You’ve often heard about how challenging it is to learn the Serbian language, even for those living in Serbia who speak it daily. Just recalling the struggles with grammar in school, differentiating word types and sentence functions, not to mention dealing with accents, brings back memories. Not a day goes by without searching the internet for keywords like ‘how to say’ to resolve linguistic uncertainties.
If native Serbian speakers find it challenging, what about foreigners interested in learning Serbian? A recent study explored the most difficult languages to learn among the 7,000 spoken worldwide, and surprisingly, Serbian ranks among the most challenging.
Let’s examine the criteria.
Making your head spin
The most difficult languages in the world share several characteristics: complex grammar, specific vocabulary, challenging pronunciation, and sometimes unusual punctuation. This presents a genuine challenge for anyone aiming to expand their language skills. Some excel in grammar, while others struggle with pronunciation. The use of script can either aid or hinder learning. Languages from the same linguistic family are closer and are generally easier for speakers to adopt compared to those from different families.
Having a knack for languages is crucial, but complex grammar poses a significant challenge. Arabic and Polish, with their numerous cases, gender variations in words, and diverse tenses, make these languages more intricate compared to others. Anyone who has studied German has likely grappled with irregular verbs and the usage of dative and accusative cases. Don’t ask us how we know.
In almost every language, the way a word is pronounced can significantly differ from its written form. For instance, French often involves pronouncing a word with 12 letters using only 3. Other languages, like Polish, include many ‘hissing’ sounds and challenging pronunciations for individuals grown in entirely different linguistic backgrounds. In Japanese, intonation is crucial as it alters the meaning of words. Almost all foreign speakers mix up our ‘č’ and ‘ć’, but even we struggle to pronounce the English ‘THE’ or the rolling French ‘R’.
Many global languages use a phonetic system, but major languages utilise different writing systems. For example, Arabic scripts or Chinese characters might appear cryptic and inaccessible to most. Therefore, certain languages demand mastering writing skills from scratch. Serbian Cyrillic, in this sense, is a true blessing: 30 sounds, as many characters, and the rule ‘write as you speak, read as written’. It can be mastered in just as much time.
The World’s Hardest Languages
Whether a language is difficult for you depends on your aptitude for learning new languages, prior experience, and the similarity of the new language to your mother tongue.
Truly listing all languages from hardest to easiest is challenging, but objectively, here are the toughest languages in the world.
- Chinese is undoubtedly considered one of the absolute hardest languages globally. To master it, one must learn tens of thousands of characters, some with multiple meanings, while some appear nearly identical but differ in pronunciation. Learning Chinese is undeniably a strenuous, complex process for anyone.
- Icelandic sounds incredibly intricate. Its grammar is quite complex, and due to the island’s isolation, its vocabulary seems archaic.
- Greek, one of the world’s oldest languages and beloved among classical cultures, has not changed much since its inception despite millennia passing. Therefore, it’s challenging for foreigners to learn, with pronunciation being the most complicated aspect. The sounds ‘I’ or ‘E’ can be marked in multiple ways, and the alphabet poses complications for those not particularly inclined towards physics.
- Hebrew is considered challenging and archaic. Although today used by around five million people, it remains difficult for foreigners to learn.
- Polish is often cited as one of the world’s hardest languages. Even if it objectively isn’t the hardest, it surely deserves a place among the toughest due to its complex grammar, specific pronunciation, and diverse vocabulary.
- Finnish belongs to the Uralic language family, along with Hungarian, significantly differing from other European languages, whether Scandinavian, Slavic, or Germanic. This isolation makes these two languages challenging to learn.
- Arabic is also challenging due to its characters and grammar. Nouns in Arabic can have three numbers, three cases, and two genders, significantly complicating language learning.
- Serbian, with its declensions, four-accent system, and Cyrillic script, falls into the category of harder languages to master. Yet, considering that it allows communication across the Balkans, knowing it well is incredibly useful. Finding the right programmes that expertly guide you through all levels of learning Serbian as a foreign or heritage language is crucial.
The Easiest Languages in the World
If you want to learn a new language, starting with ones less challenging might be a good idea. English is undoubtedly the most prevalent and considered easy to learn. Following it are Italian and Spanish, known for their simple grammar and vocabulary similar to Latin.
The old saying goes, ‘The more languages you know, the more you’re worth.’ With New Year’s resolutions looming, learning a new language is often on our lists. Make use of the holidays and start learning a new language – why not Serbian?”
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