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Which language is the hardest for English speakers to learn?

Which language is the hardest for English speakers to learn?
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By Emma Beswick
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Euronews journalists try their hand at pronouncing Hungarian words - one of the most difficult languages to learn if you're a native English speaker.

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If you're an English speaker looking to learn a foreign language fast, you might want to start with Romanian as opposed to Korean, according to a list compiled by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).

The organisation, which trains US diplomats, said that latter will take a total of 2200 hours to learn, after sorting the languages it teaches into four categories.

Criteria included complexity, resources available to the learner, student's motivation and hours devoted to study each week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Romance languages like Spanish, Italian and French that share a relatively large amount of vocabulary with English fell in Category 1 - the most straightforward to learn.

The FSI estimated that, along with Continental Scandinavian languages, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish, the tongues in this category took 23-24 weeks (575-600 class hours) to learn.

German, the institution deemed, would "take a little longer to master" than its European contemporaries, requiring an estimated 44 (1100 class hours).

Our journalists can be forgiven for struggling with Hungarian pronunciation, as the FSI put it in Category 3 - "Hard languages".

They deemed it had significant linguistic and/or cultural differences to English and, along with 50 others, including Farsi, Russian and Greek, needed 44 days (1100 class hours).

The final category, labelled "Super-hard" languages, contains only four tongues: Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin).

The results assume that the student was a native speaker of English with no prior knowledge of the target language.

"Fluency" was considered a S-3/R-3 level on the institution's proficiency scale, which considers learners can perform effectively in a wide range of informal and formal situations.

How did your language rate in terms of difficulty?

Category 1 - "World languages"

Danish (24 weeks)

Dutch (24 weeks)

French (30 weeks)

Italian (24 weeks)

Norwegian (24 weeks)

Portuguese (24 weeks)

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Romanian (24 weeks)

Spanish (24 weeks)

Swedish (24 weeks)

Category 2 - Languages that take a little longer to master than Category 1 languages

German (36 weeks)

Haitian Creole (36 weeks)

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Indonesian (36 weeks)

Malay (36 weeks)

Swahili (36 weeks)

Category 3 - "Hard languages"

Includes, but not limited to:

Albanian

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Amharic

Armenian

Azerbaijani

Bengali

Bosnian

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Bulgarian

Burmese

Croatian

Czech

*Estonian

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*Finnish

*Georgian

Greek

Hebrew

Hindi

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*Hungarian

Icelandic

Khmer

Lao

Latvian

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Lithuanian

Macedonian

*Mongolian

Nepal

Pashto

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Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)

Polish

Russian

Serbian

Sinhala

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Slovak

Slovenian

Tagalog

*Thai

Turkish

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Ukrainian

Urdu

Uzbek

*Vietnamese

Xhosa

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Zulu

Category 4 - "Super-hard languages"

Arabic

Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin)

Japanese

Korean

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*Usually more difficult than other languages in the same category.

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