Have you ever wondered how many languages are spoken worldwide and which ones are the most challenging to translate into English?
Let’s find out with VINALOCALIZE.
The most spoken language
As of 2023, people all over the world are using a staggering 7,168 different languages to communicate. Among these languages, English has held the top position as the most widely spoken for many years. It’s part of the Indo-European language family, one of the world’s six major language groups. In fact, by 2023, over 1.4 billion people were speaking English, making it the most spoken language globally.
English has become so popular that when people want to learn a second language, they often choose English as their first pick. It’s the primary language of communication in many of the world’s biggest economies. However, when different languages need to communicate with English, translation becomes a real challenge. In this article, we’ll explore the six languages that are particularly tough to translate into English, as VINALOCALIZE highlights their unique difficulties.
The hardest languages to translate into English
There are plenty of dialects when we talk about the Chinese language. Mandarin is the official language in the People’s Republic of China and, consequently, the most common Chinese one would encounter as a new learner.
Chinese is hard to translate into English, first and foremost because it belongs to a different language family, the Sino-Tibetan. Chinese is tonal when it comes to speaking. In addition, its characters for writing are completely different from the Latin ones in English.
You can read further on the difficulties of translating Chinese here.
Not only is Japanese one of the hardest languages to translate into English, but it is also one of the hardest languages among the most spoken languages. The complexity of Japanese can be seen in the most basic component of a language: the writing system.
Japanese consists of three major alphabets: Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana. These three alphabets prove to be challenging for any translator in their attempts to translate Japanese.
The sentence structure of Japanese also gives translators a hard time, as it barely has anything in common with the English sentence structure.
While Finnish and English may share some similarities in lettering and pronunciation, the act of translating Finnish into English reveals the vast differences between these two languages. Finnish grammar is renowned for its intricacy, marked by complex cases, verb conjugations, and extensive inflection. The challenge intensifies due to the notable distinction between spoken and written Finnish. This trait demands translators to carefully navigate these variations to accurately convey the language’s nuances in English.
Hungarian stems from the same language family as Finnish—the Fino-Ugric family. The popular rumor about the difficulty of Hungarian is that the language has 35 cases, whereas the natives counter that there are only around 17. Regardless, the around 17 cases of Hungarian have thwarted many efforts to translate Hungarian into English.
In addition to the challenge that is language cases, the difficulty of translating Hungarian to English also lies in its use of suffixes. Hungarian is an agglutinative language, and it uses suffixes at the end of words to dictate tense and possession. This is in complete contrast to English, which uses word order.
To those unfamiliar with the Arabic language, the most apparent challenge in translating it into English is likely the Arabic script. Arabic letters can take four different forms, depending on their position within a word. Additionally, Arabic encompasses numerous dialects, each with substantial differences in grammar, format, and sentence structure compared to English.
Translating Polish into many other languages, not just English, is a complex endeavor. One of the reasons becomes evident when you examine the Polish alphabet, which includes characters absent in the English one, like ą, ó, ś, ź, and ż, which can baffle beginners. Additionally, the grammar of Polish is famously complex, and the word order in Polish differs significantly from English. Polish sentence structures offer more flexibility, while English adheres to a more rigid word order.
Translating languages into English presents unique challenges. From tonal differences in Chinese to complex writing systems in Japanese and intricate grammar in Finnish, Hungarian, Arabic, and Polish, these languages require careful navigation. Nevertheless, skilled translators bridge these linguistic gaps, enabling global communication and cultural understanding.
At VINALOCALIZE, we specialize in expert translation and localization services. Our team of expert linguists ensures your content transcends linguistic barriers, resonates with diverse cultures, and expands your global reach. Explore the world of possibilities with VINALOCALIZE.