If this post strikes you as boring, forgive me. I'm an aspiring linguist and these things are interesting to me.
***When I was learning spanish in the United States I often asked myself, which language is harder to learn? English or spanish? I tried to think about it objectively - can the english language which is so accessible to me be as complicated as the spanish I was struggling to learn?
I always figured that english was harder. Think about verbs that make no sense: the past tense of eat is ate, why not eated? Why are there so many consonants in the word thought, or through? Other hard things to learn: The t in 'creation' is pronounced like as sh. The t's in 'bottle' are pronounced like d's. You farted, did you fart, and have you farted all have essentially the same meaning, but have to be used in specific contexts. Don't even get me started on the verb to be. I pitied the fool that had to learn english as a second language.
Spanish, meanwhile, seemed to have more order to it. Conjugations had a specific pattern that was almost always followed - and irregulars had an understandable pattern of their own. You always pronounce words the same as they're written. Obviously learning a second language is always hard, but I felt grateful to be learning the orderly spanish language rather than the messy english language.
But then I arrived in Argentina and people always told me, "Wow, it must be hard for you here because spanish is such a difficult language to learn." "More difficult to learn than english?" "Definitely."
Well, I gave it some thought. In spanish there really are many more verb forms than necessary. (English: I ran, you ran, he ran, she ran, we ran, they ran. Spanish: yo corré, vos corriste, el corrió, ella corrió, nosotros corrimos, ellos corrieron - and you have to get it right every single time or you sound stupid). There are a lot of annoying synonyms. You have to match up el and la with -o and -a. You have to add s's to adjectives in the plural, not just nouns.
So both languages are annoying and complicated. Why did I assume english was harder? The truth is, when I was in spanish class I didn't know the language well enough. There was a wall of ignorance, and I assumed that behind the wall might lie simplicity. Now that I'm over the wall, I see that things aren't so simple and orderly as I thought. Meanwhile I was blinded to english because of its ubiquity. I couldn't see whether it was easy or difficult because I grew up with it, and so the technicalities of the grammar and morphology were always invisible to me. In its invisibility, I assumed complexity. Now that I see how a native spanish speaker views english, I see that there is more order and simplicity that I thought. I'm beginning to admit that english might be an easier language to learn than spanish.
Does anyone want to do some research for me to find out what scientist say about the hardest language to learn? I'd be interested in what factors they use to make their judgement.