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Language profiles
Home > Languages

 Language Difficulty
 (1 to 5) 
 Difficulty to learn this language for an English speaker Popularity
 (1 to 5) 
(1 to 3)
 (USD billions) 
Countries  Speakers
EnglishDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparencyTransparency$14129 bn  12  618 M 
 The undisputed king of languages in science, business and international exchange of any kind. The choice for a first foreign language, English will give you instant access to an unmatched wealth of books, newspapers, magazines, movies, websites and people from all over the world..

SpanishDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparencyTransparency$3198 bn  25  376 M 
 Easy, logical and useful language that is on top of most people's list. Very handy when travelling in the many Spanish-speaking countries, it also brings its own rewards through books, music and films. A must on any language lover shopping list.

FrenchDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparencyTransparency$2223 bn  17  213 M 
 A very chic but difficult romance language, French will open you the door of the most visited country on earth and let you in to a fascinating culture. Litterature, philosophy, architecture and gastronomy are areas where a command of French can bring intense satisfaction even if you do not live in France.

RussianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparency$548 bn  8  167 M 
 This fascinating language is less difficult to learn than its reputation and gives you the key not only to Russia, but also to the large group of ex-Soviet countries. Plus it gives you instant access to a enormous amount of highly interesting reading material you can get for free off the internet.

MandarinDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparency$1127 bn  4  1,036 M 
 Mandarin Chinese is a very difficult language to read and write, but it is not as hard to speak as you might think. With the humongus Chinese economy behind it, it definitely is a language of the future. Even if you do not work with China, you can get plenty of opportunities to practice it at home with the many Chinese travellers and the wealth of Chinese cinema.

GermanDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparency$2850 bn  3  91 M 
 This important European language is quite difficult to learn, but gives you access to one of the world's great economies as well as to a wealth of cultural material.

ItalianDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparencyTransparency$1490 bn  2  58 M 
 Arguably the most beautiful spoken language there is, a must for the arts aficionado. It is very easy to fall in love with this language and its country. If you already know another Romance language, make sure you learn it : you can learn Italian at 80% off the price by taking advantage of the strong similarities in grammar and vocabulary with Spanish, French and Portuguese.

JapaneseDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparency$4326 bn  1  127 M 
 A fascinating language for a fascinating civilisation. However this is probably one of the most difficult language you can find. Very complex writing system and grammar. The world's second largest economy.

ArabicDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularity$694 bn  24  285 M 
 A united writing system based on the Koran helps learning a language with many different dialects.

LatinDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparency$0 bn  1   M 
 The most popular dead language ever - a great intellectual adventure for those who study other Romance languages.

IndonesianDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularity$208 bn  1  234 M 

ThaiDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularity$143 bn  1  64 M 
 Thai is a demanding language but you can thank the Thais for writing with an alphabet.

KoreanDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularity$605 bn  2  70 M 
 Very interesting language and a great country but one of the most difficult languages to speak fluently.

CantoneseDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparency$400 bn  1  100 M 
 The most influential Chinese dialect after Mandarin. Despite the fact that it has less total speakers, the geographical spread of Cantonese has historically been much greater and largely remains so to this day.

DutchDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityTransparency$713 bn  4  30 M 
 Somewhere between English and German, Dutch might not be the most beautiful language but it is the national language of two very dynamic and friendly countries: Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as a close cognate, Afrikaans, in South Africa.

Hindi/UrduDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularity$276 bn  2  487 M 
 Indo-European language that opens you huge areas of one of the most intriguing country of the world - India, as well as most of Pakistan where the same language is written in Arabic script and called Urdu. Despite its captivating writing system, the language is not too difficult to master and is one of the most spoken in the world.

PortugueseDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularityTransparencyTransparencyTransparency$666 bn  6  203 M 
 Easy language to learn for those who already speak another Romance language, Portuguese is usually not the first choice in this group unless you have a special reason. Pity, since it is a beautiful language from two endearing countries.

TurkishDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityPopularity$237 bn  1  72 M 
 A wonderful grammar and a great civilization all clad in the roman alphabet should be enough to convince you.

EsperantoDifficultyPopularity$0 bn  0  2 M 
 If you want to try an artificial language, Esperanto is the most famous and most widespread.

FinnishDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$161 bn  1  5 M 
 Probably the most difficult European language you can learn, but rather fascinating.

NorwegianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparency$221 bn  1  5 M 

DanishDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparency$212 bn  1  5 M 

PolishDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparencyTransparency$209 bn  1  38 M 

SwedishDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparency$300 bn  1  9 M 
 The most important Scandinavian language. Very similar to Danish and Norwegian. A command of Dutch or German will get you started.

HungarianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$107 bn  1  14 M 
 Unique, highly demanding language that is the hallmark of an accomplished language lover. You may learn Spanish for many reasons, but Hungarian really shows you either love Hungary, or your love languages.

GreekDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$173 bn  2  11 M 
 Modern Greek uses the same alphabet as its ancestor, ancient Greek, but is much simpler to learn. It gives you access to a small but very interesting country and lets you speak with words that have been in use for 2500 years.

Serbo-CroatianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparencyTransparency$54 bn  5  17 M 
 Seen as either a political construct or a common language across the Balkans, Serbo-Croatian is a charming slavic language that you can enjoy during great beach vacations on the Adriatic sea.

CzechDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparency$85 bn  2  12 M 
 Attractive language of a charming central European country, Czech has influences from its many neighbors.

RomanianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$60 bn  3  28 M 
 The language of Vlad Dracul and a unique Romance language, Romanian has three word genders, six futures and uses cases like a Slavic language. Despite all this, it is still relatively easy if you speak another Romance language.

BulgarianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$20 bn  1  8 M 

UkrainianDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparencyTransparency$50 bn  2  41 M 
 Closely related to Russian, Ukrainian is much less studied than its older brother since most people in the Ukraine speak Russian.

FarsiDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparency$127 bn  2  61 M 
 Intriguing language that is not so difficult to learn if you already speak another indo european language. The language of Iran but also an official language of Afghanistan and Tadjikistan.

BengaliDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularity$51 bn  2  207 M 
 The language of Bangladesh and of the state of Bengal near Calcutta, India.

SlovakDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyDifficultyPopularityTransparencyTransparency$50 bn  1  6 M 

  • Difficulty :
    Rating 1 (easiest) to 5 (hardest) of the difficulty of learning the language for an English speaker. Many additional factors will affect the difficulty you will experience when trying to learn a given language, especially the other languages you already speak. Such a rating system has obvious limitations but I take great care in assessing the difficulty of each language. Many of these ratings have been discussed on the language forum (see for example the discussion about Korean). People always complain that the rating given to their native language is 'too low' - I wonder how they would now since they never had to learn it as a foreign language. If you can make a case for a different difficulty rating for a specific language you are welcome to bring this up in the language forum.
  • Popularity :
    Subjective rating of how popular the language is with Western learners. This obviously varies a great deal from country to country, but is a good overall indicator of the availability of learning material for the language. I visit many physical language bookshops as well as some online ones and think I have a rather objective basis for establishing 'popularity' of a language with foreign language learners in the number of courses and books available for each language.
  • GDP :
    Nominal GDP of the countries where the languages is spoken. This gives an indication of the economic importance of the language on the international scene. We have not used PPP GDP as it emphasizes non-tradable goods. When a country uses several languages we used the percentage of speakers of the language multiplied by the country's GDP. If you feel that economic factors are meaningless in language learning, please disregard this column.
  • Countries :
    Number of countries where the language is an official language or where there are important communities who speak this language at home. This gives you an indication of the spread of the language across the globe. Some languages (English, Spanish, French) are used in many countries across the world whereas others (Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian) are confined to one huge country.
  • Speakers :
    Approximate number of native speakers worldwide. Some languages, such as English, are widely used by non native speakers. You will find information about this in the detailed review.

    If you feel a language should be included, you can write a review for a language. Just send me a blueprint and I'll publish it in the next edition.

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