We can all agree that learning new languages is difficult. That’s why most people begin by asking which language is easiest to learn.
Because we are always trying to figure out the easiest and ones to avoid, we will look at the most difficult written languages. This way, you can decide to avoid them or tackle them head-on.
The most difficult written language is Chinese, particularly Mandarin. Other written languages such as Arabic, Korean and Japanese are almost as hard. However, the most difficult language to write is mandarin Chinese of its utter complexity.
So why is Chinese difficult for English speakers? What other languages are difficult for English speakers to write? Read on for more details about the most difficult written languages.
Arabic is one of the languages written from right to left and is popular for having a complex-looking script.
The fluid lines and cures connect elegantly, making it hard to understand where one letter ends and another starts.
For example, نعم seems complex but simply means ‘yes.’ Most Arabic letters also take one form based on their location in a word, making it harder to read and write in Arabic.
Additionally, written Arabic does not include vowels. This makes reading very difficult for anyone who is not proficient in the language.
This means that unless you are familiar with the word, you won’t be able to pronounce it. For learners, diacritical marks are used to indicate vowel location. However, these marks are not normally used.
Japanese is one of the most difficult written languages for a reason. Studies indicate that Japanese is the single language that takes English speakers the longest to learn.
You will need to learn not one but two different syllabaries and a variety of Chinese characters. There is a massive number of kanji and individual characters you need to memorize to become literate in Japanese.
This is far harder than Latin languages, that only need learning one alphabet of around 26 letters. For example, ‘lunch’ in Japanese is written as 昼ご飯.
If you can learn Katakana and Hiragana, the two main Japanese alphabets, you can begin to decipher street signs and menus.
Generally, the Japanese writing system is complicated as it means being literate in Japan means being literate in Chinese.
Many Japanese characters have been borrowed from the Chinese over the past thousand years. This means that even Chinese speakers might not recognize all the Japanese characters.
A single glance at the Thai alphabet will be sufficient to inspire a feeling of inadequacy. The Thai letters have endless turns and loops that might have a dizzying effect on individuals who aren’t sure what they are looking at.
Even worse for aspiring learners, the Thai alphabet has 72 characters, which is almost three times the characters in the English alphabet.
Also, mastering the Thai alphabet needs more than memorizing all 72 characters. Each Thai letter has a more complicated role.
For instance, ‘excuse me’ is written as ‘koortoot’ in Thai. Each Thai consonant has three classes; high, middle, and low.
These classes are used along with accompanying vowel sounds to determine the pronunciation of a particular consonant. This is a lot of information to comprehend while writing or reading.
Hindi uses the Devanagari script, which is considered particularly difficult to comprehend. The script is also known as an abugida, in which individual characters represent a vowel and a consonant combination instead of a single consonant or vowel.
For example, ‘love’ written in Hindi is ‘प्यार.’ This is a new concept for most English speakers.
To worsen matters, the written Hindi version doesn’t have distinct phonetic markings to pronounce words.
Also, Hindi is a language where slight changes in context and sound can change the meaning of a word completely.
While Hindi is one of English speakers’ most difficult written languages, Hindi shares some words with Arabic. Therefore, Arabic speakers will have a leg up in terms of vocabulary.
Although Nepalis are much easier than Arabic and Chinese, the language differs from most European languages.
It’s hard to master Nepali language vocabulary for non-Hindi speakers as the two languages have much in common.
For example, Dhanyabād in Nepal means ‘Thank you.’ The sentence structure regarding grammar design and word sequence differs from most languages.
Learning the Devanagari script is often more difficult than learning the Japanese katakana or hiragana writing systems.
The Devanagari syllables, such as ke and ghu, are made by modifying consonants with vowel symbols to create new syllables.
There is no doubt; mandarin Chinese is difficult to read and write. While most languages use syllabaries or alphabets to record the language in writing, Chinese uses logographic characters.
This means there is a lot to learn because individual characters have their own meaning. The massive number of characters you will need to learn to read and write Chinese fluently makes the language very difficult.
For example, 你好。means ‘Hello.’ To read and understand a Chinese-language newspaper, you should understand about 3,000 characters. A fluent Chinese speaker comprehends around 8,000 characters.
The Chinese language is not only hard to learn writing due to the high number of characters. The number of specific strokes that every character needs can make your progress towards Chinese literacy from difficult to frustrating.
Most Chinese characters have around ten strokes, and the character with a maximum number of strokes has 56. This is very difficult compared to the English alphabet, which does not even need specific stroke orders.
These are some of the most difficult written languages. All these languages do not have a connection to the English language, making them the hardest to read or write.
Korean, Japanese, and Arabic are all difficult written languages, but mandarin Chinese takes the crown.
An average learner takes about two years to learn, but it’s one of the great things you can accomplish.
Other honorable mentions that have difficult writing include; Greek, Lao, Icelandic, Vietnamese, Russian, etc.