Tatsu no Ou-sama wrote:...would Japanese still be considered one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn?
Probably. Korean is still considered one of the hardest languages, and its writing system is pretty easy.
The reason why Korean is "hard" is probably because we have (supposedly. I had no idea about this until I read about it on Korean wiki) six different levels of formality, and there's all these wacky dialects that us standard speakers can't make much sense out of unless we get a translator.
Like 食べます (to eat). The dictionary form is 食べる, and in Korean, 먹다.
When you say it in Japanese, there's pretty much four/five ways to say it:
食え (くえ) -- kinda rude
食べて (たべて) -- informal
食べてください -- polite
召し上がってください -- formal
召し上がって -- formal but informal?? (mind boggling!)
Look at what frightening things happen to it as we move throughout the tense spectrum from the kind of speech you would use to talk about (livestock or some times pet) animals to members of the royal court (an archaic form of speech only used nowadays on historical drama series):
(밥) 처먹어. (You say this to like, a cow. Or the pet dog you didn't want ;_; Sometimes angry husbands say this to their kids or wife.)
(밥) 먹어. (You say this to kids that aren't yours, or younger siblings, or pets that you adore)
(밥) 먹어라. (You say this to your own adorable grandkids and kids, your students, or a group of kids)
(밥) 먹어요. (You say this to your husband to get him to eat. Girls use ~yo endings a lot. Some unmarried men use this to tell anyone to eat, including teachers and adult strangers if they aren't certain what else to use.)
(밥) 먹으세요. (Old Wives say this if they are telling a group of men to eat. Men also say this to tell a teacher or adult who is not their parents or an elderly to eat.)
(진지) 드세요. (Young Wives say this if they are telling a group of men to eat, or their in-laws. Men say this to a teacher or a grandparent they are familiar with, or an elderly stranger. Young girls [unmarried] also use this to people who look older than them.)
(진지를) 드십시오. (for some reason he first thing that hit my mind was "this is how the Korean mafia talks." Men who are asking an elderly person they don't know nor are related to would probably use this too.)
(진지를) 드시옵소서. (Archaic term that was once used to address members of the royal court.)
(진지를) 젓수시오소서. (Archaic term that was once used to address members of the royal court.)
And our good friend who was borrowed from China: 식사 하세요. (食事しなさい -- I don't know if this is an expression that Japanese people actually use, but it's a literal translation of the Korean expression.)
You may be thinking "oh, well you guys probably just stick to 2 or 3 formalities in everyday life," but besides the archaic ones I used every single kind of formality every single day. o_O it was so confusing that I typically tried not to talk to anyone that didn't look like my age, because figuring out who gets the upper hand and who gets the lower hand and exactly how high or how low it has to get would be such an embarrassing process, and sometimes also humiliating.
I wasn't a big kid, so when I went to an after school academy (a 塾, so to speak) the other kids in there would be all "Who do you think you are? How old are you?!" and if you were younger you were in big trouble but if you were older you could demand they call you お姉さん and talk politely to you over a one year difference in age. And if you're related to whoever is talking to you so rudely, you could even go as far as figuring out who is an older generation, and in that case age doesn't matter, because if you're the older generation, even if you are 1 and the younger generation is 29 years old, the 29 year old would have to call you oneesan or obasan or obaasan or hiobaasan -- however many generations older you were.
I am so glad I only have to speak English now, where all you have to watch out for is for a few slang words and certain risque subjects.