And the most difficult language to learn is…

I am an avid reader of The Cultureist, an online global travel and culture magazine. I was recently taken aback to read that Arabic, a language of which I already possess an elementary ability to read and write (but not yet fluently comprehend or express myself with grammatical accuracy), is one of the most difficult languages to learn. According to the infographic summarising research based on sources as diverse as the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State, and the academically-questionable Wikipedia: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean are the most challenging to learn for native English speakers. I find this to be quite a daunting piece of information, considering that I am in the process of trying to teach myself the varied nuances of Arabic, without registering for any formal classes.

Click on the image for a larger legible version of the infographic which will open in a new page. (Source:

I possess relative fluency in Urdu, which is similar to Hindi, and therefore, by default, I maintain my ability to converse comfortably in both languages. I also have a basic knowledge of French. However, looking up these languages on the infographic, led me to an interesting observation: all the ‘hard’ and medium’ difficulty languages include those that have a different script to the English alphabet. This was followed by another thought – if this is an infographic about language difficulties for English-speakers, then what would a similar infographic look like, for say Urdu speakers? Or Turkish speakers? Or Chinese speakers?  If anyone can point me in the direction of such a resource, I would be most grateful.

Having grown up in Kenya, I speak Swahili, so I thought I would end this post with a Swahili phrase that even you – yes you! – dear reader of my blog, know and understand. After all, practically everyone has watched the Hollywood animated movie, ‘The Lion King’, so I leave you with an excerpt of these lyrics to usher in the New Year:

Hakuna Matata! What a wonderful phrase

Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze

It means no worries for the rest of your days

It’s our problem-free philosophy

Hakuna Matata!

It means no worries for the rest of your days

And with that, I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a happy and peaceful holiday season.

Saneeya Qureshi © 2014


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