JaySee wrote:This question really is impossible to answer because it would involve comparing all .....
I am perfectly happy to trust the evaluations made as per
two_heads_talking wrote:Now, "The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State has compiled approximate learning expectations for a number of languages". Of the 63 languages analyzed, the 5 most difficult languages to reach proficiency in speaking and proficiency in reading (for native English speakers who already know other languages), requiring 88 weeks, are: "Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean", with Japanese being the most difficult.
In the Defense Language Institute of the US Department of Defense, Korean is seen as the hardest of the Category IV languages, which are Arabic, Chinese, and Korean. "Right now only 8 Languages are being taught (for Navy). Cat IV: Arabic, Chinese, Korean. Cat III: Persian, Serb-Croatian, Hebrew, Russian. Cat I: Spanish. ...Korean is the hardest language here (Navy), apparently it is 75 weeks long now, and they are trying to make it a Cat V language."
It's interesting that the DLI and the FLI seem to agree on category level but can't seem to agree on which language is most difficult. I think Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are given the nod, as they have kanji in them and the extra time to learn is due to the extra time to learn the "alphabets" of those languages.
It focuses on Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. My limited, but not altogether worthless, experience with looking at Arabic, puts it in a category below these three languages. Korean I don't know AT ALL so I have no way to say how it compares to Chines/Japanese. It at least have the advantage of a considerably easier script.
You don't get particularly deep into the background etc. of a language when you are trying to learn it. You simply have a number of TASKS to massage: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking. EXACTLY WHAT will be difficult will, as already agreed to here, be a personal issue. Do you learn by reading? Listening? Talking? Writing? Personally I have ALWAYS learned best when writing stuff down.
I am not all good at listening comprehension, although I can be a patient and sometimes capable PARROT. To learn What is said here?
I have developed a special technique - or perhaps a very common one? - where I put all lessons into a sound processor (my choice: SoundForge) and repeat and repeat small fragments until my grasp is clear. What frequently is just a rapid succession of syllables - particularly true of machine gun Japanese - will sooner or later turn into words and sentences.
There you have one significant parameter: How fast is a language spoken? What is the "BMP" of Mandarin vs. Japanese? Still guessing, but I would assume we would get a considerably higher number for Japanese. 170 BMP
Personal again: I can pick up a bit of Mandarin when watching a movie. I can't pick up a SINGLE WORD when watching, say, Seven Samurais by Kurosawa. Again: I could be very exceptionally bad at listening to Japanese, but i DON'T THINK SO.
I put up a small snippet of spoken Mandarin today athttp://kanjihanzi.blogspot.com/2008/12/ ... abeth.html
This is fairly average Mandarin, in terms of speed, but more on the slow side than the reverse.
Just for fun I will post some Japanese samples from CD:s coming with books I have bought. Not today, though. The "intermediate" - IMHO, rather advanced - book Azora
is particularly interesting since I believe the claim "This is very realistic stuff"
is entirely true.