For obvious reasons, we wouldn’t recommend learning one of these to somebody who is just starting off in the world of languages, but if you’re brave or foolish enough to give one of them a shot, here are a few more that will keep your neurons in a twist.
Don’t be tricked into believing this one isn’t tough to crack. The fact that one can skip learning a completely new alphabet is a plus, but many times the real difficulty lies elsewhere. When we learn a language, one of the pillars that help us trundle forward against the odds are the rules. While Estonian has them like any other language, it is also notorious for the huge number of exceptions that will constantly break them out of the blue.
With an impressive fourteen noun cases, and variable length consonants and vowels, the sheer amount of exceptions doesn’t seem so bad after all. There is also the added difficulty that Estonia is one of the least populous countries of Europe, with just over 1.3 million inhabitants, so finding somebody to practice the language with can be a struggle on its own.
Basque is the language of a small region on the Spanish-French border that is quite an enigma in its own right. It is the only non Indo-European language in western Europe, and while there are some theories floating around of how it came to be, it’s rather baffling how a language so completely different from any of its neighbour tongues managed to survive for so long.
The Devil, upon realizing that no Basques were going to Hell, decided he would learn the language in an attempt to corrupt them. Seven years later, the poor fellow couldn’t manage to string a sentence together.
Often considered one of those “impossible” languages to learn, it bears almost no similarities with either Spanish or French, let alone English. It’s even challenging for many natives of the region who didn’t learn it as kids but nevertheless are used to seeing it around the place. There is an old saying that the Devil, upon realizing that no Basques were going to Hell, decided he would learn the language in an attempt to corrupt them. Seven years later, the poor fellow couldn’t manage to string a sentence together.
It’s completely impossible to make one of these hard language lists without including Japanese. With three writing systems, which in turn are completely different from anything any English speaker is used to, we’re in for a rocky start indeed. The main challenges beyond the alphabets are many different sounds that can prove very awkward to non-natives, a vastly complex writing system that even Japanese people have trouble with, a very vague and highly contextual way of describing things, and a level of politeness and formality that varies between the person’s age, status, relationships, etc.
Don’t be discouraged though. As hard as Japanese is, or any of the other languages on the list by that matter, there are many ways to learn them and have a great time doing so. Many people embark on the adventure of learning a new language every day, and even the most difficult ones end up succumbing and allow themselves to be mastered. Anybody with enough patience can do it, so if you have ever thought about getting into the language fray, starting today will always be better than tomorrow.