Differences in the Difficulty of Learning a Language

There are thousands of languages all across the globe and each one of them has different characteristics that make them considerably complicated to learn. Learning a new language takes time and effort, and you might not be prepared for various aspects of this new learning experience. Your success depends on the languages that you are already familiar with, especially your native language, as well as the ones that you have already matured speaking in terms of how difficult you might find learning a new one.

Native Language

This is the language that you were surrounded with as you grew up. It is your first or primary language. How well you understand this language is one of the most powerful influences on how well you will be able to learn other languages. The languages that have similar features to your primary language will be much easier to learn. Languages that possess an extremely small similarity to your native language will be more difficult. However, the majority of languages will drop somewhere in the center, particularly if your native language is English.

Associated Languages

Studying a language which is closely associated with your mother tongue, or other languages that you might already be speaking, is much simpler compared to studying an entirely new one. Associated languages partake numerous features and this inclines to make the more convenient to understand as there are less new concepts to handle.

Given that English is a Germanic language, Scandinavian, German and Dutch languages are also very much associated with the Germanic root. And, consequently, potentially easier to learn compared to unassociated languages. Other languages associated in some manner to English are French, Italian and Spanish, the more far-off are Pashto, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Greek, Russia, Welsh and Irish.

English shares no origin with languages such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean as well as Arabic, the entire languages are considered difficult by English standards.

Similar Grammar

Having similar grammar is common between associated languages. English is notorious for being a grammatically complex language. While there are rules and regulations, these can also frequently be broken with little to no loss of understanding. This is not the same in languages such as Vietnamese, where fewer words are used to express an idea, but the grammatical structure is incredibly strict. German is the same; word arrangements complement sentence conjugation, where the meaning of one part is heavily reliant on another.

The Romance languages (Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, French, etc) are well known for collectively possessing a number of characteristics. This is not surprising given that they all stem from Latin, originally. It is very common for somebody who studies any of these languages to pursue one or two more, with relative ease. They are so similar that there is considerably less effort to be spent on learning them, if you already have knowledge of one.

Equivalents And Borrowed Terms

Equivalents and borrowed terms are among the characteristics that make Romance languages similar with each other. In this manner, they are similar to English. Romance languages take the majority of their terminology from Latin. English gained a lot of its vocabulary straight from Latin and what it did not acquire there, it took from the French. There are vast quantities of French terminologies in English. This is one of the reasons why Italian, French and Spanish are regarded as simpler compared to other languages, if you are a native English speaker.

At all times, there are borrowings of terms from language to language, and not always among associated languages only. There are an astonishing amount of English terms in Japanese, for example. While they are somewhat masked by Japanese pronunciation – for example “cake” becomes “keki” – it is still clear that the words share a common root.


Languages sound strange. We can recognize vowel sounds, or movements, or even pick out certain words that sound the same, but each language has its own unique sound. Even if we can’t speak the languages, if we hear segments of two different languages, we can still differentiate between the two. Even though all humans apply fundamentally the same sounds, there are other sounds in some languages that people do not have in their mother tongue. Some are strange or complicated to pronounce. Some may be somewhat restrained. The Spanish “o” is not precisely same with the English “o”. In addition, there are other vowel sounds in French that are just not simply present in English. While the French “r” is highly dissimilar from the English, the Chinese “r” is really very close.

It may take a while for you to be at ease with these fresh sounds, even if you put on an accent until the time you are able to deal with them better. A lot of individuals do not place too much effort into this phase of studying and this creates some languages to be more difficult to learn than if the learner really tries to immerse themselves in a language.


A number of languages utilize tones, an increasing or falling pitch whenever a word is spoken. This can be extremely restrained and complicated for one who has never applied tones before. This is among the major reasons that Chinese, for example, is complex to learn for native English speakers.

It is not only the Chinese language that applies tones, far from it. Swedish applies tones as well, to look at something a little closer to home for English speakers, even though it is not as complex a tonal system as Chinese. This is a factor that can really be learned easier through hearing native speakers.

There are also examples of tone applied in English, but they are a small number, normally applied solely in particular situations, and are not an element of how to pronounce separate words. For instance, in American English it is common to increase the tone of your voice at the end part of the question. It is not precisely the same matter, but if you consider it in this way, that tones are just another way to convey your meaning, then it might make a tone language somewhat less daunting.

The Writing Scheme

A number of languages have different script or alphabets from what you might be used to, and this can make a huge influence on whether the language is difficult to study or not. A lot of European languages apply the same script as English, and yet they also involve a number of other symbols which are not in standard English to stand for sounds particular to that language. Consider “o” when written in Norwegian, or the “n” with a flourish in Spanish. Picking up these simple additions to an alphabet you recognize can be easier than you’d think.

However, other languages go beyond this and possess an altogether unfamiliar alphabet. Russian, Hindi, Greek and a lot of other Slavic tongues of Eastern Europe apply an entirely different script. This hinders the ease of studying a language. Other languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew are also written starting from right to left, adding further complexity to an already complex matter.

Some Asian languages such as Chinese, Korean and Japanese apply more than one writing scheme. They often will write in several languages, with an applied Romanized script combined with their exclusive writing structures, for public notices and signs.

Chinese is at the top of the difficult writing schemes. Every word has a symbol it corresponds to, indicating that you literally need to learn thousands of various symbols to be able to understand Chinese fluently. In addition, they symbols are not phonetic; therefore, they will provide you with no clues to how each are pronounced. For instance, even if you are not a native Spanish speaker, you could guess at the pronunciation of the term “palabra”, and you might be understood. Miss out a tiny piece or sound or tone from a sentence in Chinese and you might have changed the entire meaning of the sentence.

Culture Distinctions

Some languages have characteristics of the culture established into the language. With English, people can converse politely to any stranger, but in a lot of European languages, for instance, you will use another word for “you” and another verb conjugation varying on the person you are conversing with. This is used to denote how well you might know the person, or what relation you are to them.

The degree of respect in Japanese carries this matter to the extreme. You will need to use different terms just to mention the same topic, depending on whom you are speaking with like a stranger, sister, your superior or the President. This type of intricacy can be highly complicated and certainly increases the difficulty degree of a language. The best thing to do is to inform native speakers that you are learning, and that you do not mean to cause offence.

What makes a language easier or more difficult to learn compared to other languages will not entirely depend on your native tongue or other languages that you are already familiar with. There are certainly some personal factors such as your listening ability, memory, and natural ability to learn languages. Certain kinds of intelligence can influence the ease of understanding one or more languages, and yet individual restrictions in these areas can be counterbalanced by studying other languages. If you can master the exceptional skills that language learning necessitates then you can use this new found capability to understand other languages.

Spanish, for example, is an easy language to understand when your native tongue is English, in contrast to learning other languages. You are applying the same script, pronunciation is relatively similar in general, the grammar is very manageable and there are several familiar vocabularies. When your native tongue is Italian, similarly, then learning Spanish will be even easier. If you are a native Chinese speaker, however, then you would have a hard time learning Spanish.

Other languages contain extra degrees of complexity compared to some for various cultural and social reasons, and this will certainly affect how easy or difficult you find it. However, you should keep in mind that your mother tongue will at all time affect your learning process. A person’s language learning capability will always be influenced by their mother tongue, but it should not be restricted by it. While it is best to attempt to learn a language under no illusions of ease, with determination and focus, anyone can learn a second language.

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