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ABCinChina

World's greatest polyglot say's Mandarin is the hardest language in the world

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anthony_barker

I've studied a few languages. The hardest I've encountered were Finnish and Hungarian for the grammar and Chinese for the written language (Mind you I read traditional characters).

Spoken Chinese I believe isn't so hard for English speakers as long as you get an ear for tones.

My feeling after all these years of kind of studying is that reading and writing was designed to be exclusionary by the Mandarins of yesteryear. By making reading more difficult they kept knowledge to themselves.

The things that I found make chinese hard have been:

1) Not much decent learning material - this was true in the early 90s but has changed particularly with the internet. This is particularly still true for Cantonese learners.

2) Dictionaries - This has changed with the advent of Electronic dictionaries etc. Previously I spent hours trying to look up a few words on a page.

3) Traditional characters have really an unlimited number of characters. Eg a Some people have characters in their name which are very rare.

4) The insistence of giving everything an Chinese name which isn't always similar (Think San Francisco). Japanese at least generally keep a similar sound and differentiate between Nouns (like someones name) by the use of katakana

5) In the past no standard way of writing sounds - Wade Giles, Yale, BoPoMoFo. Cantonese is still in this situation as are many other Chinese dialects - Taiwanese, Hakka etc. Pinyin has improved this scenario.

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Guoke

So Mandarin is the hardest language in the world!

Does that make the Chinese the smartest people in the world?

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HashiriKata
So Mandarin is the hardest language in the world!

Does that make the Chinese the smartest people in the world?

Watch your logics, as someone could come along and say that only the dumbest would make their language the hardest. :wink:

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calibre2001

Upcoming super polyglot

Wendy Vo, 8 year old American of Viet origin who speaks 11 languages.They are Vietnamese,English,Spanish,Mandarin Chinese,French,Japanese,Hindi,Arabic,Rus sian,Cantonese and Portuguese. Oh, she's a piano prodigy too.....

Mandarin:

(from 7:00 onwards)

Cantonese:

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Scoobyqueen

Guoke - Official IQ measures say they are not the brightest

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Guoke
Watch your logics, as someone could come along and say that only the dumbest would make their language the hardest.

Yeah, this logic makes perfect sense to me because the more I learn a language, the more difficult I find it to be, and the more stupid I think I am.

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renzhe
Wendy Vo, 8 year old American of Viet origin who speaks 11 languages.They are Vietnamese,English,Spanish,Mandarin Chinese,French,Japanese,Hindi,Arabic,Rus sian,Cantonese and Portuguese. Oh, she's a piano prodigy too.....

Bwoah!

She really went with all the easy ones, didn't she? :shock:

And even the dumbest Chinese person can speak Chinese, and even the most intelligent European will have difficulty learning it, so I wouldn't draw too many IQ conclusions that quickly.

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HashiriKata
Wendy Vo, 8 year old American of Viet origin who speaks 11 languages.They are Vietnamese,English,Spanish,Mandarin Chinese,French,Japanese,Hindi,Arabic,Rus sian,Cantonese and Portuguese. Oh, she's a piano prodigy too.....
I somehow feel sorry for the the kid. It's not fair to go down on her performance either.

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ABCinChina

I don't think it's that she went with all the easy ones, but went with the most common/useful. :)

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Lugubert

I could write several academic theses on the OP statement. Not that any of them would be approved.

Different languages are difficult to different people in different ways.

Pronunciation: A major problem for most earthbound people are retroflex consonants. Swedish, Norwegian and Chinese have them. And there are those African clicks. And who could posssibly teach me how to pronounce Sindhi implosives?

Tones: Swedish has two, but I'm useless on even the Putonghua four (or five). It used to be, like, when I really started from my toes up to have a really nice No. 2, my then girlfriend was, like, No, not fourth.

Morphology: Almost none in Chinese. But there's any number of other ways to complicate things. Any way, it's orders of magnitude easier than for example Sanskrit, where a verb root might have 720 different realizations when taking account of person, number, tense, mood and whatever. One guy I met told me that ancient Greek was even worse.

Grammar: I've tried fairly elementary Russian, Bulgarian, Arabic and Bible Hebrew. I still, brought up with Indo-European, don't have a sufficient understanding of aspect vs. tense. Discussions I've found (in German) on Aktionsart vs. Aspekt vs. Tempus in modern Hindi helped, but not to the level that I could explain to anybody how to use these ways of expression.

It helps in some ways that those grammar categories don't exist in (most varieties of?) Chinese. But you'll have to work at least twice as hard to find how to transfer what either "Western" language wishes to explain into what some Chinese variety would understand, compared to when translating neighbours like English into Italian, or Modern Standard Arabic into Modern Hebrew, or even from there into colloquial Iraqi Arabic.

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floatingmoon

Linguistic scholars said Chinese language has the most adjectives.

I think Cantonese is hard to learn too, the pronunciation is harder than Mandarin.

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