Easy and difficult languages

Language world map

The United States Foreign Services Institute groups languages into four categories, according to the average time required for an English-speaking learner to become proficient in them. For example:

  1. 24 weeks: Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish
  2. 36 weeks: German, Haitian Creole, Indonesian, Malay, Swahili
  3. 44 weeks: Albanian, Bengali, Burmese, Czech, Farsi, Finnish, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Kazakh, Mongolian, Polish, Russian, Somali, Thai, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese (and many others)
  4. 88 weeks: Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin

Language Log has produced an alternative ranking of language difficulty, based on a survey of the blog’s readers. These are some examples. The higher the score, the harder the language (e.g. written Chinese at 5.11 is harder than Spanish at 1.7).

  1. Spanish 1.7
  2. Dutch 1.81
  3. Italian 1.93
  4. French 2.23
  5. English 2.45
  6. German 3
  7. Swedish 3
  8. Mandarin (spoken) 3.5
  9. Hebrew 3.75
  10. Japanese 4.1
  11. Russian 4.14
  12. Arabic 4.69
  13. Turkish 4.77
  14. Chinese (written) 5.11