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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.

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    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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    Published on May 18, 2021

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

    We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

    The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

    Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

    Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

    Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

    There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

    Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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    Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

    We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

    Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

    A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

    The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

    Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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    Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

    Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

    Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

    While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

    Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

    These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

    Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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    Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

    Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

    Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

    Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

    Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

    Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

    As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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    This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

    Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

    Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

    These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

    Actions Speak Louder Than Words

    Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

    Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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    Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

    More Tips Improving Listening Skills

    Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

    Reference

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