The Hardest Languages to Translate into English



A language is the communication medium between individuals and communities. There are approximately 7000 languages in the world today, out of which many are on the brink of extinction. These languages are grouped based on their ancestral roots—where and how they originated from. The English language, also termed the universal language, is the main medium of global communication. Today translation agencies provide all kinds of translation services, irrespective of whether an individual wants Mandarin translation services, Portuguese, or Malay translation services. It is a fact that translating languages within the same language family is easier than translating from another language family. This is why some languages are harder to translate than others. In fact, some languages are so tough that translators have a hard time translating them into English.

Here is a look at some of these tough languages which give translators a hard time in translating to English.

A Look at the Hardest Languages to Translate into English

  1.     Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language that is spoken most widely across the world. Consisting of over 80,000 characters, Mandarin Chinese possesses unique sounds and pronunciations. Considering this statistic, it is no surprise that translating Mandarin Chinese into English is a tough job. This is because English only has 26 letters compared to 80,000 Chinese characters.

Most of the words in Mandarin Chinese have different meanings and the only thing that makes their meanings different is the tone. A high degree of interpretive skills and understanding is required in translating Mandarin to English. Of course, that can only be done by a skilled linguist of a professional mandarin translation services.

  1.     Arabic

One of the oldest languages, Arabic contains numerous dialects. The language possesses a wide vocabulary which makes it difficult to translate. Moreover, Arabic words have multiple meanings and the flow of the sentences is from right to left, as compared to English where the flow is from left to right. Based on location, the dialect of the Arabic language varies across the country. This is the reason why Arabic translators need to be extra careful when translating from Arabic to English. This is because the originating dialect needs consideration before translation.

  1.     Thai

One of the few languages that are not influenced by Western languages, the Thai language is a tough language to translate into English. Like Chinese, Thai is a tonal language and is written in the Khmer script which is unrelated to any other language script. Where the English language has 26 alphabets with 5 vowels, the number of letters in the Thai alphabet has 44 consonants and 18 vowels.

The sentences in the Thai language do not end with a full stop and there are no lower or upper case letters. Moreover, there are no spaces between words. Translators have to watch out for word endings during English translations as any error can result in mistranslations. Furthermore, they need to gauge the context of the sentences in order to define the tenses in order to make sense in the English language.

  1.     Korean

The Korean language is one of the hardest languages to translate into English mainly due to its origins. As Korea was isolated for many years, the Korean language turned out to be very different from other languages. This is the reason why it does not share roots with any other language. There are approximately 1,003,373 words in the Korean language, as compared to only 300,000 in the English language. Moreover, Korean grammar is completely different from English grammar and there are different rules to build sentences in the Korean language. In addition, the vast cultural differences between the English and Korean languages make it even more difficult for translators to translate between the two languages.

  1.    Japanese

Similar to the Chinese language, the Japanese language also has thousands of characters. Its sentence and grammar vary from that of Western languages. As this language has a different writing system than English, translating between the two languages is quite a tough task. Context matters in the Japanese language, and a translator has to go through the difficult process of breaking down sentences before translating them into the English language.

The Last Word

A language is a medium of communication that has many features and forms. Companies throughout the world require translation which makes communication between languages possible. This is the reason why certified and professional translation services are in such high demand. The important thing to consider here is that irrespective of the nature of a language, translation is a must to establish and build connections across borders.