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Easiest "difficult" language?

  Tags: Difficulty
 Language Learning Forum : Specific Languages Post Reply
35 messages over 5 pages: 13 4 5  Next >>
Serpent
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 Message 9 of 35
05 February 2015 at 7:26am | IP Logged 
Fiyero wrote:
(obviously something like Navajo is harder, but hardly anyone will waste their time on that)

pffffft no language is a waste of time
7 persons have voted this message useful



shk00design
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 Message 10 of 35
05 February 2015 at 7:32am | IP Logged 
Medulin wrote:
How is Mandarin considered the easiest hard language? It's in many
people's opinion the hardest language an English speaker might ever attempt to tackle (obviously something
like Navajo is harder, but hardly anyone will waste their time on that).


The question is rather subjective and based on personal opinion. People who speak European languages tend
to consider any language with an alphabet to be easy to learn including Arabic, Hindi, and Korean. Those who
are English speakers tend to think Mandarin is difficult. On the flip side of the coin there are Chinese who think
English is difficult.

What makes Chinese easy? According to Steve Kaufmann the polyglot Mandarin has straightforward
grammar with no subject-verb conjugations of any kind. The number system is straightforward. You have your
symbols for 1 to 10 (一二三四五六七八九十). Elven is just the character for 10 & 1 combined (十一), twelve would
be 10 & 2, etc. Nothing fancy. In English we have words like "eleven", "twelve", "thirteen" which does not
contain the root 10 or anything that resemble one, two or three.

What makes Chinese difficult? The characters. There are over 2000 symbols. The shape of the symbols often
do not indicate the pronunciation. And the 4 tones to a foreigner can be a pain in the neck. A lot of second
generation Chinese expats would learn to speak Chinese at home with their parents & grandparents but tend
to be illiterate writing characters. There are regional dialects of Chinese. Cantonese tend to be more
challenging because it has 9 tones instead of 4.A lot of foreigners tend to master master Mandarin
pronunciation like a native but tend to speak with a heavier accent with Cantonese.

The last time I was in Shanghai, I came across several Chinese expats asking for directions. And the lady who
showed them the way was a White woman who spoke practically flawless Mandarin... believe it or not.
Another Caucasian who became an actor and a Beijing native is Mark Rowswell from Canada who goes by the
Chinese nickname 大山 (Big Mountain). He started studying Chinese in 1984 at the age of 19 at the University
of Toronto before furthering his studies at Beijing U.

What is considered a more difficult language than Chinese? Japanese. Again it would be a subjective opinion.
Japanese does use an alphabet but they also use many Chinese characters. In order to read & write properly,
you need to learn both the alphabets and the Chinese characters. There are many Chinese characters that can
have more than 1 pronunciations in Japanese. In Chinese, usually 1 character has 1 sound. The person who
mastered the Japanese language and became a successful singer in Japan is Jerome White. As an African
American with a Japanese grandmother, he was surrounded by Japanese music early in life and love to sing
Karaoke. He adopted the name Jero after moving to Japan. Does Jero think Japanese is the hardest language
to learn? Probably not.

Edited by shk00design on 07 February 2015 at 5:27am

4 persons have voted this message useful



vonPeterhof
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 Message 11 of 35
05 February 2015 at 7:37am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
I'm not familiar enough with other alphabets like those of Sanskrit/Hindi, Arabic, Hebrew,
but they seem manageable as well. The Chinese characters are of course a different matter altogether.
About Arabic and Hebrew, just learning the letters will be of limited assistance in sounding out
these two languages, due to short vowels normally being omitted in writing. A lot of the Arabic-based writing
systems either work the same, or spell native words with all the vowels, but retain the original spellings of
Arabic and Persian loanwords. The only complete exceptions I'm aware of are the official Arabic scripts used
in China's Xinjiang for Uyghur, Kazakh and Kyrgyz. The Hebrew alphabet used for Yiddish spells non-Semitic
words phonetically while Hebrew and Aramaic loanwords retain original spellings. However, the standardized
Yiddish that was used for some time in the Soviet Union was simplified to spell all words according to
pronunciation. Not sure about the other Jewish vernaculars.

Funny thing, before I started learning Japanese I was actually trying to learn as many scripts as possible.
Naturally I thought the Chinese characters would be impossible, but since I was also getting into anime at the
time I saw no reason to exclude hiragana and katakana. I was planning to start Devanagari right after them,
but by the time I was done I became so fascinated with the Japanese language I just thought "okay, bring on
the kanji!" The only entirely new script (i.e. not counting modified versions of others scripts, like Abkhaz or
Vietnamese) I've added since then is Armenian, which I've found surprisingly tricky for a fully alphabetic
script.
3 persons have voted this message useful



Ari
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 Message 12 of 35
05 February 2015 at 12:50pm | IP Logged 
Mandarin is probably the most difficult of the common difficult languages, due to the writing system that even natives have trouble with. Cantonese is arguably more difficult, due to more tones, more characters and lack of materials, especially written. I recall Prof. Arguelles arguing that Korean is the most difficult language he ever learned, though AFAIK he never learned Mandarin. Japanese has a lot fewer characters to learn (1000? 2000? I'm not sure, but I know 5100 Chinese characters and I'm still encountering unknown ones every few pages in my readings), but is complicated by the variety of readings of each individual character.

That said, learning conversational Mandarin probably isn't as hard as it's percieved to be. Getting to a point where one can chitchat, ask for directions and be showered with praise from native speakers isn't too difficult. As has been pointed out, Mandarin grammar is dead simple, and I don't think the tones are as hard as they're cracked up to be. But the mountain gets steeper the higher you climb.

Edited by Ari on 05 February 2015 at 2:40pm

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tarvos
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 Message 13 of 35
05 February 2015 at 1:13pm | IP Logged 
The professor has tried Mandarin but didn't really like it.

As for me the most difficult language will always be French so I don't get this question

Edited by tarvos on 05 February 2015 at 1:15pm

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Fiyero
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 Message 14 of 35
06 February 2015 at 2:42am | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
Fiyero wrote:
(obviously something like Navajo is harder, but hardly anyone will waste
their time on that)

pffffft no language is a waste of time
I don't mean it in that context, I just mean it's probably the
hardest language on Earth, so I don't think it's going to be high on most people's languages to learn list
compared to other ones.
1 person has voted this message useful



Ari
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 Message 15 of 35
06 February 2015 at 10:24am | IP Logged 
Fiyero wrote:
I don't mean it in that context, I just mean it's probably the hardest language on Earth, so I don't think it's going to be high on most people's languages to learn list compared to other ones.

That's a very bold statement, considering the number of languages on Earth. Navajo is surely difficult – I understand there's no such thing as a regular verb in Navajo – but there are thousands upon thousands of languages on Earth, and most have hardly even been studied by linguists. Compared to the "average" language on Earth, Navajo is a very popular language to study.
3 persons have voted this message useful



Stolan
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 Message 16 of 35
06 February 2015 at 9:21pm | IP Logged 
Fiyero wrote:
(obviously something
like Navajo is harder, but hardly anyone will waste their time on that).


It still, aside from the heavy distance, wouldn't fry one's brain at all in the way that something like Russian or Ancient Greek would.

Edited by Stolan on 06 February 2015 at 9:25pm



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