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Published 3 years ago with 67 Comments

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Conversation 7 comments by 5 users
  • casuallynoted
    +1

    I'm curious as to how hard Danish is to learn, I've been thinking of attempting to learn it, it seems like a neat country.

    • kxh
      +3

      Danish is relatively easy for English speakers to read. Unfortunately the pronunciation is odd, they kind of swallow consonants and Danish has many simple monosyllabic words that change meaning according to context.

    • shadow1515
      +3

      It's at least related to Norwegian and German, which are considered pretty easy for native English speakers to learn, so it's probably not terribly difficult. One of my friends from high school was a foreign exchange student in Denmark and said she was conversational within a week or two, for what that's worth.

      • casuallynoted
        +2

        That's amazing!!! I hope to be able to do some sort of foreign exchange/studying abroad there someday!

    • ImNotASchizo
      +2

      My time to shine! As a Dane i think its gonna be easy to learn danish for english speaking people. A ton of words are taken from the English vocabulary. The hard part is the pronunciation, but Danes are likely going to understand you anyway. :)

      • casuallynoted
        +1

        Oh my gosh, that's awesome!!! I really want to go now, the language sounds absolutely amazing too. It's like the best parts of french and german combined.

    • Hawkins
      +2

      I found that it's reasonably easy to start being able to puzzle out what (simple) written Danish is trying to say.

      It turns out that, in addition to the pillaging and looting, many Vikings settled down in England, got married, and contributed lots of Old Norse words to Old English. This makes for a lot of cognates.

      On the other hand, I find the pronunciation to be very difficult. As kxh points out, they do love to swallow consonants, and they seem to be speaking from the back of the throat, which I find baffling. So I have a very hard time understanding even simple sentences, even in highly-constrained contexts, like ordering a coffee. "You want milk in that?" is pronounced, apparently, "Wil mmmph glerg bjlghhj?"

      Denmark is indeed an extremely cool country. You should go anyway, regardless of language fluency, since pretty much everybody speaks excellent English.

Conversation 6 comments by 5 users
  • Aleenik (edited 3 years ago)
    +11

    It's clear that the person who put that together has never even taken a look at Korean. "Written Korean also relies on many Chinese characters". Oh really? More like very few, and you aren't actually required to use them at all. You can use 한글 for everything. All one needs to do is take a look at the Korean Wikipedia or popular Korean websites like Naver and Daum to see what I mean.

    I can't speak for the accuracy of the description of the other languages, but IMO that is a glaring issue and could scare off a lot of people from learning Korean even though it's incorrect. The use of Chinese characters in modern Korean is nothing compared to the use of them in Chinese (obviously) and Japanese.

    • Triseult
      +7

      Not only that, but the amount of borrowed English words in Korean makes it pretty easy to figure out what's written on signs. The Korean alphabet is really easy to learn and very convenient!

      Now, spoken Korean is a headache, that's for sure!

      • eggpl4nt (edited 3 years ago)
        +5

        Agreed. I had learned Hangeul pretty easily - now grammar and speaking it is the hard part.
        Hanja (Chinese characters) from what I've read is more used in legal documents and newspapers.

    • Squid4Hire
      +1

      Its used a lot in science though. You wouldn't be able to get through Korean high school without knowing the Hanja. The biggest challenge in Korean is the hierarchy. Its almost like there are different languages for speaking with older people, younger people, your family, your friends etc.

      • Aleenik
        +2

        We aren't talking about getting through a Korean high school though. We are talking about language learning difficulty from an English speaker's perspective. And the fact of the matter is, Hanja are rarely used by average people.

      • JSneak
        +1

        I am a Korean American and even though I am not fluent in the langauge, I can confirm that the way you talk to a friend is not the way you would address a parent or an elder. It's used to show and give respect to the elders and I feel that is one of the reasons why Korean can appear to be challenging to people.

Conversation 26 comments by 18 users
  • bogdan
    +8

    I guess German language fits in the "easy" category too? It definitely should. For an English speaker it is probably the easiest of them all to learn.

    • typesprite
      +5

      As a native speaker I wouldn't classify German as a language that is easy to learn. But it doesn't really fit in the medium category either. Yeah, there are several words that are similar in English and German but you can't build a sentence based on similar words. And then again German is easier than Hindi or Russian but more difficult than French/Spanish/Italian. From what I see, most non-native speakers struggle the most with the gendered nouns and grammar.

      Well, here's a little digression on the German language and then can judge for yourself. :)

      One of the easiest ways to tell if someone is a non-native speaker (apart from the pronunciation) is the use of gendered nouns. There are 3 gendered nouns: "der" (male), "die" (female) and "das" (neutral, neuter) and these change based on: plural, accusative & genitive case. Most of the time it's not that easy to guess the gendered noun. For example: the car - das Auto (neuter). That makes sense. A car is an object so 'das' fits in perfectly. But not all objects go for the neuter like: the cup - die Tasse (female) or the apple - der Apfel (male), the garden - der Garten and so on. I'm not sure why but most people I met from the US or Canada say 'die Auto'. This might be a coincidence though. You could say that this is similar to French with one additional article.

      Animals have an additional layer (category name) and are separated by gender. The general/category name can come with the female article (the cat - die Katze), the male (the dog - der Hund) or neuter (the pig - das Schwein).
      Pro tip: most animals which are in the category 'farm animals' have a neuter article. You would eat it? Then use 'das'. This works 90% of the time. The female and male animals also have a specific name and a lot of them don't use the same noun for both genders or are completely different. The pig: das Schwein, die Sau (female), der Eber (male).
      Again similar to French but in French the female and male nouns are stronger connected and follow a logic (most of the time):
      a/the cat - ein/der Kater - un/le chat
      a/the cat - eine/die Katze - une/la chatte
      a/the dog - ein/der Hund - un/le chien
      a/the dog - eine/die Hündin - une/la chienne

      Ok, let's talk about the plural form: Most nouns don't have a simple plural 's' in German like in English or French. In some nouns you swap the vowel with an umlaut and in others you add an 'n' or 'en' at the end. For instance: the brother / der Bruder - the brothers / die Brüder. Yes, you use the female form for your brothers in German! :D Most if not all plural forms are used with the female article… (not sure if there are exceptions though lol) Well, I won't cover the word 'my' here… this post is long enough already. :P
      German for 'my': mein, meine, meinen, meinem, meiner, meines
      French: mon, ma, mes

      Well, and about grammar in general: Sentence building is a bit different in German than in English. I have a hard time with this too when I write something in English. That is because you can't directly translate a sentence word by word. That's why most suggestions in google translate are garbage or simply sound weird.

      Maybe some of you noticed: A lot of Germans use the present or past perfect in their sentences. That's because it's pretty common in German to use the present/past perfect instead of the present/past tense. For example: We played [insert favorite game] last weekend.
      Wir haben [Lieblingsspiel einfügen] letztes Wochenende gespielt. (I think you gue...

      Read Full
      • Squid4Hire
        +2

        I think German is still probably easier. French and italian are more unfamiliar imo. Most of those words have English cognates. We wir, haben, have, letztes last, wochen week, ende, end, gespeilt no cognate.

        • RsonW
          +2

          I'm a native English speaker who learned French. French has a ton of cognates with English also. You vous, reason raison, season saison, final finale, simple simple, clock cloche, one un, etc

          • typesprite
            +3

            I had the same impression when I learned French. There are similarities in all three languages but I had the impression that French is bit closer to English than German is. And imho the grammar seems more logical in French than in German. Sometimes German feels a bit chaotic and there are some cases I can't even explain as a native speaker...

            Well, speaking about similarities; wasn't there a meme:
            English: surprise
            French: surprise
            German: Überraschung :D

            • ddecator
              +1

              Which is interesting, considering English comes from Germanic roots

            • typesprite
              +2
              @ddecator -

              Definitely! I never thought about it up until now, but it seems that German and English have a stronger connection from their ancestry compared to the Italic/Romance languages French/Italian. It's a bit odd that they aren't more alike. Like Dutch for example which sounds to me like a German dialect, even though I never learned it.

            • ddecator
              +1
              @typesprite -

              Dutch and German are closely related, and share overlap with a good number of words.

              English is sort of weird case when it comes to language, as it has effectively gone off in its own direction compared to the other languages it shares its roots with. Several books on the topic are available, such as Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue.

        • typesprite
          +1

          Yes, there are similar words in German. Some of them even have their origin in the English/French/Italian language because languages do evolve over time. Some people here still say "Ciao" instead of Tschüss / Auf Wiedersehen / Servus / Fieti. Even though it's a bit old fashioned by now. But then again when I learned English and French I got the impression that both share a lot of vocabularies compared to German. The pronunciation differs of course.

          In the end I'd argue that these are only vocabularies that will help you at the beginning to learn a language. What I think makes German more difficult than French/Italian/Spanish is the grammar. Sadly, similar words won't help you with grammar.

      • Cheski
        +1

        Thanks for typing this up. I've been working on German in Duolingo for a bit. You hit the trouble spots for me right on the head.

      • bogdan
        +1

        I actually took the time to read all that! I'm learning the language as we speak, so all of this has been tremendously interesting to me.

        I know about the problem with the sentence building, I always get the negation placement wrong. It's driving me insane!

    • Csellite
      +5

      I found German and Dutch to be very similar. However, from what i've heard around, German was suppose to be a more difficult language.

      • Havok
        +1

        I'm an Afrikaans native speaker, so I approached the languages from a bit of a different angle. However, I'd say German is more difficult to learn in terms of linguistic structure and vocabulary, especially with the case system that meh mentioned, while the pronunciation in Dutch is a bit trickier. In essence, if you can gargle, roll your r's and spit, you can speak German. With Dutch it's a bit more melodic.

        • Csellite
          +2

          Very well put! I'm not a native speaker in any way. I took German in throughout all of high school and have a friend from the Netherlands and we were just about able to understand one another.

      • meh
        +1

        English is a germanic language, but German has a (relatively simple but still present) case system, which adds just one more chart to memorize.

    • o0o
      +2

      I wouldn't place it there. German is the only (indo-european) language I know that has three grammatical genders, including another six variations (sometimes in abbreviated forms) which you bump into as soon as you realise that prepositions dictate accusative and datives (e.g. making feminine into masculine) .

    • xelim
      +2

      English itself is considered a germanic language so it actually is easy for english speakers to become proficient in german and vice versa. However mastering is another story. In this case the similarity of the languages causes you to make a lot of wrong assumptions.

      I speak both English and German as a foreign language, so I can observe both sides of the struggle from a neutral point of view.

      • bogdan
        +2

        I understand what you mean. It does actually make sense. Some languages may be easier to learn at a casual level, but harder to be truly good at.

      • Revikus
        +1

        at the very least, many words are similar in both English and German.

        e.g. apple, apfel

    • Teakay
      +2

      I think German's biggest hurdle for English speakers is the more complex grammar system. I took two years of Latin in high school and despised the ridiculous number of possible endings a verb could have depending on case, number, person, etc., but I feel like German might have a manageable number. Basic German to me feels very... natural, I suppose is the word, so I hope to master it someday (far in the future).

    • Kysol
      +2

      I've never officially learned Deutsch but through a few people I know, I've been able to easily grasp simple snippets of the language. If a conversation is fairly simple I can follow bits and pieces. English is the bastardisation of a lot of European languages, we should have no issue picking them up as our language was built using them.

    • mithrandir
      +2

      Frisian is kind of like the halfway point between German and English. I bet that's even easier.

    • Bazill
      +1

      That's why I'm working on learning German over anything else. Every now and then I'll run across something like "beer" to "bier" or "house" to "haus". What kills me about French or Spanish is words having a gender. It always throws me off. However that's nothing compared to having to memorize thousands of characters to learn Japanese or Chinese.

      • Aleenik
        +2

        Why do gendered nouns kill you about Spanish and French, but not German? They only have 2 noun genders while German has 3.

    • the7egend

      This comment has been removed

  • oystein
    +7

    This is a little deceptive though. You can acheive some proficiency in Norwegian in such a short time, but since it's a partial tonal language, your accent will give you away immediately.

    • Squid4Hire
      +3

      Thats not really the point of learning a language though is it? To have no accent at all? Not even native speakers can speak without an accent. Theres always going to be regional variation. The only standard one should have in language is being able to effortlessly have a conversation, and you can have plenty of conversations with an accent.

    • sturle
      +1

      That is hardly a problem. People thinking they can do it on a learn-Norwegian-in-5-minutes-a-day is a real problem.

  • septimine
    +7

    One thing that would make learning a spoken language harder is slang, and I doubt that the infographic took that into account. I know that can be a problem in some languages -- there's the "formal" language you learn in school, then there's the street language that you hear in the streets. Standard Arabic is supposed to be the common language of all of the Arabian area, but it's not the stuff you hear on the streets. If you tried speaking the Arabic they teach you to read the Koran, it winds up sounding about like the King James Bible does to us. Sure, you can get around, but you're gonna get some funny looks when you say "whence cometh the bus?"

    • breedlove500
      +3

      In my arabic studies they actually made us "choose" a dialect after the first two years. I couldn't believe how different some of them can be from the Standard Arabic!

      • TheEnglishMajor
        +2

        The idea of "choosing" a dialect fascinates me -- I studied Spanish, and it seemed that with each and every lesson, professors would say offhand that this particular usage or this particular grammatical structure would sound commonplace in one Spanish-speaking country and absurd in another. It seems to me that learning one specific dialect would prevent a non-native speaker from sounding a little ridiculous everywhere. When I imagine a non-native American English speaker switching between northern and southern expressions, it sounds sillier than if the speaker would commit to one single dialect.

        How often do language students choose specific dialects in language acquisition? Who else has experience with this method of learning?

    • Teakay
      +1

      This is true in Japanese as well, which has different levels of formality on top of slang and onomatopoeia. In some cases the textbook language sounds nothing like what you'd actually hear if you went to Japan and just started talking to people.

      Also,

      "whence cometh the bus?"

      nearly made me spit my snack all over my keyboard. Thanks. :)

  • picklefingers
    +6

    Did that infographic seriously just source Google Translate?

  • kxh
    +4

    While I think Arabic is one of the difficult languages, it's not for the reasons outlined in the graphic.

    I'd say it's difficult because the grammar is difficult, there are lots of plurals and verb forms and some are irregular and they have to match. It has sounds a lot of other languages don't have and it has lots of different dialects that all use the same written form.

    • ishana
      +1

      True, Also reading and writing in Arabic is like different things. You can say something but you will write it differently, especially in Egypt, Not every word applies to this of course there are many similarities .

  • BigEvilTurtle (edited 3 years ago)
    +4

    Cool! I wouldn't consider Japanese difficult just because of the Kanji (which is the writing system containing about 50,000 unique characters, of which only 2,000 are commonly used). The grammar is fairly simple and the other two syllabaries are relatively easy to memorize. It takes children growing up in Japan about 6 years (starting at age 6) to learn around 1,000 Kanji characters so it's expected to take a while to learn regardless. Speaking the language is MUCH easier, though, from what I know.

    • Teakay (edited 3 years ago)
      +4

      I would have wholeheartedly agreed with you up until the point where I hit the more complex grammar. I haven't had time to really study Japanese for a couple of years, but the early grammar is so simple that I still remember almost all of the grammar I learned. Later grammar kicked my ass, though, as did trying to learn the pronunciations of each kanji.

      One of my Japanese friends described the difficulty levels of Japanese and English as being sort of like this. Japanese starts out extremely easy, but you hit a point where it increases dramatically, while English starts out incredibly difficult but gets easier once you get the ridiculous crap out of the way.

      Something else I just thought of: Japanese could be considered harder to learn for people that learn languages by reading anything and everything they're capable of (as I think I do). Kanji makes it much more difficult to just pick up a book and try to read and gain as much as possible out of it.

    • FurtWigglepants
      +3

      Speaking and listening is actually very easy, remembering all the kanji is what really makes the language hard. Also their onomatopoeia's aren't very intuitive.

  • dannycdannydo
    +3

    Chinese is not nearly as difficult as you might think. It's a tonal language meaning the tone with which you say the words affects the meaning, however once you have got that part down, it's got some really good advantages. The main one being that the grammar is very basic. There are no verb conjugations and tenses are all relatively easy as well. God knows how many hours that would have saved me in the French classroom.

    • stareyedgirl
      +2

      But this was for proficiency in both speaking and reading. I imagine the reading bit would be quite a bit more difficult than the average language because it's not enough to know the pronunciation to read it, you have to know the character for it as well.

      • dannycdannydo (edited 3 years ago)
        +1

        Ye I mean obviously if they include reading it gets a whole lot more difficult, but these days (what with digital translation) reading is really not that necessary. Sure it would be nice to be able to read and write perfect Chinese, but actually the most important and most enjoyable aspect is obviously speaking. I spend a lot of time in China (currently typing from Shanghai), and worked there for 3 years, and it's not really a barrier to personal or professional life.

        Just worried someone might see this and be put off learning what is a very useful and interesting language.

        Edit: And just to add, I can not write Chinese at all (forgot it a long time back due to not using it), but can get along texting and typing fairly well due to the way the system works. Texting and typing are far more relevant these days than writing.

  • Juka
    +3

    I always wanted to learn japanese

  • moneyman
    +2

    I disagree with Turkish being medium. The grammar is really tough - I found it harder to learn than Japanese by a long shot.

  • Finland
    +2

    I would say that there's definitely some accuracy to the infographic. I speak Spanish and Finnish (I'm a native English speaker) and, as others have pointed out there are a few errors here and there, but for the most part I could agree (At least on the two languages I know, anyway). Spanish was very easy to pick up because of the numerous cognates, whereas Finnish was difficult because of the largely different sentence structure combined with the lack of cognates.

    • crashemup
      +1

      My mother is a Finnish native and naturalized citizen of the United States. I've grown up hearing the Finnish is one of the most difficult languages in the world. The difficulty of the language comes up every now and again and she will describe its difficulty. I'm amazed at how difficult it is. Much, much more than the Spanish I've studied. I looked on-line to see what other charts fail to rank Finnish as one of the most difficult and found some. Those state that Finnish is more difficult to learn for native English speakers. Amyway, I visited family in Finland a few years ago. In the week I was there, I only found one Finn that didn't speak English. If nothing else, they learn it from watching television as most of their programs are in English. I say, don't bother learning Finnish.

  • KingMe
    +2

    You can learn written Korean fairly easily in my experience, its the speaking that gets you.

  • pixelboot
    +1

    I think one thing that this chart sort of causes you to forget is how much of an impact motivation can have. For example, someone going to school to learn a language because it's part of government curriculum, or even after school because your parents want you to will probably have a much harder time learning than someone who is learning on their own will.

    As an English speaker, I had a VERY hard time with French, mostly because we were forced to learn it in school and I never really cared. I spent my whole life thinking that learning a language would be boring and near impossible without immersion. But now I am learning Russian simply out of my own interest, and am having a completely different experience with it. I'm using free resources I've found off the internet and making a point to try and speak it with friends and watch tv shows from Russia, and I'm finding it infinitely easier and more fun than French ever felt! I see a lot of comments by people saying "oh I've always wanted to learn that, but this chart says it's hard" - my point is, don't put too much weight in to this chart. If you want to learn it, you should try, you might do better than you'd expect!

  • potateHoe
    +1

    Since this shows the relative difficulty of languages, what countries are the best for study abroads? Like which ones are the most fun and most cultural fun?

  • Kysol
    +1

    I don't know about Japanese being one of the hardest. As a programmer, I adapted to Japanese fairly fast since it has a formulaic like structure. Sure I'm not proficient in it, but I was able to pick it up faster than I had expected. I'm currently at survival level after 3 trips to Japan and 10 lessons. Also helps that I played with a Japanese Linkshell in FFXI for a good 6 years or so.

    • stareyedgirl
      +2

      To speak, maybe but this says it's for proficiency in both speaking and reading and so I assume that means that you would have to be proficient with reading the characters as well as speaking well enough? I don't know enough about Japanese to know if characters are used in all situations, though...

      • Kysol
        +1

        I'm better at reading more than speaking. Speaking could be more my hesitation at making an ass of myself and saying the wrong thing. I love the culture and the last thing I want to do is offend someone, so I try not to say anything because of that fear. I'm limited with Kanji knowledge, but can generally make out signs and other product packaging. In no way would it be enough to live in Japan (something I do want to do), but enough to get around for a month or so without much of a hassle.

  • NerfYoda
    +1

    I'd probably put Hebrew in the hard category. Even with context clues, the whole no vowels thing still trips me up.

  • folkrav
    +1

    I was surprised to see French listed in the "easy" languages. Its one on the more complex Latin languages to learn. While conversational proficiency can be obtained in a pretty short time, writing it is another story. I'm a native speaker, and I consider myself to be above average at writing it, but I still make a lot of (admittedly small) mistakes. Hell, you can find mistakes in a lot of classical literature considered to be masterpieces of the language! Most French speakers could tell you that a French rule isn't a rule if it has no exceptions.

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