Learning a new language is difficult but beneficial. Some languages are more challenging for English speakers to learn than others because of variations in their grammatical structures, vocabularies, and writing systems. Despite being one of the most frequently spoken languages in the world, English’s distinctive qualities may be both a benefit and a drawback while learning a new language.

The hardest languages to learn for English speakers are Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, and Hungarian. We will discuss about each of them. We will go through methods for learning various languages as well as the advantages of studying a difficult language.

What are the hardest language to learn for English speakers?

RankLanguageDifficulty Factors
1MandarinWriting system, tonal pronunciation, grammar.
2ArabicComplex writing system, grammar, pronunciation.
3JapaneseThree writing systems, complex grammar, honorifics.
4RussianCyrillic alphabet, complex grammar, vocabulary.
5HungarianUnique structure, vowel harmony, agglutinative.
hardest languages to learn for english speakers

1. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese poses a difficult learning curve for English speakers. This is because of its distinctive writing system, tonal pronunciation, and grammatical peculiarities.

Writing system

Mandarin Chinese uses a logographic writing system. It means that each character represents a word or concept rather than a sound. Each character has a unique meaning and pronunciation and is made up of strokes and radicals.

Chinese speaking people utilize only around 20,000 of the more than 50,000 characters in the language. It takes a lot of time and effort to learn Chinese characters since many of them have identical appearances but distinct meanings.

Due to these reasons, Mandarin is among the most difficult language to learn for English speakers. However, once mastered, the writing system can provide a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and history.


Because Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, a word’s meaning might vary depending on the pitch or tone used to pronounce it. Each of the four primary tones and the neutral tone in Mandarin has a distinct meaning.

The word “ma” might, for instance, signify “mother” in one tone, “horse” in another, “scold” in a third, and “question particle” in the neutral tone. Since English is not a tonal language, it might be difficult for English speakers to perceive and reproduce the proper tone.

mandarin language is the hardest language to learn for english speakers


The subject-verb-object order is sometimes reversed in Mandarin Chinese, which has a different sentence structure than English. Chinese does not distinguish between single and plural nouns and has a separate word order for inquiries.

Additionally, there are no articles, tenses, or plurals in the language, which might be challenging for English speakers to understand. In addition, learners may find it puzzling as Chinese has a system of classifiers or measure words. We must use them with nouns depending on their form or function.


Chinese has a huge vocabulary with about 50,000 words. Depending on the context, many of these words may have numerous meanings. Additionally, it might be difficult for non-native speakers to comprehend many Chinese idioms and colloquialisms since they are exclusive to the language.

Also see: Easy languages you can learn as English speaker

2. Arabic

Writing system

Arabic uses an abjad writing system, which means that each letter represents a consonant sound. The vowels are represented by diacritic marks above or below the letters.

Students acclimated to left-to-right writing systems may find Arabic difficult. The script also has a lot of ligatures, which are letter combinations connected together, making it challenging for novices to read and write.


Arabic grammar is intricate and as opposed to to English in a number of ways. Nouns, pronouns, and adjectives in Arabic have a system of case endings. This implies that these words vary depending on how you use them in a sentence.

A verb’s meaning might also alter depending on the pattern you use to construct it since Arabic verbs have a system of roots and patterns. Arabic also contains a plural form, which might be difficult for English speakers who are accustomed to a singular-plural difference, as well as a dual form. This indicates that there are different forms for referring to two of things.

arabic language


Pharyngeal and guttural consonants, which are absent from the English language in Arabic, are challenging for English speakers to pronounce properly.

In addition, Arabic features both short and long vowel sounds that may alter a word’s meaning. As a result, many words can be pronounced in several ways depending on the situation.

3. Japanese

Japanese is a language that English speakers find difficult to learn because of its extensive honorific system, complex writing system, and grammatical distinctions.

Writing system

Japanese employs the hiragana, katakana, and kanji writing systems. Writing native Japanese words and loanwords are done using the syllabic scripts hiragana and katakana, where each letter denotes a syllable.

Japanese uses kanji, which are Chinese letters that have been adopted for the language, to write nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Since there are more than 2,000 characters used often in kanji, learning it takes a lot of time and effort.

japanese language


Japanese has a sophisticated system of honorifics that are used in social situations to convey deference and courtesy. It uses different verb tenses, pronouns, and vocabulary in the honorific system based on the status and connection of the speaker and the listener.

Since English does not have a system like that used in other languages, learning how to use honorifics properly may be difficult for English speakers.


There are various ways that Japanese grammar differs from English grammar. Japanese sentences are written using a subject-object-verb structure, which places the verb at the conclusion of the phrase.

A system of particles, which are short words used to signify a word’s grammatical function in a phrase, is also utilized in Japanese. There are no articles or plurals in Japanese, and the word order for inquiries is likewise unusual.

4. Russian

Because of its distinctive writing style, intricate grammar, and large vocabulary, Russian is a challenging language for English speakers to master.

Writing system

Russian is written using the Cyrillic script, which is distinct from the Latin alphabet we use in English. 33 letters make up the Cyrillic alphabet, some of which resemble Latin letters in shape while others are entirely distinct.

Russian also features sounds that are absent from English, such palatalized consonants and vowel reduction. It is tough for English speakers to pronounce properly.

russian language


Because Russian has a system of six cases for nouns, pronouns, and adjectives, each word has a different case depending on how it is used in the phrase.

Russian verbs have two aspects, which indicate whether the action is finished or continuing and impact conjugation. Russian has a gender system as well. Thus nouns may either be masculine, feminine, or neuter, which impacts how they finish.

Vocabulary and idiomatic expressions

Russian has a rich vocabulary, but many words and expressions are unique to the language and are not easy to translate directly into English. Additionally, there are several idiomatic expressions in Russian, which are expressions whose meaning are difficult to infer from the literal meanings of the words. It takes time and effort to learn these terms.

5. Hungarian

Due to its complicated syntax, distinctive vowel harmony system, agglutinative character, and lack of cognates with English and other Indo-European languages, Hungarian is a hardest European language to learn for English speakers.

Writing system

In contrast to the subject-verb-object pattern employed in English, Hungarian sentences are composed of a subject, an object, and a verb. A noun or pronoun’s grammatical role in a phrase is also indicated by its case in the Hungarian language. Additionally, Hungarian features a sophisticated system of verb conjugation that takes into account tense, mood, and aspect.

hungarian language

Vowel harmony system

Vowels in a word in Hungarian must all be front or back vowels due to the language’s unusual vowel harmony system. Due to their unfamiliarity with this sort of system, English speakers may find it difficult to pronounce some words.

Hungarian is an agglutinative language, which implies that words are created by combining root words with suffixes. Because words may contain a wide variety of suffixes to denote tense, mood, aspect, and other grammatical functions, word construction may become complicated as a result.

Lack of cognates

Because Hungarian is not Indo-European, it has few words in common with English or other European languages. As a result, English speakers may find it difficult to acquire new words since they will have to do it without the assistance of cognates.

Strategies for learning a difficult language

Although learning a difficult language might seem like an overwhelming endeavor, it is achievable with the appropriate approaches. Here are some pointers for mastering a challenging language:

Importance of finding a good teacher

Learning a language that’s challenging can be greatly simplified by finding a competent tutor. A skilled instructor will be able to excite and inspire the student while also explaining difficult grammatical structures and pronunciation guidelines.

Finding a teacher who is a native speaker or has a high degree of language competency is crucial because they can provide you insight into the culture and society where the language is spoken.

Use of language-learning software and apps

Software and applications for studying a language may be an excellent resource for learning a challenging language. These resources may provide pre-planned lessons, engaging exercises, and feedback on grammar and pronunciation.

Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and Babbel are popular language-learning applications. It’s crucial to choose software or an app that complements the aims and learning preferences of the student.

Tips for practicing speaking and listening skills

Learning a language requires both speaking and listening abilities. Here are some pointers for honing these abilities:

Find a language exchange partner

Language exchange partners are people who are studying your native language and are native speakers of the language you are learning. By communicating to the other person in both languages, you may improve your speaking and listening abilities.

You may learn the sound and rhythm of the language by listening to podcasts, music, and films in the target language.
It might be beneficial to practice speaking in front of a mirror to improve your pronunciation and facial expressions.

Discussion of the benefits of immersing oneself in the language

One of the finest methods to learn a difficult language is to immerse oneself in it. Studying abroad, viewing movies and TV programmes in the target language, or talking to local speakers are all ways to immerse. The advantages of immersion are as follows:

  • Improved comprehension: Immersion may increase language understanding by familiarising learners with the language’s tone and rhythm.
  • Increased motivation: Immersion can be a fun and engaging way to learn a language, which can increase motivation and make learning more enjoyable.
  • Exposure to culture: By giving students the chance to interact with members of the community, immersion may help them better comprehend the language and improve their communication skills.


In conclusion, learning a difficult language can be a challenging but rewarding experience. While learning a new language might be harder for certain English speakers than others, everyone can do it with the appropriate approaches and attitude.

To comprehend a language and its culture better, it’s crucial to locate a competent instructor, utilise language-learning applications and software, practice speaking and listening, and fully immerse oneself in the language. By doing this, students may get over the challenges of learning a new language and broaden their horizons at the same time.


What are the difficult language to learn for non English speakers?

Due to their complicated writing systems, grammatical structures, and pronunciation, experts cite Mandarin Chinese and Arabic as two of the most difficult languages for non-native speakers to master.

German’s intricate syntax and frequent use of compound words might provide difficulties as well. Due to their similarity to English and relatively basic grammatical patterns, Spanish and Dutch may be simpler for non-native speakers.

What makes a language difficult to learn?

A language might be difficult to learn for a number of reasons, such as intricate grammatical rules, unusual writing systems, and strange sounds or pronunciation. Lack of cognates (words with similar meanings in other languages) and idiomatic phrases that are exclusive to the language are two further aspects of a language that might make it difficult to learn.

Can I learn a challenging language?

Certainly, with perseverance, motivation, and regular practice, one may master a challenging language. Anyone can learn a new language with persistence and efficient language learning techniques, albeit it could take longer to master a challenging language than an easy one.

What are some efficient methods for mastering a challenging language?

Finding a skilled instructor, using language-learning software and apps, practising speaking and listening skills, and immersing oneself in the language and culture are effective language learning tactics. Additionally, it’s important to have a positive outlook and be open to make errors since they are a normal part of learning a language.

Can learning a difficult language improve brain function?

Yes, research has shown that learning a new language helps enhance cognitive capacities including memory and problem-solving techniques. Since learning a challenging language demands more mental work and might enhance brain activity, it may have even larger advantages.

Is it better to learn a difficult language in a classroom or on your own?

It is possible to study a challenging language both in a classroom setting and on your own. It’s critical to choose a learning strategy that complements your learning preferences and style. While self-directed learning might provide greater freedom and personalization in the learning process, a classroom environment can offer organised learning and access to an instructor.

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