Hey, everyone! Today I would like to tackle a question that’s commonly asked among language learners. That question often is either: Which language is the easier to learn?” or “Which language is the hardest to learn?” Does it matter? Does it really exist? Let’s factor in what makes an easy language and what makes a hard language.
How Similiar Is My Target Language To My Native Language?
Every single person who has studied ANY language at all on their own or in a class had this dilemma. This cliché excuse is what we make to avoid learning certain languages. What’s wrong with a challenge? Sure, the grammar and the structure of the language might look intimidating at first but over time, it will make more sense. For those of you who speak English, a Romance or Germanic language is going to be easier for you than say Japanese or Finnish. If you speak Croatian as your native, learning Czech or Polish is probably not going to be all that difficult for you to pick up faster than someone who doesn’t speak a Slavic language. Is that really true, though? Sure, you might be able to recognise a large amount of vocabulary from your native language.
There might be a language that has absolutely no resemblance to your native language and yet it’s actually relatively simple to learn. It could even be simpler than a language similar to your native language. I remember chatting with someone on a language learning forum where they kept saying: “I’ll give up all my knowledge of Finnish to be able to speak German.” At the time, I thought: “Are you crazy? Finnish is way harder to learn than German!” to which she responded with something like: “No, Finnish is incredibly easy to learn compared to German.”
I just couldn’t understand why she thought a language that was supposed to be harder to learn for an English speaker would be easier than learning German- a language closer to English than Finnish.
One would think that German would be way easier to learn than Finnish, especially since Finnish has more cases to learn than German. It just goes to show that any language can be easy or hard depending on the person. What one person thinks to be an incredibly difficult language another person finds to be simple and straightforward to learn.
How Motivated Are You To Learn Your Target Language?
One’s motivation is key to whether or not someone will be willing to put the time and effort into learning the language of their choice. This is where accountability and bring it back to your WHY for learning the language. Why does X language appeal to you? Does it have to do with connecting to your ancestry? Does it sound pleasant to your ears? Do you live in a country that speaks this language? Do you plan on travelling to a country that speaks that language? Do you like music in this language? What’s causing my current language learning slump or what’s causing me to hit a plateau? How do I overcome it? It’s questions like these that need to be asked in order to revive our motivation. Trust me, it’s easier said than done. I have gone through it many times myself.
Ask yourself: “Am I learning this language because I want to?” If the answer is no, then you need to reexamine why you are learning it. It’s not a good idea to learn a language just for the sole purpose of getting a job. Find another way to motivate yourself besides that. You put all that effort into a job that might not be guaranteed. What will you do with your language skills if you don’t get the job? It’s going to feel like a waste a time and for what? To get paid only slightly better at a job you might not even end up enjoying in the end?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that many people MUST learn another language in order to effectively do their job. However, that shouldn’t be your only reason. If it is, you need to find more engaging content that’s relevant to you (listening and reading) and be able to express what it is you want to be able to say through speaking and writing.
Does Your Language Have A Separate Writing System Or Does It Use The Same Alphabet?
Another factor to keep in mind is whether or not you have to learn a new way to write down the sounds of the language. If your answer to this question is yes, it could actually be easier for you because you don’t have to relearn how to pronounce the same letters in a different (plus new letters with accents and ligatures). With that being said, this task could be just as difficult as well. You may have to learn many different writing systems instead of just one. Such as learning Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji for Japanese. Are these characters just describe the sounds or is there more meaning in the character itself. That in itself could make a language more complex alone.
How familiar are you with the script? Have you learnt all the characters necessary to be literate in the language? Is learning the script slowing down progress in the language? Or is your progress in the language slowing down because you’re still unfamiliar with certain characters used in this new script?
How Is The Language Structured? Does It Follow A Different Word Order?
This is where the complexities of each language intimidate even the best of language learners. I find it both fascinating and yet intimidating at the same time. This can ultimately determine whether or not a language is going to be simple or challenging to learn. Does it follow a Subject-Verb-Object structure like English and Chinese or does it follow Subject-Object-Verb (Japanese), Verb-Subject-Object (Irish Gaelic)/Verb-Object-Subject (Malagasy/Fijian), and etc. What other factors also play a part in the word order? Do they have particles like in Japanese? Do the adjectives move around like in French (for the most part), does it have vowel harmony as Finnish does or is it polysynthetic like Greenlandic?
How Do YOU Learn Languages?
This might be incredibly straightforward but it’s a good question to consider. The method you use to learn languages could ultimately be what makes you a successful language learner and what’s causing you to hit barriers in making progress. Which level are you at? Have you ever noticed that when you’re a beginner, you are able to progress much faster than those who are at a B1-B2 (Low to high intermediate) level. You might be at that B1-B2 level where you can comfortably communicate in your target, despite not speaking 100% correctly, having a foreign accent and not knowing all the words. (Nobody knows every word in their native language(s) so we can’t realistically expect to know every single word in our new language(s).
Do you have a strict method or is it fluid and changing? How spontaneous are you when it comes to language learning? Or what do you do in order to create a strong daily routine?
What’s the easiest language to learn and what’s the hardest language to learn? It depends on how you learn languages. I cannot tell you whether or not a language is easy or hard for you because my experience in learning languages is NOT the same as yours. Even though, it may be true that a language similar to our native language is will be easier to learn than one that’s not. It all comes down to how you learn languages, your motivation and what you’re doing to keep your learning consistent and what you’re doing to persevere.
What are your thoughts on easy and hard languages? Do you agree with them? Have you learnt a “hard” language and it turned out to be easier than the stereotypes and hype claim? I would love to hear from you!