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Last Updated on September 17, 2019

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

Who says learning a language needs to be hard?

The better question to ask is: what is the easiest language to learn in the shortest amount of time?

How to Know Which Languages Are Easier to Learn?

Playing to Your Strengths

One way to hack this process is to first understand that as English speakers, we have in our hands one of the most connected languages that exists. It’s linked to many European Germanic languages by descent or influence, and over 50 percent of English words stem from Latin or French.

    This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most, as the structure, alphabet, and makeup of the language is very similar to Spanish, Italian, French, and other languages from the latin root.

    Bestselling author and polyglot, Tim Ferriss, says that you should consider a new language like a new sport.

    There are certain physical prerequisites (height is an advantage in basketball), rules (a runner must touch the bases in baseball), and so on that determine if you can become proficient at all, and—if so—how long it will take.

    For example, it would a wiser choice and indicate a higher likelihood of success if a professional water polo player decided to transition into playing handball: similar structures, rules, and physical requirements.

    However, it wouldn’t be too wise if Kobe Bryant started to play professional ice hockey. It involves learning too many new rules, an entire new skill (skating), and the likelihood of success decreases significantly (or will take 10x longer).

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    Language learning is no different. As a “professional” language learner, we need to first breakdown our strengths and our understanding of existing rules and structures.

    If you already speak English, picking a compatible language with similar sounds and word structure like Spanish, instead of a completely different root like Mandarin, could mean the difference between reaching conversation fluency in 3 months versus 3 years.

    Follow the Golden Sentences

    If you want to determine which is the easiest language to learn, you should aim to answer the following questions first.

    • Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency?
    • Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple the time it takes to acquire fluency? (particularly vowels)
    • How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere?
    • All of which answer the question: How difficult will it be, and how long would it take to become fluent?

    An effective tool to use to answer all of these questions is called The Golden Sentences.

    It comprises eight sentences that expose much of the language, and quite a few deal breakers.

    1. The apple is red.
    2. It is John’s apple.
    3. I give John the apple.
    4. We give him the apple.
    5. He gives it to John.
    6. She gives it to him.
    7. I must give it to him.
    8. I want to give it to her.

    Here’s a directly translated version of these sentences in Spanish.

    1BObwE56jfMqAPOokV2IBsA

      There’s a couple of reasons why these sentences are helpful:

      • It shows you how verbs are conjugated based on the speaker (gender and number)
      • You can see a high-level view of the fundamental sentence structures, which helps you answer questions like: is it subject-verb-object (SVO) like English and Chinese (“I eat the apple”), is it subject-object-verb (SOV) like Japanese (“I the apple eat”), or something else?
      • The first three sentences shows you if the language has a noun case that may become a pain in the butt for you. For example in German, “the” might be der, das, die, dem, den and more depending on whether “the apple” is an object, indirect object, possessed by someone else, etc.

      If possible, I recommend you check with a language teacher to fully understand the translation of these sentences and how transferable your existing languages are.

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      As a rule of thumb: use The Golden Sentences as your guiding map, before you choose the vehicle (the method). It will help you achieve your goals in half the time.

      Difficulty Level for Learning the 7 Most Common Languages

      Now let’s dive into dissecting which of the hundreds of languages that exist, is the easiest language to learn.

      We profiled each of the languages we’ll mention into the following categories:

      • Speaking: This is based on the ease with which learners are able to pick up this language.
      • Grammar: Used as a criterion when ranking a given language as easy, moderately easy, or difficult to acquire.
      • Writing: In many languages, learning to speak first and write later makes the journey easier. Other languages are equally easy to speak and write. This item spells out the easiest languages to write alongside the most difficult. As with speaking, easy, moderately easy, and difficult were used to qualify each language.

      We’ve decided to rank the order of the languages from easiest to hardest to learn.

      1. Spanish

      • Speaking: Very Easy
      • Grammar: Very Easy
      • Writing: Easy
      • Overall: Very Easy

      As English speakers, we can be thankful that Spanish pronunciations are one of the easiest to learn.

      Overall, Spanish has a shallow orthographic depth – meaning that most words are written as pronounced. This means that reading and writing in Spanish is a straightforward task.

      With only ten vowel and diphthong sounds (English has 20), and no unfamiliar phonemes except for the fun-to-pronounce letter ñ. This makes learning how to speak Spanish the easiest out of the bunch, and may give you the best return on your time and investment, as 37 per cent of employers rated Spanish as a critical language to know for employment.[1]

      2. Italian

      • Speaking: Easy
      • Grammar: Easy
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Easy

      Italian is the most “romantic” of the romance languages. Luckily its latin-rooted vocabulary translates into many similar Italian/English cognates, such as foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious).

      Like Spanish, many of the words in Italian are written as pronounced. Moreover, the Italian sentence structure is highly rhythmic, with most words ending in vowels. This adds a musicality to the spoken language which makes it fairly simple to understand, and a spunky language to use.

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      3. French

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderately Easy
      • Overall: Moderate

      Despite how different French may appear at first, linguists estimate that French has influenced up to a third of the modern English language.

      This may also explain why French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). There are also more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table).

      But it’s not all easy.

      Pronunciation in French is especially difficult, with vowel sounds and silent letters that you may not be used to in English.

      4. Portuguese

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderate

      With the Brazilian economy ranking 6th in the world, Portuguese has become a powerful language to learn. One great element of the language is that interrogatives are fairly easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You Like This?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.

      The main difficulty with the pronunciation is the nasal vowel sounds that require some practice.

      5. German

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Moderate
      • Writing: Moderate
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      For many English speakers, German is a difficult language to pick up. Its long words, four noun case endings, and rough pronunciation gives your tongue quite the work out each time you speak.

      German is recognized as a very descriptive language. A good example is how they use the noun by combining the object with the action at hand.

      Example: das Fernsehen – the television, combines the words fern, far, andsehen, watching, lit. far-watching.

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      On the other hand, German can be a fun language to learn and its use of grammar is considered to be quite logical, with many overlapping words in English. Just watch out for the exceptions to the rules!

      6. Hindi

      • Speaking: Moderate
      • Grammar: Moderately Difficult
      • Writing: Difficult
      • Overall: Moderately Difficult

      There are many familiar words in English which are either Hindi or of Hindi origin. For example guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow, cheetah, looting, thug and avatar. Hindi also uses lots of English words. They are read and pronounced as they are in English, but are written in Hindi. For example, डॉक्टर is pronounced doctor and स्टेशन is pronounced station.

      This shows that while learning the vocabulary and pronunciation of Hindi may not to be too difficult due to its similarity to English, writing in Hindi is a different ball game.

      7. Mandarin

      • Speaking: Difficult
      • Grammar: Difficult
      • Writing: Very Difficult
      • Overall: Very Difficult

      Last, but not least: Mandarin. We mainly put this here to show you the contrasting difference between the easiest language to learn (Spanish) and the hardest language to learn, for English speakers.

      While language learners won’t struggle as much on the grammar, mastering the tones can be very difficult. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means the pitch or intonation used when a word is spoken impacts its meaning. For example, tang with a high tone means soup, but tang with a rising tone means sugar.

      Learning Mandarin has its rewards though, providing cultural insights and knowledge. But according to the BBC, you’ll need to memorize over 2,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper![2]

      What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

      Winner: Spanish

      The clear winner for the easiest language to learn is Spanish. Everything from writing, grammar, and speaking will come more naturally to the English speaker: similar rules, structure, and latin roots.

      It’ll be like going from playing football to ultimate Frisbee.

      More About Language Learning

      Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Sean Kim

      Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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      Last Updated on September 17, 2019

      10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

      10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

      Positive thinking can lead to a lot of positive change in your life. Developing an optimistic outlook can be good for both your physical and mental health.

      But sometimes, certain situations arise in life that makes it hard to keep a positive outlook. Take steps to make positive thinking become more like your second nature and you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

      Here are 10 ways to make thinking positive thoughts easy:

      1. Spend Time with Positive People

      If you surround yourself with constant complainers, their negativity is likely to rub off on you.

      Spend time with positive friends and family members to increase the likelihood that their positive thinking habits will become yours too. It’s hard to be negative when everyone around you is so positive.

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      2. Take Responsibility for Your Behavior

      When you encounter problems and difficulties in life, don’t play the role of the victim. Acknowledge your role in the situation and take responsibility for your behavior.

      Accepting responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and prevent you from blaming others unfairly.

      3. Contribute to the Community

      One of the best ways to feel good about what you have, is to focus on what you have to give.

      Volunteer in some manner and give back to the community. Helping others can give you a new outlook on the world and can assist you with positive thinking.

      4. Read Positive and Inspirational Materials

      Spend time each day reading something that encourages positive thinking. Read the Bible, spiritual material, or inspirational quotes to help you focus on what’s important to you in life. It can be a great way to start and end your day.

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      Some recommendations for you:

      5. Recognize and Replace Negative Thoughts

      You won’t be successful at positive thinking if you’re still plagued by frequent negative thoughts. Learn to recognize and replace thoughts that are overly negative. Often, thoughts that include words like “always” and “never” signal that they aren’t true.

      If you find yourself thinking something such as, “I always mess everything up,” replace it with something more realistic such as, “Sometimes I make mistakes but I learn from them.”

      There’s no need to make your thoughts unrealistically positive, but instead, make them more realistic.

      6. Establish and Work Toward Goals

      It’s easier to be positive about problems and setbacks when you have goals that you’re working toward. Goals will give you motivation to overcome those obstacles when you encounter problems along the way. Without clear goals, it’s harder to make decisions and gauge your progress.

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      Learn to set SMART goals to help you achieve more.

      7. Consider the Consequences of Negativity

      Spend some time thinking about the consequences of negative thinking. Often, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      For example, a person who thinks, “I probably won’t get this job interview,” may put less effort into the interview. As a result, he may decrease his chances of getting the job.

      Create a list of all the ways negative thinking impacts your life. It likely influences your behavior, your relationships, and your feelings. Then, create a list of the ways in which positive thinking could be beneficial.

      8. Offer Compliments to Others

      Look for reasons to compliment others. Be genuine in your praise and compliments, but offer it frequently. This will help you look for the good in other people.

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      9. Create a Daily Gratitude List

      If you start keeping a daily gratitude list, you’ll start noticing exactly how much you have to be thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive in your life instead of thinking about all the bad things that have happened in the day.

      Getting in the habit of showing an attitude of gratitude makes positive thinking more of a habit. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

      10. Practice Self-Care

      Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more equipped to think positively.

      Get plenty of rest and exercise and practice managing your stress well. Taking care of your physical and mental health will provide you with more energy to focus on positive thinking.

      Learn about these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

      More About Staying Positive

      Featured photo credit: DESIGNECOLOGIST via unsplash.com

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