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Last Updated on August 8, 2019

7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers

7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers

What are the hardest languages to learn? It depends on what languages you already speak.

When you peel the onion back to the beginnings of language formation, such as by studying the “Old World Language Families” tree below, you will be able to see where different languages branched off. Now, you may be able to notice why Spanish has similarities with languages like German, Italian, French, etc.

That’s why the hardest languages to learn for native Korean speakers will be different from those that are hardest for native English speakers like us. Today, we’re going to focus solely on the hardest languages to learn for English speakers (hint: they’re located in different branches on the language tree from English!)

    Official stats

    If you’re looking for official statistics, the Defense Language Institute (where they teach members of the CIA foreign languages!) has organized languages into four categories, the 1st Category being the easiest, and the 4th Category being the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.

    • Category 1: Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese
    • Category 2: German, Indonesian
    • Category 3: Hebrew, Hindi, Persian Farsi, Russian, Serbian, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Turkish, and more…
    • Category 4: Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Modern Standard Arabic, and more…

    7 Hardest Languages in the World for English Speakers to Learn

    We’re going to give you the full, extensive list below. Enjoy, and let us know below if you’re going to take on the challenge of learning one of these difficult languages.

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    1. Mandarin

    Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion
    Country with the greatest number of speakers: China

    Why it’s so hard: It may be the most spoken language in the world, but it comes with its own difficulties for English speakers. Since Mandarin is a tonal language, you can have a completely different meaning of a word just by changing your tone. Add to that thousands of characters, complex systems, and the language’s richness in homophones,[1] and you’ve got one of the hardest languages to learn in the world.

      2. Icelandic

      Number of native speakers: 330,000
      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Iceland

      Why it’s hard: While the Icelandic language has not changed much since the island was settled in the ninth and tenth centuries,[2] it continues to add new meaning to old words. It also doesn’t help that there are fewer than 400,000 native speakers who you can learn and practice with.

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        3. Japanese

        Number of native speakers: 122 million
        Country with the greatest number of speakers: Japan

        Why it’s hard: Japanese has three independent writing systems:[3] hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Before they can start writing, Japanese learners need to learn thousands of different characters in these writing systems. It is, however, easier to learn than Mandarin!

          4. Hungarian

          Number of native speakers: 13 million
          Country with the greatest number of speakers: Hungary

          Why it’s hard: Most languages spoken in Europe come from the Indo-European language family shown in the tree above. But not Hungarian. It is instead a Finno-Ugric language[4] in which words are formed in an isolated manner. In other words, it’s nothing like how English speakers normally structure words or sentences. For example, “with my [female] friend” is combined into just “barátnőmmel.” Confused yet? So are we.

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            5. Korean

            Number of native speakers: 66.3 million
            Country with the greatest number of speakers: South Korea

            Why it’s hard: Korean is a language isolate, which means it isn’t linked to any other language family root. But wait, there’s more. Korean has seven different speech levels which native speakers flip back and forth on, depending on the formality.

              6. Arabic

              Number of native speakers: 221 million
              Country with the greatest number of speakers: Egypt

              Why it’s hard: Despite having 221 million native speakers who you can potentially learn from, Arabic is still one of the hardest languages to learn. First, vowels are not included when writing. And, to complicate things further, most Arabic letters are written in four different forms depending on the placement of the word.

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                7. Finnish

                Number of native speakers: 5.4 million
                Country with the greatest number of speakers: Finland

                Why it’s hard: Ever watched the Lord of The Rings? The Finnish language is what the author J.R.R. Tolkien[5] based the Elvish language on. Finnish, like Hungarian, is a Finno-Ugric language in which grammar complications are taken to the extreme. And, just when you’ve got the hang of translating Finnish to English, you’ll quickly find out that modern Finnish speakers have their own way of expressing emotions that’s different from the traditional translation!

                  The takeaway

                  The bottom line is, which are the hardest languages for English speakers to learn depends on a number of different factors, not just one. The number of speakers, the language’s origins, its similarity to English, and other factors contribute to determining how much difficulty you’ll have learning it.

                  But what’s important is not which is the “hardest language to learn.” As with learning any language, it comes down to how passionate you are about learning, how you’ll deal with psychological fears, and who you to go to for help.

                  Every language will come with its own challenges, but it’ll also come with its own rewards, experiences, and fulfillment. Remember, whichever language you decide to learn, your time will be well worth the investment.

                  Reference

                  More by this author

                  Sean Kim

                  Sean is the founder and CEO of Pulsing. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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                  Last Updated on August 19, 2019

                  How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

                  How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

                  We live in a world that constantly tells us what to do, how to act, what to be. Knowing how to be true to yourself and live the life you want can be a challenge.

                  When someone asks how we are, we assume that the person does not mean the question sincerely, for it would lead to an in depth conversation. So telling them that you are good or fine, even if you’re not, is the usual answer.

                  In an ideal world, we would stop and truly listen. We wouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. Instead, when we answer about how we are doing, our mask, the persona we show the world, tightens. Sometimes even more so than it might have been before. Eventually, it becomes hard to take off, even when you’re alone.

                  Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another.

                  If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

                  According to a Danish psychologist, Svend Brinkman, we expect each other to be happy and fine every second, and we expect it of ourselves. And that “has a dark side.”[1] Positive psychology can have its perks but not at the expense at hiding how you truly feel in order to remain seemingly positive to others.

                  No one can feel positive all the time and yet, that is what our culture teaches us to embrace. We have to unlearn this. That said, telling others you are ‘“fine”’ all the time is actually detrimental to your wellbeing, because it stops you from being assertive, from being authentic or your truest self.

                  When you acknowledge a feeling, it leads you to the problem that’s causing that feeling; and once you identify the problem, you can find a solution to it. When you hide that feeling, you stuff it way down so no one can help you.You can’t even help yourself.

                  Feelings are there for one reason: to be felt. That doesn’t mean you have to act on that feeling. It just means that you start the process of problem solving so you can live the life you want.

                  1. Embrace Your Vulnerability

                  When you are your true self, you can better self-advocate or stand up for what you need. Your self-expression matters, and you should value your voice. It’s okay to need things, it’s okay to speak up, and it’s okay not to be okay.

                  Telling someone you are simply “fine” when you are not, does your story and your journey a great disservice. Being true to yourself entails embracing all aspects of your existence.

                  When you bring your whole self to the table, there is nothing that you can’t beat. Here’re 7 benefits of being vulnerable you should learn.

                  Can you take off the mask? This is the toughest thing anyone can do. We have learned to wait until we are safe before we start to be authentic.

                  In relationships especially, this can be hard. Some people avoid vulnerability at any cost. And in our relationship with ourselves, we can look in the mirror and immediately put on the mask.

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                  It all starts with your story. You have been on your own unique journey. That journey has led you here, to the person you are today. You have to be unafraid, and embrace all aspects of that journey.

                  You should seek to thrive, not just survive. That means you do not have to compete or compare yourself with anyone.

                  Authenticity means you are enough. It’s enough to be who you are to get what you want.

                  What if for the first time ever, you were real? What if you said what you wanted to say, did what you wanted to do, and didn’t apologize for it?

                  You were assertive, forthcoming in your opinions or actions to stand for what is right for you, (rather than being passive or aggressive) in doing so. You didn’t let things get to you. You knew you had something special to offer.

                  That’s where we all should be.

                  So, answer me this:

                  How are you, really?

                  And know that no matter the answer, you should still be accepted.

                  Bravery is in the understanding that you still may not be accepted for your truth.

                  Bravery is knowing you matter even when others say that you do not.

                  Bravery is believing in yourself when all evidence counters doing so (i.e. past failures or losses)

                  Bravery is in being vulnerable while knowing vulnerability is a sign of strength.

                  It’s taking control.

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                  2. Choose Your Attitude in Adversity

                  You can take control of your destiny and live the life you want by being true to yourself. You can start anytime. You can start today.

                  You can start with one day at a time, just facing what happens that day. Most of us get overwhelmed when faced with the prospect of a big change. Even if the only thing we change is our attitude.

                  In one instant, you can become a different person with a change of attitude. When you take control of your attitude, you become able to better understand what is around you. This allows you to move forward.

                  Originally, you may have had a life plan. It could have started when you were little; you were hoping to become a mermaid, doctor, astronaut or all three when you grew up. You were hoping to be someone. You were hoping to be remembered.

                  You can still dream those dreams, but eventually reality sets in. Obstacles and struggles arise. You set on a different path when the last one didn’t work out. You think of all the “shoulds” in your life in living the life you want. You should be doing this…should be doing that…

                  Clayton Barbeau, psychologist, coined the term “shoulding yourself.’[2] When we are set on one path and find ourselves doing something different. It becomes all the things you should be doing rather than seeing the opportunities right in front of you.

                  But in all this disarray, did you lose sight of the real you?

                  It may be in our perceived failures and blunders that we lose sight of who we are, because we try to maintain position and status.

                  In being who we really are and achieving what we really want, we need to be resilient: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

                  It means that we do not see all possibilities of what might happen, but must trust ourselves to begin again, and continue to build the life we want. In the face of adversity, you must choose your attitude.

                  Can attitude overcome adversity? It certainly helps. While seeking to be true to yourself and live the life you want, you will have to face a fact:

                  Change will happen.

                  Whether that change is good or bad is unique to each person and their perspective.

                  You might have to start over, once, twice, a few times. It doesn’t mean that everything will be okay, but that you will be okay. What remains or should remain is the true you. When you’ve lost sight of that, you’ve lost sight of everything.

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                  And then, you rebuild. Moment after moment, day after day. We all have a choice, and in this moment, that matters.

                  You can choose to have a positive attitude, seeing the silver lining in each situation and, where there is none, the potential for one. Maybe that silver lining is you and what you will do with the situation. How will you use it for something good?

                  That’s how you can tap into yourself and your power. Sometimes it happens by accident, sometimes on purpose. It can happen when we aren’t even looking for it, or it can be your only focus. Everyone gets there differently.

                  You can rise, or you can remain. Your choice.

                  When the worst happens, you can rely on your authenticity to pull you through. That’s because Self Advocacy, speaking up to let others know what you need, is part of finding the real you.

                  There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Or sometimes, helping others can help us deal with the pain of a hurtful situation. You decide how you’re going to help others, and suddenly, you become your best self.

                  3. Do What Makes You Happy When No One’s Looking

                  Being the best version of you has nothing to do with your success or your status. It has everything to do with your Character, what you do when no one’s looking.

                  In order to create the life you want, you have to be the person you want to be. Faking it till you make it is just a way to white knuckle it through your journey. You have the fire inside of you to make things right, to put the pieces together, to live authentically. And Character is how you get there.

                  If you fall down and you help another up while you’re down there, it’s like you rise twice.

                  Along with attitude, your character is about the choices you make rather than what happens to you.

                  Yes, it’s about doing the right thing even when obstacles seem insurmountable.  It’s about using that mountain you’ve been given to show others it can be moved.  It’s about being unapologetically you, taking control, choosing your attitude in adversity and being the best version of you to create the life you want.

                  How do you know what you really want? Is it truly status or success?

                  Unfortunately, these things do not always bring happiness. And aspects of our image or “performance driven existence” may not achieve satisfaction. Materialism is part of our refusal to accept ourselves as enough. All the things we use to repress our true selves are about being enough.

                  “Enoughness” is what we truly seek, but ego gets in the way.

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                  Ego is the perception of self as outer worth. It’s not REAL self worth.

                  Ego represses our true self with a new self— the self of chasing ‘“Am I ever enough?”’ questions. And instead of filling our true selves with self-love and acceptance, when we “should ourselves” and chase “enoughness,” we feed the ego or our image.

                  It’s important to realize YOU ARE ENOUGH, without all the material trappings.

                  Stanford psychologist Meagan O’Reilly describes the damage of not thinking we are enough. One of her tactics for combating this is to complete the sentence,[3]

                  “If I believed I were already enough, I’d ____”

                  What would you do if you felt you were enough?

                  By believing you are enough, you can live the life you want.

                  So many fake it to try to get there, and they end up losing themselves when they lose more and more touch with their Authenticity.

                  Final Thoughts

                  By being yourself, you are being brave. By acknowledging all you can be, you tell the universe that you can until you believe it too. The steps are easy, and you are worth it. All of it is about the purpose you are leading and the passion that is your fuel.

                  Being true to yourself is all about mastering how to live life authentically rather than faking or forcing it. Having the life you want (and deserve) is about being trusting in yourself and the purpose you are living for. Both need passion behind it, fueling it each second, or you will experience burn out.

                  When you are authentic, you can call the road you walk your own. When you live your life for you and not just the results of all your actions (faking it till you make it), you can let go of what you don’t need. This clarifies and pushes purpose to you, living for something that is greater than you.

                  You will find that making decisions based on what will actually achieve your goals, will help you attain the life you want, and your success with each step, will allow you to enjoy the process. Good luck!

                  More About Living Your True Self

                  Featured photo credit: Ariana Prestes via unsplash.com

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