7 Challenging Languages for English Speakers to Learn

While many individuals seek out the simplest languages to learn, we recognise that some language learners enjoy a challenge. That’s why we set out to answer another of the most frequently asked questions: “What are the hardest languages to learn for English speakers?”

Whether you’re a skilled bilingual looking for a new challenge, a first-time student looking to avoid turbulent waters, or simply curious, we’ve compiled a list of the most difficult languages to learn if you’re coming from an English-speaking background.

So, without further ado, let’s look at these tongue-twisting, well, tongues, in order of difficulty — relative to one other, of course. It’s difficult in every way.

Take a Look at the 7 Difficult Languages to Learn – 

1. Hindi

Where it’s spoken – India

Is it tonal? No, it’s not. 

What makes it so hard?

To begin with, Devanagari, the script used to write Hindi, is regarded as exceptionally difficult to master.

The script is also an abugida, which means that each character represents a combination of consonants and vowels rather than a single vowel or consonant.

In an abugida script, for example, ‘to’ and ‘ta’ might each have their own letters. For many English speakers, this is a novel concept.

To make matters even more confusing, the written version of Hindi lacks important phonetic markers. It would indicate how to pronounce words to a non-native speaker – yet Hindi is a very nuanced language, where tiny changes in sound and context can completely change the meaning of a word.

Despite being one of the most challenging languages in the world for English speakers, Hindi has many words in common with Arabic; therefore, those who already know Arabic will have an advantage in vocabulary!

2. Vietnamese

Where it’s spoken – Vietnam and South China 

Is it tonal? Yes. It has six tones. 

What makes it so hard?

Tonal languages are difficult for English speakers.

We simply aren’t as tuned in to tone as we need to communicate effectively, and six tones are a lot to take in.

That isn’t to imply that it isn’t possible. It’s simply an uphill battle. And it’s not English, so you can hire  Essay writers services to help you learn.

Vietnamese also contains more vowels than English and many dialects that, while mutually intelligible, are distinct enough to cause confusion for someone travelling between the north and south of the country.

Given that it employs the Latin alphabet and is already acquainted with tones, folks who speak both Chinese and English may find Vietnamese a breeze.

3. Korean

Where it’s spoken – Korea

Is it tonal? No, and it’s a blessing. 

What makes it so hard?

The best part is that Korean isn’t tonal, which is positive.

Unfortunately, Korean is an agglutinative language (prefixes and suffixes replace prepositions). 

It also contains a whopping seven speech levels, depending on the formality of the context and a grammatical structure that we Anglophones are unfamiliar with.

According to The Defence Language Institute’s catalogues, while it takes an English student about 26 weeks to obtain competency in Spanish or French, it takes roughly 65 weeks to develop a working proficiency in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, or Arabic.

4. Arabic

Where it’s spoken – In 31 nations, predominantly in the Middle East and Africa, Arabic is an official or recognised minority language.

Is it tonal? No

What makes it so hard?

Arabic has its own writing system, which adds another layer of complexity for English speakers. Though, in the case of Arabic, the characters are very similar to those found in the Latin alphabet. On the other hand, the Arabic script is read right to the left rather than left to right, which might be difficult for English speakers. It has a variety of unusual sounds and a complicated grammatical structure. Depending on the locality, it also has a diverse range of dialects. Furthermore, Arabic speakers must rely on context to recognise vowels because words may not always carry their vowels when written. It is not an easy language to learn. However, those familiar with Hebrew or Hindi will find Arabic a little easier to learn, as Hebrew’s written language has some similarities to Arabic’s, while Hindi shares some terminology with Arabic.

5. Japanese

Where it’s spoken – Japan and Palau

Is it tonal? No 

What makes it so hard?

In many ways, learning Japanese isn’t as tricky for English speakers as it is for many other languages.

You can start deciphering menus and street signs if you learn Katakana and Hiragana, the two basic Japanese alphabets. When you do, you’ll notice that Japanese has a lot of loanwords from English and other Romance languages. It’s not tonal, and most of the language is straightforward to take up in the grand scheme of things. However, studies reveal that Japanese is the single language that takes the most time to master for English speakers.

6. Mandarin Chinese

Where it’s spoken – Taiwan, Mainland China, Singapore 

Is it tonal? Yes. It has four tones and a neutral tone. 

What makes it so hard?

Mandarin is at the top of the list as the ideal storm of difficulties for English speakers.

 It’s tonal, with numerous distinctive idioms (popular phrases that don’t always have a simple translation) and nuanced homophones, as you’d expect from one of the world’s most difficult languages (words that sound the same but mean different things).

 Literacy also necessitates the mastery of thousands of characters.

It’s also worth emphasising that, while any of the other Chinese dialects could easily replace Mandarin as the most widely spoken and taught, Mandarin is simply a stand-in.

However, just because something is challenging doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile – learning Mandarin, as one of the world’s most frequently spoken languages, is a challenge worth taking on. 

It allows you to connect with millions of people you might not have met otherwise. In much of Asia, it is the de facto business language.

7. Navajo

Where it’s spoken- United States 

Is it tonal? Yes, it has four tunes. 

What makes it hard?

Navajo has various characteristics that make it difficult for English speakers or anyone who does not speak a language from the Na-Dené family of languages in North America. There are a few consonants that we don’t use in English. Furthermore, it contains features of agglutination, in which prefixes and suffixes replace prepositions. But Navajo do so unpredictably that some consider it not agglutinative. If you really want to learn this language, you can hire a professional and cheap Homework essay writer.  

Parting words,

That’s all there is to it. Those, in our opinion, are the most challenging languages for an English speaker to learn. While learning a language has its ups and downs, these ones can be particularly challenging – but that doesn’t imply they’re impossible to master for those willing to put in the effort. So, how do you feel about taking on the challenge?


Kate Johnson is a content writer, who has worked for various websites. She is also a college graduate who has a B.A in Journalism.

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