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Easiest and hardest languages to learn

February 26, 2011

It has been a while since I have posted anything.  It has been a busy month, what with a trip to China and all.  Anyway, I have a bunch of posts running around in my head and hopefully I can start to put some form to them and get them on this blog.

First, let’s take a look at languages.

Over at the MatadorNetwork they have a couple of articles on languages.

In the first article they look at 9 languages that are easy to learn by speakers of English.  I have never had to learn any of these languages, but from what I have heard from those that have, this would indeed be true.  I have had friends become extremely proficient in Portuguese or Spanish is less than 6 months.

In the second article they look at 9 languages that are really difficult for speakers of English to learn.  I have had the chance to study two languages in this list and so I would highly agree with this assessment.

When I lived in China I was working so I didn’t have the opportunity to formally study the language as much as I would have liked.  I took a few classes here and there and had a number of tutors over the two years I was there.  Mandarin is one rough language.  At the time I thought it was the toughest language in the world and complained about how difficult it was whenever I was given the chance.  The two biggest hurdles were obviously the tones and the characters.  It doesn’t take that long to be able to speak with tones.  What does take time is being able to hear the tones.  Then there are those crazy characters.  Sheeeesh.  You just have to memorize them.  That’s it.  Sigh.  It is frustrating because it is just so different from anything we are used to.  Add to that the fact that I am left handed and the characters are meant to be written using the right hand and things get fun and interesting.

Then I lived in Jordan…and had to learn Arabic.  I will never again complain of having to learn Mandarin after having to study Arabic. That language is crazy difficult. It is not that hard to learn the alphabet and be able to read and write it, as long as they include the vowels.  Like Hebrew, Arabic is written without the vowels.  You just have to know what they are.  Ummm, right.  Seriously, how hard is it to include the vowels?  There aren’t that many and it would make my life so much easier and we all know it is all about me.  Grammer?  Ridiculous.  While it is a logical system, it is extremely complicated with lots of irregular verbs and tons of exceptions to rules when conjugating verbs.  And speaking?  Ugh.  The glottal stop is actually a consonant. For those that don’t know what a glottal stop is, it is the sound you hear in the middle of saying the word uh-oh. There are other consonants with sounds that we don’t have in English and then there are the four consonants that all sound like “th.”  The only difference is how you say the vowels around them, but seriously, they all sound the same to me.

Next time, I want to study a language in the first list.

For those of you that have studies a language on either of these lists, what are your thoughts?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn permalink
    February 26, 2011 11:38 am

    I can appreciate your comment about hearing “tones.” But, how about trying to learn a language that is not written? That is the task before me …

  2. February 26, 2011 1:01 pm

    Interesting to hear you found Arabic more difficult to learn than Mandarin. I’ve studied Arabic but have been scared to take on Mandarin due to the writing system and the tonal system.

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