How difficult is the Albanian language compared to other Indo-European languages?
Let’s make a 1 to 10 scale of difficulty, where 1 is a “breeze” and 10 is “why me”.
If you are interested to learn Albanian the rate of your progress will be highly influenced by your native language grammar. Since Albanian is a branch on it’s own assume an additional factor of difficulty when coming from another branch rather than learning a new language within the same branch. As an example it is harder to learn Albanian if your language is in the Germanic branch, than learning Dutch if you are a native German speaker. This difficulty factor is added by default since no other language is in the same branch with Albanian.
We are at scale 2.
Another factor that might affect your learning rate is the alphabet. Albanian uses the Latin script. If your native language doesn’t use the Latin script and you are not familiar with it, it will take some time to get used to it. I know how hard it is for people from Indo-Iranian so I am going to give it a factor of 1, for Cyrillic and Greek I believe it is a .5 factor.
We are at a scale of 2 and 3.
Now, starting with the most basic notion of any language. The Alphabet. Albanian has 36 phonemes or graphemes. This is because in Albanian spelling, the language is written exactly how it is spoken. This will deduct a factor of .5 from our difficulty scale in the long run. At the same time if you come from a language that has less than 36 phonemes (sounds) than it might add a factor of .25 to your difficulty scale until you get used to the new sounds. The concept of a digraph is easily understood and I don’t see it playing any role in your learning curve.
We are at a scale of 2 and 3,25.
Note: When a factor is deducted it amounts to 0.
Articles. When it comes to articles this is influenced by your native language. Do you have them? If yes, are they inflected or not? (inflected = at the end of the word). Albanian has indefinite articles positioned before the noun and detached from it. They are very easy to learn even if your language doesn’t have them. Definite articles on the other hand .... While, yes, considered somewhat easy to use; they require a lot of memorization. Which name is which gender? On top of that each gender has two possible articles depending on the last letter. I would add this a difficulty rate of 2 for languages that are geographically distant to Albanian and a difficulty of .75 to languages in regional proximity, including Italic languages in the latter group.
We are at a scale of 2,75 and 5,25.
Prepositions. This is what will make your sentences be aware of Time and Location. We live in a 4 dimensional world after all. As far as I know all languages in the IE branch have them, so this is a matter of comparison and memorization. I would add this in worst case scenario a .25 difficulty scale.
We are at a scale of 2,75 and 5,5.
Note: I said worst case scenario, best case it amounts to 0.
Gender. I don’t see this having any linguistic difficulty. Albanian has three genders. Masculine, feminine and neuter. Neuter nevertheless is so rare, that you can even say Albanian has two genders and no one will bat an eye. Usually the gender is expressed as an article. A single letter per gender, there is no letter for neuter. This is very easy to learn.
We are at a scale of 2,75 and 5,5.
- Cardinal numbers. This should not be that hard. Like every language that uses a base ten it is a matter of learning numbers from zero to 9 and then how you compose larger numbers. Exceptions are 20 and 40. The only two numbers in base 20.
- Ordinal numbers. This can have some difficulty. Genders affect order. The order of anything has to agree with its gender. If it is the fifth brick, it has to be the fifth feminine brick and not the fifth masculine brick, because brick is feminine in Albanian and a masculine brick is ridiculous, who even thinks of such things. This may add a factor of .5 depending on you progress with articles and gender.
We are at a scale of 3,25 and 6.
Adjectives. In Albanian an adjective should agree with the noun in number and gender. For many languages this is not hard, Germanic, Greek and Italic come to mind directly and is seen as easy. If your adjectives don’t have to agree with nouns this may represent some challenge for you. I would add a factor of 1,5 in the worst case scenario.
We are at a scale of 3,25 and 7,5.
Nouns. In Albanian nouns have to be put in a case. Even names (think: John) take cases unlike Germanic languages for example. There are 5 cases, a sixth case that is used in daily conversation on names but has no grammar rules written down and another case that exists in specific regional dialects, but you don't have to care about the last one. If your language doesn’t have at least the 4 core cases, Nominative, Genitive, Accusative and Dative, you are going to have a bad time. Seeing how my class mates handle German, I think this would be a factor of 2,5 in the difficulty scale.
We are at a scale of 5,75 and 10.
We hit 10 for some languages, so I am going to stop. What is left to have a strong foundation on Albanian are listed below.
- Pronouns - They work like nouns, special cases, can be omitted completely
- Questions - Easy
- Vocabulary - Meh, like every language, you have to learn it.
- Adverbs - Not inflected. Formed from adjectives and can be standalone. Need to memorize.
- Verbs - 6 moods. Each mood has the least 2 tenses and the most 8 tenses.
- Plural - Like nouns they are cased, adjectives have a plural form, everything has to agree with the gender.
- Negation - It can be as simple as Germanic negation and at the same time needs to be a double negation. Context oriented. Not very hard.
So, I don’t think it will feel extremely easy from any other IE language, but you can be favoured from your grammar to a be in a comfortable place of “wow this is just like [my language]” and you learn new vocabulary and how to work with it. It is confusing when you are learning something completely new of course and it can go up to: “I had 4 classes, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever it is that I am doing”.