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Thread: Most Difficult Language to Learn

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    Senior Member Lady Zhuge's Avatar
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    Question Most Difficult Language to Learn

    What's the most challenging language to learn? Someone in my Japanese class (an American) claimed it was English and I was like "joudan deshou?!" Maybe my response was a little harsh, but I think Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese are harder. Of course it also depends on factors like what your native tongue is and what other languages you know.

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    I think Japanese is relatively easy to learn to speak since it is so structured. The kana can take a while but you'll get use to it. Kanji will be challenging.

    I don't know about other languages, I think English is difficult in that there's so many exceptions and flexible sentence structures.

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    Senior Member HuangYushi's Avatar
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    When talking about learning languages, people tend to refer to languages with a written form. What about languages without a written form? Has anyone tried and found this type of language difficult to learn? My native tongue has no real written form, and its current "method" of using the words of another language to express itself in writing can be both hilarious and puzzling at the same time.

    Languages that have a range of expressions for the essentially the same thing (a lot of Asian languages are like this when it comes to addressing people), and those that have words that change in form depending on use (e.g. German, Turkish) can be quite a challenge too.
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    I heard Russian is hard.
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    yittz: Slavic languages in general are. Lots of inflection, lots of complex grammar... In Russian and a few other Slavic languages Cyrillic alphabet complicates things further (spoken from the perspective of a person whose native tongue does not use Cyrillic alphabet, of course...;-)).
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    the first language i thought of when i read this title was that language in africa with the clicking sounds.
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    Senior Member Lady Zhuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banh Mi View Post
    I think Japanese is relatively easy to learn to speak since it is so structured. The kana can take a while but you'll get use to it. Kanji will be challenging.
    Kanji's challenging if you don't already know how to read and write Chinese (especially traditional). Having taken Spanish, I think some of the pronunciations are similar to Japanese, which helps me as well. For people who know Korean, Japanese grammar should be easy to pick up, as they are quite similar. I think one of the most difficult parts of Japanese to get used to is the use of particles.

    Quote Originally Posted by HuangYushi View Post
    When talking about learning languages, people tend to refer to languages with a written form. What about languages without a written form? Has anyone tried and found this type of language difficult to learn? My native tongue has no real written form, and its current "method" of using the words of another language to express itself in writing can be both hilarious and puzzling at the same time.
    It sounds like a double-edged sword - on the one hand you don't have to worry about the written component of the spoken language, which would make things easier provided you're already familiar with this other language used in its place. If you're not already familiar with the other language, then it's like having to learn multiple languages. Out of curiosity, what is your native tongue?

    Quote Originally Posted by pemberly View Post
    the first language i thought of when i read this title was that language in africa with the clicking sounds.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_l7ty_MH_Y

    I wonder what the clicking parts mean?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Zhuge View Post
    Kanji's challenging if you don't already know how to read and write Chinese (especially traditional). Having taken Spanish, I think some of the pronunciations are similar to Japanese, which helps me as well. For people who know Korean, Japanese grammar should be easy to pick up, as they are quite similar. I think one of the most difficult parts of Japanese to get used to is the use of particles.
    For everyone that does not know Chinese, that is the most daunting part of the written aspect.
    As for particles, once you've learned them, you've learned them. As opposed to English, some words follow no formal structure or rule. How do you tell someone a rule of thumb on deciding which letter in a word is silent. Or how to pronounce words.
    I think Japanese is easier than English because it hasn't been bastardized and raped by atleast 3 other languages throughout the centuries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HuangYushi View Post
    When talking about learning languages, people tend to refer to languages with a written form. What about languages without a written form? Has anyone tried and found this type of language difficult to learn? My native tongue has no real written form, and its current "method" of using the words of another language to express itself in writing can be both hilarious and puzzling at the same time.

    Languages that have a range of expressions for the essentially the same thing (a lot of Asian languages are like this when it comes to addressing people), and those that have words that change in form depending on use (e.g. German, Turkish) can be quite a challenge too.
    yeah, what is your native tongue?

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    Senior Member Guo Xiang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Zhuge View Post
    What's the most challenging language to learn? Someone in my Japanese class (an American) claimed it was English and I was like "joudan deshou?!" Maybe my response was a little harsh, but I think Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese are harder. Of course it also depends on factors like what your native tongue is and what other languages you know.
    He sounds dumb already, considering English is his native language and it is (to me) the easiest language to learn, although it will take much more time to master its intricacies.
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    Senior Member Lady Zhuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banh Mi View Post
    As for particles, once you've learned them, you've learned them. As opposed to English, some words follow no formal structure or rule. How do you tell someone a rule of thumb on deciding which letter in a word is silent. Or how to pronounce words.
    I think Japanese is easier than English because it hasn't been bastardized and raped by atleast 3 other languages throughout the centuries.
    You can say that for just about anything (i.e., once you've learned the exceptions to the rules, you've learned them). There's no shortage of exceptions in Japanese either. For instance, there's more than one way to say several numbers and which one you use depends on what is it you're counting. Four = yon or shi, but when it's 4 o'clock, it's yo-ji and not yon-ji or shi-ji. Nine = ku or kyuu - when it's 9 o'clock, it's always ku-ji, but when it's the ninth floor of a building, it's always kyuu-kai. Is there a rule of thumb for such exceptions?

    Japanese has 3 main scripts, all of which have certain uses and are not always interchangeable. English only has one - raped it might be, but at least the bastard child is still recognizable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guo Xiang View Post
    He sounds dumb already, considering English is his native language and it is (to me) the easiest language to learn, although it will take more time to master its workings.
    Yes, I agree. Mastery is a whole different ball game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Zhuge View Post
    You can say that for just about anything (i.e., once you've learned the exceptions to the rules, you've learned them). There's no shortage of exceptions in Japanese either. For instance, there's more than one way to say several numbers and which one you use depends on what is it you're counting. Four = yon or shi, but when it's 4 o'clock, it's yo-ji and not yon-ji or shi-ji. Nine = ku or kyuu - when it's 9 o'clock, it's always ku-ji, but when it's the ninth floor of a building, it's always kyuu-kai. Is there a rule of thumb for such exceptions?

    Japanese has 3 main scripts, all of which have certain uses and are not always interchangeable. English only has one - raped it might be, but at least the bastard child is still recognizable.
    I stand corrected. But I still don't feel it's as bad as English, or maybe because hard is subjective to the observer.

    I didn't think there was that much of a problem with the Japanese scripts. Hiragana for normal use, Katakana for foreign words, Kanji for words that you know. Or am I missing something?

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    Senior Member kidd's Avatar
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    This language should be pretty hard to learn.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...words-for-snow
    http://home.egge.net/~savory/snow.htm

    Umingmaktormuit Inuit dialect. Different words for snow/ice.

    akuvijarjuak = thin ice in the sea
    anijo = snow on the ground
    hiko = ice (generic expression)
    hikuliaq = thin ice
    ivuneq = high pack ice
    kaniktshaq = snow (generic expression)
    kanut = fresh snow without any ice
    kuhugaq = icicle
    manelaq = pack ice
    maneraq = smooth ice
    nahauliq = snow bunting
    nilak = freshwater ice
    peqalujaq = rather old ice
    pugtaq = drift ice
    qanik = falling snow
    quahak = fresh ice without any snow
    tsikut = large broken-up masses of ice blocks
    tugartaq = firm, winter ice
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    Senior Member Lucre's Avatar
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    i guess 'most difficult' is probably subjective. alot depended on what your native tongue is, and what you're exposed to.

    I know English, Chinese (Mandarin and a few other dialects) and Japanese (and I have also studied German and Italian, though not enough to claim any proficiency) - so though I guess I can get by with 'basic' uses; mastery is another thing altogether. Alot of it is about getting used to. Yes, there are plenty of 'exceptions' in Japanese, and knowing the difference is pretty much getting used to the language, and I thought the same goes for English and Chinese too. They are just different, and hence it come with their own distinct flavor.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member Lady Zhuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banh Mi View Post
    I stand corrected. But I still don't feel it's as bad as English, or maybe because hard is subjective to the observer.

    I didn't think there was that much of a problem with the Japanese scripts. Hiragana for normal use, Katakana for foreign words, Kanji for words that you know. Or am I missing something?
    Out of curiosity, have you ever studied Japanese even remotely closely to the extent that you've studied English? It's easy to overestimate or underestimate the ease of learning a language through observation alone.

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "normal use" and "words that you know." All three scripts are normally used in Japanese sentences and some words I know actually lack kanji. Hiragana is used for particles, inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs, and words that don't have kanji. Katakana is used for foreign words, but it also has other uses (e.g., animals, plants, scientific terms, onomatopoeia, etc.). Kanji is used to write nouns, Japanese names, and stems of adjectives and verbs. Of course as with any language, there's no problem if you remember all the rules and exceptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by kidd View Post
    This language should be pretty hard to learn.

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...words-for-snow
    http://home.egge.net/~savory/snow.htm

    Umingmaktormuit Inuit dialect. Different words for snow/ice.

    akuvijarjuak = thin ice in the sea
    anijo = snow on the ground
    hiko = ice (generic expression)
    hikuliaq = thin ice
    ivuneq = high pack ice
    kaniktshaq = snow (generic expression)
    kanut = fresh snow without any ice
    kuhugaq = icicle
    manelaq = pack ice
    maneraq = smooth ice
    nahauliq = snow bunting
    nilak = freshwater ice
    peqalujaq = rather old ice
    pugtaq = drift ice
    qanik = falling snow
    quahak = fresh ice without any snow
    tsikut = large broken-up masses of ice blocks
    tugartaq = firm, winter ice
    Interesting. It just goes to show how much environment can influence a language as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Zhuge View Post
    Out of curiosity, have you ever studied Japanese even remotely closely to the extent that you've studied English? It's easy to overestimate or underestimate the ease of learning a language through observation alone.

    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "normal use" and "words that you know." All three scripts are normally used in Japanese sentences and some words I know actually lack kanji. Hiragana is used for particles, inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs, and words that don't have kanji. Katakana is used for foreign words, but it also has other uses (e.g., animals, plants, scientific terms, onomatopoeia, etc.). Kanji is used to write nouns, Japanese names, and stems of adjectives and verbs. Of course as with any language, there's no problem if you remember all the rules and exceptions.
    I studied it during High school, though I was lazy and pretty bad at it. I just felt it was easier making conversation with Japanese people in Japanese, than it was for them in English.

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    right now korean is very hard for me, maybe it's because i've lost some interest for kpop. and yunjae is made at each other.

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    Senior Member Lucre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lady Zhuge View Post
    I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "normal use" and "words that you know." All three scripts are normally used in Japanese sentences and some words I know actually lack kanji. Hiragana is used for particles, inflectional endings for adjectives and verbs, and words that don't have kanji. Katakana is used for foreign words, but it also has other uses (e.g., animals, plants, scientific terms, onomatopoeia, etc.). Kanji is used to write nouns, Japanese names, and stems of adjectives and verbs. Of course as with any language, there's no problem if you remember all the rules and exceptions.
    Just to add on to that, actually many ancient words do have kanji, but in the past 50 years alot of them has been replaced by using hiragana instead - due to the difficulty in writing kanji. obviously foreign derived words and modern scientific terms tend to lack kanji (because katagana script is easier)

    the kanji 'database' in the japanese language is very wide, just like chinese; also considering that many kanji script are solely japanese (ie. you dont find them in chinese dictionaries)

    For a Chinese to study Japanese, I think the easiest mistake to make is, assuming the word in Japanese meant the same thing as Chinese. ^_^ I know several kanji that has a totally different meaning from their Chinese counterparts; and very often, the Japanese version had the more archaic meaning. though it doesnt apply to many other kanji as well.

    Notably, a 麒麟 (Kirin in japanese, Qilin in chinese) would refer to a mythical beast in Chinese mythology ~ but somehow (kirin; now using katagana script: キリン) meant giraffe in Japanese. (modern japanese had decided to use katagana script for all animal nouns for simplicity; although words like Neko or Inu (ie. cat and dog) might still be seen in kanji in some scripts, maybe cos they are relatively easy to write?)

    i wonder if the ancient japanese had mistaken a giraffe for a Qilin and hence called it kirin?
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    i wonder if the ancient japanese had mistaken a giraffe for a Qilin and hence called it kirin?
    I doubt they were the only ones. I read before that Zheng He once brought a giraffe back to China, and everyone thought it's a kirin. And since the Japanese learnt extensively from the Chinese back then, it's not surprising if they brought this knowlege back to Japan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guo Xiang View Post
    I doubt they were the only ones. I read before that Zheng He once brought a giraffe back to China, and everyone thought it's a kirin. And since the Japanese learnt extensively from the Chinese back then, it's not surprising if they brought this knowlege back to Japan.
    yep, but chinese had since called it 'long-necked deer' but japanese retained the name kirin. =p
    o wilku mowa...♪

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