Why I believe Chinese – Mandarin to be the Hardest Language to learn.
Many people wonder what the hardest language to learn is, and many bilingual people (who speak different native tongues) love to argue about whose language was harder to become fluent in. Some say Arabic is the hardest language, others side the Japanese language as a very complicated one, Korean is also mentioned and so the debate go on and on. The title is actually somewhat of a trick question, though. There is no number one “hardest language” to learn, as difficulty is dependent on quite a few factors.
Without taking those factors into account, I choose to support Chinese – Mandarin, as my “hardest language to learn”. Interesting to see that with 850 million people Mandarin is probably the most widely spoken language on the planet, so even it is widely regarded as one of the hardest languages to learn in the world, it is far from impossible to learn.
One of the things that makes Chinese (to make things easier, I will use Chinese instead of Chinese – Mandarin) and most other Asian languages so difficult is the way that the language is written. Instead of using letters to make words, Chinese uses over 10,000 unique characters. The characters resemble drawings, but they are actually not pictographs – each character contains phonetic parts which make them easy to read for fluent speakers but difficult to understand for anyone else.
In addition to the difficult way that Chinese is written, it is also quite complicated to speak. Chinese is a tonal language, meaning that one word can have many different meanings depending on the tone of voice used when the word is spoken. There are only 400 monosyllables in Chinese, but there are four different tones in which the monosyllables can be spoken. And of course, there are also a number of different dialects, which correspond to different regions and cultures, which also impact the language.
As previously mentioned, there are quite a few factors that make learning a difficult language such as Chinese easier. One of the main factors is the mother tongue of the student. For example, Spanish and Italian are both based on Latin, so a native Spanish speaker is probably going to have an easier time learning Italian than a native Arabic speaker will. When it comes to Chinese, a native speaker of another tonal or character-based language will have a much simpler time comprehending those otherwise-alien qualities of the language.
There are a number of other factors to take into account, as well. For instance, how much time do you have to devote to learning the new language? How motivated are you? Have you had experience with learning a foreign language before? It is commonly known that learning a third language is easier than learning a second, and motivation plus an open schedule can make learning the language much easier. When you look at it this way, the hardest language to learn is the one that you are the most unmotivated to learn.
Do you feel motivated to learn Chinese now? Not enough. Perhaps reading Why should you learn Chinese will do the work for you.