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Last Updated on October 30, 2020

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?

In this article, you will find out how to know which languages will be easier for you to learn and maybe even find the motivation to give it a go!

How to Know Which Languages Are Easier to Learn

Playing to Your Strengths

One way to hack this process is to first understand that, if English is your native language, you have in your 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[1].

Language family tree to find which languages are the easiest to learn

    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[2].

    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 be 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.

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    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?

    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.

    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 show you if the language has a noun case that may cause you problems. 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.

    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 the Most Common Languages

    Now let’s dive into dissecting what’s the easiest language to learn for English speakers.

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    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 the sounds and vocabulary of 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.

    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

    We can be thankful that Spanish pronunciations are one of the easiest for English speakers 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.

    There are 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[3].

    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 includes many cognates with English, such as foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious), making it a fairly easy language to learn overall.

    Like Spanish, learning Italian is made easier by the fact that 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.

    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.

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    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).

    However, 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 create a sentence in Portuguese, you can ask a question. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catch all 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), and sehen (watching), literally far-watching.

    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!

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    6. Hindi

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

    There are many familiar words in English that 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

    We mainly put Mandarin here to show you the contrasting difference between what’s 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. However, according to the BBC, you’ll need to memorize over 2,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper![4]

    What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

    Winner: Spanish

    The clear winner for the easiest language to learn for native English speakers 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 Language Learning Tips

    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 February 11, 2021

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

    How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

    Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

    The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

    Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

    Perceptual Barrier

    The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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    The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

    The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

    Attitudinal Barrier

    Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

    The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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    The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

    Language Barrier

    This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

    The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

    The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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    Emotional Barrier

    Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

    The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

    The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

    Cultural Barrier

    Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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    The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

    The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

    Gender Barrier

    Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

    The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

    The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

    And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

    Reference

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