Some languages you can get the hang of, some languages are pretty tough, and some languages are downright difficult. …And then there are those special few, those ridiculously complex ones, that take so long to master, that you’re pretty much hopeless to master it unless you started at a very early age, or moved to the place in which that language was spoken. Let’s look at the hardest languages to learn.
Keep in mind this is referring to difficult languages to learn from an English perspective. The fact of the matter is that if a French person and a Chinese person spend the same amount of hours learning Japanese for 4 years straight, the Chinese person will pick it up much better than the French person. But if the same people learn Italian, the French person will pick it up much quicker. The point is that language difficulty depends on the base language (i.e., the one(s) you already know).
The infographic below is a great resource to explain the extent to which some languages are simply more difficult than others to learn. I am actually not sure I agree with the difficulty of Korea (I have heard that the writing style is actually very easy to pick up from several independent sources), but I can hardly comment because I don’t speak Korean. Do you have personal experience with these? Do you agree/disagree?
What I can say for Chinese and Japanese is that even if you speak it, the reading/writing system is so gigantic, that if you don’t use it, you really do lose it, in the sense of the ability to write these Chinese characters (I say Chinese because Japanese scripts were derived from Chinese characters). For many years, this has even been a problem with native speakers – with cellphones writing complex characters for us, we don’t use the mental faculties that reinforce writing ability.
Difficulty of languages, however, should not deter us from attempting to learn them. By bridging the linguistic gap between two cultures, we can make the world more connected. It’s the age of globalization, and there’s no better time to learn a new language. Take your pick.