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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 February 15, 2019

                          7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

                          7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

                          Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

                          Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

                          Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

                          So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

                          Joe’s Goals

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                            Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

                            Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

                            Daytum

                              Daytum

                              is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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                              Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

                              Excel or Numbers

                                If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

                                What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

                                Evernote

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                                  I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

                                  Evernote is free with a premium version available.

                                  Access or Bento

                                    If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                                    Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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                                    You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                                    Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                                    All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                                    Conclusion

                                    I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                                    What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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