While it can be difficult to learn a new language as an adult, there are some that test our abilities more than others. Although it is a bit subjective which language is the most difficult to learn, there are some that are definitely more difficult than others. And instead of listing very dark languages that are certainly difficult (Tamil, Icelandic, Estonian, Polish, Hungarian), these are some of the most widely spoken and most challenging. If you ever travel to places where these languages are spoken, it might be easier to find a personal translator.
Since you are reading this in English, you obviously speak English. You may wonder if English is difficult for non-native speakers to learn. If you speak fluently, you can overlook the oddities that make it a difficult language to learn: however, there are inconsistencies in spelling (“i before e except after c”) and pronunciation (ration does not rhyme with nation , while rationally should). English has also borrowed words and phrases from various languages (especially French), which occasionally makes for a mix that doesn’t always make sense.
The most complicated of the rest: Japanese
Compared to Japanese, English is a walk in the park. For starters, Japanese has three ‘alphabets’ or writing characters: kanji, hiragana, and katakana. In other words, to be truly fluent, you have to learn three alphabets, all of which are understood by other native speakers. Some people consider it to have four alphabets, as there is one called ‘romaji’ which is generally used to help foreigners – it is a phonetic translation into Roman characters.
There are roughly 6000 kanji characters, and the only way to know what they mean is by memorizing them (since guessing the meanings is almost impossible). Hiragana and katakana have around 50 characters each that are used to make multiple words, which means that you can make mistakes if the correct elements of the words are used in the wrong order.
There are some other difficulties. If your mother tongue is English and you are learning Japanese, then it can be difficult because Japanese grammar is almost the opposite or the reverse of the grammatical structure of English. Another difference from English is that the Japanese tend to have an indirect way of talking about things; Instead of saying yes or no directly, they could say “I’m thinking about that” or “maybe yes.” Then there are different forms of Japanese that are used depending on the situation you are in: formal, everyday, and even different ways of speaking to men or women. If that’s not confusing enough, Japan has different dialects that are spoken in different cities.
One of the most widely spoken languages in the world is not the easiest to learn. One problem with Chinese is an alphabet that is unique and quite difficult to master. If you generally read in English, this is an immediate test, especially since there are around 20,000 characters that are difficult to draw, let alone memorize.
Once you get over the trouble reading Chinese, there are many more differences: in Chinese there are no cases, no genders, no tenses, and no verb changes. While the grammar may not be too difficult, it is very different from English, and tonal pronunciation (where different tones of the same words mean completely different things) is difficult to master.
Arabic is a language where the spoken and printed language (in the media, books, and online) is quite different. There are many dialects, so an Arabic speaker from one region may find it difficult to understand someone from another part.
Reading and writing is difficult as letters can change shape depending on where they are written in a word, plurals generally change the word much more than in other languages (unlike easy changes in English, which often only add one ‘s’). Then there is the fact that it reads from left to right.
Honorable mention: Finnish
Finnish is only really spoken in Finland (with a few Finns in Sweden and Norway). It is a complex language, which requires a lot of patience to learn.
A lot of Finnish seems to include multiple vowels, all chained over and over again, making the words extremely long and difficult to read, let alone pronounce.
Finnish does not have Germanic or Latin roots, so much of the vocabulary is completely foreign to English speakers. There are also 15 cases of nouns, compared to English, which only has five, as well as six types of verbs.