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7 of the Easiest Foreign Languages to Learn

7 of the Easiest Foreign Languages to Learn

Who says learning a language needs to be hard?

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

According to a European Commission survey in 2012, 61 per cent of British respondents could not speak a second language. In a world that’s becoming more multi-cultural and globalized by the second, getting by with just English is simply not enough. If that alone doesn’t get your juices flowing, knowing a foreign language has shown to help you make more money by adding 5-15% increase to one’s wage, and helps expand your career opportunities.

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    We’ve already written extensively about the most useful languages to learn, but how do we decide which is the easiest language 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.

    ronen-et-all-wikipedia

      ronen-et-al-book-translations

        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).

        Language learning is no different.

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        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.

        The Golden Sentences

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

        1. Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency?
        2. Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple the time it takes to acquire fluency? (particularly vowels)
        3. How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere?
        4. 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.

        The apple is red.
        It is John’s apple.
        I give John the apple.
        We give him the apple.
        He gives it to John.
        She gives it to him.
        I must give it to him.
        I want to give it to her.

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

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

          1. It shows you how verbs are conjugated based on the speaker (gender and number)
          2. 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?
          3. 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, we 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.

          Easiest language to learn

          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:

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          • 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

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            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.

            2. Italian

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

            italy

              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.

              3. French

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

              paris-france

                Welcome to the International language of love. 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).

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                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

                torre_belem_lisboa_portugal_bandeira_Reuters

                  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

                  germany

                    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.

                    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

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                    bollywood-aishwarya-rai-red-sari-without-clothes-2062753630

                      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

                      china_2924_600x450

                        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!

                        What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

                        Winner: Spanish

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                          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.

                          If you are interested in learning Spanish, you can take advantage of websites like Rype, which offers unlimited one-on-one Spanish lessons with a professional teacher online. This means you can learn anytime, anywhere, on-the-go.

                          We also recommend checking out this Complete Guide on How to Speak Spanish.

                          Over to you

                          What do you think is the easiest language to learn? Is there something we may have missed?

                          More by this author

                          Sean Kim

                          Sean is the founder and CEO of Pulsing. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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                          Last Updated on July 10, 2019

                          11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory

                          11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory

                          Whether at work or at school, people these days are under tremendous pressure to perform, perform and perform! Stress and pressure can have adverse affects on the well-being of a person, and need to be controlled.

                          Now, this doesn’t mean you make a dash to your nearest therapist. There are a number of wonderful and smart apps that you can use on your phone. These brain training apps have been scientifically designed to target specific areas of the human mind and control harmful emotions such as anxiety, as well as to improve memory and sharpness of the brain.

                          Here are 11 iPhone apps that you will not only enjoy but also find useful in keeping your mental health balanced at all times.

                          1. Lumosity

                          This app consists of games that focus on improving the user’s memory, problem-solving capability, attention span, and thinking. There are three games in each session, and they challenge the brain by changing every time. The user has to complete the games while playing against a clock.

                          Free of trial. $15 per month for the full version.

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                          Luminosity Mind training apps-Lifehack

                            2. Fit Brains Trainer

                            This brain training app has 10 sets of games that work on different areas of the brain and improve memory as well as concentration. A user is required to finish a particular task from each category on a daily basis and the app tracks the progress by a color coded graph.

                            Free.

                            Fit Brains Trainer Mind training apps-Lifehack

                              3. CogniFit Brain Fitness

                              Developed with the help of neuroscientists, this fun app improves a person’s cognitive abilities, which includes memory and concentration. The progress made by the user over a period of time can be tracked. Users can also play challenge rounds with their friends. The app also modifies the difficulty level to suit the profile of the user and provide recommendations based on the results. Spending 20–30 minutes a few times every week can give measurable improvement in the performance of a user.

                              First four games free, then $13 a month.

                              cognifit-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

                                4. Brain Fitness Pro

                                The makers of this app claim that it can improve the IQ of a user, and improve intelligence and memory. The app is fun and is user friendly, and 30 minutes a day can fetch you results in less than three weeks.

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                                Buy for $3.99.

                                5. Happify

                                If nothing else makes you happy in life, this app will. Well, this is what the developers claim at least. This app comes loaded with lots of quizzes, polls and gratitude journals, which work on the fundamentals of positive psychology. The app also helps to control stress and emotions to make you feel better.

                                Free to use.

                                Happify-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

                                  6. Clockwork Brain

                                  You will like the little gold robot that comes in every time to explain the next game you are going to play. While the games are not much different to those offered in apps such as Luminosity, the look and feel reminds me of a workshop from old times.

                                  Free.

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                                  Clockwork Trsin-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

                                    7. ReliefLink

                                    Initially created as an app for suicide prevention, it has found its use as a great app for tracking the mood of the user by taking measure of all things relevant to the user’s mental health. In case the user experiences high emotional stress, the app has a coping mechanism that includes voice-recorded mindfulness, exercises and music for relaxation. There is also a map that informs the user of the nearest therapist and medical facilities for mental health treatment.

                                    Relief Link - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                                      8. Eidetic

                                      Eidetic is a memory enhancement app and uses a ‘spaced repetition’ technique to help users memorize information such as important phone numbers, words, credit card details or passwords. It also notifies you when it’s time to take a test to see what you remember, so that you retain information in your long-term memory.

                                      Eidetic - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                                        9. Braingle

                                        Braingle helps to maintain the sharpness of the brain and improve the reasoning ability of a person through riddles and optical illusions. It is different from other brain training apps that employ memory and reaction based tests. You can also compete with your friends and family members in figuring out the fun riddles.

                                        Free.

                                        Briangle- Mind Training Apps-LIfehack

                                          10. Not The Hole Story

                                          If you have a penchant for solving hard riddles, then this app is a must-have for you. Filled with exclusive riddles along with a simple-to-use interface, the app gives you riddles that you have to solve through a book. You will be given hints along the way, and when you give up, the answers will be revealed. This app will encourage you to broaden your thinking and put your mind to a challenging test.

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                                          Free.

                                          Not the hole story - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                                            11. Personal Zen

                                            This fun brain training app follows the journey of two animated characters who travel through a field of grass. Personal Zen is a nice app meant for reducing anxiety and trains the brain to focus on the positive aspects. The developer’s advice is to use the app for 10 minutes a day to see the best results.

                                            Free.

                                            personal zen- mind training apps - lifehack

                                              Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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