Home World & People What’s The Hardest Language For Expats To Learn?

What’s The Hardest Language For Expats To Learn?

Speaking a foreign language is often a high hurdle for many expats to leap – but what are the world’s most difficult languages to learn?

Expats and human resources managers at multinationals were posed the question and it seems wherever they are based in the world, they all have a similar answer.

Expats from the USA, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Asia Pacific all responded that Mandarin Chinese was the hardest language to get to grips with for non-speaking expats.

Almost 40% of expats and their managers felt Mandarin Chinese was a tough option.

In a tie for second place were Japanese and Arabic, both scoring 18% in the poll by relocation firm Cartus.

Meaning with meaning

Spokesman Patrice Heinzer explained that successful expats need to master foreign languages to make life easier for them and their colleagues.

“Mandarin Chinese is really hard to learn for Westerner because the language has thousands of subtle tones, inflections and characters that subtly change the meaning of words in a way that is unfamiliar to someone from Europe or North America,” he said.

Heinzer also argued that expats needed to go beyond conversational language for their jobs.

“Expats need to understand meaning within meaning like a natural speaker of a language,” he said.

“To become an effective negotiator you have to understand and imply the right meaning to your words in everyday business situations.”

Cartus also asked expats which language they felt most comfortable learning – with Spanish topping the list.

Tongue twisting languages

Looking at the question from the Chinese perspective, the list of tongue-twisting languages is not much different.

The Chinese People’s Daily published this list of difficult languages. Top was Chinese – the others were (in degree of difficulty with the hardest last):

  • French
  • Danish
  • Norwegian
  • German
  • Finnish
  • Japanese
  • Icelandic
  • Arabic
  • Greek

The list was published by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) along with explanations of why they were considered tough to speak.

The UN considered many languages were hard to learn because their written form gave no clues to how to pronounce words.

“Where you come from does influence the way you learn and speak a language, but the hardest to learn seem to involve a written form that does not reflect the spoken word,” said a UNESCO spokesman.

Mohsen Salami
Mohsen Salami
Mohsen Salami, 24, was the first reporter in Pars Herald's sports desk. He joined Pars Herald when he was studying in high school and Mohsen acted a significant role to grow Pars Herald in Isfahan. Salami joined Islamic Azad University of Isfahan and studied in civil engineering field. Upon his graduation, he started his cooperation with several private civil companies in Isfahan province but he regularly contributes to Pars Herald group. City: Isfahan Phone Number: +989369941073 Email: Mohsen {at} ParsHerald.com Name in Persian: محسن سلامی

Stay Connected


Must Read

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will not Run for President in 2013

As Iran is suffering from internal and external problems, many analysts believe Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani can resolve the current issues...

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani will not Run for President in 2013

As Iran is suffering from internal and external problems, many analysts believe Expediency Council Chairman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani can resolve the current issues...

Invest Now To Make The Most Of SEIS Tax Breaks

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) fund managers are warning investors to buy their equity stakes in new start firms now rather than miss the...

Human Impact Is Killing The Planet, Warns WWF

Man is revealed as the world’s fiercest predator in a new study by the World Wildlife Fund. Nature is fighting for survival against an onslaught...

Related News

Choosing A QROPS Pension Adviser As An Expat

A good pension adviser will help you make the most of your retirement cash - but finding one that measures up to the task...

China Is Not A Crisis For Investors

Financial experts call the fall in stock market values a correction, but to millions of ordinary investors the crash represents a huge loss of...

UK Primed for EU Exit

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated in a German magazine that she would rather the UK exit the EU than close its borders...

US To Fast-Track Immigration For British Travellers

British passport holders can skip waiting in long lines at airports for US immigration officers to wave them through – at a price. The British...

Sleep Deprivation Wake Up Call For Businesses

Businesses are finally waking up to how much tired workers are costing them after a new survey revealed the impact of sleep deprivation on...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here