• Katharina Gruber

Top 4 Hardest Languages to Translate

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When looking to expand the reach of your business to foreign shores, you must look for adept translation services that can translate your message and content from the source language to the target language competitively and consistently for creating the maximum impact. However, since not all languages are created equal, some of them are harder to translate than others.

Here’s a list of the top four hardest languages to translate:

1. Mandarin

This language is mostly spoken in China, Taiwan, and Singapore, and is one of the hardest languages to translate. Firstly, it's a tonal language and the meanings of words can be different based on four different tones. Since Mandarin uses unique idioms and homophones, not getting the right tone could mean using a word that’s completely different from what was originally intended. Secondly, there are over 80,000 Mandarin characters with varying pronunciations and meanings. For instance, the word ‘ma’ could stand for mother, scold, hemp, or horse. All these factors make translating a speech or text from the Mandarin language extremely difficult and often confusing.

2. Japanese

Japanese is mostly spoken in Japan and Palau. Though not as difficult as Mandarin, this is one of the toughest languages to translate. To begin with, the Japanese language has three writing systems, namely Kanji, Katakana, and Hiragana with thousands of Japanese characters involved. Kanji is based on Chinese characters but it’s frequently used together with Katakana and Hiragana characters to form words. Typically, the Kanji symbols have multiple pronunciations depending on the different meanings they want to convey, which Katakana and Hiragana expand upon. Additionally, the Japanese grammar and sentence structure are far more complex than several other languages. Since it loans words from English and Roman languages, the translator’s job is made all the more difficult. When translating Japanese, a translator must recognize and interpret all these nuances while breaking down each sentence into sections before reorganizing them in the target language to keep the inherent meaning and message unchanged.

3. Arabic

According to linguists, Arabic is a macro language that has thirty different varieties. It’s mostly spoken in the Middle East and Africa. Since the Arabic dialect is location-specific as each country that speaks the language has a different dialect, it could become difficult for someone to interpret what’s being said. Additionally, Arabic has a massive vocabulary with unique sounds, multiple synonyms of a single word, and a grammatical structure as well as rules that are completely different from English and several other languages. Since this language is read from the right to left and doesn’t include vowel

sounds, they add to its level of difficulty when translating it.

4. Hungarian

Hungarian has its linguistic roots in the Fino-Ugric language family with extremely complex grammar and is one of the most difficult languages to translate. Hungarian grammar has 26 different cases. Unlike English where the word order dictates the tense and possession, suffixes do the job in the Hungarian language. Since suffixes and prefixes are added to words, a very long verb is used to explain the sentence. It’s interesting to note that the Hungarian language has only past, present, and future verb tenses. Hungarian is devoid of individual prepositions but has 14 different vowels. An additional vowel is added at the end of a word to make it sound right. Since this language also has significant cultural overtones, translating it becomes extremely difficult.

Wrapping up

As these were the top four among the toughest languages to translate, you should look for expert translators when translating them into any other target language of your choice to ensure your intended message is delivered just right.

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