua franca, English is the most difficult European language to learn to read. Children learning other languages master the basic elements of literacy within a year, but British kids take two-and-a-half years to reach the same point.
In the most extensive cross-national study ever, Philip Seymour of Dundee University and his team compared the reading abilities of children in 15 European countries. They found that those learning Romance languages such as Italian and French progressed faster than those learning a Germanic language such as German and English. "Children do seem to find English particularly complex and problematic though," says Seymour.

The team focused on the earliest phase of learning to read. They tested the children's ability to match letters to sounds, their capacity to recognise familiar written words, and their ability to work out new words from combinations of familiar syllables.

Seymour's findings might explain why more people are diagnosed as being dyslexic in English-speaking counties than elsewhere.

In languages where sounds simply match letters, some symptoms just would not show up, says Maggie Snowling, a dyslexia expert at the University of York. The condition would be more difficult to diagnose in children who speak these languages, though subtle symptoms such as impaired verbal short-term memory would remain. "People might be struggling, but no one would notice," she says.

Consonant clusters

The Germanic languages are tricky because many words contain clusters of consonants. The word "sprint", for example, is difficult because the letter p is sandwiched between two other consonants, making the p sound difficult to learn.

Another feature of English that makes it difficult is the complex relationship between letters and their sounds.

In Finnish, which Seymour found to be the easiest European language to learn to read, the relationship between a letter and its sound is fixed. However, in English a letter's sound often depends on its context within the word. For example, the letter c can sound soft (as in receive) or hard (as in cat). Many words like "yacht" don't seem to follow any logic at all.

Historical accident

However, the things that make English difficult to read might have contributed to Britain's rich literary tradition. Words like "sign" and "bomb" are difficult because of their silent letters, but these hint at relationships with other words. The connection with words like "signature" and "bombard" is obvious.

Mark Pagel, an expert on language diversity at the University of Reading, acknowledges the irony that despite being the international lingua franca, English is the most difficult to learn. The dominance of English has more to do with historical accident than any innate superiority of the language, he says.

"People who speak English happen to have been the ones that were economically and politically dominant in recent history. Those forces greatly outweigh any small difficulties in language acquisition." "

15:30 04 September 01

By James Randerson
Adam   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 10:08 GMT
Finnish is one of the easier languages.
nic   Wednesday, March 31, 2004, 11:39 GMT
may be for finish (i don't speak finish) but i think the opposite about english, i had and i am french so a latin many more difficulties with spanish in comparison of english.
If we think about irregular verbs, there are a few in english, and it's not the case in spanish.
Very simple use of verbs
No feminine and no masculin in english.
only the use of you in english which is not the case in french, italian etc
no "accords"


English is not the most complex language, especially when you think about the fact there are many and many official and several languages in one contry sometimes (look at Spain) and many and many non official languages in some other countries (France, Germany, Italy), and all the languages we don't have any idea about their complexity like roumanian, slovaqiuian, polish, czeh, greek !!!!, etc

Seymour is stupid because i don't think he has studied all languages from the all world. At least, some specialists don't think like Seymour, i am talking about A Burgess.
SagaSon   Sunday, April 04, 2004, 05:10 GMT
As if C didn't change in other languages
: K before A/o/u
: S before e/i
: TS before E/I
: K before A/O/U

And Sprint isn't difficult to pronounce.
Jarza   Wednesday, April 07, 2004, 15:17 GMT
Hi.. found this message board from google, and found it pretty interesting..
You see, i'm from finland, so I might be able to tell you why seymour thought that finnish is the easiest language to learn. Finnish is maybe the easiest to learn in short term, but if you really want to be able to speak finnish fluently, you need to study. A lot.

In finnish, we can have over 50 different forms in words.. depending in everything from time to place and person. If you make a mistake there, people don't get you.. Finnish also doesn't have she (or he) forms, as you can use one single word for both genders..

I believe finnish is a easy language to learn, but impossible to master.
Shogoki   Friday, April 09, 2004, 22:26 GMT
The only hard thing about English is the pronunciation, but it's more because of its lame design, as it serves no real purpose other than to confuse, still, it only took me 1 month to perfect it once I got to use English frequently. It took me less than 3 years to go from 0 to achieving a nearly perfect score in the TOEFL, all I got was 6 months learning the basics and the pretty much just 2 years watching the Discovery channel and the Simpsons, and a few lame classes that were already behind me. I then took the test and was surprised I learned so much doing so little; I don’t even live in an English speaking country. English is laughably easy to learn.
mjd   Saturday, April 10, 2004, 06:20 GMT
I'm a native speaker of English, so I can't really comment on how difficult it is to learn as a foreign language. As far as I know, Adam is also a native speaker (I believe he's from Manchester...if it's the same Adam I'm thinking of, he used to go on and on about the Mancunian accent), therefore he too has no business commenting on its difficulty. He consistently posts these messages about how difficult it is to learn, but I think it's more to get a rise out of others. Native speakers don't know what it's like to learn English as a foreign language.
Simone   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 00:19 GMT
I have always been led to believe that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Being australian I find it very easy but i guess for some it could be a challenge. Anyway back to the subject at hand....I have learnt German and I found it the easist language to learn.
Pentatonic   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 00:23 GMT
"I have learnt German and I found it the easist language to learn."

Compared to what?
Simone   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 01:11 GMT
Sorry Pentatonic....i have learnt french, german italian and chinese
Nic   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 08:09 GMT

Are you serious? Do you really think german is easier compared to italian, french and spanish? Where are you from? I ask you that because all the french (i am one of them) will tell you german is the most difficult language. Italian is the easiest for the french.
nic   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 08:17 GMT
When will you understand there is no language which is easier or hardest? It all depends of you mother toungue. Example : French and italians are cousins, their mental representation is close, not identical but close. Their reflects their needs. The same with danish and english ; Norway and Sweden....

So i suppose Sweden will be difficult for a french and easier for a norwegian, on the opposite italian will be harder for the norwegian but easier for a french compared to sweden.
Pentatonic   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 09:04 GMT

Perhaps you were really asking Simone? I'm am from the Southeastern USA and have no clue which language is the hardest as I haven't learnt any fluently other than English except for American sign language which is based on English. I've studied some Spanish and am learning German now. I don't think that learning any language is necessarily easy. I've read that the most common 3000 words make up 95% of spoken language. If that's true then I would guess that you'd have to learn 10,000 words to consider yourself fluent in a language. Ten thousand bits of information is not easy to learn at all.
nic   Thursday, April 15, 2004, 09:17 GMT
For the "everyday life" (can i say that?) you don't need to know more than something like 300 words in french. If you want to speak fluently with people about subjects like cuisine, cinema, politic bla bla bla, that''s true you need to know many many words and it's not finished because after that you need to know expressions, proverbs everything which reflects the culture you are learning. It's a gymnastic you need to do everyday...

I know what i am talking about because i have spent an all year in the AUP (American University), all the people were americans of course, except some english, scottish and irish and canadians. I was the only french and there was a franco-italian.

Good experience because i have discovered many different accents in the same place, the most difficult is not to understand someone who's only talking to you but when you are in a band where everyone is speaking in the same time.

There are some easier languages to learn, but it depends of you, i suppose germanic languages will be easier for english native speakers which is not the case for a latin person