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Ranking the "Medium Hard" Languages

  Tags: Difficulty
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
62 messages over 8 pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Next >>
kanewai
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justpaste.it/kanewai
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 Message 1 of 62
10 January 2014 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
I've seen the language difficulty lists developed by US Foreign Service Institute, the
British Foreign & Consulate Office, and the Defense Language Institute. I even found
an unclassified paper put out by the NSA (link below).

They all agree on the "easiest" (Scandinavian and Romantic) and the "hardest" (East
Asian) languages for English speakers. What intrigues me is all the variation the
agencies have in assessing the languages in-between.

I decided to mash all the different lists together, and came up with this ranking:

1. Scandinavian languages
2. Romance languages
3. German
4. Indonesian, Swahili
5. Hindi
6. Persian
7. Russian, Greek
8. Turkish, Thai, Vietnamese
9. Arabic
10. East Asian (Korean, Japanese, Chinese)

My methods were totally unscientific (so don't even ask). Given that, how does this
list look to you all?

__________________________________________________________

Interesting paper on assessing difficulty:

http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/_files/cryptologic_spectrum/f oreign_language.pdf

Edited by kanewai on 11 January 2014 at 12:24am

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lichtrausch
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 Message 2 of 62
11 January 2014 at 2:44am | IP Logged 
I think Vietnamese belongs at number 10 or maybe number 11. Any advantage you get from the relatively easy script is wiped out by the maddening difficulty of pronouncing the language.
2 persons have voted this message useful



chokofingrz
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Studies: Russian, Japanese, Catalan, Luxembourgish

 
 Message 3 of 62
11 January 2014 at 2:51am | IP Logged 
I always knew I was a slacker, just need to improve my Swedish to cement it!

I've seen a lot of people rank Turkish as quite easy. It has very regular grammar, spelling and pronunciation.

Japanese is no way level-10-difficult to pick up as a spoken language, and it's an oversimplification to group it with Chinese. They only share similarities in the written form.

I would place Turkish at 4 and Japanese 8 on your scale, however I don't know enough about the others I am comparing them to. For me Arabic is the most daunting.
2 persons have voted this message useful



1e4e6
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 Message 4 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:00am | IP Logged 
I took Mandarin and French at almost the same time as a teenager. Even though Mandarin
has tones and characters, for some reason French pronunciation I found the most difficult
than any other language that I have studied, up until now. It feels as if it is the most
"silent" language wherein so many syllables, letters, etc. are not pronounced, and still
I do not know why. I sound less bad reading Mandarin with characters than French with a
Latin alphabet.

Also, do you mean the commonwealth-office">FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office,formerly the Foreign and
Colonial Office)?
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kanewai
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 Message 5 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:20am | IP Logged 
@ 1e4e6 - You're right, FCO should be "Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

All the sites rank Turkish as a harder language, and most place it higher than Russian.
This surprises me too ... I find it challenging, but not really "hard." It's definitely
harder than Indonesian, but I can't compare it to other languages on the list.

Vietnamese had the most variability on the sites. It was always ranked in the middle
tiers, but some had it on the easier end, and some on the harder end.
1 person has voted this message useful



tlanguell
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Studies: Vietnamese

 
 Message 6 of 62
11 January 2014 at 4:41am | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
I think Vietnamese belongs at number 10 or maybe number 11. Any
advantage you get from the relatively easy script is wiped out by the maddening
difficulty of pronouncing the language.

Amen to that Vietnamese is by far the hardest spoken language I've studied, and even the
mighty Moses McCormick thinks Vietnamese is the most difficult spoken language he's ever
studied.
2 persons have voted this message useful



doubleUelle
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Studies: Spanish, Thai

 
 Message 7 of 62
11 January 2014 at 5:13am | IP Logged 
I think that Russian should be ranked as harder than Thai.

Thai has tones, but you can get the hang of them with some listening and practice.
Otherwise, it's not a hard language - there's no grammar, among other things.

Russian has really complicated grammar, which is hard to just "get the hang of" (for
adult learners) the way that you can just get used to tones in Thai.
1 person has voted this message useful



ellasevia
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Japan
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2150 posts - 3229 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Croatian, Greek, Japanese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Mandarin, Persian, Arabic (Written)

 
 Message 8 of 62
11 January 2014 at 5:26am | IP Logged 
I don't know a great deal about Hindi, but I'm still rather surprised that it was ranked as easier than Persian. Whereas Persian lacks grammatical gender and cases, Hindi makes use of both, including some degree of ergativity. Hindi phonology is also much more complex and dissimilar to English phonology than that of Persian, which would pose more challenges to a native English-speaking learner.

Edited by ellasevia on 11 January 2014 at 9:38am



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