What is the hardest language to learn?

With over 10 million weekly visits, the bab.la community seems to be quite the bunch of language lovers! We were interested in learning more about the linguistic backgrounds as well as opinions of the people interacting with our site on a daily basis, and decided a survey would be just the thing to find out more about the bab.la community. Our hopes were to identify key statistics in order to share them and expand our resources on key areas where users either have difficulties or particular interest. With these findings we can better try to serve our user base, and you can see how others are similar or differ to you personally when it comes to languages with bab.la.

The participation was spectacular, almost exceeding the limit of total responses allowed! We are grateful for all of your participation and support with this research. If you are curious about the outcome too, here are the results!

74% of those surveyed consider the importance of learning/speaking foreign languages very important (only 1% considers learning foreign languages not important). Some of the wisdom shared with us in the other sections included the statement that “all languages are easy and difficult at the same time”.

Native languages:

Part of the goal of our survey was to find out more about what languages our users speak. Here are the statistics on how many native speakers there are for each of the following. English has by far the most native speakers, but the most interesting results were all the other languages found among everyone who uses bab.la!

native language graph

Other native languages found in the survey included Dutch, Greek, Swedish, Gujarati, Russian, Vietnamese, Albanian, and Hindi.

Languages spoken at home:

Some households are multilingual, which is a concept we were interested in. Bilingual households are clearly not uncommon, and we are impressed with those who speak four or more languages within their homes!

languages spoken in the home

Number of languages spoken:

At bab.la, we are all about language learning! This is why we wanted to know how many languages all of our users speak. An interesting statistic from this part of the survey is that within our participant group there are slightly more people who are quadrilingual than monolingual.

languages spoken

Most difficult to learn languages:

Learning foreign languages can always be a challenge. However, most people seem to perceive certain languages as more difficult than others. We were interested to know everyone’s views on this matter. Based upon our responses, Chinese is considered by far the most difficult to learn, followed by Arabic, then Japanese. This could potentially be because of the alphabet or the tones, given most of our respondees have a European native language.

most difficult languages

Some of the other languages perceived as difficult were Finnish, Zulu, Irish, Czech, and Xhosa.

Easiest languages to learn:

Some languages are considered easier to learn than others, and this is also generally a matter of personal opinion – as well as native language. We were quite curious to know which languages everyone identified as simpler to learn, which in majority appear to be Spanish and English, with many other languages represented as well. Interestingly enough, Chinese ranks quite high, in spite of being perceived as the most difficult language to learn in the previous graph.

easiest languages

Some other suggested simple languages to pick up were Esperanto, Hebrew, Latin, and Italian.

Biggest challenge in foreign language learning:

Learning a foreign language can present many difficulties. However, depending upon the person learning, different aspects of language learning can present a bigger challenge. We were interested in what parts of foreign language learning were the most difficult for our user base, in order to provide more resources to combat these struggles in the future. Grammar and speaking were the most common responses, though some of the other answers were quite interesting as well.

difficulties in language learning

Other difficulties included writing, finding the time to learn a language, gender, finding people to practice with, and “everything”.

Biggest motivation to learn languages:

As learning a foreign language does require dedication, we wanted to know what most inspires people to put this effort in – and who better to ask than our very own language lovers? Many people learn languages because of cultural motivations, but the other responses were quite fascinating as well!

motivations language learning

Some other motivations included sheer joy, intellectual and linguistic interest, survival, and the challenge of acquiring another language.

With this data you can compare the thoughts and motivations of language lovers of all ages and education backgrounds. We found that the majority of our user base speaks English as their native language, as well as most of our language lovers being multilingual. Culture is the biggest motivator for language learning, and there are a variety of challenges found in the path of gaining knowledge of more languages. We hope you find this information as interesting as we do!

Survey & article by Leni Sinke

Tags: , , , , , , ,

{ Comments are closed! }