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ZombieNixon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-05 09:40 PM
Original message
What's the hardest language you've ever tried to learn?
Edited on Fri Feb-11-05 09:42 PM by ZombieNixon
I took a stab at Finnish once, and the fifteen or so noun cases scared the crap outta me. The hardest language I've had any success with is probably Irish Gaelic. The initial consonant mutations are governed my a million different rules, depending on gender, case, and other stuff (e.g. fuil: blood -> r bhfuil: our blood, but fuinneoig: window -> r funneoig: our window, 'cuz it's feminine), and the spelling system, though completely regular, is really confusing.

How's 'bout all y'alls?
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Behind the Aegis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-05 10:12 PM
Response to Original message
1. Hungarian!!!
I was doing a project in comparative linguistics and needed to know basic parts of Hungarian...it was a MESS! I didn't do well on that project at all!
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Ellen Forradalom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 02:04 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. Oh Hungarian ain't all that bad! IMHO
It's fairly regular. Now, Russian and Polish are filled with all kinds of freaky irregularities! And those three genders multiplied by the cases mean more memorization than in Finnish or Hungarian.
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Behind the Aegis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 06:56 PM
Response to Reply #4
7. May not be all that bad, but..
I had a bitch of time trying to work it into my paper! The only grammar book I could find in the library was from 1930! I really should look at it again. I am tempted to look at Finnish now, hearing all these threads about it! :)
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Ellen Forradalom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 09:54 PM
Response to Reply #7
8. A decent book on the subject makes a big difference
Hungarian is different, to be sure, but there's a method to its madness.
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Ecumenist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-17-06 09:49 PM
Response to Reply #4
33. Magyarul...Hungarian
Edited on Fri Feb-17-06 09:49 PM by Ecumenist
I learned it by total immersion. I had a time getting past the lack of pronouns and learning the correct syntax. Took me 4 months and I spoke it for 3 years almost everyday. When I came back to english, I had a Hungarian accent. It was the funniest thing.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-11-05 11:21 PM
Response to Original message
2. Latvian
More cases than Latin, less regular, all the aspects of Russian...

It didn't help that the only textbook in Latvian for English speakers was an old Teach Yourself book that contained such immortal sentences for translation as "The boy asked the swan for help" and "Climb down from the tree."
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Dookus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-12-05 08:44 PM
Response to Original message
3. I took a year of Finnish in college
and liked it, but yes, it's somewhat daunting.

The hardest language I studied was Arabic. I don't believe people actually make those sounds. Seemed like a put-on. There's like three "k" sounds... one normal, one made deep in the throat, and the third evidently made by causing your spleen to slam into your diaphragm. I never mastered that one.

Plus there's 28 letters, each written three different ways depending on its position in the word, and then there are dozens of types of script.

My friend and I who took the class together were the only two who hadn't previously studied Hebrew, so that made it especially hard for us.
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Ellen Forradalom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 02:06 PM
Response to Original message
5. Polish
Harder than Hungarian. Really. Honestly. No shit. More irregular; freaky spelling--major freeway pile-ups of consonants; 3 genders times, like, 7 cases = a bigger headache than declension in Finnish. I didn't get very far.
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ZombieNixon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 03:16 PM
Response to Original message
6. Another language that, at least pronunciation-wise, would be freaky is
Edited on Sun Feb-13-05 03:16 PM by ZombieNixon
Czech. For instance, take this Czech tongue twister: Strc prst skrz krk. It means something like "Stick your finger down your throat," apparently. Look! Not ONE vowel! Not a single one! Eeh!
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Ellen Forradalom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-13-05 09:55 PM
Response to Reply #6
9. Oh, I remember that one!
I made a bunch of friends from Moravia when I was in Debrecen. They once got me good 'n' drunk and tried to get me to say Strc prst skrz krk. Endless amusement for all concerned!
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Squeegee Donating Member (577 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 07:49 PM
Response to Original message
10. Old English
Three genders, 5 cases, 3 number, several classes of strong and weak nouns and verbs, various classes of sound mutation determined by number or by combinig prefixes/suffixes, verb-particles galore, etc. There was so much irregularity it was hard to keep it all straight.
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Anarcho-Socialist Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-18-05 09:42 AM
Response to Reply #10
17. I think it's cool that you tried to learn that
Did you succeed at it? What made you want to learn it?
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Squeegee Donating Member (577 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-15-05 01:07 PM
Response to Reply #17
23. Success is limited
Because I am a native English speaker, and also had already 6 years of German and a year of Danish language language classes prior, I was able to learn the basic vocabulary and grammar relatively quickly, maybe in about 3 months of studying on my own. Right now, I can probably read it at about an 5th grade level (assuming that a 5th grade actually existed in sixth century England).

Unfortunately, it is an ancient dead language that bears has very little similarity to modern English. There are practically no modern speakers to interact with making it nearly impossible to learn at a conversational level. Also, there is very little reading material for the beginner. Actually, there is very little reading material at all, only a couple hundred ancient texts, many of them incomplete, and written in prose or in a colloquial dialect, requiring a relatively advanced level of understanding to begin with, so there is a sort of chicken-and-egg problem.

I don't really know why I started studying it. I guess after all those years of learning German and Danish, I wanted to understand more about where the language I speak came from.
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July Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:56 AM
Response to Reply #10
25. Same for me. And I'm pretty good with languages.
If I do say so myself!

OE was by far the toughest language I've ever studied.
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Fovea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-05 02:41 PM
Response to Reply #10
29. I found Attic Greek harder than Anglo Saxon.
Edited on Thu Apr-07-05 02:42 PM by realpolitik
But the 7 strong verb classes in AS are intense.

Maybe AS was easier because I had read a lot of ME such as Chaucer.
But as far as a class experience, AS was worst as the prof had a seminar class to teach back east 8 week in to the class. I had to have 1200 lines from Beowulf translated into MnE by then.

I got called up to jury duty the week I had budgeted to really do the lion's share of the work. That was the week I started cigarettes again.

AS is saved by a smaller lexicon, and techniques like kenning, IMO.
It is a very colorful language, and MnE still profits from it.
Of course, it still wracks itself on things like the Beon-Hwasan
dual stem origins for MnE 'to be.'

I sometimes wonder if English should have kept a few more of its cases as it moved through ME to MnE. Inflected languages seem to impart more grammatical skill to the average user.




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Astarho Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 08:48 PM
Response to Original message
11. Navajo
tones, long/short and/or nasal vowels, plus a grammar unlike anything from an Indo-European perspective. I have trememdous respect for the non-Navajos who have learned it.

Irish was a little daunting with all the mutations and spelling. Another difficult one is Basque. I feel like I have a grasp on the grammar (once you get past the ergative thing) but it's hard to find a good dictionary in English with more that a thousand words.
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ZombieNixon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 08:53 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. Oh, god. I'm working on my science fair project right now,
on computational linguistics, and I've been working with a friend who's also a linguistics professor who did his doctorate thesis on Navajo language societal immersion. I was taking a look at his computer and he's got a full GB filled with just a Navajo language dictionary of purely verbs. Nothing else. A four letter stem can end up with a derivative form that takes up a full line of text or so. Holy cow!
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 11:12 PM
Response to Reply #11
13. Oh, I hadn't recalled that Navajo was tonal
I studied Chichewa because I wanted a challenge--actually, I wanted to study another Bantu language, and then was about to start with Shona, but had to fall back on Chichewa, which turned out well because it's a beautiful language.

I don't think the tonality was that difficult. Sometimes Swahili is recommended for native English speakers because it isn't tonal. I don't think it's such a big deal.

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Behind the Aegis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-18-05 03:23 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. Chichewa!
How cool someone else even KNOWS about that language. When I was in college, we had a native speaker come into our Phonetics class and were to transcribe what she said. I was the only one who could understand the differences in the small tonal changes! I was pretty proud of myself! She even taught me a few words (which I no longer even remember :(). I think it is very cool that you can speak it!!!
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gottaB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-18-05 06:38 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. You must have good ears
I'd think it would be difficult to detect cold like that.

For me the hardest part is the social stuff, like when to drop the honorifics. The first time somebody spoke to me in the familiar, I nearly went into shock. "Does this person mean to be rude? Or friendly?" It's funny. Iwe ("thou") can be like a term of endearment or a fighting word, or a thousand things in between.

I never had much trouble with the basic phonology and grammar. It took a while to get up to speed though.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-18-05 07:29 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. When I was in grad school, I took a class in linguistic field methods, and
the professor called in a grad student in forestry who was from North Borneo and spoke a language called Melanau. We had to ask him questions to arrive at a phonological analysis of Melanau (first course paper) and then a grammatical analysis (second course paper).

One phrase I remember is "Na' tekudeng," "Don't stand up."
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Swamp Rat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-12-05 05:09 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. I'd love to read them!
Ooo! I would LOVE to do actual field work like that! :) :) :D
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-13-05 08:28 PM
Response to Reply #20
22. Unfortunately, my papers on Melanau perished
in the great grad school paper purge that occurred when I had to downsize my living situation. :-(
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Fovea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-07-05 02:49 PM
Response to Reply #22
30. My heart pangs for you.
I lost about 70% of my academic work in a house fire.
It was devistating.
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Swamp Rat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-15-06 01:49 AM
Response to Reply #30
37. And since I last posted in this thread I lost a large portion of my thesis
research due to hurricane Katrina. :(
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-01-08 11:59 PM
Response to Reply #13
40. The Bantu languages are cool!
I'm rather partial to Xhosa (the language of Nelson Mandela's ethnic group) because if the click consonants it borrowed from the Bushmen!
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-01-08 11:55 PM
Response to Reply #11
39. I've heard Navajo is absolutely brutal for us speakers of Indo-European languages!
Just looking at the stuff on Wiki about Navajo verbs gives me the willies!

Funny you mention Navajo and Basque in the same post, there is a controversial hypothesis that puts both languages in a very ancient linguistic superfamily called Dene-Caucasian that puts them with the Sino-Tibetan languages (like Chinese) and the North Caucasian languages (like Abkhazian and Chechen).
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Book Lover Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-18-05 02:51 AM
Response to Original message
14. Arabic
I just cannot understand the characters. Dammit, I understand Egyptian hieroglyphs! but Arabic just won't sink in for some reason...
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DemBones DemBones Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Feb-25-05 04:02 AM
Response to Original message
19. Mandarin Chinese -- the tones were so difficult to hear,

much less replicate. I loved doing the calligraphy and how the meanings were arrived at.
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Darranar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-13-05 07:11 PM
Response to Original message
21. Hebrew, probably...
because there aren't many cognates.
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Lydia Leftcoast Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-15-05 10:50 PM
Response to Original message
24. Latvian
It has "aspects" like Russian, but it also has more cases than Russian, plus lots of irregular verbs.
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Stop_the_War Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 12:38 PM
Response to Original message
26. Irish Gaelic
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loro mi dicevano Donating Member (265 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 04:42 PM
Response to Original message
27. Arabic, probably. Ukrainian is up there. Nobody needs 7 noun cases,
or, heaven forbid, 14 (Finnish)!
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NuttyFluffers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 04:36 AM
Response to Original message
28. japanese?
... :shrug: it's my major, but it's the hardest language i've studied so far. maybe i'm a wimp.

what little i studied of arabic in 2nd grade wasn't all that hard, but, heck, it was 2nd grade work :D then there is spanish, french, tagalog, vietnamese, etc. but outside of spanish and arabic and japanese everything else was extracurricular fun. and i feel like i have zero fluency in all of them. i probably know more than i think, but i still doubt.
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AsahinaKimi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Nov-14-08 11:10 PM
Response to Reply #28
43. Muzukashi ne!
I love Japanese but yes..its difficult..
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AllyCat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-12-05 11:30 AM
Response to Original message
31. Welsh
Reading a book with place names, people's names, etc. all in Welsh. Words with no obvious vowels are driving me nuts to read so I checked into how to pronounce "Twrch" and "Llyd". I thought Dutch had sounds we don't have in English... holy smokes, I can't even pronounce Welsh listening to the on-line course and repeating a one syllable word!

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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-02-08 12:02 AM
Response to Reply #31
41. Any luck pronouncing that "LL" consonant?
Something like a cross between an L and an S, but I've never really gotten it down...
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nguoihue Donating Member (135 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-29-05 10:11 AM
Response to Original message
32. Khmer (Cambodian)
Speaking is not so difficult but reading and writing .... ugh.
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fudge stripe cookays Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-10-06 06:28 AM
Response to Original message
34. Turkish
Edited on Thu Aug-10-06 06:29 AM by fudge stripe cookays
I decided one year I wanted to teach myself Turkish after watching Rick Steves' program on Istanbul. That was my dream before reprehensor and I were married-- I was going to take one of those little yacht cruises off the Turquoise Coast.

Since it's not Indo European, the verb structure isn't like learning French or German. They call it "agglutinative", where you stick parts of words together. Evidently, when Ataturk was westernizing the country back in the early 20s, he told his advisors he wanted a brand new language. I read somewhere that the closest thing to it is Korean (?!).

I had to use word association to try to remember the phrases I was learning.

I was just using tapes and the associated book, and didn't keep it up. I can probably still order in a restaurant since I remember the names of many foods (like Chai, Zeytin or Beyaz Penir), find the bathroom (tuvalet), say yes (Evet) and no (Hayr), and ask if there is a shower in the room ("Oda da dush varmi?").

NEver made it to Turkey. :cry:
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Swamp Rat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-17-06 01:58 AM
Response to Original message
35. Basque
I gave up and settled on Catalan, especially since I was living in Catalunya.
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Swamp Rat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Nov-27-08 06:18 AM
Response to Reply #35
44. Update
Edited on Thu Nov-27-08 06:26 AM by Swamp Rat
Went to basque country for a while. Couldn't retain a thing except for 'Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!' = Merry Christmas and Happy New Year:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwpB9gfq0gc
http://wapedia.mobi/en/Basque_language?t=8 .

Here's where I stayed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2oyXJgzgs0&feature=rela...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-O1bZuBfMI&feature=rela...

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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:40 PM
Response to Reply #44
45. Cool! my shrink is a Basque.
It is one damn weird language. It's very unlike any Indo-European language yet it's right there in Western Europe.
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-24-06 05:30 PM
Response to Original message
36. Ojibwe
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shenmue Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-26-07 05:38 PM
Response to Original message
38. Arabic
I can never seem to get the hang of the alphabet. I'm still really slow reading Russian as well, though I can understand it when it's spoken.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-02-08 12:15 AM
Response to Original message
42. Classical Greek.
The alphabet is actually the EASY part, LOL! There is the contrast between aspirated and unaspirated consonants (Κ/Ξ, Τ/Θ, Π/Φ ;), then there is the pitch accent, and worst of all is the ungodly complex inflectional morphology of the nouns and verbs. Ughhh...

Sanskrit is interesting, but it's quite similar to Classical Greek and so probably just as brutal.
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Xipe Totec Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-15-08 07:20 PM
Response to Original message
46. Russian
but Arabic is next on my list.
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