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Ranking the "Medium Hard" Languages

  Tags: Difficulty
 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
62 messages over 8 pages: 1 24 5 6 7 8 Next >>
Henkkles
Triglot
Senior Member
Finland
Joined 2442 days ago

544 posts - 1141 votes 
Speaks: Finnish*, English, Swedish
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 17 of 62
11 January 2014 at 12:50pm | IP Logged 
Ah, relieved I am not the first to bring this up!

We shouldn't equate the needed studytime (which is what FSI estimates) with the difficulty of the language; Chinese is a pretty straight forward language, but learning the characters usually takes ages. This is why it's ranked as time-consuming, but it has no inflectional patterns whatsoever.

Finnish was ranked as I think 4+ in FSI, which means it's a bit above the others in the fourth tier because Finnish has a lot lot lot of inflection and weird ways of saying things such as the emotion-causative and the genitive-subject, but the spelling which 99% regular shaves a lot of time out of that.

Difficulty of the language itself; not its orthography, boils down to a simple question;
"are these grammatical patterns familiar to you?"

For example a lot of anglophones who I've seen learning Finnish have a terribly hard time wrapping their heads around the object marking. Three cases to choose from in a positive clause and one in negative clauses (that you must always use in negative clauses) is an enormous source of confusion because English does not have object marking. Then again I have trouble with the syntax of Swedish; switching the syntax on its head in subordinate clauses always messes with my head, even though I know the principle. I just am not used to that because Finnish doesn't really have any "rules" what comes to syntax, more like "preferences".

Edited by Henkkles on 11 January 2014 at 12:50pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Hungringo
Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2177 days ago

168 posts - 329 votes 
Speaks: Hungarian*, English, Spanish
Studies: French

 
 Message 18 of 62
11 January 2014 at 1:00pm | IP Logged 
kanewai wrote:


Personally, I also thought Indonesian was much easier than French, though FSI, FCO, and
the DLI all list Indonesian and Malay as taking longer to learn.


Indonesian is much easier than French if you speak a language that is totally unrelated to any of them. However, if you already speak English natively or as L2, you'll already know huge chunks of French vocabulary. Although I find Indonesian grammar and spelling much easier then their French equivalents, I find it really hard to retain Indonesian vocabulary.

kanewai wrote:
@ Serpent - I've actually had Europeans tell me that English is the easiest
language to learn (!) primarily because there is such a variety of resources, and
because so much popular culture is English based.


Due to phonetic reasons for me English is probably one of the hardest languages I have ever come across. English has a totally irregular spelling and a very challenging pronunciation and sound system. It's basically a French-Germanic mongrel, and as a consequence it has an enormous vocabulary, but lacks the inner systemic logics of Romance and Germanic languages.

Of course there is a variety of resources and due to political, economic and military reasons and secondary cultural factors English prevails, but in my opinion it has nothing to do with its easieness in a purely lingusitic sense. Should a global power switch happen in the future English will be relegated to lower positions as it has happenned to many other dominant languages in the past.

Edited by Hungringo on 11 January 2014 at 1:05pm

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doubleUelle
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
Joined 2224 days ago

67 posts - 95 votes 
Speaks: English*, Russian*, French, Japanese
Studies: Spanish, Thai

 
 Message 19 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:02pm | IP Logged 
vonPeterhof wrote:
doubleUelle wrote:
...Otherwise, it's not a hard language -
there's no grammar, among other things...
A nitpick, but from the point
of view of linguistics this makes no sense - it's as if you're saying "It's not a hard
language - it isn't even a language, among other things". Usually when people say that
a language "has no grammar" they mean one of two things - either that it has no
conjugations or that it has no prescriptive do's and don't's laid down by a linguistic
authority. Since you're contrasting Thai from Russian, I'm assuming that you were
implying the former. Conjugations, in languages that have them, are usually the aspect
of grammar that gives learners the most trouble, but it is far from being all there is
to grammar. Everything that governs how words, phrases and sentences are constructed in
the spoken language is grammar - morphology, syntax and even phonology are all
included. Pet peeve, sorry.

No worries, I understand.

I was indeed referring to the former, i.e. that Thai is a analytic (opposite of
agglunative) language that has no conjugations, declensions, gender (for nouns), etc.
1 person has voted this message useful



s0fist
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3235 days ago

260 posts - 445 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: Sign Language, German, Spanish, French

 
 Message 20 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:03pm | IP Logged 
A lot of people are confusing
1) difficulty of learning a language as L2 given that you only know English-L1
2) difficulty of a language going by how (dis)similar it is to/from English
3) difficulty of a language compared to how common/unusual it's features are among all languages (one could argue that languages should be weighted by number of speakers)

It makes sense to measure 1) in number of hours it takes an average English speaker to learn L2 to a certain level.
The degree of similarity of vocabulary and a hard writing system present a high degree of 1)difficulty, more so than phonetics/grammar.
Whereas for 3) there's little vocabulary common to all human languages, so linguistic features are most applicable.



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doubleUelle
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
Joined 2224 days ago

67 posts - 95 votes 
Speaks: English*, Russian*, French, Japanese
Studies: Spanish, Thai

 
 Message 21 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:08pm | IP Logged 
Henkkles wrote:
Difficulty of the language itself; not its orthography, boils
down to a simple question;
"are these grammatical patterns familiar to you?"

I would also add:

"Are these words similar to the ones in your native language?"

and

"Are these sounds similar to ones in your native language (or at least easy to learn?"

Languages like Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese (all varieties) are all very
straightforward grammatically, because there are no conjugations, declensions, gender
(for nouns) etc. But they don't share a lot of core vocabulary with English (the way
that French and German do) and the sounds/pronunciation definitely take some work. So
they still come out as languages that can be difficult, despite the absence of
challenging grammar.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Henkkles
Triglot
Senior Member
Finland
Joined 2442 days ago

544 posts - 1141 votes 
Speaks: Finnish*, English, Swedish
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 22 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:14pm | IP Logged 
doubleUelle wrote:
Henkkles wrote:
Difficulty of the language itself; not its orthography, boils
down to a simple question;
"are these grammatical patterns familiar to you?"

I would also add:

"Are these words similar to the ones in your native language?"

and

"Are these sounds similar to ones in your native language (or at least easy to learn?"

Languages like Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese (all varieties) are all very
straightforward grammatically, because there are no conjugations, declensions, gender
(for nouns) etc. But they don't share a lot of core vocabulary with English (the way
that French and German do) and the sounds/pronunciation definitely take some work. So
they still come out as languages that can be difficult, despite the absence of
challenging grammar.

Yes, those would be the next questions, but the hardest thing (in my opinion) is to wrap one's head around the way the language expresses things; in English we say "I have to go" but in Finnish I would say the same thing as roughly "mine holds to go", even though it doesn't make any sense in translation.

I would modify your questions thus:
Is the vocabulary transparent with any language you already know?
Is the phonemic inventory of the target language outside of what you are accustomed to pronouncing?

but I think these are a bit more minor things. Feel free to disagree though!

Edited by Henkkles on 11 January 2014 at 3:15pm

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Einarr
Tetraglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
einarrslanguagelog.w
Joined 2802 days ago

118 posts - 269 votes 
Speaks: English, Bulgarian*, French, Russian
Studies: Swedish

 
 Message 23 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:17pm | IP Logged 
kanewai wrote:


And Turkish vs. Russian was the biggest "wtf" for me. Just based upon friends'
experiences, Russian sounds far more difficult and challenging. I know a surprising
number of people who have learned Turkish, and I know a lot of people who have failed
to learn Russian. And yet so many sites list the Turkic family as 'harder' than the
Slavic family. I'd love to hear from someone who has studied both!




Well, I've studied them both (though didn't take Turkish anywhere near my Russian, just
because I had to stop studying it due to time constraints). Interesting is that while
Russian would be more transparent to me, due to my native language, I'd still rank it
harder than Turkish. Russian grammar is just mind blowing. If I were to master it to
perfection it would definitely be more time consuming than mastering Turkish, given its
non - transparent vocabulary.

Speaking of transparent vocabulary, I'm sometimes puzzled how people from my own
country often tell me they cannot comprehend a word of spoken Russian, which is always
baffling to me, just because if you really listen carefully it shouldn't be all that
"non-transparent". It probably has something to do with training your ear to listen
more carefully. Anyway, the point of saying this is that if we take that in account,
then Russian would indeed pose greater difficulty.

Another factor is how practical the language is. And by practical here I mean
nothing else but the ease of forming an expression without driving yourself crazy.
While most people I know are usually puzzled with agglutinative languages I do believe
they're very practical indeed. Well at least in my mind. For example, take the word

* Gözlerimde - if we were to take it apart, it consists of the following:
(1)Göz - eye; (2)ler - the marker for plural (can be also "lar" if the vocal harmony
was different); (3)im - the indicator for yours; (4)de - the indicator for "in". So,
basically what we have here is the expression "In your eyes" in a one short
word. By that I mean practical.

And while Russian can also be practical from a Bulgarian's point of view, for example,
the sentence: "Хорошие апельсины - надо брать!" (Lit: These oranges are nice -
I've got to buy them), in Bulgarian
it translates into: Тези портокали са хубави. Трябва да си ги купя!. Now enough
of my "practicality" and back to the previous example. :D So while "gözlerimde" is one
word in Turkish due to it being an agglutinative language, in Russian it goes like so:

* В твоих глазах - |So now, we have the indicator for (1) В - in, at first
position, then (2)твоих - lit. your, in prepositional case, then (3)глазах -
lit. eyes, in prepositional case, while the singular for eyes is "глаз".

Basically these are my reasons to consider Russian more difficult than Turkish,
especially if one were to master it. And I haven't even spoken about the pronunciation,
which in Russian can literally drive you nuts sometimes, especially if you're a grammar
nazi and hate misspelling words. Meanwhile Turkish pronunciation is quite
straightforward and basically what you hear is what you write.

Edited by Einarr on 11 January 2014 at 6:43pm

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betelgeuzah
Diglot
Groupie
Finland
Joined 2590 days ago

51 posts - 82 votes 
Speaks: Finnish*, English
Studies: Japanese, Italian

 
 Message 24 of 62
11 January 2014 at 3:45pm | IP Logged 
Henkkles wrote:
doubleUelle wrote:
Henkkles wrote:
Difficulty of the language itself; not its orthography, boils
down to a simple question;
"are these grammatical patterns familiar to you?"

I would also add:

"Are these words similar to the ones in your native language?"

and

"Are these sounds similar to ones in your native language (or at least easy to learn?"

Languages like Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese (all varieties) are all very
straightforward grammatically, because there are no conjugations, declensions, gender
(for nouns) etc. But they don't share a lot of core vocabulary with English (the way
that French and German do) and the sounds/pronunciation definitely take some work. So
they still come out as languages that can be difficult, despite the absence of
challenging grammar.

Yes, those would be the next questions, but the hardest thing (in my opinion) is to wrap one's head around the way the language expresses things; in English we say "I have to go" but in Finnish I would say the same thing as roughly "mine holds to go", even though it doesn't make any sense in translation.

I would modify your questions thus:
Is the vocabulary transparent with any language you already know?
Is the phonemic inventory of the target language outside of what you are accustomed to pronouncing?

but I think these are a bit more minor things. Feel free to disagree though!


But we aren't really saying "hold" when we state that now are we? It's just a case of single verb having multiple meanings.


3 persons have voted this message useful



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