It’s often said that English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. It’s probably thanks to the way those Anglo-Saxon and West Germanic elements clash under the Indo-European umbrella tongue.
After all, what other language would feature oddities such as silent p’s or g’s at the start of words which, phonetically-speaking, should start with an ‘n’? Or the bewildering collection of letters ‘ught’ (bought, taught, caught etc) where a simple ‘ort’ or ‘aut’ would do just as nicely?
Gauging relative language difficulty is of course a subjective business. From an English-speaking perspective, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State has estimated approximate learning times for languages worldwide.
Those considered trickiest, requiring several thousand hours of class time, are Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean.
But before you go rushing down to your local night school to pick an alternative, here’s five more tongues that may leave your tongue severely twisted.
- Tuyuca: originating from the eastern Amazon, many Tuyucan words comprise eight or ten English words in one long stream. Whichsoundsprettycomplicatedtous.
- Hungarian: with 35 different cases, or noun forms, to memorise, Hungarian is also notorious for its endless lists of expressive, idiomatic words and suffixes.
- Navajo: so complex (mainly due to its inordinate variety of verb prefixes) that it was used as the basis of a code in the Pacific arena during the Second World War. The Japanese never cracked it.
- Basque: the oldest known language in Europe, and with no links whatsoever to our Indo-European family. Basque boasts a complex system of sentence subjects and thoughtfully squeezes them all into the verb, creating some head-scratching variations.
- Icelandic: many words in Icelandic simply have no equivalent in English. Together with its archaic vocabulary and complex grammar, it means you’d have to be as smart as Magnus Magnuson to master both tongues.
But don’t worry, if you’re determined to spread your wordy-wings and learn another language, all is not lost.
A recent internet survey quizzed folk on which foreign lingos were easiest for English speakers to master. The results? Afrikaans, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Now you know where to book your next summer holiday.
Obviously, English is our bread and butter here at Wordsworks. However, to ensure our business copywriting hits the mark in whichever language clients desire, we partner with several professional translation agencies. Contact us today to find out more.