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What Makes One Language Harder or Easier Than One other?
What makes one language harder or easier to learn than another? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a one easy answer. There are some languages which have a number of characteristics that make them relatively difficult to learn. However it depends a lot more on what languages you already know, particularly your native language, the one (or ones) you grew up speaking.
Your native language The language you had been surrounded with as you grew up (or languages, for these lucky sufficient to develop up speaking more than one language) is the most influential factor on the way you learn different languages. Languages that share a number of the qualities and characteristics of your native English might be easier to learn. Languages which have very little in common with your native English might be a lot harder. Most languages will fall somewhere in the middle.
This goes both ways. Although it is a stretch to say that English is harder than Chinese, it is safe to say the native Chinese speaker probably has nearly as hard a time to study English because the native English speaker has when learning Chinese. If you are studying Chinese proper now, that's probably little comfort to you.
Related languages Learning a language closely related to your native language, or one other that you already speak, is way simpler than learning a totally alien one. Related languages share many characteristics and this tends to make them easier to study as there are less new concepts to deal with.
Since English is a Germanic language, Dutch, German and the Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish) are all carefully associated and thus, simpler to learn than an unrelated tongue. Some other languages associated in some way to English are Spanish, Italian and French, the more distant Irish and Welsh and even Russian, Greek, Hindi and Urdu, Farsi (of Iran) and Pashto (of Afghanistan).
English shares no ancestry with languages like Arabic, Korean, Japanese and Chinese, all languages considered hard by English standards.
Comparable grammar One of those traits which are typically shared between associated languages. In Swedish, word order and verb conjugation is mercifully just like English which makes learning it much simpler than say German, which has a notoriously more complex word order and verb conjugation. Although both languages are related to English, German kept it's more complex grammar, where English and Swedish have largely dropped it.
The Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and a number of other languages) are famous for sharing many characteristics. It's not shocking since all of them developed from Latin. It is vitally common for someone who learns one among these languages to go on and study one or others. They're so comparable at times that it appears that you may study the others at a discounted value in effort.
Commonalities in grammar don't just occur in related languages. Very completely different ones can share related qualities as well. English and Chinese actually have relatedities of their grammar, which partly makes up for among the other difficulties with Chinese.
Cognates and borrowed vocabulary. This is one of those characteristics that make the Romance languages so similar. And in this, they also share with English. The Romance languages all have the huge mainity of their vocabulary from Latin. English has borrowed a lot of its vocabulary directly from Latin and what it did not get there, it just borrowed from French. There is a gigantic quantity of French vocabulary in English. Another reason that Spanish, French and Italian are
considered easier than other languages.
There are always borrowings of vocabulary between languages, and not always between related languages. There is a surprising quantity of English vocabulary in Japanese. It's a little disguised by Japanese pronunciation, but it's to discover it.
Sounds Clearly, languages sound different. Though all humans use basically the same sounds, there always seems to be some sounds in other languages that we just don't have in our native language. Some are strange or troublesome to articulate. Some can be quite subtle. A Spanish 'o' is not precisely the identical as an English 'o.' After which there are some vowel sounds in French, for instance, that just do not exist in English. While a French 'r' is very different from English, a Chinese 'r' is
really very similar.
It could take some time to get comfortable with these new sounds, although I think that faking it is acceptable until you may get a better handle on them. Many people don't put enough effort into this aspect of learning and this makes some languages appear harder to be taught than they should be.
Tones A number of languages use tones, a rising or falling pitch when a word is pronounced. This can be very subtle and tough for somebody who has by no means used tones before. This is likely one of the important reasons Chinese is hard for native English speakers.
Chinese isn't the only language to make use of tones, and never all of them are from exotic far-off lands. Swedish makes use of tones, although it isn't almost as complicated or tough as Chinese tones. This is the kind of thing that can only really be realized by listening to native speakers.
By the way, there are examples of tone use in English but they are very few, often used only in specific situations, and are not part of the pronunciation of particular person words. For instance, in American English it's common to raise the tone of our voice on the end of a question. It is not quite the same thing, however in the event you think about it that way, it would possibly make a tone language a little less intimidating.
The writing system Some languages use a unique script or writing system and this can have a serious impact on whether or not a language is hard to learn or not. Many European languages use the identical script as English but in addition include a few different symbols not in English to signify sounds specific to that language (think of the 'o' with a line through it in Norwegian, or the 'n' with a little squiggly over it in Spanish). These are generally not troublesome to learn.
However some languages go farther and have a unique alphabet altogether. Greek, Hindi, Russian and most of the other Slavic languages of Japanese Europe all use a different script. This adds to the complicatedity when learning a language. Some languages, like Hebrew and Arabic, are additionally written from right to left, further adding difficulty.
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