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. Noticed that German is not on any of the language lists. Where is it ranked?

    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. actually Arabic used to be the World Hardest Language and search for it if u didnt believe me.

          2. 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.

          3. 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.

          4. 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.

          5. 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.

          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)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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. Exactly. Not everyone is a “Turk.” Regardless, that’s still 2/3rds of the pop.

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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. 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

  9. 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. Korean is definetly the easiest writing system in the world.. don’t you have common sence?

    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

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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..

  13. 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.

  14. 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…)

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

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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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?

  24. Russian is really hard, probably harder than Japanese (at least thats how i think)

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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.

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