Languages of the world

From Spanish to Korean: The Easiest and Most Difficult Languages to Learn (Infographic)

Languages of the world

Languages of the World Photo via Shutterstock

Looking to learn a new language? Perhaps you’re torn between a semester in Spain versus a semester in Turkey and you discovered, thanks to this infographic, that Spanish is easier to learn than Turkish. Depending on your personality, you may choose to go with the more challenging experience or opt for a more comfortable, easygoing semester abroad. If you’re an overachiever, scroll down to the last graph and you’ll find the hardest languages to learn — these require approximately 2,200 hours of class time versus the 600 hours for the easier languages (the infographic applies to English speakers).

What Are The Hardest Languages to Learn?

    1. Probably in the easy section, with the other European languages. German, Spanish, Italian, French, Dutch and English all derive from Latin.

      1. German is actually in a special category between easy and medium because it should take 30 weeks or 750 hours to achieve proficiency.

        1. I did read that with 30 weeks to learn ( Medium ) too but I don’t think so ! German is a hard language to learn so It would be ranked under hard with Russian , Greece and others but Chinese/Japan and Korean is indeed harder although German used to be the World hardest language

          1. I believe you but I heard that they had to decide in the past if they use German or English as our World language and came up with English ‘cuz German was too difficult and counts as the world hardest language.
            That may changed until now but Arabic looks really hard tho.

          2. I would rank it in difficult.
            I am a native German speaker and in my opinion It’s really difficult. The high qualified German I mean for sure, not the street or easy version of saying 3 words and thinking it’s a complete and hard sentence. Even if it’s kinda based on Latin,
            it’s pretty difficult, is you wanna be perfect at it. With all the special things you need to add to a sentence etc.

          3. Yes. Im currently learning German and I fell for it being one of the easiest to learn and came to find out….Deutsch ist sehr schwer!!!! My girl (who is a native German speaker) explained to me that its a very hard language. I love German as much as my native English now I will keep learning it until im extremely fluent because right now Isuck at it lol.

          4. Stimmt!
            Ich bin auch Deutsche und unsere Sprache ist wircklich nicht einfach da wir sehr viele Wörter haben um einen Gegenstand oder auch etwas anderes zu umschreiben.
            Obwohl Französisch als Sprache mit den meisten Wörtern gilt.

          5. The point of this exercise is a language’s relationship to English, and German is pretty close.

            Also, street versions of languages are really hard – nonstandard accents, slang that changes before it can be documented, dropping sounds to speak faster… none of this stuff is particularly easy.

            Last, German isn’t a Romance language.

          6. Not only. German’s case system would likely make it harder to learn than Dutch or Scandinavian, despite similarities to English in lexicon and grammar.

            (Of course, Dutch and Scandinavian would often have the same or similar similarities to English.)

          7. German isn’t based on Latin anymore than English is although it has a lot of common words. They are both Germanic languages. Germanic languages are cousins to Italic, Slavic, Greco, and Celtic languages.

          8. But German and Dutch have a lot of things in common (at least for me, a Dutch native speaker). Except that “der, die, das, dem, den … “-thing. I hated that part in class, when I was younger 😀 probably the hardest part in German, imho 🙂

          1. No, a large portion of English vocabulary is derived from French. Not quite the same. Anyway, the basic vocabulary and grammatical structure of English. English is a Germanic language.

      2. Neither Dutch nor English nor German derive from Latin. Latin is an Itallic language and all of those languages are West Germanic languages. The major languages that derive from Latin are Romance languages: Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, and Portuguese (as well as others that are either dead or near dead like Occitans and Dalmatian)

      3. German like Dutch and English are Germanic languages , the reason that Spanish and French or some latin languages are easier for English speaker are the influence of Latin in the English for a few reasons, one of them it was that French invaded England during long time

      4. The only people who would think German is easy at all are people who have never actually tried learning it.

      5. Only Spanish, Italian and French actually derive from Latin. German, Dutch and English have been affected by Latin, but are not derived from it. And English was actually more affected by Norman French than Latin proper.

  1. Having recently completed all the Arabic courses at my previous University I can safely confirm I’m not ready to speak Arabic with anybody other than those who know me and my Arabic level.

  2. Actually the above mentioned European languages don’t all come from Latin. The Latin languages are Italian, French and Spanish. The Germanic languages ( which don’t have Latin roots) are German and Dutch. English is a bridge language, a mix of germanic(english) and Latin (french) origins…

    1. The Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic) are also Germanic.

  3. Great infographic, Culturist. I spent about 1 year studying Thai before our trip to Thailand a few years back. These were not formal studies but I spent approximately two hours per day studying with books and audio recordings. I also studied the Thai script and learned to read basic Thai script. It was difficult, yes – but my brain felt it was getting a great workout, especially when writing the elaborate figures. I loved it. When we got there I gave it a good try, much to the local Thai people’s delight. We had many good laughs and it was a wonderful way to show and gain respect from the local people.

  4. I actually found Russian and Korean moderately challenging. Chinese and Japanese are very difficult to me because of the sounds vs letters system. I would like to eventually be conversational in Farsi though.

    1. what do you mean with sounds vs letters? Japanese grammar is quite easy and straightforward. As for the writing system. 2000 kanji are more than enough to read a normal japanese newspaper.

      1. It is not the grammar, it is the pronunciation. Many words are hard to pronounce, and that makes it difficult to string an understandable sentence together.

        1. Huh? Japanese pronunciation is fairly easy to pronounce, I think. There are less sounds than in many other languages.

          1. Unless you were referring to Chinese… That’s understandable… I’m not sure if there are more sounds than in English, for instance, but there are foreign sounds…

  5. I don’t think that all numbers of the speakers are true. In Turkey the population was 76 million in 2013. Turkish is not only spoken in Turkey!! Here it says 50 m. even less than population of Turkey!

    1. It’s talking about native speakers only. So only people who speak Turkish as their first language. But many people in Turkey speak Russian or Arabic as their first language so they’re not included in the count.

    1. Gunner, your language must be lovely. I have never had the privilege to visit Iceland only see it in photographs. But that alone makes me ache to spend long nights there. I ask forgiveness for those that I assume lack either the intellect to appreciate the beauty in language as your and Mohammed’s is. Or mayhap that was that was their knuckle dragging attempt at sarcasm.

  6. In Singapore (where I come from), we learn both English and Chinese at the same rate, as first languages, starting from pre-school. I don’t think anyone here takes more than 500 hours of learning to be able to speak/write/read Chinese or English with at least average proficiency. Of course, the main reason for this is that we are surrounded by both of these languages all the time, so most of the learning actually takes place outside of structured classes, in common everyday life through interaction and communication.

  7. It’s funny how one of Japanese’s cons is “three writing systems and two sillabaries”. Having Hiragana and Katakana to back up your lack of kanji knowledge is a godsend when learning japanese, and learning both of them takes a few hours or days.

    1. As someone who’s learning Japanese, Kanji is useful since there are no spaces in Japanese. Hiragana and Katakana are VERY easy. The only difficult part of Japanese is actually the Kanji. However, if they implemented spaces (as an example) and didn’t use Kanji, Japanese would be by far one of the easiest languages to learn. The sentence structure is SOV (a little over half are) but it’s got quite a logical reasoning behind it. English for some reason decides to have a “rule” but then have a super long list of exceptions which can get annoying even for native speakers.
      More related: knowing the kana is more of a godsend when you have Furigana above unfamiliar Kanji too.

      1. I’m only fluent in English how ever I can communicate basics in Arabic and Spanish and I know a few words here and there in 4 or 5 other languages but by far English annoys me the most with the “rules” like i before e except after c except weigh and neighbor and such. Don’t even get me started on the extra s rule such as “Mr. Hastings’ pen.”

    1. ma’aha soomali jileec. lol i’m a native speaker and when you think about the rules, english is actually easier to learn. but still swahili and somali are pretty easy too

  8. The real question is what would be the hardest language to learn assuming that the learner were a caveman with no prior language skills.

          1. It’s a system where almost every letter gets pronounced and the consonants were actually drawn to be a guide for how to pronounce them. Like ㄱ (g/k) is the shape of your tongue when you pronounce that consonant. Vowels follow a set of rules, like adding a little extra line makes a new vowel with a little “y” sound in it: ㅏ (ah) becomes ㅑ (ya).

            Every syllable follows one of 3 patterns: consonant-vowel, consonant-vowel-consonant, and (rarely) consonant-vowel-consonant-consonant.

            That’s it. Learn 40 letters, arrange them into syllables, and it accounts for the entire language. No capitals, no accent marks. Left-to-right, too, so that most people don’t smudge their writing (sorry lefties!).

            It helps that it was developed by one person in the 1400’s instead of over thousands of years of evolution between different cultures.

    1. Esperanto is certainly the easiest I’ve learned (I taught myself the basic grammar rules on one bus ride from Seattle to Kirkland, and was able to correspond in it within a week; when I met my first actual speakers 6 months later, I was already able to participate in conversation), and for me Arabic is extremely hard because I can’t seem to get the alphabet down and I’m a visual learner, and text-oriented. Start with Esperanto, then learn others; don’t believe me? Read up on the Paderborn Method at Wikipedia. My own oversimplified introduction to the concept is at http://www.scn.org/~lilandbr/eomath.html

  9. For anyone wondering about how hard German is, listen to a quote by some smart guy: “life is too short to learn German”. Now you know.

    1. I am Arabic, but I know English well enough. I am learning Russian and German. German is a littler harder than English (mainly, because of the articles), but it is not harder than Russian. I would add German somewhere between easy and medium.

  10. Considering Thailand’s population is over 65 million, I find it doubtful there are only 20.4 million speakers of Thai.

  11. Dang was gonna learn Japanese but it’s said to be very difficult? Hmm well whatever I’ll still try anyway. I’m learning little by little of the speech parts anyway..

  12. Dutch is I think the easiest language for a native English speaker. Easier grammar than German has (the cases are hard to bring in practice). Dutch is like a combination of English and German with some borrowed words from French.

  13. I speak English and Spanish and want an easy third language but I don’t know to choose Portuguese or Dutch

    Hablo Ingles y español y quiero una Lengua facil aprender yo no se que aprender Portugeese o Dutch

    1. Nope, you don’t speak Spanish.
      Being a native Spanish speaker your text made my eyes bleed, I would seriously try learn “some” (loads and loads) of Spanish before learning another language, I do know Spaniards are not quite happy with their language spoiled by a common gringo, you know… And please, stop claiming you know Spanish, you actually don’t know anything.
      However, don’t stop learning Spanish, with time you’ll get better and better, and between you and me, I’ve never -never- seen any English with a good, I mean, GOOD Spanish pronunciation… your corrected sentence would be:
      Hablo inglés y español y quiero una lengua fácil de aprender, no se si elegir portugés o (how do you say dutch in Spanish???)

      and your other comment… and cannot still make any sense of it
      (sorry for my English, I’m Spanish, you know…)

  14. No comprendo Quien los gentes de mundo no hablan Latin hay esta no paises con unaLengua national de Latin

  15. Countries should have Latin as a national language there is no point of learning it unless you’re a spelling bee champ

  16. as my friend (she is from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.{she read this article with me}) told its not only Egypt people who only speak arabic in here its written thats only egypt how about the middle east countries like uae, saudi arabia…… And also north africa they also speak arabic.

    1. If you read the introduction, you will see that the languages are listed in terms of their difficulty *for an English speaker.* But in general, it is true that the closer your native language is to the language you want to learn, then you’ll have an easier time. That’s why English seems to be easy for Dutch and Scandinavian people and difficult for Japanese and Koreans.

  17. Oh, I see Japanese, then I’ll stop learning it. It was really a hard language, took me a month to learn the first two alphabets, and then there’s kanji. :'(

    1. Any language will be hard if you’re going to stop learning it because it’s difficult. I have a few friends who learned Japanese, and they say that it has a steeper learning curve than other languages, and that is somewhat harder, but that after a while it’s fine.

  18. You knuckle dragging moronic pointless excuse for a human. Feed the mouse running the gear in your little mind. It must be starving. Open a dictionary from time to time. I am hoping that your comment was meant sarcastically, but I somehow doubt it.

  19. Russian is the most difficult language for foriegners except for those whose native is of Slavic oriigin, Even native speakers have problems with word stress and grammar.

    1. Lmao everyone says the same about their native language. Russian is not the most difficult.

    2. English by far is the hardest for non natives not for the difficulty in pronouncing it but because of the stupid rules. Even natives have trouble and some times don’t even know the rules. There, their, they’re and your, you’re and to, too, two. I doubt if 20% of Americans even know how to use too anymore.

      1. I find those homonyms fairly easy to differ between, actually. They might be easier for foreigners than native speakers, due to a stronger tendency to interpret the language, and comparing it to one’s native language.

      2. As a Mexican that learned English as a second language, later I learned French and Korean. I think that the hardest part in English is not the rules, but the lack of them. In Spanish as in the other languages I studied, a letter has a sound that corresponds, and what you read is what you pronounce but in English you never know… (short and long vowels, etc.) example, take the phoneme -a-: hAnd, meAt, Apple, rAt, mAke…so many different sounds!!!

  20. For Korean, you don’t need to learn ANY Chinese characters. They’re mostly obsolete nowadays and the only places you use them now are newspapers and signatures.

    Also, there are about 20 million more Korean speakers, spread out throughout the world in United States, Canada, China, Japan, Russia, and Central Asia.

  21. Russian grammar is actually very similiar to German. Russian is not really that difficult language. And Btw there are more than 144m native speakers In total of who speaks Russian; Belarussian,Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Bulgarians (to some extent), Serbians (To some extent) + minorities in slavic countries. In Kazakhstan Russian is 2nd language, same in Georgia, Azerbaijan, even Mongolia. So in total the number is around 330 million people.

  22. I don’t see how Korean is one of the hardest languages to learn…i am american and korean, i was a native english speaker(living in Korea since i was 10) now i am not so fluent in English and don’t plan on trying to learn it..learned the Korean alphabet (Hangul) in about an hour, learned to speak fluent Korean in 2 weeks only studying for about 2 hours a day, now i speak native Korean and it took about 2 months…it is easy not even joking

    1. how did you learn it so quickly? hangul… I understand that’s not hard but, how did you study or what sources did you use to study to catch on so quickly? what’s it because immersion?

      1. Most likely she already had an understanding from her parents and also lives there so that means constant immersion in it.

    2. The infographic is wrong about Korean writing being based on Chinese characters – that hasn’t been true for 600 years. Hagul is easy.

    3. only stupid american kids without any iq and any respet = any education , any culture , any civilization and any judgement
      you are korean descendant so is not hard for you naturally and normally
      retarded fools trolls
      don´t you think that is too obviously
      bye stupidity and vain arrogant american

      1. If youre russian then obviously it feels like its easy, but for americans its almost impossible to pronounce all the sounds sooo…

    1. They didn’t forget English. This infographic shows the easiest and hardest languages *for an English speaker* to learn.
      But yeah, it’s strange that they left out German.

    2. Well if you read the beginning they say that this info graph is for English speakers wanting to learn a language. It even says it on the top of the info graph itself. So, I don’t think they are going to add English to it. As for German it falls between easy and medium at like 30 weeks.

  23. Believe it or not? Learn reading Arabic and Urdu in a week. Reading Arabic is not that hard, but yes they dont use any vowel when writing, so i use my i phone app to understand the word pronunciation, i am an Indian and i can speak Hindi and English Fluently, but then i started learning Arabic, once i learn all the alphabet of the Arabic, i switched it to Urdu, but i must say Arabic is the most romantic Language to learn i really love the language, now my next target is too start the Latin.

  24. cool infographic! I’m a native English speaker who grew up speaking Arabic and Kurdish at home, along with a bit of Turkish, and learned French for 5 years at school. I am currently teaching myself Korean, and I think my background in non-European languages is a part of the reason I’m not struggling toooo much with pronunciation and grasping different sentence structures. Despite the fact that Arabic and Korean have next to nothing in common, I’m not finding myself clinging to Latin pronunciation and hopefully I’m able to pick up more vocabulary quickly (I plan on going on exchange to Seoul next September, lol). it’s been a really interesting learning experience so far!

    http://tcelfer.tumblr.com

  25. Sort of surprised that Romanian is up there, even though the speaking and writing system is derived from Latin, there are a few letters out there that have breves and circumflexes, which are hard to learn. Pronounciation can be a bit of a bother as well. Besides that, it’s quite simple.

    1. I understand your point but Romanian is a phonetic language so if you know the pronunciation of the alphabet it is the easiest part of the language. However, I guess it does depend on what language is your first language, as well as how early you were exposed to Romanian. But it might just be me finding the pronunciation easy as someone who was near fluent at Romanian as a child xD

  26. Dude, this is complete bullshit. Dutch is not easy to learn. It’s the fifth hardest language to write. WORLDWIDE.
    (Sources: I’m a native dutch speaker)
    Check your sources, mate. THEN make a site like this.

    1. This infographics ranks languages based on speaking difficulty, not writing difficulty.
      It may be difficult to learn how to write Dutch, but for an English speaker it shouldn’t be very difficult to learn how to speak Dutch.

    2. These charts were based upon the assumption that your mother tongue is english, and a LOT of english words are the same as the Dutch ones except pronounced slightly differently. Especially the slightly less common words are like this.
      I can tell you this as a fellow Dutchman.

  27. Thai is a tonal mono-syllabic language like Chinese. So for Thais learn to speak Chinese is easy (although reading will take some learning). Japanese, on the other hand, remains difficult. This is because while Japanese imported the Chinese characters into their writing system. The two languages have nothing else in common. The Japanese language simply uses Kanjis arbitrarily, has many different pronunciations for each of them. And contemporary Japanese has dropped much of Kanji from everyday use – demonstrating that they were necessary in the first place (LOL). This goes on to show that the Japanese have a terrible writing system that doesn’t fit their language.

  28. okay , then let me tell you i’m a native Arabic speaker and currently i’m learning Chinese, Japanese and Korean 😀 and in collage, i graduated from faculty of eastern languages and i studied Farsi, Turkish and my major was Hebrew 😀 and when i was in school my first foreign language was English and my second language was french .. so now i speak Arabic, English, french, Farsi, Turkish, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean … my next goal i wanna learn Russian and Portuguese …. and of all the languages i learned, learning, and going to learn i know a lot of songs .. so sometimes when i’m bored i sing ( terribly of course) in all those languages , and my mom always says, girl i think you need an exorcism 😀

  29. Vietnamese isn’t that hard. Beside pronunciation, it has absolutely no irregularities along with easy-to-remember vocabulary and grammar structures similar to English.
    You can learn it as fast as only 1 year.

  30. I’m a Native English speaker and Hangul (Korean) is one of the easiest languages to learn (it only took me one summer -3 months- to understand it)

  31. I wish I paid attention in my high school Spanish and French classes. I hate being another monolingual American. I’m 24, and I hope to be fluent in at least one other language before I turn 30. Look at this infographic, I think I’ll start with Spanish. Other languages that interest me are French, Italian, Dutch, German, and Japanese.

  32. I think yes, for native English speakers, Japanese is hard. But as a language by itself, it is relatively easy. (you don’t ‘need’ the Chinese characters (kanji) to learn the language, especially when you SPEAK the language, of course.)
    The grammar is very simple and straightforward, and because it’s a phonetic language, there are very few sounds that make up the entire language.

  33. I’m currently learning Korean right now (not hard core or anything but, moderate) and I have to say… It’s real hard! I can remember how to write in Korean, but pronunciation is very hard to learn. I can do standard conversations but nothing advanced. But what can I say… I’ve only been practicing for 2 months now…

    1. I found Bahasa quite easy. It has consistent patterns in grammar (ber_, me_ = verb, pe_ = person, _an = noun and so on), Latin alphabet, few tenses.

  34. i speak arabic it’s my first language and yes i agree that it is one of the most hardest languages cuz it’s very complicated.
    i also speak hebrew but i don’t think that it is medium, i think it is one of the most easiest languages, it is not complicated at all.
    i also don’t think that korean is difficult although it’s not my first language but i am learning it and i can easily remember everything, for me korean in so easy.
    so i don’t agree with everything on the list.

  35. I learned the Korean alphabet in less than 2 hours but using the language in communicating is hard. The sentence patterns are very different from English. I’m a Filipino, btw, and also an English teacher.

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