By Jennifer Popplewell •
Published: 16 Nov 2023 • 11:00
ON average, a citizen of Europe speaks around 2.1 languages. Of course these averages differ from country to country. The Netherlands comes up top with most residents speaking around three languages, where the UK lags behind a little with its average of 1.6.
Here is a round up of the hardest European languages to learn, which may serve as a warning to some, but a challenge to others!
This is the dangerous dark horse of languages found in Europe and some think even one of the hardest in the world. Finnish is not part of the Indo-European languages therefore there are no shared roots to be found, meaning this language may feel like a bit of a blank sheet! Then comes the good old grammar, Finnish has 15 grammatical cases and each verb can have 200 possible endings! Finally, a single word in Finnish can be translated into a full sentence in English. Not scary at all, right?
This language is actually part of the Slavic language family, but luckily for English speakers, it uses the Latin script. However, Polish has 9 additional letters – ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź and ż – which can be difficult to grasp. Also, unlike English, Polish is crammed with consonants, for example, the word happiness in Polish is szczęście, which has six syllables. Have a go at that one at home!
As an introduction to this language, its most famous volcano is named Eyjafjallajökull. This volcano actually erupted recently and TV reporters worldwide had such a hard time pronouncing it that many shortened it to just ‘E13’. Icelandic has a reputation for difficult pronunciation, in addition to this it maintains a unique grammar system due to its geographical isolation that allowed it to keep its original rules. This language also has three genders, two numbers, three persons, two tenses and two moods. Got that?
Czech is part of the Slavic language family, and is extremely complex. In addition to its vast noun, adjective and pronoun systems it is also one of the hardest languages because of the way that consonants cram together in words, making pronouncing them a daunting task for English speakers who are so used to their vocal vowels. The ř sound has also been reported to be near impossible to say for English speakers.
Although this language uses the Latin script, the rare word order used can be hard to get one’s head around. It also has some unusual sound combinations, and the vocabulary often seems to overlap with English but many words are ‘false friends’ and don’t actually mean what they seem! Sneaky!
Which one will you be giving a go?
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Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.
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