Factors That Make Learning a Language Difficult

Learning a language is a daunting task, demanding strict attention, dedication, and perseverance. For some people, languages come naturally and acquiring fluency seems to take no time at all. For others, nothing seems more difficult than reviewing grammar, practicing vocabulary, and struggling to converse. Linguists say learning a language correlates to mathematical intelligence, finding logic and patterns in the way we use language.

Not all languages are equal. For native Chinese speakers, French is an incredibly difficult language because of the drastically different vocabulary and accent. But for English speakers, French is a relatively easy language to learn. The more different a language is the harder it will be to master. These languages require study and research to learn their speech patterns, accents, grammar, and syntax.

Unless you’re a linguist, most of us don’t have a lot of time to study languages. That’s where translation services come in handy. Translators do all the work, using years of experience to help you produce fluent and accurate translations of documents.

If you are, however, interested in pursuing a language, you will find it challenging and rewarding, wherever you use it. We’ve compiled a list of some of the obstacles you might have to overcome during your studies.

Complex Alphabets

While many western languages like English, French, and Spanish use the Latin alphabet, many languages use different written scripts. Some languages share alphabets, like Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Uighur, which use the Arabic script. Other languages have unique alphabets, like Armenian, Mongolian, and Somali.

Moreover, many alphabets carry more than 25-30, which most Latin-script languages use. For example, Khmer has 74 letters and Thai has 70 letters. Languages like Chinese don’t use alphabets and instead write with tens of thousands of characters, each symbolizing a different word. Tamil, another complicated writing system, has 31 letters, but uses combinations of letters to make 247 separate sounds.

Direction of Writing

Together with a new alphabet, some letters are written from right to left instead of left to write. Reading like this takes some getting used to and can throw those who normally are fast readers for a loop.

It is important to look at the formatting and structure of left-right languages like Arabic and Hebrew during translation. This is especially true for things like websites or digital publishing.


Many languages also have orthographies, or symbols that indicate intonation, accents, or vowels. Reading and understanding these symbols is important to the accurate translation of a text. It’s easy for the untrained eye to miss these small details in a foreign script.

Tonal Languages

Reading is a huge part of learning a language and helps students understand phrases, idioms, and complex grammar structures. However, many languages are very expressive and rely on intonation to differentiate between words. This makes speaking the only way to master that aspect of language-learning. Some languages that rely heavily on tones for speech include Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, Navajo, and Ewe.

Dissimilar Languages

It is easier to learn languages that are similar to your native language. Typically, these languages share vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. This means that learning new grammar, syntax, accents, and vocabulary of dissimilar languages can be challenging.

Learning a language takes time and a real dedication to practice. You have to master patience to make mistakes and not be discouraged while spending years memorizing grammar and vocabulary. ATA Translation Agency understands how difficult this is, which is why it offers translation, interpretation, and localization services in hundreds of languages, making your job easier. Contact us today for more information about the languages we work with or our multilingual services.



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One thought on “Factors That Make Learning a Language Difficult

  • Su.December 1, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for the nice info!!!


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