At 10:00 pm -0400 21/9/01, Colin Halverson wrote:
>Hey, I was wondering what you people think is the hardest language to learn
>(of the languages you know).

One can't give a simple answer.  Basically, the closer a language is in
structure to one's own, the easier it is to learn.  If there's a good deal
of shared vocabulary then life is even easier.  It means the Romance &
Germanic languages will normally feel easier to English speakers then other
languages.  Structurally the Celtic languages are not so different but
there is less obvious shared vocabulary.  The Slav languages are also IE
and, therefore, not so different structurally as non-IE languages, but
anglophones generally find the noun and adjective declensions tricky
(except for Bulgarian & Macedonian).

>I've heard Hungarian is hard (of course I don't
>know any one who speaks Hungarian)?  Of course I would be wondering from an
>English point of view.

Hungarian is not IE origin and will generally be found harder than most
other European langages for English speakers.  But on the global scale,
there are plenty of languages one is likely to find much harder.

>Also- are Chinese languages hard?

If you want to learn them in order to speak them, they are not so hard; but
if you want to read & write them in their traditional form, then they get
hard because there are so many characters to learn.

>Are there many similarities between Cantonese and Mandarin?


>And some-what on the same topic, are East Indian
>languages hard or similar.  I know some Indians and they all know about four
>Indian languages  (Bengali, Panjabi, Telugu and Hindi I think) who say they
>are different, but when I hear them the words sound similar to me-

Telegu is quite different from the other three.  Bangali. Punjabi & Hindi
are of IE derivation and have become comparatively analytic over the ages;
they shouldn't be too difficult for English speakers to learn.   But Telegu
belongs to the southern Indian Dravidian family of languages which includes
Tamil; these languages are quite different in structure and will be harder
to learn.

At 9:26 pm -0700 21/9/01, Frank George Valoczy wrote:
>Well I'm a native Hungarian speaker so it's easy for me, but surprisingly
>difficult was Estonian and Votian. Somali was difficult to the point that
>I gave up on it, but more so due to inarticulatable phonology than

Yep - the phonology can make a language which would otherwise not seem so
difficult a 'hard' language to learn.  The Nguni languages (e.g. Zulu &
Xhosa) will not be so bad if you merely want to read them; but people often
find mastering all the many c;ick consonants quite tricky.

At 4:55 am -0400 22/9/01, Amber Adams wrote:
>Japanese is commonly thought of as a hard language, but I find it fairly
>easy.  Obviously, the vocabulary is nothing like English, but that's not
>really a big shock.  The grammar is all messed up, but after a while,
>you get a feel for it.  It's trivial to pronounce :)

Unlike the Nguni languages I mentioned above, the phonology of Japanese is
quite simple; it's quite easy to pronounce.  And I agree it's not so
difficult to learn to speak (and hear).  But what makes it hard IMO is its
complicated written system with its two sets of syllabaries (kana) and the
few thousand kanji (Chinese characters).

A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
                     [J.G. Hamann 1760]