Hardest language to learn?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Oniw17, May 7, 2007.

?

Which is the hardest to learn?

  1. Basque

    5.0%
  2. Mandarin

    15.0%
  3. Icelandic

    12.5%
  4. Finnish

    7.5%
  5. Japanese

    2.5%
  6. Arabic

    12.5%
  7. Other

    45.0%
  1. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    24,070
    So in your opinion, is difficulty reflexive - if English speakers find a language difficult to some degree, speakers of that language would find English proportionately difficult, and vice versa?

    This seems reasonable to me, on a mutual alienation scale, but I have been told that some language (the example was Farsi) are actually fairly easy to pick up - and I don't think Farsi speakers find English all that easy. So - - -
     
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  3. Enmos Staff Member

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    Dutch is completely illogical

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  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    That's hard for me to say, living in America. So few Americans study foreign languages when they're young, that by the time they get around to it, if at all, it's really difficult. Americans actually have trouble mastering Spanish phonetics.
    I've known several immigrants from Iran and they spoke English extremely well. As perfect a grasp of the grammar and syntax as you'd expect from a German, and their pronunciation was even better.
     
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  7. ThaWalrus Registered Member

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    13
    I must agree with Orleander. To a speaker of a Uralic, or even a Romance language, English has got to be one of the most difficult languages out there. Almost up there with Arabic, in fact.
    Since it's my native tongue, it doesn't seem that difficult to me, but the conjunctions (doesn't, hasn't, etc.) won't make sense to some. Along with Polish and polish, lead (Pb) and lead, the list goes on. Our never-ending list of everyday idioms that have adapted themselves into our language, the complete difference between "to" the infinitive and "to" the prepositional, not to mention how hard it must be to read if you don't have a clear understanding of context clues!
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    24,690
    You mean contractions, and they're not so unusual. Spanish usted is a contraction of vuestra merced, "your grace," and Portuguese você was derived the same way from vossa mercê. Spanish and Italian both use del as well as other contractions. German has a large set: vom, im, zur etc. Even Chinese combines hai and er into her, "young son," a syllable that can't be written. The -el in many Hebrew names is a contraction of Eloh, "God." Corporate naming has made contraction a common technique in many languages. Nissan and Nikon are contractions from Nihon, "Japan." And who can forget the Italian power company, apparently run by people who don't speak English: GenItalia.
     
  9. draqon Banned Banned

    Messages:
    35,006
    Which language would be most required in the business world in future 20-30 years? I know english will be the first, but which languages go than?

    I know Spanish is very much used, but I hate that language, really dont like how it sounds...so what is the third most used language in engineering/business world?
     
  10. ThaWalrus Registered Member

    Messages:
    13
    Yeah, contractions, got those two words mixed up for a second. I laughed at "GenItalia" btw. I'm sure they didn't do that on purpose. I wasn't aware other languages had contractions, thank you for clearing that up for me.
     
  11. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,671
    Really? Check this out:

    I could be able to show you : megmutathatna'm

    Now you can cry about English being hard.

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  12. draqon Banned Banned

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    35,006
    what is that?
     
  13. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,671
    Really? Check this out:

    I could be able to show you : megmutathatna'm

    Now you can cry about English being hard.

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    Here is a better one:

    His sons' of something (more) : fiaie'i
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    When you're living through a Paradigm Shift, the one thing you know for certain is that you don't know anything for certain. I'm reading a sci-fi book written by a renowned author (Gordon R. Dickson) a mere 25 years ago, when the Paradigm Shift into the Post-Industrial Era was well underway. His depiction of the technology of this century is just pitiful. No cell phones, no magnetic stripe readers, no internet, etc. Even he couldn't see what the world would be like in a mere 25 years. I'm always amazed when I read books of that vintage that assumed the Cold War will still be going on in 2050 or 2100.

    So don't expect anybody to know what the world will be like in another 25 years. I make absolutely NO prediction that English will still be the world's leading language. Mandarin has twice as many speakers and until last year China's economy was growing much faster than ours. If there's a war and we lose, your children could be speaking Arabic, Farsi or Urdu.
    Even without a war the world will still change enormously, in ways we can't imagine, because the information-based economy will rewrite the rules. Spanish does seem like a good bet and if you're serious about planning your life then I suggest you just suck it up and get over your prejudice toward Spanish. At least it's fairly easy to learn. When I was a kid people wanted us to learn Russian, which is almost impossible.

    There's currently a huge need for people who know the major languages of the Middle East: Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Kazakh, Georgian, etc. Of course that's in government work, not in the business world. You'd probably be set up nicely for the next 10-20 years if you become fluent in one of those languages so you can translate documents, radio broadcasts and phone calls.

    The CIA only recently caught up with its backlog of intercepted documents from the 20th century. Until now, they were biting their nails, wondering if a full-color PowerPoint presentation laying out all the details of 9/11 had been sitting in the bottom of some overworked translator's in-box since 1997.

    The Army just fired a bunch of translators because they were gay. I'm so glad they're protecting us from evil.
     
  15. Betrayer0fHope MY COHERENCE! IT'S GOING AWAYY Registered Senior Member

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    2,311
    I always thought the 25 tenses in Spanish were difficult, but I realized we only have like 3 tenses in English. English does seem pretty damn confusing; even the writing we do is confusing.
     
  16. Xylene Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,398
    I heard somewwhere that there were only 22 or 23 white people, mostly missionaries, who were fluent in the Navajo language because it is so complex. That's why they were used as the wind talkers during the war, because their language was and is a closed book to outsiders.
     
  17. w1z4rd Cry the beloved country Valued Senior Member

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    1,525
    I found Russian easy.. but Swedish very hard

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  18. Naturelles Future Scientist Registered Senior Member

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    Try Hindi, or any one of those Indian languages, they have like 450 letters in the alphabet.
     
  19. fedr808 1100101 Valued Senior Member

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    6,706
    Hebrew is kinda complicated, confuzes lots of people between, new, old, and yiddish.

    Also, did you guys know that more people speak fluent Klingon than Navajo indian?
     
  20. Xylene Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,398
    Somehow that latter sentence doesn't surprise me--there must be millions of Star Trek addicts out there, just hanging out for their next fix...

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    How many Navajo are there, given that their language is confined to their tribe?
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    There are about 300,000 Navajo, of whom more than half speak the language. The Navajo nation has the largest land area ("reservation") in the United States, with territory in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. They are able to maintain their culture and live in their own way, although that way has been inevitably modified by long-term contact with outsiders.

    The Hopi are another tribe in a similar situation, although much smaller with only about 3,000 members. Their land is completely surrounded by Navajo land, which gives them the mixed blessing of being somewhat more effectively isolated from the U.S. mainstream culture and population.

    The Cherokee reservation in Oklahoma is the second largest, although the Cherokee people are the largest tribe, numbering about three-fourths of a million. They were forcibly relocated from their homeland in Florida on a march known as The Trail of Tears, but they got a measure of justice when oil was discovered on their reservation and they are now the most prosperous of all the Native Americans. Their funds help keep their culture alive, even though many of their people have assimilated into the American mainstream. Chief Sequoia developed an alphabet (a syllabary to be precise and a rather fanciful one at that) after contact with European and American scholars, so Cherokee is the only Native American language north of the Rio Grande that has its own writing system. (The Aztecs had entire libraries but they were burned by the European conquerors and their writing system is no longer in use.)

    The chief was born George Guess, but he renamed himself Sequoia, the Cherokee word for "large tree." He was honored by having the world's tallest species of tree named after him, although sequoia forests are only found in California and Oregon.
     
  22. Orleander OH JOY!!!! Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    25,817
    what's that clicking language in Africa?
     
  23. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    There are a number of them, but the one that's most commonly discussed in America is Xhosa, a Bantu language. (And no, I have no idea how that name is pronounced, my browser can't play Wikipedia's sound file.) It has fifteen click phonemes. Comparative linguistic evidence indicates that clicks were once somewhat more common in human languages than they are today, especially in Africa, which has the greatest variety of language families. (Because the rest of us are all descended from a single tribe, the San, whose more adventurous members walked out looking for food during an ice age.)

    Clicks are one type of sound that hunters make to communicate without giving themselves away. So one hypothesis is that Paleolithic hunters built their first language around these sounds, which they had already created out of necessity. Another is quite the opposite, that they already had a language but after they developed skill at producing these hunting signals it was natural to assimilate them as words.

    In any case, I'd say that their scarcity puts them in a class with Czech Ř, Greek PT, Spanish RR and Hindi BH: Sounds that can be formed with the human speech organs, but not easily in certain positions in a word.
     

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