Are you thinking about learning a new language? If you’re looking for a challenge these 6 could be perfect – they’re notoriously hard for native English speakers to learn thanks to their tricky pronunciation, confusing structure, unusual characters, or the sheer volume of forms but learning them can be rewarding too.


The Chinese language of Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. But don’t let that fool you in its difficulty to pick up. It’s a tonal language so you can say the same sounds with different intonations to create different words. If that doesn’t make it hard enough there are thousands of characters, a complex writing system, and lots of idioms to get to grips with too. Combined, these factors mean that Mandarin is often stated to be the most difficult language in the world to learn.


One of the reasons Arabic is so hard to learn is that it contains very few words that resemble English, or even other European languages, making pronunciation difficult. Reading Arabic is also a challenge – vowels are not included in the written language so it’s like learning it all over again. To further complicate it, Arabic is spoken across many different areas and the language and dialect used in Saudi Arabia can be vastly different to that spoken in Tunisia.


Everything in the Japanese language is likely to feel completely alien to a native English speaker. The sounds, writing structure, grammar, and characters mean it’s very challenging become proficient in Japanese. There are also two syllabary systems and three independent writing systems, each with an entirely different alphabet, to throw into the mix. It’s similar to Mandarin, and learning one can support the other, and some argue it’s even more difficult to pick up.


Korean is a language isolate – it’s not linked to any other – so for everyone, not just English speakers, learning it can be a challenge. The grammar and sentence structure is an area in particular that native English speakers struggle with. Of course, the vocabulary and writing system isn’t easy to pick up either and just to add a bit of a challenge there a seven different speech levels.


You might think being a European language Hungarian will be relatively easy for an English speaker to learn, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Across all languages, Hungarian has some of the most complicated grammar rules to get your head around. There are 18 noun cases, compared to English’s three, and entire phrases can be condensed into a single word.


Another European language making the list is Finnish for similar reasons to Hungarian – the grammar is extremely hard to grasp for native English speakers. It can make understanding the language fiendishly difficult. On the plus side, the pronunciation and characters won’t be completely alien to English speakers.