Case is a grammatical category that can be found in Slavic languages, Finnic languages, Greek, Japanese, Tamil, etc. (The Finnic language Veps apparently has 23 grammatical cases, and tops even Hungarian.) Even for learners who are already familiar with a language that uses cases, learning a new language that has them is still a challenge.

My question here is: According to research, how does the existence of a case system affect the learnability of a foreign language?

  • The difficulty depends on how the case is applied: changing words (as in Latin), changing articles (e.g. German), adding something (like in Japanese), other (?). Commented Apr 16, 2019 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


It should increase the difficulty of a language slightly (in fact, I speak Tamil as an L2, and didn't actually even realize it had a case system until I found your question). Using the Wikipedia list of language with a case system and the FSI's ranking of the easiest languages to learn (which accounts for the difficulty of the case system), we can see that languages with a case system are in all four categories of difficulty, although they do tend to be in the harder categories. For example, Romanian and German have a case system and both are considered fairly easy to learn for English speakers. Most of the other languages with case systems, like Greek, Russian and Polish, are in Category 3, meaning they should take quite a bit of time and effort to become fluent in. Finally, both Japanese and Korean are in Cateogry 4, meaning they will require an exceptional amount of dedication to speak.

Case system seems to increase the difficulty of a language for an English speaker (partly because we ourselves don't have a case system), but other factors of the language are more important in affecting the difficulty than case system.

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