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I had intentions of coming to this forum and asking, "do you think English is the hardest language to learn?"

You've all heard that one. Besides, there is no "General English" or "Off-topic" section for it.

So, I've come to ask what do you guys think is the most difficult language to teach. Not to foreigners, and not to natives but overall. This can be based on your opinion, experience, or general observations.

Even if you are not a teacher, I'm interested to read your opinion.

Frankly, I think it is Chinese. Those who say it is english, have never...ever tried Chinese. The reading, speaking and writing is all more difficult due to inefficiency. The writing is so difficult, that I can barely write my name.

This is how a simple word like "Chow-chow" is written in Chinese (the dog): ???

You'll memorize the alphabet backwards before you'll remember the correct way to write that.

Still not convinced? How about the fact that writing in Chinese is so difficult to learn that a new type of Chinese writing has been established but not fully accepted, called "Simplified Chinese."

Writing in Chinese is so difficult, that the Japanese studied the language, and then simplified it for their own use.

Reading is just as difficult. There is no pronunciation, you simply remember the millions of symbols. Maybe that is why Asians are so great at mathematics and science? Due to early memorization?

As for speaking and teaching in schools, it isn't even considered. It is so difficult that High Schools teach Japanese as opposed to Chinese because students who first join usually quit out of difficulty, not leaving enough members for a 2nd year class. Teachers simply admit, "too hard".

The language is based on many tones, so one word can mean a totally different thing in a different tone.

Chinese writings of a single letter, done with a special brush is considered a difficult art.

Many people think that English is the hardest language to learn, I think they are wrong. I hope this tells you guys a bit about how difficult Chinese is. Both to teach and learn.

I would like to add that I am not biased in this matter, since I am Chinese but I was born and raised in North America. I tried learning Chinese but just couldn't. In fact, I failed miserably, and so did the others in my class. I enjoy English much more, and I'm in an advanced High School English class (though you can't tell by my bad writing). I've never once been to Asia.

I am also interested to know why it is taken from North American school curriculum just because of difficulty? I'm sure some students could pull it off. Chinese is spoken more in Asia than Japanese both in Taiwan, China and parts of Cambodia.

I am eager to read your input!
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Hi Wushu,

I teach English in Japan. I have never taught Chinese, but I think you are probably right about Chinese being one of the most, if not THE most, difficult languages to learn or teach - especially for 'westerners'.

When I first came to Japan I was firmly resolved to learn Japanese. I wondered how best to achieve this and came to the conclusion that the best place to start would be with the writing system, wow was I in for a shock!!!

The Japanese use 4 sets of written characters, Hiragana (a simple phonetic system developed by the Japanese), Katakana (similar to Hiragana but used for primarily for foreign words imported into Japanese), Romaji (western roman characters - as used in English), and the dreaded Kanji (Chinese characters).

One may, at first glance think the Japanese have a tough job learning written communication - and you would be right! Written Japanese relies most heavily on Kanji, but if one can't remember the appropriate Kanji one can still write the word using Hiragana. So, the Japanese can use their simple native character set to write words if need be. Unfortunately in written Chinese, there is NO simple character set - everything must be written using Kanji!

I believe there are in excess of 40,000 Kanji! An average Chinese newspaper uses around 5,000 (please correct me if I am wrong). School students continue studying Kanji until the day they leave high school - 2 full pages every day (compare this with westerners who know the alphabet by the age of 4 or 5), and even then have only scratched the surface!

I abandoned my naiive plan of quickly learning to read and write Japanese because by the time I would have learnt enough Kanji to get by (I estimated 8-10 years) I will have returned to my native country, and have no use for it!

I now know only the most important Kanji characters - the name of my home town, (so I don't get TOO lost) and the Kanji characters for my prefecture (so I know what to expect if I see a graphic of a snowman next to it on the T.V. weather report).

Who said Greek was hard?
A friend of mine was learning Japanese in High School. He told me that the Japanese had the 4 sets of writing. I had no idea what it meant until now.

Sometimes I'd see the Japanese teachers pointing at characters and making sounds, now I now it is hiragana. At least I think.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
I know its a little off the topic Wushu, but do you study or are you interested in Chinese history?
I gave up learning Japanese, written Japanese anyway, but now really enjoy reading Japanese history instead. I hope to get around to Chinese history soon.
No, I heard Chinese history is pretty depressing. With the whole European Countries invading plus the import of drugs.

Not to mention history is really long in China.

I am getting to read more Confucius though.
Don't forget to read Lao Tsu!!
Who was Lao Tsu?

According to legend Lao Tzu was keeper of the archives at the imperial court around 600BC. When he was eighty years old he set out for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border (Hank Pass), a guard, Yin Xi (Yin Hsi), asked Lao Tsu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).

Some believe that Lao Tsu and Confucius had almost opposite philosophic views, and that Confucius tried, in vain, to argue with Lao Tsu when L.S. told C. that his complex ideas were trash, and that all he need do was to look out the window to see the truth. I don't know if that story is really true, but it does reflect the great difference between Confucianism and Taoism (which was often supressed because of its disdain for rules and regulations).
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Here is what Confucius said of Lao Tsu after meeting him;
I know a bird can fly; I know a fish can swim; I know animals can run. Creatures that run can be caught in nets; those that swim can be caught in wicker traps; those that fly can be hit by arrows. But the dragon is beyond my knowledge; it ascends into heaven on the clouds and the wind. Today I have seen Lao Tzu, and he is like the dragon!" (p. 197, Smith)
Do these guys always talk like this? Emotion: big smile

Thanks, I'll definitely look into Lao Tsu!
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