English Hardest Language?

big universities in Vietnam have professors from USA, France, China teach Vietnamese for vietnamese students half of whom fail the tests about vietnamese language. Vietnamese, their mother language is the hardest subject for all students in universities. I am sure that NO Vietnamese speak or write in correct grammar, if they want to speak in correct grammar, they have to send the speech to the experts or professors at the vietnamese institution. in reality, all vietnamese start to speak from the age of two or three and it is true that people all over the world never speak their mother tongue languages properly in grammar or pronunciation. In English we have many accents canadian( like Steve), british, american, australian…which one is the best?, and grammars different in these countries.
we all know that chinese is one of the hardest languages in the world but all chinese people start to speak at the age of two or three and they speak fluently when they get older. chinese people are more intelligent than other peoples in the world? the answer is no.
In my opinion it is really difficult to find an easy or difficult language to study or to compare, because it is always easy to the native but hard to the learners.

@ Friedemann

What kind of grammatical mistakes do children make in German? If they are things like getting the articles correct, noun genders, cases, and adjective declension, then I guess these are mistakes that can’t be made in English so that could be the reason for the difference.

@anajame. Sure, early immersion in Chinese languages allows Chinese people with or without aptitude for their own language to be able to speak it fluently and master the tones at a young age. However, the reputation Chinese has for difficulty relies a lot on the writing system. It takes a long time for Chinese school kids to read and write in Chinese. Obviously some learn quicker than others, but all will get there if they persist. This of course is true for foreigners wanting to learn the written language as well. Are Chinese more intelligent? Well, I think if they are learning Chinese along with English, which is now often the case in China (I am an English teacher over here), they are getting a robust brain workout from a young age that many in the West don’t get. English relies on left hemisphere processing whereas Chinese activates both side of the brain for speaking and listening (true, then, with other tonal languages in Asia and elsewhere). When you add on skills developed from learning to read and write Chinese, it seems there’s strong cognitive benefit. Based on scientific evidence of brain regions activated, it appears learning both Chinese and English (or instead of/addition to English, a more challenging Western language like say, German) appears to be a good way to optimize intellectual potential.

Of course, learning combinations of other languages could do just as well (or better) to optimize intellectual functioning but a fair amount of research has been done on Chinese & English…also I’m learning Chinese and am native English speaker so naturally I’m interested in this research for that reason.

Here are some links.

There are definitely characteristics that make languages hard: cases, gender, exceptions to rules, nonphonetic script, no alphabet.

So the hardest languages would have more of these characteristics. Conversely, a language like esperanto would be much easier.

@ milestones:

“However, the reputation Chinese has for difficulty relies a lot on the writing system.”

I beg to differ. While the writing system is definitely a hard nut to crack, I find that the most difficult thing is the ambiguity in the language due to all the homophones and very compacted structure. Comprehension is the one big issue with Chinese, I find.


regarding childrens’ speech in Germany vs the US I cannot really put my finger on it but I feel that kids in the US use a more elaborate way of expressing themselves earlier in their lives and speak like adults faster than children do in German. That has been my experience from friends there but also from TV and other media where you hear kids speak.

The fact is that learning English to a level in which you can fell relatively comfortable isn’t very difficult ( considering that there are so many media and other resources that can be of a great help)but what can present some difficulty is to try to reach to a higher level (such as C1 or C2 according to the European standard). I know this because I am in the second year study English at Bucharest’s University of Foreign Languages and Literature and I really want to evolve as much as possible but I find that difficult considering the poor ( in my opinion) structure of the philology section.

I’d imagine learning conversational English would be pretty difficult if one were to do it by reading philology.

I also wanted to add that we can’t really talk about the most difficult language because each language has its own particularities(vocabulary,grammar , pronunciation and writing system) that makes it more accessible or not and from what I know there is no language that can be considered the most difficult in all the aspects which I wrote in parenthesis.

Yes indeed djvlbass.You know it’s like how Steve always says that learning a language ( or in my case improving it) presupposes reading something that you are interested or enjoying while at the philology section I often come across novels that either bore me or disgust me .

OK, now I see what you are saying. I think you mean to say “English Literature”

Here is how we use philology in English

Thanks for the link. The thing is that the philology section in Bucharest focuses on English literature ( and other languages’ literature ) but the other courses don’t really have anything to do with literature ( though we have a course of English practice in which we translate texts that are connected to literature but not necessarily English literature ) .

Thanks for the link. The thing is that the philology section in Bucharest focuses on English literature ( and other languages’ literature ) but the other courses don’t really have anything to do with literature ( though we have a course of English practice in which we translate texts that are connected to literature but not necessarily English literature ) .

I dont believe speaking this language is more intelligent that that one, how many nobel prizes have chinese got with more than 1 billion people until now?
you see in english even when you dont change the intonation of a word it has so many meanings for example: good student: intelligent. good knife; sharp. good hotel; comfortable, good restaurant; cheap and delicious. good car; beautiful and fast. good printer; speeded and clear. good politician; big liar. good film ; interesting film. good words; influential. good street; wide and laned…
in all languagesnot only in mandarin in some cases if we change the intonation we have other meaning of the word . in vietnamese we dont need to change the intonation of the word, we have to look deeply into the eyes of the speakers to guess what they want to say that the reason why the old (experienced) are respected here.

The number of nobel prizes doesn’t reflect on the intelligence of a country. Rather, the infrastructure and opportunities for advancement in the realm of science lead to those prizes, as well as hard work. And yes, having a lot of brains in the advanced subjects does help. There are hundreds of millions of Chinese living in poverty and I would argue that they are not less nor more intelligent than anybody in the world. But when they are focused on surviving, it is hard for them to do intense scientific research.

There are many people in the US, unfortunately, that think that African Americans are inherently less intelligent than other races. However, I have read that the most successful ethnic group in terms of education (doctoral, masters, and bachelors education) is actually the Africans that came to the US. Other studies that I have read say that Asian-Americans are the best.

FYI: the asian work ethic for Asian-Americans is not a myth. Look at “Tiger mom” in the New York Times–that is the childhood of a lot of asian americans.

@caza “The number of nobel prizes doesn’t reflect on the intelligence of a country.”

While I am sure the Nobel Prize awards is not totally objective, especially in literature or peace, when it come to the sciences it does reflect on the creativity and the quality of education in a country. There are hundreds of millions of Chinese living at a decent standard of living in China, and millions more outside the country. This has been the case for many decades. Many are engaged in the advanced study of science and maths. However, there have been a total of only 8 Nobel Laureates of Chinese origin in Science, according to Wikipedia. This is not many. All 8 worked outside the country, essentially in the US.

Perhaps there is something wrong with the “Tiger Mom” approach to education. Maybe these “tiger pups” end up lacking in individual motivation and creativity. I don’t know. What I do know is that if the Chinese were over represented among Nobel Prize recipients they would sure be telling us about it.

In fact, I think there is an awareness in China of the need to foster more creativity. I am sure it will happen. The issuance of patents there is increasing dramatically.

“n 2012, China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) granted more patents than any other patent office in the world, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Those 1.26 million Chinese patents represented a 31% increase over the number granted in 2011. But that’s just the beginning. China’s government has set a goal of granting 2 million patents per year by 2015, something former USPTO Director David Kappos called “mind blowing,” but a target many believe is realistic. Moreover, almost 80% of China’s patents were awarded to domestic applicants in 2012, while fewer than 50% of all U.S. patents went to U.S. citizens.”

At the end of the day, most people look to make a stable, good living and not win Nobel Prizes. Thus, you see a lot of Asians in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, science PhDs, and engineering.

We are pushed to have successful, high prestige and high-paid jobs that also require a lot of strenuous education and are stable. Thus, you don’t see too many Asians trying to be the next sports star or rap star.

It depends on whether you equate creativity with intelligence. Perhaps these Asians are intelligent but not creative. I personally don’t care for research, so I never was interested in applying to PhD programs.

As an aside, the Tiger mom upbringing has major flaws. I argue that a balanced childhood that focuses mostly on academics but also on sports and other activities is best. Otherwise, you get the socially awkward, science-fair type of graduates that suck outside of the classroom and have no friends.

@anajame. I wasn’t arguing that the Chinese language is superior to English, just that empirical studies show they have effects on different areas of the brain than English does. Young Chinese now are learning Chinese (their own dialect and Mandarin) +English and so they benefit from learning these two very different systems. (As mentioned, a good deal of the world is learning their language+English in school but I raised Chinese for reasons already stated). I think it is a reasonable hypothesis that if bilingualism is good for the brain, shown to be true, then being bilingual in two very different language systems is even more beneficial. That said, I am not arguing that Westerners should learn an Asian language just because it’s good for the brain…rather better on average for people to learn languages for more immediate, pragmatic reasons. From what I’ve observed in South Korea and China, Asians usually learn English for no reason other than practical – that they get a cognitive benefit is just…serendipity (to use a word I don’t think I’ve ever used, from another thread).

Regarding the Tiger Mother. Last year when I taught at a Chinese university, I assigned an excerpt from Chua’s book (which I haven’t read in its entirety) and had students discuss what they thought about Western versus Asian style education – the responses came out overwhelmingly in favor of Western style. I realize this argument is easier to rip off the internet in English than the pro tiger mom position – the book took a beating from the Western press. I thought the best student essays argued in favor of some sort of hybrid between the two. I had only a few essays arguing in favor of the Tiger Mom. At the outset, in an attempt to divert them from all arguing in favor of the Western position, I told them that I was actually pro tiger mom (which, in reality, could not be further from the truth), gave them statistics to show how bad most Americans are in math/science, how most Americans spend 6 hours a day watching television, etc. Not many students fell for my false advocacy of the tiger mom. One student wrote (paraphrasing): “Many Chinese can do math but not many can think for themselves.” A generalization but provocative opening statement to a persuasive essay – the grammatical errors lead me to believe it was not plucked off the internet.

As 80% of the essays I read on the topic put forth: “Every coin has the two sides.” Individual versus group thinking is an interesting issue. I’ve observed Chinese (and S. Koreans) do very well in group settings. For instance, I’ve seen even young kids hammering out decisions by committee in adult-like fashion without direction, which I’ve rarely seen in America. I’m not sure if this collective versus individual dynamic explains the lack of Chinese Nobel Prize winners in science but it may be a contributing factor given Asian cultures tend to put less emphasis on nurturing the individual accomplishment.

no hard to learn language for Indonesian, we have more than 200 native languages, each of us at least know 2-3 languages

Although English is completely different from my mother language (Arabic) but it was an easy language to learn. I love it

@ all
In my opinion, in the evolution of human beings, languages have gone along with us at the first step of people on this planet and those languages have continuously been improved more and more. Any tribes or clans couldn’t exist if their languages didn’t develop. you can visualize that a group of hunters go hunting in a forest and one of those men sees the danger is coming to them and he wants to announce to the others he has very short time to do that . in this case I think one or two words will save him and his partners, more( long as a speech of Mr president Obama in front of white house) will kill all of them so languages tend to be perfect and they have same jump off and the same destination.
more words, I am an asian so I want my children grow up and they are taught by asian( chinese) style it means that the children are under the control of their parents. they are never allowed to do whatever they want without looking the other people. you can see clearly that the children in asia are educated in the early days in each meal, all the food put in a common big plate,bowl. people in the family share and the old and young kids have priority on good food. they always respect and have responsibility to family, society.