Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 22, 2020

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 your native language is. If it’s English, you’re in the right place.

When you peel the onion back to the beginnings of language formation, such as by studying the 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).[1]

Language tree

    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, etc.
    • Category 4: Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Modern Standard Arabic, etc.

    Before we take a closer look and see which of the above are the most difficult languages to learn, you can check out this TED Talk with John McWhorter to help you get inspired to learn a new language:

    1. Mandarin

    Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion

    Advertising

    Country with the greatest number of speakers: China

    It may be the most widely spoken language in the world, but it is particularly challenging for English speakers. It is often spoken of as being the hardest language in the world to learn (and certainly the most difficult language on this list!).

    First, since Mandarin is a tonal language, you can have a completely different meaning of a word just by changing your tone. Just take a look at this visual of the four tones, and you can begin to imagine the difficulties this could cause English speakers[2].

    Mandarin tones in one of the hardest languages to learn

      Add to that thousands of characters, complex systems, Chinese dialects, and the language’s richness in homophones,[3] 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

      Advertising

      While the Icelandic language has not changed much since the island was settled in the ninth and tenth centuries[4], 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.

      3. Japanese

      Number of native speakers: 122 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Japan

      Japanese has three independent writing systems[5]: 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, significantly easier to learn than Mandarin!

      4. Hungarian

      Number of native speakers: 13 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Hungary

      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[6] in which words are formed in an isolated manner.

      Advertising

      In other words, it’s one of the hardest languages to learn because the word order is nothing like how English speakers normally structure words or sentences. For example, “with my [female] friend” is combined into just “barátnőmmel.” If you’re confused, don’t worry. So are we.

      5. Korean

      Number of native speakers: 66.3 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: South Korea

      Korean is a language isolate, which means it isn’t linked to any other language family root. It also has seven different speech levels that native speakers flip back and forth to depending on the formality. The image below just begins to scratch the surface of the complications caused by the speech levels and the use of honorifics[7]:

      korean speech levels: how to address other people

        6. Arabic

        Number of native speakers: 221 million

        Country with the greatest number of speakers: Egypt

        Advertising

        Despite having 221 million native speakers 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.

        7. Finnish

        Number of native speakers: 5.4 million

        Country with the greatest number of speakers: Finland

        If you’ve ever watched The Lord of the Rings, you’ll know about the strange language the elves speak. The Finnish language is what the author J.R.R. Tolkien based the Elvish language on[8]. Finnish, like Hungarian, is a Finno-Ugric language in which grammar complications are taken to the extreme, which makes it difficult for English speakers.

        Furthermore, just when you’ve got the hang of translating Finnish to English, you’ll quickly find that modern Finnish speakers have their own way of expressing emotions that’s different from the traditional translation!

        The Bottom Line

        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.

        However, 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 will 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.

        More Language Learning Tips

        Featured photo credit: ORIENTO via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Soho Press: THE PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY
        [2] MIT: Mandarin Tones
        [3] Wikipedia: Homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese
        [4] Iceland: Language
        [5] Dartmouth: Japanese Writing Systems
        [6] Britannica: Finno-Ugric languages
        [7] LingoDeer: Korean Speech Levels
        [8] Omniglot: Quenya

        More by this author

        Sean Kim

        Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

        10 Websites to Learn Something New in 30 Minutes a Day When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 7 Science-Backed Learning Hacks to Help You Learn Anything Faster 7 Best Languages to Learn in Order to Stay Competitive 15 New Year’s Resolution Ideas to Make This Year Your Best Year

        Trending in Language

        1 When You Learn A Second Language, These 7 Amazing Things Will Happen To You 2 7 Best Languages to Learn in Order to Stay Competitive 3 What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers? 4 7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers 5 9 Free Language Learning Apps That Are Fun to Use

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on April 14, 2021

        How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

        How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

        We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

        Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

        Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

        Expressing Anger

        Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

        Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

        Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

        Being Passive-Aggressive

        This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

        Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

        This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

        Advertising

        Poorly-Timed

        Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

        An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

        Ongoing Anger

        Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

        Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

        Healthy Ways to Express Anger

        What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

        Being Honest

        Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

        Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

        Being Direct

        Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

        Advertising

        Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

        Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

        Being Timely

        When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

        Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

        Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

        How to Deal With Anger

        If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

        1. Slow Down

        From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

        In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

        Advertising

        When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

        2. Focus on the “I”

        Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

        When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

        3. Work out

        When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

        Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

        Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

        If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

        4. Seek Help When Needed

        There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

        Advertising

        5. Practice Relaxation

        We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

        That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

        Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

        6. Laugh

        Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

        7. Be Grateful

        It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

        Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

        Final Thoughts

        Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

        During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

        Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

        More Resources on Anger Management

        Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next