Languages I find hard or easy

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Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Delodephius » Fri 22 Jan 2010 11:40 pm

Many times on this forum members wonder how someone learned a language they consider difficult. If it was only that, but some members think the languages they see as difficult are difficult to anyone. So I start this topic to point out that this is not true. I know there have been debates about this, it is constantly repeated that language difficulty is subjective and not universal. But let's do this just for the heck of it.

The following languages I find easy to learn based on their grammar:
- Slavic languages: Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovenian, etc. (not counting those I already know, since I'm a native Slavic speaker)
- Baltic languages
- Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian
- Icelandic
- Armenian
- Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Latin, Gothic, Old English, Old Norse, Avestan

I would throw in other languages, like Semitic, but besides Indo-European and Uralic I haven't read much about other language groups so I don't know.

You can see one thing all these languages have in common and that they are Synthetic (namely fusional and agglutinative). Because I am a native speaker of a heavily inflected language my mind operates in inflections. Languages which have a vast verbal inflection I find a bit more difficult. Languages without nominal inflection I find a bit more difficult since I'm terrible with syntax. My native language has minimal syntactic rules, basically words in a sentence can be placed in any order whatsoever. Inflection makes the words fall in line regardless of order. This I think is why I find inflected languages easy. This of course in the realm of Indo-European languages. I am not sure about other language groups.

English I learned when I was a kid but as a medium for learning other languages I find it almost useless.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Talib » Sat 23 Jan 2010 2:48 am

You're right that learning difficulty is subjective but I think there are certain languages are more difficult than others for the vast majority of people. One example is that grammar is only one part of learning. Phonology, orthography and so on have their role as well and for me the biggest problem is learning a whole new lexicon. For that reason the most difficult languages are those with no relation to Indo-European, such as Chinese and Arabic and so for most people who don't natively speak a variety related to either of these.
Languages which have a vast verbal inflection I find a bit more difficult.
Wouldn't Russian fall under this category? Russian verbs are more complex than any other living Slavic language I know of.

Aside from that, I'm not sure how much being a native speaker of a fusional language would help with an agglutinative one. I mean, both are synthetic, but of a very different way.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Delodephius » Sat 23 Jan 2010 3:19 am

Russian verbs are pretty much complex as in any other Slavic language, they are just quite irregular. Slovak verbs follow the same system as Russian but have far less irregularities.

What I wanted to point out is that for example for me it is easier to learn Latin than Italian, or Sanskrit than Hindi (and I tried all four).

To me it is easier for a language to have cases. It is easier then to translate it into my own language, which speeds up the learning process.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Talib » Sat 23 Jan 2010 3:58 am

Delodephius wrote:Russian verbs are pretty much complex as in any other Slavic language, they are just quite irregular. Slovak verbs follow the same system as Russian but have far less irregularities.
Does it have six cases and three genders? Are there different declensions for each?
What I wanted to point out is that for example for me it is easier to learn Latin than Italian, or Sanskrit than Hindi (and I tried all four).
Well, you only have to read the former, whereas the latter involve speaking as well.
To me it is easier for a language to have cases. It is easier then to translate it into my own language, which speeds up the learning process.
Yes, of course - the closer to your native language the better. But how much does this help with an agglutinative language?
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Delodephius » Sat 23 Jan 2010 2:03 pm

Talib wrote:
Delodephius wrote:Russian verbs are pretty much complex as in any other Slavic language, they are just quite irregular. Slovak verbs follow the same system as Russian but have far less irregularities.
Does it have six cases and three genders? Are there different declensions for each?

Slovak has six cases, seventh is rarely used, three genders. The combination of these have couple of declensions. Russian has only three declensions. Slovak has 13: four for masculine, four for neutral and five for feminine.

Talib wrote:
What I wanted to point out is that for example for me it is easier to learn Latin than Italian, or Sanskrit than Hindi (and I tried all four).
Well, you only have to read the former, whereas the latter involve speaking as well.

And the spoken Latin and Sanskrit movements? There are organizations and groups who proote speaking of these languages and people do speak them. If you want to learn to speak them you can.

My point was that Sanskrit and Latin are fusional hence easier than their modern descendants which are analytic.


Talib wrote:
To me it is easier for a language to have cases. It is easier then to translate it into my own language, which speeds up the learning process.
Yes, of course - the closer to your native language the better. But how much does this help with an agglutinative language?

The main difference with agglutinative languages and fusional is the number of cases in declensions. There are couple of ways how to translate this, for example cases not present in a fusional language are translated with a preposition and an adequate case it goes with it. For example when translating Hungarian to Slovak: Superessive = na + Locative, Sublative = na + Accusative, Adessive = pri + Locative, Ablative = od + Genitive, etc.

I once actually tried creating an agglutinative Slavic conlang by turning those prepositions in suffixes.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Talib » Sat 23 Jan 2010 9:36 pm

Delodephius wrote:Russian has only three declensions. Slovak has 13: four for masculine, four for neutral and five for feminine.
What?! Is this an innovation, or a retention from Proto-Slavic?
And the spoken Latin and Sanskrit movements? There are organizations and groups who proote speaking of these languages and people do speak them. If you want to learn to speak them you can.
You can, but I think it's safe to say the majority of people who learn them only learn to read rather than speak them. Are you going to speak them?
My point was that Sanskrit and Latin are fusional hence easier than their modern descendants which are analytic.
Eh, more analytic but still synthetic. Italian and Hindi are definitely not as analytic as Chinese. But there have still been drastic changes.
The main difference with agglutinative languages and fusional is the number of cases in declensions.
Technically, the main difference is that in one, morphemes contain several meanings while in the other each morpheme has its own meaning. But that's nitpicking.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Delodephius » Sat 23 Jan 2010 10:55 pm

Talib wrote:
Delodephius wrote:Russian has only three declensions. Slovak has 13: four for masculine, four for neutral and five for feminine.
What?! Is this an innovation, or a retention from Proto-Slavic?

Well for comparison Old Church Slavonic had 6 declensions for masculine nouns, 5 for neutral and 5 for feminine, so 16, plus irregular nouns. Slavists theorize there most likely were more but that they merged together by the time of OCS. So Slovak has retained most of its declensions while Russian merged or lost some of them.

Talib wrote:
And the spoken Latin and Sanskrit movements? There are organizations and groups who proote speaking of these languages and people do speak them. If you want to learn to speak them you can.
You can, but I think it's safe to say the majority of people who learn them only learn to read rather than speak them. Are you going to speak them?

Probably. I plan to write extensive texts in them. But Latin, Greek and Sanskrit phonology are very easy for me since almost all sounds they have exist in Slovak or other Slavic languages I know. Except cerebral consonants but these are no problem for me.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Talib » Sat 23 Jan 2010 11:51 pm

And aspirate consonants?
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Delodephius » Sat 23 Jan 2010 11:59 pm

I thought you'd ask that. No, they're not a problem either. For Slovaks and Czechs at least.
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Re: Languages I find hard or easy

Postby Talib » Sun 24 Jan 2010 1:40 am

But Czech and Slovak don't have any.
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