The most difficult language?
Posted 16. Januar 2013on:
Here comes a new blog entry by the current WORLD TEXT intern! As translators and interpreters work with many languages every day, I’ve been wondering – what’s the most difficult one?
My research shows – you just can`t tell. It depends on who you are, what your mother language is, what languages you already know, how you study a language, and so on.
There are many “top language lists” on the internet, and people are leading heated discussions.
The language I often, almost always, find on these lists, is Chinese. Of course – their writing system and the immense number of Kanji impresses most people. But what about the rest? Grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary…? Of course, for us Europeans, Asian languages are interesting and exotic. But when you’re Japanese for example, it’s not that hard to learn Chinese, as far as the writing system is concerned, because it’s the same. However, the Kanji differ in meaning and the Japanese writing system also includes Kana.
The languages also often mentioned are the Slavic ones. They’re difficult indeed. But it’s not all about a different alphabet. I suppose grammar and pronunciation aren’t so easy either.
Chinese and Russian come to your mind quickly, but what about Finnish or Icelandic? They’re said to be pretty hard to learn as well. African, Arabic, Korean, Hindi, …
…or Polish. I found something interesting on the internet:
Number “two” (2):
English, Spanish, Dutch: 1 form (two, dos, twee)
Portuguese: 2 forms (dois/duas) – depending on gender (2 – masculine & feminine)
Croatian: 7 forms (dva, dvije, dvoje, dvojica, dvojice, dvojici, dvojicu) – depending on gender (3-masculine, feminine, and neuter) and case in one specific form.
Polish: 17 forms. Depends on gender (3), case for all forms. Pretty much all these forms occur in regular speech (6-11 less often than the others) – 1. dwa 2. dwie 3. dwoje 4. dwóch (or dwu) 5. dwaj 6. dwiema 7. dwom (or dwóm) 8. dwoma 9. dwojga 10. dwojgu 11. dwojgiem 12. dwójka 13. dwójki 14. dwójkę 15. dwójką 16. dwójce 17. dwójko
The language that’s often forgotten is English. Just because a lot of people speak it, doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Many people could perfect their English.
What also irritates me is that many people say, certain languages are very easy to learn. “No problem, go to site XY and you can learn it online in a few months!” No! You can learn the basics, but not the entire language. It needs many YEARS to be good at a language. By the way, those “easy” languages mentioned are Spanish, Italian (and sometimes even French). I think that’s not true at all. If you’re one of those “quick online learners”, listen to…an agitated Spanish soccer player and tell me what he says. Or listen to one of François Hollande’s speeches; do you understand all the idioms, the political terms? Or isn’t it as easy as you thought after all?
One more thing I’d like to say. Some people boast of “knowing” so many languages. “I can speak Spanish, French, Italian, Greek… also Chinese… and I know what “How are you” means in Russian and Swedish.” I think they only have a basic knowledge of most of the languages they “know”, so if this is the case, I’m not impressed, rather annoyed. I know many people, we all know many people, who live and work in our country, but who are from abroad/have a different native language. They “only” know “our” language and their mother tongue, but they can speak both perfectly, they communicate at work, talk with clients, have to deal with complaints and misunderstandings, they go to the doctor, to the bank, they offer us their help… this is much more impressive, don’t you think?