What Makes a Language Difficult? Learning languages from Languages Tutor within the same language family is often considered easier, because they will likely share grammar rules and similar vocabulary. This makes sense, as most people want to learn their own language as children and find it easier to do so than learning another language that has nothing in common with it. However, what makes one language more difficult than another?
Languages that share roots or structures are easier to learn than others because of patterns. English, for example, shares much of its grammar with French, German and Spanish. So if you’re already familiar with English grammatical structures, then it will be an easier transition to learn these languages. Also, you’ll already have some vocabulary in common with other Romance languages (such as Italian or Portuguese). But even within language families, there can be differences: English speakers may find it difficult to pronounce certain words in French because they don’t exist in their own language. For instance, while oignon sounds like onion when spoken by an American, Brits might pronounce it differently due to differences between British and American accents.
It’s true that languages that are related to each other, such as Spanish and French, will share many of their words. But it’s also important to realize that these shared words may be slightly different in both spelling and pronunciation. In Spanish for example, coche is car and coche is coach; but in French, coche is school bus (pronounced more like shoob). It’s also easy to confuse homonyms—words that sound alike but have different meanings (and often spellings). For example, peu means few in French while peux means can or am able in French. Knowing how to structure sentences can be another challenge; especially if you want to speak correctly.
If you’re comparing languages within one language family, spelling becomes much less of an issue because you are working with words that are spelled roughly as they sound. If two languages in different families look and sound similar, though, it can be tricky to spot slight variations in spelling and pronunciation. However, once you recognize differences between languages in different families, they tend to make more sense. For example, although Spanish may seem easier than German if both are Romance languages (both derived from Latin), it is important to remember that Spanish comes from Castilian (also known as Spanish), while German comes directly from High German (Deutsch). This means that there will likely be more differences between them than might initially appear.
If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you know that pronunciation can make or break a conversation. Being able to pronounce words accurately shows that you respect their culture and language and are making an honest effort to learn it. If your tongue trips over itself when you try to speak in another language, take some time and learn what some of the sounds are like before speaking. It will go much more smoothly if you do. Many languages have letters with similar pronunciations (k-r) or hard consonant combinations (ch or th). To save yourself embarrassment, research these ahead of time so that when you need them, they won’t trip up your speech patterns.
Cultures are different
When it comes to language, there are often very different ideas as to what constitutes easy and difficult. German and Dutch are both Germanic languages, but anyone who has studied them knows that one is significantly easier for an English speaker or Pashto Language speaker than the other. A similar situation exists in Chinese, where Mandarin Chinese may be more difficult for English speakers than Cantonese. In many ways, these differences boil down to how closely related two languages are—how similar their vocabulary, grammar and syntax are. The more alike they are, the less of a learning curve you will have when trying to master them both. Understanding what makes learning one language easier than another can help learners know what they’re getting into when starting on a new project or adventure!
When it comes to learning a language, motivation is key! While you are likely motivated to learn a foreign language on your own, having someone close who can help and motivate you can be invaluable. Friends or family members can help provide translation practice and support with pronunciation of tricky words. If you’re an adult learner, it might even be helpful to meet up with other adults learning alongside you for accountability and conversation practice. On top of that, if someone else in your life speaks the same language as you, they can answer any questions about cultural norms that come up when speaking with others—like why certain things are done or said in specific ways—and keep you connected to what matters back home during long periods of travel.