Translation is a difficult task. People often make the mistake of undermining the task of translation and interpretation. Since I already addressed this issue in my previous blog posts, I will not repeat myself again and again just jump into the topic 5 most difficult languages to translate.

I would like to inform all of the readers that I used the number of words in the language (vocabulary), how hard it is to learn that language and the cultural differences to build this list.

1) Korean

I would like to start with my own experience and tell you that Korean is a difficult language. The first reason is the number of words. Do you know how many words there are in Korean? According to this dictionary, there are 1.003.373 words. If you want to compare the two, there are less than 300.000 (According to Oxford Dictionary 50.000 words are not in use anymore) in English. So it means if you are a Korean translator in Chicago you need to translate Korean into English with way fewer words. The second reason, that makes Korean difficult,  is the syntax. Korean grammar has different rules to build sentences. Objects, subjects, and verbs are in different places in sentences in comparison to English. The third and far most important reason, which makes Korean is one of the most difficult languages to translate, is the culture. The differences between cultures affect the difficulty of translation directly.

2) Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the most difficult language according to almost every resource out there. The official language of China, Mandarin, is the most spoken language as well. According to Hanyu Da Cidian dictionary Mandarin has 370.000 words. The thing is Mandarin alphabet or Chinese alphabet doesn’t consist letters. It consists of characters. Let’s refreshen our minds, how many letters there are in the English alphabet? 26, right? How many characters there are in Mandarin Chinese? Over 80.000. So I think that’s it enough for you to emphasize how difficult Chinese to translate.

3) Arabic

I lived alongside with an Arabic speaking folk for a long time. I can say Arabic sounds amazing. It is astonishingly mellifluous. But making your tongue speak that sounds is the real trick. Plus they also have a completely different alphabet which consists of 28 letters. What makes Arabic translation difficult is not only the language. The cultural essence of Arabic has a great role to make translator and interpreters job difficult. Regional differences, dialects, pronunciation… When you need an Arabic translator in, let’s say, Washington, don’t forget that he or she is going to have a difficult task.

4) Japanese

I love Japanese. But I can’t even imagine myself translating something to or from Japanese, ever! Let’s take a look at the reasons make Japanese hard to work on: More than 500.000 words, grammar, three alphabets (Hiragana, Katakana, Kanji), agglutination*, -sensei, -sama, -chan, -kun… I had a Japanese friend, Shinichi, that I met in Germany, and he once told me that when you translate a text from Japanese to English, you lose at least 30 percent of the cultural elements.  I don’t know since I am not fluent in Japanese but I guess in the way of underlining the difficulty of Japanese translation and interpretation, he might have a point.

5) Polish

Przepraszam. This is how Polish people say sorry or excuse me. I would love to hear you trying to pronounce this word, seriously. Bezwzględny is also another word I find it hard to pronounce. Do you see this special e, ę? They have more special letters like this in their alphabet: ą, ć, ń, ó, ś, ź and ż. But compared to Polish grammar these are all nothing. You can ask anyone you know and I guarantee you that they will all say the same. It is among one of the most complex grammars.

No matter if it is Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, Polish or any other language, Link Translations provides the language services you need. Don’t hesitate to contact us and get a no-obligation quote today.