Text # 59 The hardest language

People often ask which is the most difficult language to learn, and it is not easy to answer because there are many factors to take into consideration. Firstly, in a first language the differences are unimportant as people learn their mother tongue naturally, so the question of how hard a language is to learn is only relevant when learning a second language.

A native speaker of Spanish, for example, will find Portuguese much easier to learn than a native speaker of Chinese, for example, because Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, while Chinese is very different, so first language can affect learning a second language. The greater the differences between the second language and our first, the harder it will be for most people to learn. Many people answer that Chinese is the hardest language to learn, possibly influenced by the thought of learning the Chinese writing system, and the pronunciation of Chinese does appear to be very difficult for many foreign learners. However, for Japanese speakers, who already use Chinese characters in their own language, learning writing will be less difficult than for speakers of languages using the Roman alphabet.

Some people seem to learn languages readily, while others find it very difficult. Teachers and the circumstances in which the language is learned also play an important role, as well as each learner's motivation for learning. If people learn a language because they need to use it professionally, they often learn it faster than people studying a language that has no direct use in their day to day life.

Apparently, British diplomats and other embassy staff have found that the second hardest language is Japanese, which will probably come as no surprise to many, but the language that they have found to be the most problematic is Hungarian, which has 35 cases (forms of a nouns according to whether it is subject, object, genitive, etc). This does not mean that Hungarian is the hardest language to learn for everyone, but it causes British diplomatic personnel, who are generally used to learning languages, the most difficulty. However, Tabassaran, a Caucasian language has 48 cases, so it might cause more difficulty if British diplomats had to learn it.

Different cultures and individuals from those cultures will find different languages more difficult. In the case of Hungarian for British learners, it is not a question of the writing system, which uses a similar alphabet, but the grammatical complexity, though native speakers of related languages may find it easier, while struggling with languages that the British find relatively easy.

No language is easy to learn well, though languages which are related to our first language are easier. Learning a completely different writing system is a huge challenge, but that does not necessarily make a language more difficult than another. In the end, it is impossible to say that there is one language that is the most difficult language in the world.

True / false

1. The question of how hard a language is to learn is relevant to both first and second language acquisition.

2. Portuguese is definitely easier than Chinese.

3. A Japanese speaker may well find the Chinese writing system easier than a speaker of a European language.

4. Not everyone learns languages without any difficulties.

5. British diplomats have found that Hungarian is the most complicated language, but this does not mean it is difficult for everyone.

6. The Hungarian alphabet causes problems for British speakers.

7. Hungarian is the hardest language in the world.

8. Hungarian has as many cases as Tabassaran.

9. Many British diplomats learn Tabassaran.

10. The writer thinks that learning new writing systems is easy.

Choose the right option.

1.It is not easy to answer which language is the most difficult to learn because …

A. there is only one factor to take into consideration;

B. there are many factors to take into consideration;

C. it depends on the language group;

D. every language has its pros and cons;

2.A native speaker of Spanish will find … much easier to learn than a native speaker of Chinese.

A. Portuguese;    

B. English; 

C. Romanian; 

D. German;

3. The writer says that the hardest language to learn is …

        A. Ukrainian

        B. Dutch

        C. Chinese

        D. Greek

4. What will be less difficult for Japanese speakers, who already use Chinese?

        A. learning writing;

        B. learning speaking;

        C. learning grammar;

        D. learning pronunciation;

5. What is not considered to be important in learning languages?

       A. intellectual abilities of the learner;

       B. motivation for learning;

       C. teachers who teach the language; 

       D. circumstances in which language is learned;

6. According to the text those people learn faster who …

      A. do not use language in their day to day life;

      B. need to use it professionally; 

      C. read a lot;

      D. watch movies and listen to the songs;

7. The second hardest language to learn is …

      A. French 

      B. Japanese

      C. Chinese

      D. Esperanto

8. According to the text Hungarian language …

     A. has plurals and singulars;

     B. has no grammar;

     C. has 35 cases;

     D. does not have ordinal numerals;

9. It is easier to learn languages which …

      A. use similar grammatical complexity;

      B. have simple reading rules;

      C. have completely different writing system;

      D. are related to our first language;

10. British diplomats and other embassy staff have found that the most problematic language

    is …

       A. Portuguese. 

       B. Polish.

       C. Russian.

       D. Hungarian.



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