THE EASIEST LANGUAGES TO LEARN FOR ENGLISH SPEAKERS

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Easiest language to learn_MAIN

What is the easiest language to learn for English speakers?

 

Are you tempted to start learning a foreign language but you’re wondering what the easiest languages for English speakers are?

Is French harder than Spanish to learn, for instance?

Are you feeling more adventurous and want to try an Asian language? In that case should you go for Japanese or Chinese?

There might not be a clear answer to which is the easiest language to learn.

It all boils down to what you need.

Why do you want to learn the language? Is it for fun? Is it for travel? Is it for work? Is it for your business?

Let’s get a quick run-through of facts to help you pick the easiest language to learn for you, your preferences and your necessities.

 

What are the difficulties of a language?

When picking the easiest languages for English speakers to learn we have to think of 3 main features that make up the complexity of a language – alphabet, grammar and pronunciation.

 

Alphabet and writing (letters, characters)

This is the most outright of the features.  As English native speakers we’ve all learnt our ABC.  However, if you had to think “Is German easy to learn?”

The answer – is it will be easier to learn than Korean or Russian, because when you pick them, you also have to start learning the alphabet, while with languages that use the same ABC you’re used to, that step is already in your pocket.

Grammar

This is the most infamous one of the three.  How many times have we cringed at the word Grammar in your timetable or language lessons?

There’s no denying it.  Grammar rules  are a necessary evil.  They’re there for a reason: word order can change the meaning of the same words, turning them from statement to question.

Verb conjugations

Another necessary evil in the Grammar Department are verbs.  Whether that action was done in the past, is being done now in the present or it will take place in the future is a very important information to have a clear understanding.

Pronunciation

The tones of languages might be the hardest for us native English Speakers.  Of course, it might take years to be able to get the pronunciation of a native speaker, if ever.  To make it even more complicated, when learning Spanish, for example – do you go with European Spanish or is it Latin American that will serve you? For more details about Spanish Pronunciation check out our Spanish Dialects article here.

We’ve had a look at the most spoken languages to put together some details so as to help you with your decision.

 

The scientific background behind the easiest language to learn

The American Foreign Services Association which helps diplomats in learning languages prior to their assignments divides the language learning into 4 categories:

Category 1 is the easiest and students will take approximately 24-30 weeks to learn it

Category 2 – 36 weeks

Category 3 – 44 weeks

Category 4 – 88 weeks

You’ll notice that there’s a significant jump from Category 3 to Category 4 – double in fact, from 44 to 88 weeks of learning.

 

Top 10 easiest languages to learn for English speaking people

Here is a ranking list of the top 10 easiest language to learn for native English Speakers according to the American Foreign Services Association.

 

1DanishThese 5 languages are considered to be of Germanic descent.  According to studies, the similarity in vocabulary with English helps native English students understand a good 30% of the new languages from prior knowledge and therefore makes it easier.  Note however that Afrikaans is included but German is not in here due to its complexity in its Grammar.
2Dutch
3Norwegian
4Swedish
5Afrikaans
Some history as to why English is so close to the Germanic languages:

 

6SpanishThe romance languages – yes, Romanian is one of them – are the second easiest in this category due to the fact that even though they might not have many similarities with the English language as the above mentioned, once you know one of them, you know a good part of the next.  So, is Italian easy to learn? No, if it’s your first romance language.  But yes, if you already know Spanish, French, Portuguese or Romanian.
7Italian
8French
9Portuguese
10Romanian
The famous pop singer Colombian singer, Shakira, is a great example of how once you know one, you get easiness in learning other European languages.  She speaks 6 languages: Spanish (Castellano), Portuguese, Italian, French, Catalán but also English:

 

 

Which are the easiest to learn European languages or Asian languages?

The most spoken languages that people like to learn are especially divided into 2 main categories, European languages and Asian languages.

When we look at the AFSA (American Foreign Services Association) rankings on their categorizations we’ll see that as a general rule, Category 1 is full of European Languages, while most Asian Languages are ranked as Category 4.

 

 

Top 5 List – Easiest European Language to Learn

 

1DutchWith over 23 million speakers around the world including of course the Netherlands, but also some regions of Belgium, Suriname, and even parts of the Caribbean, this might be a top pick for a lot of people.  Dutch is considered the easiest Germanic language due to its mix of English and German but keeping out some of the complexities of the second.
2SwedishThese two languages are very similar between them but they also have a lot in common with English.  The toughest hurdle might be the nine vowel sounds to get your pronunciation right but once you’re over that hurdle, you’ve got most of it in your pocket.  Also both languages, have the same grammatical structures.  The word order is just like English, that is: Subject-Verb-Object which is a huge help when learning the grammar too.
3Norwegian
4DanishDanish is said to be harder than Swedish and Norwegian because of its speaking patterns.  However, if you’ve already learnt the sentence structure in Swedish and Norwegian most of the grammar is already in your head, making it an easy option.
5SpanishOf all the romance languages, Spanish is said to be the easiest to learn due to being very phonetic.  One letter, one sound.  At most, you get a combination of letters to make one sound – no exceptions. This makes reading the language very easy.  What makes it rank at 5 are the verb conjugations having various irregularities, however, once you memorize these and get practising, you realize it’s not that complex.

 

Is German easy to learn?

How are Danish, Dutch, Scandinavian and Norwegian in the top 5 because they are Germanic languages but German did not even make the top 10 list of easiest language in the world?

The AFSA ranks German as the only language in Category 2 of the learning spectrum of difficulty for languages for English speakers because of its grammatical complexity in:

  • sounds that don’t exist in English
  • three articles instead of one
  • sentence structure and verb positioning

Is German easy or difficult to learn?

 

 

While all European languages use the same alphabet as English speakers, Asian languages not only use a different alphabet but their symbols and tonal languages* differ from one to the other.  In context, Japanese has different symbols than Chinese and Chinese has different symbols than Indonesian.

*Tonal Languages contain words that look the same but the different sound when pronouncing them, gives them a completely different meaning.

 

Top 5 easiest Asian Language to learn

Having that in mind, let us take a look at the Top 5 easiest Asian languages to learn:

 

1IndonesianIndonesian and Malaysian are considered the easiest to learn as they are not tonal languages*.  This makes imitating the language easier when learning it and trying to work with the pronunciation.  Also the grammatical rules are consistently easier than many other languages out there, making that infamous Grammar Lesson less painful.
2Malaysian
3BengaliBengali is the second-most spoken language in South East Asia and considered to be a branch of the Indo-European language family.  What makes it one of the easiest Asian languages to learn is the subject–object–verb word order in simple sentences and the fact that it is written from left to right (like English) and has no capital letters (unlike German).
4BurmeseBurmese is also relatively easy, therefore hitting spot 4 because it is does not have verb conjugation, plural nouns or noun gender! Here’s a sneak peak of the Burmese language.
5HindiLearning Hindi means you need to start understanding the different tone of language, new sounds, mastering vocabulary, grammar but also the different symbols.  That’s not to forget that you need to become familiar with the slang, tone and cadence of speech that difference in every region of India.  However, as we’ll see it’s never as complex as Japanese.

Here’s what to expect when embarking on learning Hindi pronunciation.

 

Is Japanese easy to learn?

Japanese didn’t rank in the top 5 easiest Asian language to learn because it is considered to be the hardest language to learn especially because it’s the fastest speaking language in the world.

Here is an in detail video about the language profile of Japanese:

 

 

Which do you think is the easiest language to learn for English Speakers?

Which one do you want to learn?  Which do you think is the easiest language to learn in the world?  Have your eye on a few? What do you think is the easiest language to learn for you based on your background? Is your target to be like polyglot Muhamed Mesic? Or are you just happy learning international birthday greetings?

 

Bonus: Need a motivation?

Here’s the grandmother who spoke 5+ languages before Internet even existed!

 

 

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