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The Most Difficult Writing System
The trick with pinpointing what is considered the most difficult writing system in the world is that, depending on one’s native tongue, the level of struggle that one individual might experience with a language could be completely different from another’s. For example, if your native tongue is one of the Romance languages like Spanish, learning other Romance languages like French or Italian would be fairly easy. However, learning a Scandinavian language or an Asian language like Korean or Japanese would likely be extremely hard. For the most part, however, if your first language is one of the Indo-European languages (this includes English, Spanish, German, Russian, etc), it’s easy to say that the most difficult writing system one will encounter or try to learn is Japanese.

There are numerous reasons why this language’s writing system is the most complicated for an English speaker, not the least of which is the fact that they utilize two scripts: the Hiragana and the Katakana. What these scripts or kana, as they are referred to in Japanese, are is basically two alternate versions of the same approximately 50-word alphabet. These, however, do not represent an alphabet in the classic sense of the word or an alphabet as used in the English language. These scripts represent the phonetic equivalents to letters. Japanese also incorporates Chinese characters in its handwriting, called Kanji. Now, imagine trying to learn and memorize ONE set of characters, but then duplicate the effort and add the marvel of having to know Chinese ones as well. Seems like a piece of cake, right? Try it.

In addition to the aforementioned lengthy scripts, this writing system is complicated because of its rigid and inflexible arrangement of intonation. Give yourself a moment to think about how this organization works; as discussed before, this language uses not one, but two separate scripts with the inclusion of Chinese characters, which means that each set of these (Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji) has a separate set of intonations. This means that one not only has to learn how to write the symbols for each character in every script, but one also has to appropriately be able to match the correct intonation to each syllable and be able to pronounce it. Is your brain fried yet?

Fortunately, however difficult this may sound, there is a straightforward and uncompromising way in which the inflections are structured vowel or consonant and vowel sound that makes for less of a toil when assimilating them. Yet, when it comes to actually sounding them out, the strictness takes a turn for the worse and makes the process fastidious. Not to mention, one always runs the risk of not being able to sound out the pronunciation correctly, and either make reference to a different word or sound unintelligible. Either way, it’s hard.

And guess what? The Japanese language employs even more specialized language, more commonly known as honorific language, which is used when speaking to elders. With each different level of civility and refinement comes a divergent set of rules and do’s & don’ts. It’s apparent now why writing Japanese and orally communicating with it can become convoluted. Let’s not even mention the grammar- that’s a complex entity of its own. Although the verb conjugation is pretty undemanding (there exist only 3 irregular ones, and its placement is consistent with it being at the end of a sentence), nouns can be perplexing because they can act as adjectives and adverbs too. This can result in a very puzzling reading of things.

It’s important to keep in mind when considering what the most difficult writing system is that the answer lies in the perspective of the beholder. Like all things language, the level of its laboriousness is subject to debate. A native Korean speaker might argue that Japanese displays one of the easiest writing systems available, yet a German individual might argue differently and pin that claim to the Arabic language system. It all depends. For a resident English speaker however, my vote is that the writing system you would have most trouble with is Japanese. So if you’re one of these English speaking people who are looking to learn the Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji- there’s a long road ahead.

Some Helpful URLs if you are interested in learning more are:

LearnJapanese – Tae Kim's Guide to Learning Japanese

9 Hard Languages for English Speakers

Photo Credit: John Hain

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Exchanging Conversation over Video Chat
Language Exchange on the Go
Don’t feel like you have to be confined to your house in order to study, learn, and practice your growing language skills. If you find yourself far from home but still wanting to keep up with your regular language exchange work, don’t fret! It’s completely possible. All you need is a computer or smartphone and some Internet access and you have the ability to stay connected, even if you’re miles away.

Video Chat
This provides a golden opportunity for you to have the face-to-face interaction you love with your exchange partner no matter where you happen to be physically. In fact, many exchangers rely on video chat to bridge the distance gap between them and their partner on a regular basis, allowing partners to come together from all over the world.

Open up that smartphone or laptop and dive into your lesson as you would if you were sitting in front of each other.

Document Sharing
If you and your partner are working on written work—anything from paragraph writing to worksheets—use Google Drive or Dropbox to upload documents and share them for review. By using these platforms to share, you two have the ability to simultaneously work on the same document. Your partner can make changes, add comments, and chat with you so that you can see and understand your mistakes clearly and quickly.

Learn on Your Own
Your exchange partner is a great guide through all the ups and downs of learning a language, but they aren’t your only resource. Use the time you have on the go to work on some practice on your own. Talk to your exchange partner about good podcasts, music, movies, books (or audiobooks), and other resources in your new language to use your time away for good! Find out what your partner is familiar with and get yourself familiar, not only helping you learn on your own, but also opening up new opportunities for discussion.

You can also start exploring online resources for practicing your language. Online games and exercises are easy ways to get practicing from anywhere without sacrificing much time.

Apps are another great tool for practicing on the go, especially if they don’t require Internet access—then you really can start practicing from anywhere! DuoLingo is one of my personal favorites. They currently offer lessons in Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese with tons of other languages in progress.

Opportunities are endless, so you can’t say you aren’t home enough to learn a language. No matter where you go or what you’re doing, you’ll find ways to connect, share, and continue learning!

Photo Credit: Jon Rawlinson

lrngo users in over 190 countries

Evening View of Stockholm, Sweden
Your Career Starts Here: Be a Swedish Teacher
Knowing any language is a valuable skill that puts you in a position to bestow unto others that same valuable skill. If you know the language, you have the ability to become a teacher. If you are bilingual or multilingual, you have a special advantage in this department as you can more easily communicate with your students in order to help them grasp the fine tunings of Swedish.

You may be surprised to find how many opportunities there are to teach Swedish if you put in a dedicated search effort. One way to get yourself out there is to teach students one-on-one through online tutoring. Verbal Planet offers tutors a place to post their information so that willing students can easily find them. The online, video chat platform allows students to come to you from anywhere in the world, significantly broadening your range of students. As you probably know, you can also post your information on LRNGO for the possibility of in person or online tutoring, or even an online classroom if you have experience.

You can also contact your local schools and colleges to see if there are any possibilities to work with them as a Swedish tutor, or even be recommended to students seeking help outside of the classroom. If you have a language school in your area, that’s by far the best place to start.

You can also spread the word about your availability on classified sites such as Craigslist and in your local classifieds and newspaper. The key to becoming a successful tutor is to get the word out of who you are and what you can do in as many different places as possible; you’ll never know where you’ll stumble upon someone who has been looking for a teacher just like you.

If you’re willing to take your Swedish to new locations, you have the potential to discover opportunities from around the world. Language institutes and embassies across the globe could have a position waiting for you, so do some research on areas you’d be interested in working.

Of course, depending on how you’d like to teach, certain qualifications must be taken into consideration. Obviously, the first step is a proficient understanding of the Swedish language. Beyond that, you have the ability to teach students as a freelance tutor. To be hired on as a teacher, you should probably do your research on where you’d be interested in working and in what type of environment you will be teaching so you can check on what certifications or qualifications are required to work there.

The fact is, if you know Swedish and are interested in teaching it, you have your chance. Because the language is not as highly sought after as others, you may have to be patient in your search, but that doesn’t mean you should hesitate. Spread the word about what you can do and stay determined—you’ll get there.

Photo Credit: Phil Price

lrngo users in over 190 countries

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