When people are discussing learning a foreign language, one of the most common topics is which language presents the greatest difficulty to learners. Many point to languages like Chinese, with its non-phonetic writing system and tonal pronunciation as being the epitome of challenging. Some disagree, citing instead languages like Finnish --- look at how many words they have for dog!

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The truth is a lot less glamorous, unfortunately. It’s sad to rain on the parade of those who seem to relish so much in the discussion, but the idea that any one language is objectively harder than any other is a giant myth. In this article, we’ll explain why, and why you should never be put off by the prospect of learning any one language in particular.

😒 “Difficulty” in language learning is entirely relative

Let’s take two languages as examples to demonstrate; French and Chinese. Let’s also take two individual learners, one from the UK, and the other from Japan. By a remarkable twist of happenstance, our two learners find themselves both learning French and Chinese.

The learner from the UK is utterly flabbergasted at the Chinese language. “What do you mean if I alter my tone this same word has a different meaning?” They are also struggling mightily to write the characters in a way that doesn’t look like a spider crawled all over the paper.

Meanwhile, the learner from Japan cannot get her head around French at all. She cannot understand why the verb she learned this morning has to be learned again and again in order to express is in past, future, perfect and all the other tenses that apparently exist.

Conversely, the UK learner has a fairly good time with the French class. It turns out a huge percentage of the words are identical, similar, or somehow related to words in English. Likewise, the Japanese student thinks Chinese writing is a doddle. She’s seen most of these characters in her own language, and despite differences in meaning, she feels comfortable with it as a system.

I think you get the point. How hard or easy a language is depends entirely on your own background. One person’s impossible Everest to climb is another learner’s pleasant countryside hill stroll.

😏 It’s important not to be intimidated

We don’t need to kid ourselves that learning a language is an easy thing, but no language is beyond any of us to master. With the correct instruction, and a positive attitude, we can conquer any language project.

Before you start learning a new language, it’s crucial that you get yourself into the right mindset. You need to be:

  • Receptive – ready to learn new things and listen to those trying to teach you
  • Positive – able to turn mistakes into learning opportunities and eager to learn more
  • Humble – comfortable in the knowledge that you are the novice, and that’s okay
  • Diligent – ready to work hard and push step by step, day by day to make progress
  • Realistic – able to create a set of goals and a study plan that is achievable and practical

No matter how alien the language appears to you, there’s nothing to be scared of. Studying a new language is like unlocking a different level of the world that you had no access to previously. When you are ready for the adventure, and mentally in the right place, you will get there!

🎉 Get started!

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