Many languages are notoriously difficult for English speakers to learn. Linguists have claimed that some languages are objectively more complex than others, while other linguists claimed that all languages are equally complex or complex in their own way, with their writing systems, grammar structures, number of possible syllables, pronunciation, and more. Are languages objectively or relatively difficult to learn?
No, all languages are complex, and linguistic complexity is relative
Linguistic complexity is difficult to define and measure, yet all languages are complex in their own way. There is no language that is objectively the hardest to learn. The ease of learning a second language just depends on one’s first language. An alien coming to Earth could pick any two languages and have an equally difficult time mastering them.
All languages are equally complex
The Equal Complexity Hypothesis proposes that all languages are equally complex in their own way--whether in phonetics (pronunciation) or syntax (grammar). A language can be simpler in one factor but is complex in another.
Yes, some languages are more difficult than others
Language learners and linguists alike know that some languages are more difficult to learn than others. Linguists can measure a language's complexity by its pronunciation, sentence organization, or morphology. If an alien came to earth asking which language was the easiest to learn, linguists could point to one.
Indigenous languages are the most difficult to learn.
Broadly speaking, languages with the fewest number of speakers are the most complex and most difficult to learn. Not only are these languages difficult to access and may not have a writing system, but these languages also become the most complex when they are isolated and spoken by fewer people.