The Abkhaz language among the most difficult languages in the world


Today, the world speaks nearly 3,000 languages, not counting dialects. We have selected some of those are the most difficult to learn.

Learning a different language can be fun. Not only is it a mark of distinction among your peers, but it also opens the door to interactions with completely different cultures. It would be pretty hard to sustain the argument that there is no such thing as easier and harder languages, although the level of difficulty will depend to a good extent on what your native tongue is, among a bunch of other factors. In other words, language difficulty is partly a subjective notion that varies depending on which language(s) you are fluent in, and partly an objective one that varies depending on things such as the writing system used, grammar complexity, etc. 

More importantly, because of such significant differences between languages, you have to keep in mind that while a method for learning a particular language may have worked very well for you in the past , it doesn’t mean that it’ll work just as well with a different language. We could probably go to Italy and learn the language relatively easily in a few months just through immersion, by listening to and speaking with the people there. Yet, this strategy would probably not work, say, in Vietnam or Mongolia. The bottom line is you have to be flexible about your learning strategy and expect that different languages and language families will vary in difficulty and complexity.

Yet, because language difficulty is in large part a subjective notion, there is no objective language ranking that can apply to any speaker of any language. For example, Japanese might be one of the hardest languages out there for a native English speaker, but for a Korean person learning Japanese, this latter will be infinitely easier than to learn English, simply because Japanese and Korean have so much more in common than Korean and English. In a similar vein, learning Persian might be relatively easy for somebody speaking Gulf Arabic, but quite a challenge for a native Thai speaker ones published by governments. The Defense Language Institute (DLI), for example, is a United States Department of Defense educational and research institution that has 4 categories of languages classified by their difficulty. Category 1 is the easiest and 4 the hardest. Naturally, those levels of difficulty are from the perspective of an English speaker, so they are not “universal” rankings. This distinction is very important to understand. The list below introduces some example languages in each category:

  • Category I language: French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish
  • Category II language: German, Indonesian
  • Category III language: Hebrew, Hindi, Persian Farsi, Dari, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Uzbek, and Urdu
  • Category IV language: Modern Standard Arabic, Abkhazian, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese, Sanskrit, Japanese, Korean.

 Despite all the difficulties associated with studying Abkhazian language as one of the oldest language our language deserves special attention.

Abkhazian language is a North West Caucasian language related to Abaza, Adyghe, Kabardian and Ubykh .About 100,000 people speak Abkhaz language in Abkhazia .There are also Abkhaz speakers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in Turkey, the republic of Adjara in Georgia, Syria, Jordan, Germany and the USA.

Nowadays Abkhazian language is represented in Republic of Abkhazia by two dialects: they are - Abzuyian and Bzypian. The Abzuyian dialect is the basis of literary language.

Abkhaz first appeared in writing in 1862/3 in the Cyrillic alphabet using a spelling system based on the Bzypian dialect and devised by the Russian soldier-linguist Baron Peter von Uslar. Other spelling systems using the Georgian, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets appeared during the 20th century. The current Cyrillic-based system, which has been in use since 1954, is considered somewhat cumbersome with its 14 extra letters for consonants and its inconsistencies. Recently there have been suggestions that a new Latin-based spelling system should be created.

There are only three vowels in Abkhazian language - a, s, aa. The rest of the vowels, the letter referred to by individual letters - e, o, u, y, obtained from a combination of other vowels and consonants. Vocal poverty Abkhazian language compensates for the abundance of consonants in the literary language of 58, and 67 in the entire dialect of Bzyb. Incidentally, the Abkhaz alphabet based on the Cyrillic alphabet created in 1862, and another three years later released the Abkhaz ABC. Over manner Abkhazians began with the words with the letter "a" often laugh, but this prefix, or the prefix in common parlance, serves in the Abkhaz language of the same function that the English - this is the definite article. He put in front of all nouns, and according to the rules of the Abkhaz language, and it is added to the loan words too.

Abkhazian language has developed for thousands years. By the beginning of XX century it reached the highest level of its development. Some scientists think that this fact is connected with the writing language, which Abkhazians had long ago. 

The scientist and the teacher Machavariani wrote about the Abkhazian language: “The Abkhazian language is very flexible and sonorous; it gives not only the solemn tones, but it caresses an ear with the tender expressions. Both terrible sounds of the nature and the melody of the quiet wind puff, the streamlet purl, sorrow and joy, anger and kindness - are fully expressed in this language”.

Together with other Caucasian languages, the Abkhazian language is referred to a number of well-investigated languages. From ancient times a lot of famous scientist- travellers from different countries visited Caucasus and paid a great attention to this language. Marr appreciated the significance of the Abkhazian language for linguistic theory very highly:

"The Abkhazian language linguistically is on one of the highest rungs of human speech and among languages akin to it occupies that same rung as English does among European languages. The Abkhazian language is more changable new typeDialectological wealth of Abkhazian speech, that was without writing till XIX century, is very valuable for the science with its material lighting many facts of the cultural history in the Ancient-East world”.

The Abkhazian alphabet was worked out by Uslar in 1862 on the basis of Russian graph. After that the Abkhazian literary language began forming. The graph of Abkhazian writing was changed many times. In 1926 an analytical alphabet of Marr appeared. In 1928 - there was an alphabet on Latin graphical basis, in 1938 - on the Georgian basis and since 1954 - on the Russian one.

The working Abkhazian alphabet contains 40 signs, which can give 62 phonemes as well as in combinations and by themselves.

As you can see, language difficulty really depends on a lot of things. You can add on top of that a whole lot of other factors that are equally or more important as some of those mentioned above: motivation, interest, need, culture, surrounding environment, psychological barriers, fear, etc.

Some languages will be harder than other to learn. In the end, though, it’s very hard to talk about the “hardest” language in the world because it all depends on the perspective of the native speaker, and on a whole host of different factors such as motivation and culture. Just be flexible in your approach to learning different languages, and have realistic (but not pessimistic) expectations about a particular language’s difficulty. Take it as a challenge to surmount, and remember that whatever language you choose to learn, it’s well worth the time and effort invested!