A Map Showing How Much Time It Takes to Learn Foreign Languages: From Easiest to Hardest

Do you need to communicate extra languages? Sure, as Sally Struthers used to say so typically, all of us do. But the necessities of accomplishing proficiency in any overseas tongue, little question not like these correspondence programs pitched by that All within the Family star turned daytime TV icon, can appear frustratingly demanding and unclear. But thanks to the analysis efforts of the Foreign Service Institute, the middle of foreign-language coaching for the United States authorities for the previous 70 years, you will get a way of how a lot time it takes, as a local or native-level English speaker, to grasp any of a bunch of languages spoken all internationally.

The map above visualizes the languages of Europe (at the least these deemed diplomatically necessary sufficient to be taught on the FSI), coloring them in accordance the common time dedication they require of an English speaker. In pink, we’ve the English-speaking international locations. The purple international locations communicate Category I languages, these most intently associated to English and thus learnable in 575 to 600 hours of examine: the standard high-school overseas languages of Spanish and French, for example, or the much less generally taught however nearly as simply learnable Portuguese and Italian. If you would like slightly extra problem, why not attempt your hand at German, whose 750 hours of examine places it in Category II — fairly actually, a class of its personal?

In complete, the FSI ranks languages into six classes of problem, together with English’s Category zero. The greater up the dimensions you go, the much less recognizable the languages would possibly look to an English-speaking monoglot. Category III incorporates no European languages in any respect (although it does comprise Indonesian, extensively thought to be one of many objectively best languages to be taught). Category IV gives an enormous number of languages from Amharic to Czech to Nepali to Tagalog, every demanding 44 weeks (or 1100 hours) of examine. Then, on the very summit of the linguistic mountain, we discover the switched-up grammar, extremely unfamiliar scripts, and probably mystifying cultural assumptions of Category V, “languages which are exceptionally difficult for native English speakers.”

To that the majority formidable group belong Arabic, Chinese each Mandarin and Cantonese, Korean, and — this with an asterisk that means “usually more difficult than other languages in the same category” — Japanese. Now if, like me, you think about finding out overseas languages considered one of your important pursuits, you realize that possessing a real curiosity in a language — in its mechanics, in its ongoing evolution, within the cultures that created it and the cultures it in flip creates — can do wonders to get you thru even probably the most aggravating difficulties on the lengthy journey to commanding it. Then once more, I am additionally a local English speaker who selected to transfer to Korea, the place I examine not simply the Category-V Korean however the Category-V* Japanese by means of Korean; you may want to take with a grain of salt the phrases, in any language, of so apparent a masochist.

You’ll discover the total Foreign Service Institute language problem rating checklist under. No matter which class you would like to tackle, you will get a begin at our Free Foreign Language Lessons assortment, lots of whose supplies come produced by the FSI itself.

Category I: 23-24 weeks (575-600 hours)

Languages intently associated to English

Afrikaans

Danish

Dutch

French

Italian

Norwegian

Portuguese

Romanian

Spanish

Swedish

Category II: 30 weeks (750 hours)

Languages comparable to English

German

Category III: 36 weeks (900 hours)

Languages with linguistic and/or cultural variations from English

Indonesian

Malaysian

Swahili

Category IV: 44 weeks (1100 hours)

Languages with important linguistic and/or cultural variations from English

Albanian

Amharic

Armenian

Azerbaijani

Bengali

Bosnian

Bulgarian

Burmese

Croatian

Czech

*Estonian

*Finnish

*Georgian

Greek

Hebrew

Hindi

*Hungarian

Icelandic

Khmer

Lao

Latvian

Lithuanian

Macedonian

*Mongolian

Nepali

Pashto

Persian (Dari, Farsi, Tajik)

Polish

Russian

Serbian

Sinhala

Slovak

Slovenian

Tagalog

*Thai

Turkish

Ukrainian

Urdu

Uzbek

*Vietnamese

Xhosa

Zulu

Category V: 88 weeks (2200 hours)

Languages that are exceptionally troublesome for native English audio system

Arabic

Cantonese (Chinese)

Mandarin (Chinese)

*Japanese

Korean

* Usually tougher than different languages in the identical class.

by way of Big Think

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and tradition. His initiatives embrace the e book The Stateless City: a Walk by means of 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Faceboookay.

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