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English Speakers Will Struggle Learning These Languages

English Speakers Will Struggle Learning These Languages


Learning Japanese can be likened to an uphill battle for native English speakers. As if the daunting task of mastering a completely different language wasn't hard enough, deep cultural understanding and adjustment is often required as well! Belonging its own family known as Japonic or Japanese-Ryukyuan, it has no alphabet per se - but instead relies on characters borrowed from Chinese plus two syllabaries unique only to Japan; making this distinct form of communication even more foreign than most other languages in the world. Nevertheless, with dedication and strong effort any ambitious learner could soon find themself able conversationalize confidently among their newfound peers in Japan – just maybe not right away.


Spoken by 80 million people around the world, Korean is what historical linguists call a language isolate, meaning they have not been able to place it in any existing language family. That already tells you the vocabulary will be unfamiliar, but it doesn’t stop there. The writing system, Hangul, which was created on commission, combines the principles of alphabets and syllabaries to form something totally unique. Korean has seven speech levels, manifesting as verbal endings, which speakers switch between depending on the formality of the situation.


Learning Arabic can seem intimidating, but the first step is one that's surprisingly straightforward - mastering its captivating alphabet. The written language has a unique structure featuring words built off of three consonants and specific sound patterns determining their meaning. And yet this only scratchs the surface as each region speaks different forms of spoken Arabic resulting in disparate dialects which people from separate areas are unable to comprehend.


Polish is spoken by 40 million people worldwide, but compared to many other languages on this list, very few learn it as a second language. The difficulty of Polish lies in a couple of important factors: the first is basic pronunciation. A simple hello, ‘cześć’, is a nightmare for most foreigners, combining the heavy, strung-together ‘cz’ and the high, sibilant ‘ś’, followed immediately by a similarly sibilant yet dropping ‘ć’ (by the way, none of these sound anything like an English ‘s’ or ‘c’). This is where Polish gets its reputation for being very ‘hissy’. The second, perhaps more grave difficulty, lies in the many grammatical layers of the language. Cases alone are impossible to grasp perfectly, especially for English speakers used to a single case. Poles have seven cases, and each is in turn affected by gender; and Poles have seven grammatical genders, not just two. You can decline any noun in seven different ways, while numericals can have up to 17 forms – yes, that’s 17 ways of saying ‘six’. For good measure’s sake, try this Polish tongue-twister: ‘W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie’.


The Georgian language may be daunting to a native English speaker due to its unfamiliar alphabet and agglutinative grammatical structure. However, the challenge of mastering these new concepts is part of what makes this journey so rewarding! Learning how Georgians use glottal stops when enunciating sounds like p and p’ (ფ & პ) demonstrates just one example of their unique speech patterns. When foreigners master enough for locals to understand them, they are sure to receive admiration from the community as many people in Georgia do not often encounter visitors attempting their tongue.


As the primary language of more than 1.3 billion people, Mandarin presents a unique challenge to non-native speakers due its lack of verb tenses and tonal intonations that can change the meaning entirely when spoken with an alternative pronunciation. Even those familiar with writing systems may find themselves unprepared for learning this Chinese language as it utilizes characters rather than alphabetical symbols – each character representing an entire word.