Which Is The Hardest Language To Learn For English Speakers?  

hardest language to learn for English speakers

Spanish, French, and Italian are Roman languages. Therefore, English speakers can learn this language within 580 to 600 hours.

If you thought French, Italian or Spanish are the toughest languages for English speakers to learn,then you are mistaken.

But then, which is the hardest language to learn for English Speakers? There isn’t one but tons of them.

Learn all about it today and decide which language you want to challenge yourself with.

Six Hardest Languages to Learn for English Speakers

1. Mandarin Chinese

Script Hanzi
Hours of Learning 2200-4000 Hours
Place of Origination Northern China
Number of Native Speakers 1.1 Billion

Mandarin Chinese takes the first place when it comes to the hardest language for English speakers. Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language with 4 tones.

Meaning each word can be pronounced 4 ways, and the tone of the word changes along with the intonation. Moreover, there are 20,000 comprehensive mandarin characters, out of which an educated Mandarin speaker knows 8,000.

On the other hand, English has 26 letters, which are entirely different from Mandarin characters. Also, writing in Mandarin characters is exceptionally difficult as Mandarin characters are altogether different than English letters.

That’s not all; besides memorizing Mandarin characters, students must also learn thousands of traditional Chinese characters.

2. Japanese

Script Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji
Hours of Learning 2200 Hours
Place of Origination Japan
Number of Native Speakers 125.4 Million

Japanese is one of the most challenging yet most popular languages among young learners and entrepreneurs. Japanese characters, just like Mandarin characters, take more work to learn.

Moreover, Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji all have individual scripts with 46 to 50,000 characters. Learning thousands of characters is difficult for English speakers.

Besides characters, Japanese grammar is also a confusing part of the language. An English sentence consists of Subject Verb Object structure. On the other hand, A Japanese sentence consists Subject Object Verb structure.

For example, if it’s I play football in English, it would be I football play in Japanese. Students who have spoken Roman languages for their entire lives will find this sentence structure complex and challenging to translate.

3. Navajo

Script Latin
Hours of Learning 2200 Hours
Place of Origination Arizona and New Mexico (USA)
Number of Native Speakers 170,000

Even though it is derived from Latin, Navajo is a highly challenging language. According to a study by Arizona State University, one needs “muscles” to learn Navajo.

Firstly, Navajo is a verb-based language, where objects are described in verbs. Secondly, Navajo has many nasal sounds, glottalized consonants, and high tones, and that has no English equivalent.

Source: (Pinterest)

Therefore, translating sentences becomes a hassle for native English speakers. Moreover, learning Navajo is more than just classwork.

Learners have to go and meet native speakers and practice the language regularly. Thus, making the process even more complicated for students to learn.

While Navajo is a difficult language to learn, you know what isn’t? Spanish! So, enroll yourself in EnthuZiastic’s Spanish classes, and watch La Casa De Papel subtitle-free.

4. Polish

Script Alphabet Polski
Hours of Learning 1100 Hours
Place of Origination Poland
Number of Native Speakers 170,000

The primary reason why Polish is considered among the hardest languages for native English speakers is the sound.

Firstly, most words in Polish are pronounced from the upper mouth palate. And most sounds in Polish are subtly different from one another, which becomes difficult to figure for outsiders.

Therefore, when students learn Polish, differentiating these sounds becomes confusing and time-consuming. In addition to sound, polish grammar is also difficult for non-native speakers.

Polish grammar uses 7 different case systems. For example, the letter, box in Polish is Skrzynka, and ‘boxes’ mean Pudla. So, every time the tense changes, the words too change into a different word creating a humongous list of words. This often confuses native English speakers and makes their learning process more complex.

5. Korean

Script Hangeul
Hours of Learning 2400 Hours
Place of Origination North and South Korea
Number of Native Speakers 75 Million

 Thanks to K-Dramas, K-Pop, and especially BTS, Korean has become one of the most popular foreign languages.

 Source: (Pinterest)

However, that doesn’t change; Korean is among the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.

Korean has 24 alphabets- 10 vowels and 14 consonants. Yes, the number of characters is nothing compared to Mandarin Chinese or Japanese. Yet, Korean as a language poses several challenges for learners.

Firstly, like Japanese Korean too follows Subject Object Verb sentence structures. So students, who have spent all their lives speaking English, will find Korean difficult.

Moreover, Korean pronunciation is also confusing for new learners. For example, the letter R is also used as L in Korean. Therefore, when new learners start practicing new words, they might get confused with the usage of words.

Wondering why you should learn such complex foreign languages? Read 21 Reasons to Learn Foreign Languages and know everything.

6. Arabic

Script Al-Abjadiyah
Hours of Learning 2200 Hours
Place of Origination The Arabian Peninsula
Number of Native Speakers 274 Million

Arabic is among the most popular and spoken languages in the world. Once you learn Arabic, you will become acquainted with a world full of rich art, culture, and heritage.

That said, Arabic is one of the most difficult languages to comprehend for non-native speakers. Firstly, Arabic has complex grammar rules and pronunciation, which becomes difficult for non-native speakers to grasp.

For example, almost every word in Arabic is pronounced through epiglottis, which is uncommon for non-native speakers.

Secondly, Arabic is written from right to left and is quite different than any other Roman languages that foreign students are used to.

Moreover, just like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, Arabic has a different script. Lastly, Arabic has more than 20 dialects that become difficult to understand unless one isn’t proficient in the language.

These factors make Arabic one of the most challenging languages in the world


Is Russian a complex language to learn?

Yes, Russian is a complex language to learn. It uses Cyrillic script, which is alien to Latin speakers. However, as Russian is a Slavic language, learning Russian will be easier for you if you learn Polish or Ukrainian.

Is Spanish challenging to learn for English speakers?

A new language will pose some challenges if you are learning it for the first time. That said, Spanish is comparatively easier to learn for English speakers, as Spanish is also derived from Latin and has Latin scripts.

Can I learn French on my own?

Learning a new language is always better with an instructor. However, if you want, you can start to learn French on your own.

What are my prospects if I learn Polish?

You can work as a translator at your regional Polish embassy if you know the language. Moreover, you can teach Polish to new learners if you want a career in education.

learn foreign language

Learn a second language today

Get the tremendous benefits of knowing a foreign language. Learn with the best teachers.

Summing Up

Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho, while receiving his Golden Globe award, said,

“Once you move beyond the one-inch barrier of subtitles, there is a world full of amazing films waiting for you.”

Language is a key that will help you open numerous doors; a door to culture, heritage, jobs, and an adventurous lifestyle. So, grab the opportunity and learn as many languages as you can.

Leave a comment