September 16th, 2007

classification of languages according to difficulty

Is there any kind of general, national or international consensus about this?

My friends and I were talking about what we thought or assumed were the hardest languages, and I had thought it was the branch dealing with Finnish or Hungarian, so I'd heard. And my friends insisted it was Japanese and Chinese because of the many characters. But I was thinking in terms of grammar and what would be difficult to take and apply to our internal, innate structure of language production. From what I've observed, Chinese seems to be very simple in terms of grammar but the real difficulty lies in the memorization of the characters. And though Finnish or Hungarian uses the Roman alphabet, I've heard because of the grammar, these languages are incredibly tough.

Then I am thinking, maybe it was just all pointless to talk about this since, whatever makes a language hard or easy is all entirely subjective and depends on each individual person, where they are coming from in terms of their background, mother-tongue, whether they are bilingual to begin with, whether they are naturally stronger in language skills than others, etc...?
Rammstein -- Keine Lust

The Sun, the Moon and Gender

Here's something I've found interesting. In all the romance languages, the sun is masculine (el sol in Spanish, etc.) and the moon is feminine (la luna, etc.). But in German, it's reversed: the sun is feminine (Die Sonne) and the moon is masculine (Der Mond). Presumably this comes from differing mythologies that have given rise to these words. So my question to the group is a) what is the basis for this difference, and b) what is the gender for sun and moon in other languages? Any other nouns that work like this?

ETA: Thanks to everyone for your interesting answers ;)