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Is Slovene the hardest language?

The Lilypad

Since I started learning Slovene, many people, Slovenes and non-Slovenes, have been asking me if it is difficult to learn. A couple of Slovene people proudly insisted that it actually is the hardest language because some time ago there was some chart floating all around the internet claiming that Slovene is the top most difficult language in the world. I absolutely know what they mean because I’ve seen a similar chart couple of years ago, showing that Slovak was the hardest language followed by Hungarian on the second place.

Is it Slovene or Slovak?

So which one is it than? Slovene or Slovak? We could now argue and start with some examples but… In my humble opinion, none of these two is the hardest. Sorry 🙂 The correct question would rather be – is it even possible to say which language in the world is the hardest? According to which criteria can we judge which language is the most difficult.

Well, I think that the first criterion to consider when judging the level of difficulty of a foreign language is what is your native language and/or what other languages you speak. To illustrate it on my example – for me, a Slovak native speaker, the Slovene language would hardly be the most difficult to learn, same as, for instance, Croatian or Polish. The reason is that because these language belong to the same language family, same if their features are just natural for you, you understand them without any difficulties. Also, my knowledge of English and German would help me to master Dutch, Norwegian or Danish relatively quick. But, f I tried to learn Hungarian, Finnish or even Arabic or Japanese, I would probably need 3 days to be able to say hi 🙂

By this I didn’t want to say that Slovene is not a difficult language. It, in fact, is, especially due to it’s variable stress (naglas) or strick usage of dual (special form of plural used only for two people or objects). On the other hand, I do not need an explanation why it uses a different ending for a male and female form whereas someone who is, let’s say English or German native speaker, would need to have an extra lesson for this one.

I’ve done some online research and I found a couple of sources claiming that French or German are the most difficult languages (please, let me disagree). So, although we cannot definitely say, which language is the most difficult, I found an interesting table that shows which various languages according to their difficulty to learn for an English language speaker. My research and I agreed that this could be at least a bit close to truth.

And yes, the Londoners must have it quite hard to speak Slovene, therefore I huge respect goes to everyone who did it!

Category I: 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)
Languages closely related to English
Afrikaans
Danish
Dutch
French
Italian
Norwegian
Portuguese
Romanian
Spanish
Swedish
Category II: 30 weeks (750 hours)
Languages similar to English
German
Category III: 36 weeks (900 hours)
Languages with linguistic and/or cultural differences from English
Indonesian
Malaysian
Swahili
Category IV: 44 weeks (1100 hours)
Languages with significant linguistic and/or cultural differences from English
Albanian
Amharic
Armenian
Azerbaijani
Bengali
Bosnian
Bulgarian
Burmese
Croatian
Czech
*Estonian
*Finnish
*Georgian
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
*Hungarian
Icelandic
Khmer
Lao
Latvian
Lithuanian
Macedonian
*Mongolian
Nepali
Pashto
Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)
Polish
Russian
Serbian
Sinhala
Slovak
Slovenian
Tagalog
*Thai
Turkish
Ukrainian
Urdu
Uzbek
*Vietnamese
Xhosa
Zulu
Category V: 88 weeks (2200 hours)
Languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers
Arabic
Cantonese (Chinese)
Mandarin (Chinese)
*Japanese
Korean

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7 thoughts on “Is Slovene the hardest language?

  1. Thanks for publishing your research, very interesting. As a Londoner this news is of some comfort to me. Maybe I’m not so thick afterall! (Maybe.) Still, I am determined to learn Slovene, even if it takes me a decade.

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    1. Hi, of course, don’t give up! Well, these are some facts, but the most important is your motivation and your effort which you invest into it. If you try hard, you will master this language, it will just take a little longer than with some other languages. For your comfort, I know some people who are native English speakers and managed to learn Slovene. Good luck with that!

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  2. Having a Dutch boyfriend who briefly showed some interest in learning Slovenian, I quickly gave up on learning the ‘real’ Slovenian. I come from Maribor and our dialect is filled with germanisms so I decided to take a shortcut and now teach him local words that come from German and have a relative in Dutch 😊 Grammar is a pain but we don’t go there – only for fun when I torture him with cases 😄

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    1. But it’s good that he WANTS to learn it. Motivation and willingness to learn a language are the most important regardless from what langauge it is about. Good luck with teaching and let me know later how is he progressing 🙂

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    1. Hi Isabel! Yeah, I understand, for you as a Spanish native speaker the Slovenian language doesn’t make much sense I guess… :))) But no worries, you’ll master it!

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