According to a report from America’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), many of the world’s languages can be placed in one of four categories – from easiest to hardest to learn.
Learning a new language is something that most of us have attempted at some point in our lives.
And whether you are now fluent in multiple tongues, or struggled to get through a few terms of French classes at school before giving up, it’s commonly accepted that picking up a new language is a challenging task (although recent research claims we get better at it with a little alcohol).
However, there are some languages that are trickier to learn than others. According to a report from America’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which teaches languages to diplomats, many of the world’s languages can be placed in one of four categories – from easiest to hardest to learn, depending on how long it typically takes for a native English speaker to reach ‘professional working proficiency’ in each respective tongue.
The report, which assumed that the learner is on an FSI course and therefore has a “very good or better aptitude for classroom learning of foreign languages”, found that languages like French, Italian and Spanish are quickest to learn (typically taking between 24-30 weeks), while most of the languages listed fell into category three – meaning that they typically take around 44 weeks to learn.
Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean were named the hardest to learn, and can take a lot longer (an estimated 88 weeks).
And while the East Asian languages are predictably difficult for English speakers, there are a few languages on the trickier end of the list that may come as more of a surprise to the uninitiated, such as Hungarian, Finnish and Polish.
The full list can be found below, with one very obvious takeaway – if you’re struggling to learn a new language, it’s best to give yourself as much time as possible. Especially if it’s a category four.
Category 1: 24 to 30 weeks to learn
Category 2: 36 weeks to learn
Category 3: 44 weeks to learn
Category 4: 88 weeks to learn