Given the complexity of some languages, when translating, it is essential to hire a professional and experienced translator. This masters the target language and has the necessary specialist knowledge to create a high-quality translation that is completely understandable for the target audience. A translation job can be a real challenge. But which languages are the most difficult to translate?
With around 7000 different languages worldwide , the size of the challenge depends on the translator and their mother tongue . For example, best certified translators will find it much easier to translate a text from French or Italian, which like Spanish are Romance languages, than a text from Chinese or Korean.
But regardless of the translator’s language, some languages are generally more difficult to translate than others. Here is UNESCO’s ranking of the most difficult languages to translate , in order of least difficulty to most difficult.
The 8 most difficult languages to translate according to UNESCO
1 – French
Although, as said, French is easier for a Spanish translator than other languages, the language is considered one of the most difficult languages to translate due to the complicated grammar and pronunciation that can be difficult to master.
Likewise , translation becomes more and more difficult as the distance between the source language and the target language increases . As already mentioned, it is easier to translate a text from French to Spanish or vice versa than from Chinese to French.
2 – Germanic languages
Translations from Germanic languages are also very complex , especially German, Danish and Norwegian. In addition, these languages are also very difficult to learn.
The difficulty lies in the complex grammatical and orthographic structure . Like Finnish (see below), they are inflectional languages in which the form of words varies depending on their grammatical relationship to the other words in the same sentence.
3 – Finnish
Finnish (a branch of the Uralic languages) is an ever-changing language (inflectional and agglutinative) in which words change form depending on their function within the sentence in which they occur. A great challenge, because the translator must have a perfect command of the language in order to be able to produce an accurate translation.
4 – Japanese
Japanese, has grammatical formulas called keigo, or honorifics , and this is the main difficulty we encounter when translating.
These are expressions that indicate respect for the interlocutor’s social position . Therefore, in addition to mastering the grammar and vocabulary, translating from Japanese also requires a great deal of understanding and knowledge of Japanese culture.
5 – Icelandic
The challenge with Icelandic is that it is a language with very old rules , belonging to the Norse Germanic languages, which also has a specific vocabulary and vowels that can vary depending on conjugation and declension.
6 – Standard Arabic
Standard Arabic is one of the most difficult languages, both learning and translating is a challenge . It has its own alphabet, it is written from right to left and very complex grammar and spelling characterize this language. A challenge for every translator.
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7 – Greek
Although simpler than Ancient Greek, Greek is still a difficult language to translate , which, like Arabic, has a specialized alphabet and very complex rules for stress and pronunciation. It is imperative that you master this in order to understand everything correctly.
8 – Chinese
We close the ranking of the most difficult languages to translate with Chinese, a tonal language where intonation and pronunciation are paramount . Factors that the translator must master perfectly, because any small deviation can completely change the meaning of the same word.These are the 8 most difficult languages to translate according to UNESCO . You will achieve the best translation results if you hire a translator whose native language is the target language of the text to be translated