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Which is the most difficult?

  Tags: Difficulty
 Language Learning Forum : Philological Room Post Reply
11 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
Sprachgenie
Decaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 4617 days ago

128 posts - 165 votes 
Speaks: German*, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Faroese, Icelandic, Flemish, Persian, Swiss-German
Studies: English, Belarusian

 
 Message 1 of 11
09 January 2013 at 7:02am | IP Logged 
I'd like to know which would be the most difficult to learn for a monolingual American
for the three groups shown below. Difficulty here pertains to the time and effort
required to achieve near-native fluency in reading, speaking, writing, and listening.
Please do not include considerations related to the availability of materials. This is
about the difficulty of the languages themselves. Thanks for any input.

Thai
Burmese
Cambodian
Vietnamese

Dutch
Danish
Norwegian
Swedish

Portuguese
French
Greek
German
1 person has voted this message useful



renaissancemedi
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
Greece
Joined 3266 days ago

941 posts - 1308 votes 
Speaks: Greek*, Ancient Greek*, EnglishC2
Studies: French, Russian, Turkish, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 2 of 11
09 January 2013 at 8:40am | IP Logged 
I am not a monolingual American, but I think the easiest is the last group. The hardest the first. And the second most difficult, the second group, simply because of the danish, that I find mystifying and impossible to pronounce!
1 person has voted this message useful



Марк
Senior Member
Russian Federation
Joined 3964 days ago

2096 posts - 2972 votes 
Speaks: Russian*

 
 Message 3 of 11
09 January 2013 at 8:44am | IP Logged 
renaissancemedi wrote:
I am not a monolingual American, but I think the easiest is the
last group. The hardest the first. And the second most difficult, the second group,
simply because of the danish, that I find mystifying and impossible to pronounce!

The second group is the easiest, then the last and then the first.
7 persons have voted this message useful



Ogrim
Heptaglot
Senior Member
France
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991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 
 Message 4 of 11
09 January 2013 at 9:27am | IP Logged 
renaissancemedi wrote:
I am not a monolingual American, but I think the easiest is the last group. The hardest the first. And the second most difficult, the second group, simply because of the danish, that I find mystifying and impossible to pronounce!


Danish pronunciation is pretty mystifying for most Norwegians as well:-) That being said, with regard to grammar and vocabulary I would think Scandinavian languages and Dutch are easier for a monolingual American than the languages in group three.
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Raincrowlee
Tetraglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5610 days ago

621 posts - 808 votes 
Speaks: English*, Mandarin, Korean, French
Studies: Indonesian, Japanese

 
 Message 5 of 11
09 January 2013 at 10:11am | IP Logged 
Yeah, second would be easiest, in part because the languages are all related to English and to each other.

The third would be second, in large part because of Greek, which is quite different from the other three and different from English.

The first group would be, by far, the hardest. Four languages pretty much only related by the sprachbund in their region, and all of them pretty far away from English.
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Al
Diglot
Newbie
United States
Joined 5413 days ago

30 posts - 39 votes
Speaks: English*, German

 
 Message 6 of 11
09 January 2013 at 10:16am | IP Logged 
Sprachgenie wrote:
I'd like to know which would be the most difficult to learn for a monolingual American
for the three groups shown below. Difficulty here pertains to the time and effort
required to achieve near-native fluency in reading, speaking, writing, and listening.
Please do not include considerations related to the availability of materials. This is
about the difficulty of the languages themselves. Thanks for any input.

Thai
Burmese
Cambodian
Vietnamese

Dutch
Danish
Norwegian
Swedish

Portuguese
French
Greek
German


Based on FSI and DLI rankings of languages and my own personal experience, I would rank them from easiest to hardest as follows:


Dutch
Danish
Norwegian
Swedish

Portuguese
French
Greek
German

Thai
Burmese
Cambodian
Vietnamese

The Germanic languages are closest to English and, thus, the easiest for English speakers to learn. The Romance languages are the next closest.   

The third group is among the most difficult for English speakers because they are tonal, they feature sounds that don’t exist in English, and all but Vietnamese would require you to learn a new alphabet.


Edited by Al on 09 January 2013 at 10:17am

3 persons have voted this message useful



viedums
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Thailand
Joined 3574 days ago

327 posts - 528 votes 
Speaks: Latvian, English*, German, Mandarin, Thai, French
Studies: Vietnamese

 
 Message 7 of 11
10 January 2013 at 9:44am | IP Logged 
Wasn’t the OP asking about relative difficulty within each set? It seems fairly obvious that, say, Vietnamese is more difficult than Dutch for an English native speaker.

I’ll voice my opinion about the Southeast Asian set. First, the problem of learning a different script for each language except Vietnamese shouldn’t be a significant barrier – it’s not like learning Chinese characters. The actual sounds of all of them would pose more problems. Assuming that the learner could handle tones, I’d rank them as follows. (1 being most difficult, 4 least.)

1. Burmese. The sounds of Burmese are quite tricky and hard to differentiate for the learner. At times you may almost long for the clarity of contour tones. Word order is radically different from English (verb-final), unlike the other languages here. There is an array of grammatical particles without an equivalent in the other languages (see Okell and Allott’s Burmese Dictionary of Grammatical Forms for this – nothing like this is necessary for Khmer or Thai.) There is formalized diglossia between the spoken and written varieties. And even within the spoken language, what you actually hear on the street is kind of slurred together and differs from what is presented in textbooks.

2. Vietnamese. Difficult sounds and array of tones, but I feel that learning it wouldn’t be so different from learning a Sinitic language like Mandarin once the learner had the sound system down.

3. Khmer. Difficult sounds, especially vowels.

4. Thai. Tone system is on a par with Mandarin in terms of difficulty. Spelling is regular, but conservative so that words borrowed from Sanskrit contain silent letters and other idiosyncrasies, which can be time-consuming for the learner.

Khmer and Thai might be switched here, depending on how much weight you want to give to the difficulty of learning tones. Khmer doesn’t have tones, but it has a lot of strange vowels to compensate for this.

3 persons have voted this message useful



Al
Diglot
Newbie
United States
Joined 5413 days ago

30 posts - 39 votes
Speaks: English*, German

 
 Message 8 of 11
10 January 2013 at 10:51am | IP Logged 
viedums wrote:
Wasn’t the OP asking about relative difficulty within each set? It seems fairly obvious that, say, Vietnamese is more difficult than Dutch for an English native speaker.


Okay, let’s see…

Group 1. I haven’t studied any of the languages in group 1 but FSI says that Vietnamese, Khmer, and Thai are a bit harder than the other “hard languages,” while Burmese is merely “hard.” For whatever that is worth.

Group 2. I have studied some Danish and Dutch. I found Dutch easy because it is pretty close to German.   For an English speaker without German, I would say that the Scandinavian languages are slightly easier than Dutch because they are a bit closer to English. Among the Scandinavian languages it really depends on which one you start with. I started with Danish so Swedish is a bit harder for me.

Group 3. Greek is the hardest by far.   German is the second most difficult. FSI says that Portuguese is more difficult than French but I don’t know if I agree. French seems more complicated to me.


Edited by Al on 10 January 2013 at 10:53am



1 person has voted this message useful



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