There’s no shortage of claims for different languages being the world’s hardest to learn. I wouldn’t be surprised if every natural language in existence had had that claim made for it at least once. Usually these claims come either from native speakers of those languages, to brag about how smart they must be for speaking the language fluently, or from people learning those languages, to justify the hard time they’re having.
I’m now going to reveal to you the actual hardest language in the world to learn: Sentinelese!
Here’s why: Sentinelese is only spoken on North Sentinel Island, a remote island in the Indian Ocean, by the Sentinelese people. Since their discovery by outside peoples, there have been several attempts to contact them. However, these people have proven to be fiercely independent and extremely hostile to outside contact.
Anyone who has ever gone to the island or tried to make contact has either been killed, or barely escaped with their life. In one intense episode in 2006, a boat of Indian fishermen illegally fishing off the coast of the island were killed by the islanders. A helicopter operated by the Indian Coast Guard, sent to recover the bodies, was chased off by a barrage of arrows and javelins.
Parisians may have a reputation for being hostile to foreigners, but they have nothing on the Sentinelese!
Seriously, though, here’s the thing: this language is difficult to learn for sociological reasons, not linguistic ones. Other extremely difficult languages to learn are the Harappan and Minoan languages, for the simple reason that they haven’t been deciphered yet!
There is no such thing as a “hardest language in the world,” because language is a human development, and languages evolve to suit the needs of the people who speak them. A given language can never get so unwieldy that it becomes too difficult for its native speakers to use because these speakers are constantly introducing new innovations into the language to keep it efficient and useful.
It is, of course, a fact that some languages are “harder” to learn than others for a speaker of a given language, meaning that there are more obstacles and differences to overcome, so they take more time and effort. For example, for an English speaker, Mandarin Chinese is harder than, say, Portuguese, and because of this, a lot of people like to say that Mandarin is the hardest language to learn. However, for a Cantonese speaker, Mandarin is much easier to learn that Portuguese. It all depends on what you already know, and what you’re used to. The key, of course, is to be open-minded about the differences and know that if you put in the time and effort, it will come.