Asian Languages Ranked by Difficulty

Have you ever tried to learn an Asian language but shied away or gave up too quickly? We don’t blame you.

We do know that Asian languages are notoriously hard to learn. They’re hard for almost anyone not from the Asian region because the words have no similarity to English and most European languages. Because of similarity to their mother tongue, we can find it easier for a French speaker to learn Spanish and vice versa, or an American grasping German better than a Japanese speaker. 

There are a few good reasons to learn one of the 14 Asian languages out there. For example, it’s estimated that by 2023, e-commerce will become a US$53 billion business in the Asian region. A business owner set to do business in that part of the world would certainly like to facilitate their transactions by learning an Asian language. 

It is fair to say that as Asians want to learn English; English speakers may also want to learn an Asian language. The most studied languages differ from the most spoken languages. English does come out as number one, but we also have Chinese ranked in the 5th place of most studied languages. 

Difficulty shouldn’t deter you from learning a language. An Asian language that has no similarity to your own isn’t a barrier to learning; it’s a challenge to be accepted!

If you want to know just how difficult some Asian languages are, you will find their rankings in this article. 

1. Mandarin

The most difficult Asian language (and sometimes viewed as the most difficult language) is the same language that is spoken most in the world; Mandarin Chinese. Even if the language is a bit similar to some other Asian languages, even Asians find it difficult to learn. The characters and pronunciation of the language are difficult. The writing system is complicated, to say the least. There are tens of thousands of characters to learn to be a proficient reader and writer.

2. Japanese

Coming in at the second place in Japanese. Much of the reason why it’s difficult is also because of its writing system. With thousands of characters to master, it’s not an easy feat. There are three different writing systems: Katakana, Hiragana, and Kanji; Kanji being the hardest. These modes of writing are not like an alphabet. Katakana and Hiragana are a bit similar to each other, but Kanji is more like Chinese. It’s not that clear how many Kanji characters there are, but we do know it’s in the thousands. Jouyou Kanji is what is learned by Japanese students and has 2,136 characters to learn to be able to read and write.

3. Korean

Korean will seem less random to the foreign learner. Their alphabet isn’t so difficult to learn. The writing system, Hangul, is very logical and learnable, but the same can’t be said for its grammar and pronunciation. The language has a lot of honorifics and it’s important to respect that when learning, so as not to offend Koreans. Since it’s on the list, you need a method of learning that will make it easier and can provide you with that by introducing you to the language in a way that will make learning fun, convenient, and useful. If you have difficulty learning the Korean language, it’s usually because you’re not using the right material, nor have the right setting to retain the information. With online learning, you can learn at your pace and receive useful material, making it easy to learn the language in as few as 90 days. 

4. Thai

The Thai alphabet is twice the size of the Roman alphabet. It does have grammar rules, but the layperson learning might find the grammar rules to be not so difficult to learn. It’s often said that the grammar rules of English or French are much more complex than Thai grammar. Like most languages in Asia, Thai is tonal, meaning different tones are used to relay information. Thai has 8 tones and they’re all used.

5. Vietnamese

Another tonal language, using the wrong tone in Vietnamese can lead you to say something different than what you originally meant to say. At first glance, the language may look simple, but it’s not, especially in the pronunciation of words. It’s a gender-neutral language and has very few plurals which you might or might not find difficult. 

Some Asian languages could very well become the languages of the future. Learning any one of them, or all of them needs practice and patience. There are plenty of online tools to help you whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner wanting to hone your skill. With a good amount of practice, what is difficult now will become much easier later.