For many foreign language learners figuring out which language in the world is the hardest to learn is easy: the one you are currently studying! If we seek more of an objective answer, though, most experts will list Arabic as one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, if not the most difficult.
First, most of the consonants are formed using the back of the mouth. They have more of a guttural tone than traditional English consonants. The Arabic alphabet is also very different from the English Alphabet. It is phonetic and uses 28 symbols that can change meaning depending on where they are positioned within a word. Another common problem is the way that Arabic script is read. Arabic is read from right to left, which is the total opposite way for most Westerners.
In addition to all of this, Arabic is a language of dialects. If you learn to read and write Modern Standard Arabic then you still have to master the specific regional dialect so that you can actually communicate with Arabic speaking people.
Even though Arabic can be difficult for English speakers, there’s no need to give up! Considering more than 300 million people in over 20 countries in the world speak, write and read in Arabic, it is not impossible!
Having class with a tutor can give you the structured guidance necessary to master such a difficult language. Arabic will be hard to learn if it is just you, a textbook and some helpful Internet websites; you really need to have a live language instructor to encourage and instruct through the process.
It is also helpful to both speak and listen to Arabic as much as possible. Look for local language clubs (your town’s library can be a great resource) where you can practice your language skills with others. Set aside at least 15 minutes to simply speak the language.
One of the main reasons that enrollment in Arabic classes doubled between 1998 and 2002 is that the demand for Arabic speakers rose sharply after September 11, 2001. Journalists, FBI Agents, bankers, businesses and educational institutions had a huge demand for Arabic speakers and a very low supply. If you have 88 weeks to learn Arabic (the recommended level of the State Department to reach mediocre proficiency) then you will become a highly lucrative and valuable asset to a variety of industries.
Learning Arabic can also enhance your religious experience if you are a follower of Islam. Just like modern day biblical scholars still study Greek and Hebrew, learning Arabic will give you a greater appreciation for the Qur’an and other religious texts.
There is an old Syrian proverb that translates, “He who has drunk the sea does not choke on a brook” (اللی بیشرب البحر ما بغض الساقية). The idea behind the proverb is that when you master something big, then the smaller obstacles in life do not seem insurmountable. The ability to speak and write Arabic will give you more than just an edge in the workplace; it may provide the confidence you need to tackle future obstacles.