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As reports, American government’s Foreign Service Insitute (FSI) divides languages into five groups based on difficulty. The classification is not based on scientific, but pragmatic aspects. The institute which is responsible for the language training of American diplomats delegated to foreign countries, simply takes into consideration the time it takes the American learners to acquire a new language.

In this list Hungarian was put in the category IV*, meaning that according to English (American) native speakers, it is a foreign language of almost nuclear difficulty. As FSI reports, one must study Hungarian for one year, putting everything else aside in order to acquire the language (it is not clear how these categories relate to language certificate levels).

In Category I, that is, the languages easiest to acquire for Americans are, mainly North Germanic (Scandinavian) languages, such as Danish, Norwegian or Swedish, and Romance languages, such as French, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese.

According to FSI, an American learner of English mother tongue can acquire these languages within about half a year, with 23-24 weeks, 575-600 class hours. These languages are also members of the Indo-European language family, like English, which may make them easier to learn.

Only the German language was put in Category II, with its 30 week and 750 hours of learning time. In Category III there are the Indonesian, Malaysian and Swahili languages, with 36 weeks (900 hours) of learning time.

Category 4 has the most languages: 42 languages are listed here by FSI altogether, such as Albanian, Turkish, or Zulu. One needs to study these for 44 weeks and net 1100 class hours. Slavic languages belong here too, for example, Russian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, or exotic languages, like Armenian.

Within Category IV, a few languages were marked with a star, which took Americans more than a year to acquire.

These six languages are Estonian, Finnish, Georgian, Mongolian, Vietnamese, and Hungarian.

In Category V, the hardest ranking one, there are only five languages: Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean. An American person needs to learn these for almost two years (88 weeks, 2200 class hours).



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