Learning a new language from scratch can be quite challenging, which is why most people tend to go for a “easy language” when it comes to deciding what tongue to learn. However, one might ask: what makes a language difficult or easy to learn?
We are going to answer that question for you, listing some of the most popular criteria used to determine if a language is easy or difficult to learn.
1. Amount of hours of classwork language learning
We will start by saying that generally the level of difficulty or easiness of a language is based on the amount of hours necessary to learn it: an “easy” language would require 600 hours of classwork study, whereas a “difficult” language would require up to 2200. However, it’s not all about classwork study hours: the question is a bit more complex than that.
2. Native language of the learner
The “starting point”, i.e the native language of the learner is quite crucial in determining whether taking up that specific language will be easy or not. In fact, it’s much easier for a learner to take up a language that belongs to the same language family as their native one, because of the many similarities between such languages. Let’s say that for an English-speaker, German or Dutch would be easier languages to learn, rather than Arabic: that is because German and Dutch belong to the same language family as English, whereas Arabic belongs to a different one.
3. Complex languages to learn
Some languages are quite complex in terms of writing system, syntax, pronunciation, case systems and so on, and this increases the difficulty of such languages: Mandarin, Finnish, Russian or Vietnamese are very complex, making them difficult to learn for most students, regardless their native tongue.
4. Availability of resources in language learning
An element which could get in the way of learning a new language is the availability of resources. In general, we could say that the more “popular” one language is, the more study material we can find. Less-known languages, like minor languages spoken by not too many people, are not so easy to learn because the student will find no little problems in accessing the resources, in terms of books, teachers, apps, websites, etc.
Although in some cases it is possible to find such resources, some languages change so much, or have too many varieties that it is difficult to keep up. Let’s take Arabic or Chinese as an example: nowadays, there are several apps (check here “The 8 best Language Learning Apps that really work“), websites, and languages courses for these languages, but at the same time they have several dialects which different from one another. For instance, Arabic spoken in Egypt will not be the same as the one spoken in Saudi Arabia.
5. Attitude toward the language learning process
So far, we have outlined mainly the technical aspects that make a language more or less difficult to learn. It’s important to point out that also the attitude of the learner toward the learning of a new language makes it more or less difficult to learn.
First of all, learning a new language must be pleasant for the student, not stressful: stress can get in the way of learning, so you might want to adopt a chillaxed attitude when it comes to learning a new language. A little challenge, however, can be a good motivation in the learning process. In this regard, the Aristotelian “golden mean” is the perfect solution: you should set yourself not too easy goals so you don’t get bored, and achievable goals so you don’t get discouraged. The idea of achievable goals will make you look at that language as fairly easy to learn, giving you the right motivation to keep it up.
6. Languages learning requires time
However, “easy” doesn’t necessarily mean “fast”: learning a new language is a long process that takes time and practice. It is very unlikely you’ll be able to talk fluently or understand everything in your target language after just a few lessons, but it doesn’t mean that with the right effort and motivation you won’t reach your goal. You should give yourself the time to absorb the new information little by little, avoiding information overload: our working memory is able to only process a little amount of information at any given time, which is why trying to assimilate too much information would give you the impression that you’re not learning anything, probably resulting in you quitting. As in many other matters, patience is key.
To sum up, we could say that the easiness or difficulty of a language is the result of many factors, among which self-motivation and interest in that specific language play a crucial role. So, before you take up any language, make sure you truly like it in order to make the whole journey way more enjoyable.
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