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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 November 4, 2020

    15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

    15 Simple Ways To Make Self Improvement That Will Change Your Life

    Self-improvement doesn’t have to be big mind-blowing changes; it can actually be simple steps to improve upon what you already have to get you where you want to be.  However, what you will need is consistency, determination and wiliness to try some things that will stretch and challenge you.

    Rather than setting your sights way off into the future, which leaves you feeling like you’ll never make it, you can start following these simple and effective self-improvement steps today.  So if you want to make an immediate impact on your life and are willing to take action, then keep reading— you’ll going to love these!

    1. Be willing to work hard.

    As with anything in life, if you want something, you’ve got to work hard to get it.  This doesn’t mean you burn the candle at both ends, leaving you exhausted and leaving your personal life in ruins.  It merely means that when you want something badly enough, you’ll put in the time to get there.  Action is what’s important here and the more ‘inspired’ the action is, the better the results in the end.

    2. Make sure you have friends who you can talk to.

    Sharing the load is important as with any self-improvement. If you can communicate with others and get feedback on how you are doing then that’s great.  We all need ‘cheerleaders’ in our corner to keep us going when times get hard, but you also need to have people who will tell you how it is even when you don’t want to hear it.  So make sure you have a good support network around you, especially those people whose opinions you respect.

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    3. Adapt to your circumstances rather than over-thinking them.

    Sometimes, we can hit a hard period. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or your partner has left you.  Instead of over analyzing the situation, learn to adapt to your circumstances and accept them as they are.  It’s not about making your circumstances into some kind of a drama; remember, what you focus on expands which means you’ll get more of it.  You then don’t become your problems and you’ll feel a lot less burdened by them.

    4. Ensure that you use your time wisely.

    Time is of the essence, some might say; whilst others will say that time is an illusion.  One thing we do know is that you have one life on this planet, so how you use that time is of the utmost importance.  So how can you use your time wisely? Only you know how to do that, but look at how you currently spend your days: do you sit working all day, get home, eat and then sit slumped in front of the TV for the rest of the evening?  Your time on this earth is precious, so isn’t it time to make use of the time you have left? Try something new, go for a walk, learn a new language or meditate but make sure it’s something you absolutely love.

    5. Always be consistent.

    A wonderful way to self-improvement is to make changes to how you do things.  For example, with your friends, are you always the unreliable one who bows out of an arrangement just before it happens? Or are you someone who starts a new exercise routine and then stops doing it 3 weeks into it?  Whatever it is and whatever you do, always be consistent. When you make a commitment, stick to it. It will improve your life immeasurably you’ll feel more confident and happier with yourself, especially because you’ll know that whatever you tackle, you’ll be able to consistently do it!

    6. Go and find your happy place.

    No, I’m not saying “place” as in popping to your local bar or restaurant and gorging yourself on your favorite drinks or food. What I’m saying is to find out what you love to do, what makes you happy and go there.  Your happy place is a place where you find peace, where you lose yourself and feel contented.  Meditation is a great way to find your happy place; it brings you back to you and ensures that you are always living in the present moment.

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    7. Make sure you embrace all your emotions.

    In life you are going to find that it throws you some difficult challenges, sometimes it will bring out your fears and lead you into uncertainty, and other times it will be joyful.  It’s important to embrace all emotions that come up in your life, embrace them wholeheartedly and understand why they are there and then let them go.  Try not to dismiss or resist them because remember “what you resist, persists,” so embrace them each and every time.

    8. Always be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.

    The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone for some people can leave you paralyzed with fear; however for any changing in your life, your comfort zone will always have to be stepped out of.  It doesn’t have to be something big, like doing a sky-dive or something just as crazy. However, it’s worthwhile to change something that you’d once have feared, like going to the cinema on your own or eating at a sushi restaurant when the thought of trying raw fish which would normally mean you running for the hills.

    So try something new—it doesn’t have to be wacky, but it has to challenge you!

    9. Be on hand to help others.

    Whether it’s helping a stranger on the street or a family member or a friend helping someone else either in their time of need, lending a helping hand is a wonderful and simple self-improvement to make.  Giving to others is not only beneficial to those you are helping but also to yourself; it can give you a sense of purpose, of contribution and also takes your mind of your own troubles and worries.

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    10. Live in the present moment.

    A wonderful self-improvement tool is to live in the present moment, to live in the now.  It is within this moment that you’ll appreciate all that you have and see the beauty in the simplest of things.  Being mindful of your current circumstances and bringing your mind back to where it belongs will bring about a happier way of life instead of constant worry or stressing about the past or future—both of which do not exist. Only the present moment exists. When you get used to living that way, you’ll never want to go back!

    11. Learn something new.

    There is nothing so liberating as learning something new; it can lift both your confidence and self-esteem and give you a great reason to meet new people.  If you continually top up your brain activity by learning something new all the time, you’ll feel on top of your game and want to share the knowledge you have learned. There is nothing quite so empowering as learning a new tool in life that can either improve your circle of friends or raise confidence levels—or both!

    Reading is also a great way to help you learn something new:

    12. Exercise daily.

    This seems an obvious one, but exercise is so important not only to your health but also to your spirit.  We all know that after exercise, the world can feel a brighter and more positive place, so why don’t we do it more often?  Exercise isn’t about getting the perfect body or losing weight; it’s more about feeling good inside and out!  With a healthy body comes a healthy mind—so start something today. Even if it’s just a daily walk, it’s better than staying on that couch, again.

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    13. Go to new places, travel a bit.

    I’m not saying go fly off to some far away distant forgotten land—although you can if you so wish. It’s more about going to new places and experiencing life outside of your own back yard.  Too many of us stay in one place too often. We only see the same people, the same streets and do the same things each and every day.  If you want to improve your life, get out there and see the world and what it can offer.  You can start by going to a town or city you’ve never been to in your own country and checking out the architecture, the landscapes and the people.  Anything new is good, so get out there!

    14. Listen to uplifting music and dance.

    If there’s one thing that can really improve your life and get you excited about it, it’s listening to great uplifting music and dancing.  When was the last time you really let go?  Let it all hang loose and got into a piece of music and let yourself go?  Dancing, like exercise, makes you feel great. It releases all kinds of emotions and can make you feel unbelievably good.  Self-improvement isn’t all about the serious stuff; it can be something as simple as finding new music, music that inspires you and makes you dance and have fun!

    15. Get up earlier than normal.

    This is the last one, and it’s last because it’s one of those self-improvement tips that we all know is a good thing, yet we seem to avoid it at all costs!  If you think about it, the earliest part of the day is when your brain is most active because it’s been turned off for the last 7 hours or so.  So don’t you think it’s best to get all those things above done in the morning?  Things like exercise, meditation and dancing, which can all be done in the first part of the day.  Take it from me: this early morning stuff can really get your day started with a bang!

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    Featured photo credit: Laura Chouette via unsplash.com

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