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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.

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      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

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                  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

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                        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?

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                          Last Updated on May 14, 2019

                          8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                          8 Replacements for Google Notebook

                          Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

                          1. Zoho Notebook
                            If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
                          2. Evernote
                            The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
                          3. Net Notes
                            If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
                          4. i-Lighter
                            You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
                          5. Clipmarks
                            For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
                          6. UberNote
                            If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
                          7. iLeonardo
                            iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
                          8. Zotero
                            Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

                          I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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                          In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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