World's Most Difficult Language for English Speakers

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Big_Dog, Jul 20, 2014.

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Which language will take the most time for a native English speaker to reach C1 in?

  1. Mandarin

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  2. Arabic

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Russian

    1 vote(s)
    33.3%
  4. Japanese

    1 vote(s)
    33.3%
  5. Wu

    1 vote(s)
    33.3%
  6. Vietnamese

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Korean

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. Cantonese

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. Thai

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    (I made a pole like this on HTLAL once, and thought I'd create our own version, because it's a topic I like to discuss.)

    Of the languages that have over 50 million native speakers, which do you think will take the most time for a native English speaker to reach C1 in all 4 skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening? Feel free to state your reasons, or post links on this subject.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2014
  2. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    My best guess ranking is as follows:
    Wu (chinese characters, tonal, lack of resources)
    Japanese (chinese characters, grammar)
    Cantonese (chinese characters, tonal)
    Mandarin (chinese characters, tonal)
    Korean (grammar, listening)
    Arabic (learn classical + dialect)
    Thai (tonal, alphabet)
    Vietnamese (tonal)
    Russian (grammar)
  3. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    Not being familiar with most of those languages, I can't really venture an opinion, though of course tonal character languages are going to rank highly. But if you are going to use lack of resources as a metric, then that could move up a lot of what otherwise would be medium difficult languages based on other factors, to the top percentiles. And you forgot Bob's Cebuano and Biblical Greek (the extensive presence of hapax legomena has to vault any language to the top quartile, though that is a variation of lack of resources).
  4. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    Haha, Biblical Greek has to be the easiest to learn because I don't need to use it orally. I assume it'll go to "Advanced" before anything else. Filipino would be a good catch-all for many of the languages here (aside from lack of materials.) Out of all the languages I've dabbled in, I don't think I've ever said "wow, x is so much harder than y". Unless of course, we're talking about reading Chinese.

    For an English only person though, I might vote Hungarian. Lots of inflections and not allot of cognates. Writing is pretty uniform though.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
  5. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    Why isn't Dutch on the list? It has a complicating factor that none of your other languages has: the Dutch all speak excellent English, so you'll rarely get the chance to speak it when there's anything important to be discussed....
    biTsar likes this.
  6. Peregrinus

    Peregrinus Active Member

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    That is a fairly discouraging factor for all the major Germanic languages except Standard German itself. Nonetheless, if one wishes to understand the countries and speakers of those languages, better to be able to read and listen to their writings and utterances unfiltered through English. The moreso if one enjoys literature.
  7. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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    (note to self: bolding out the over 50 million didn't work)
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2014
  8. Big_Dog

    Big_Dog Administrator Staff Member

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  9. Cainntear

    Cainntear Active Member VIP member

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    Ah, in that case I should revise my response. I'm going to say -- and this is just my gut feeling -- "sheepish".
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  10. Bob

    Bob Active Member VIP member

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    Oh, sorry. I'll change my vote to Quenya.

    (I did vote ;)
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  11. biTsar

    biTsar Active Member VIP member

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    I watched some of his vids a while back. Guilty pleasure. He's tightly wound, but when he cudgels the right targets I admit to smiling. His last name seems onomatopoeic.
    Big_Dog likes this.
  12. Nobody

    Nobody Member

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    Native Language:
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    Intermediate Languages:
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    Korean seems atypically hard to pronounce for native English speakers. The double consonants, the subtle (to us) vowel distinctions, the slurring together of syllables an assimilation all make it harder to speak than Japanese, or even Chinese, despite its tonality. Just weeks into Chinese I was able to speak and be understood with little problem by the first native speaker I had ever met. The same was not true of Korean.

    I would definitely say Korean is much harder than Mandarin.

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