Alright, I won’t waste any of your time. Our pick for the easiest language to learn for English speakers is Spanish. But why? This choice would be highly debated by many linguists. Well, you’ll just have to read on, mi amigo (mi amiga, my friend, mon ami).
People are often looking for the easiest and fastest way to do things. Learning a new language is no exception. If you are interested in acquiring a new language, it’s important to understand that the learning difficulty will vary tremendously between languages. Some languages are incredibly complex to learn for English speakers. In fact, some difficult languages (like Japanese and Mandarin) can take up to 5 times longer to learn than easy languages (like Spanish or Dutch). So what exactly makes a language easier to learn than others? First, in order to truly understand what makes a language easy to learn, let’s take a look at what makes a language complex to learn.
What Makes a Language Complex to Learn?
Obviously, when learning a new language, you’ll need to learn lots of new words. But what if the language you’re trying to learn already has thousands of words that are exactly the same as in English? That would be a huge head start, wouldn’t it? Well, a language like French has influenced up to a third of English vocabulary, with hundreds of words being true cognates (a.k.a. the same / hallelujah). This makes it much easier to understand written material from the very beginning.
Languages like Polish, Russian and Hungarian have incredibly complex grammar. The Polish language has a total of seven grammatical cases. Now, that’s what I call fun! 😛 If you don’t even know what cases or declensions are, you are in for a treat! Some languages have naturally evolved in ways that make it very difficult to explain to someone who has not been immersed in the language for a long time.
If you are trying to learn a new language that has a completely different pronunciation and includes many sounds that are not in your register, you have a lot on your plate. In fact, research has shown that adults actually learn languages much faster than children (given the same circumstances), but that it’s incredibly difficult for an adult to eliminate their foreign accent entirely. Tonal languages like Mandarin (which has 4 distinct tones) are especially hard to learn.
If you are looking for an easier language to learn, try to find a language that uses the Roman alphabet. It’ll make your life much easier. Learning a language is already a challenge as it is, without having to learn thousands of new characters (however cool they may look on your tattoos).
Why We Chose Spanish as the Easiest Language to Learn.
We have identified three main factors that will greatly influence the difficulty of learning a language for fluent English speakers. These important factors must be taken into consideration when choosing a language to learn.
Factor #1: Similarity and Simplicity.
According to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which has done extensive research on this subject, there are 10 languages included in first category of learning difficulty. Any of these languages will take approximately 575-600 hours to reach a comfortable level of fluency. They are considered the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. These languages are found in two main language families:
Germanic languages*: Norwegian, Dutch, Afrikaans, Danish and Swedish.
Romance languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.
*German is also a Germanic language, but the grammar is more complex. This makes it a bit more difficult to learn than the ones mentioned above and is included in the second category.
All of these languages are closely related to English. They share the same alphabet, have a relatively simple and familiar grammar, share lots of vocabulary and have a relatively similar pronunciation. If you’re trying to learn a new language and you are worried about difficulty, you could choose any of these 10 languages and be sure that you are learning one of the easiest languages for English speakers.
Now, many people would agree that Germanic languages (such as Dutch or Afrikaans) are a bit easier to learn than romance languages for English speakers. So why did we pick Spanish as the easiest language to learn? It all comes down to accessibility.
Factor #2: Accessibility.
This is a factor that many people do not consider, but we think it’s incredibly important. Accessibility to lots of media and people who actually speak the language is primordial. It makes a huge difference on how easy the language will be to learn. Learning a language is all about including it in your life in many ways. But that can be incredibly challenging with languages such as Afrikaans, Danish or Norwegian.
Sure, this doesn’t apply if you live where the language is largely spoken. But in order to learn a language easily at home, you need accessibility to a wide variety of learning material. You need language courses, books, TV shows, movies, podcasts and… native speakers. When it comes to accessibility, romance languages win hands-down. But with over 400 million speakers, Spanish will give you an overwhelming selection of everything you need to surround yourself with the language from anywhere in the world.
Unlimited Accessibility vs. Scarce Accessibility
On the other hand, if you live in California for example, finding material in Norwegian could be an issue. There are exactly zero Norwegian TV shows on Netflix right now, and only a single Norwegian book on Amazon. Plus, there are currently only 16 Norwegian teachers on Italki (and they are all quite expensive). Another thing to consider is that many speakers of Norwegian and other Germanic languages also speak English incredibly well. This can make language practice and exposure really difficult.
In contrast, Spanish has over 3000 teachers on Italki, hundreds of TV shows and movies on Netflix and over 1000 books on Amazon.com. This makes it incredibly easy to find a vast array of interesting material that is appropriate for your current level in the language.
Accessibility Ranking (US, Canada, UK and Australia)
Here is our ranking of accessibility for the FSI Category 1 (easiest languages) in English-speaking countries:
*German is also a very accessible language. It would be ranked 3rd on this list if it were a bit easier to learn.
Things like music, books, movies, and podcasts are popular because they are more accessible than ever before. They can easily be added to any language-learning schedule from anywhere in the world. You can use these things to create an artificial immersion in the language from anywhere on earth. Plus, hearing the language used in its natural form is a must if you want to fall in love with the language. This brings us to our third and most important point.
Factor #3: Your Level of Interest.
Falling in love with the language you’re learning is likely the most important thing you can do to ensure long-term motivation. Your level of interest should be the number one reason why you choose to learn a language, regardless of the difficulty. If you love a language (or if it’s necessary in your life), your chances of success are much higher. Even if it’s not the easiest language in the world on paper, it will be easier for you because all the hours you put won’t feel like work. On the other hand, if you don’t like a language, or if you’re learning it simply because you heard it was easy and it’s your sole motivation to learn, you will likely find it next to impossible to learn.
“Time flies when you’re having fun!”
You can’t reach fluency if you don’t have or don’t develop any interest for the language you are learning. The easiest language in the world is the one you are passionate about. Find a language you love and incorporate it in your life in any way you can. This will increase your motivation to learn and it will ensure long-term success. If you are looking for an amazing language-learning method that will give you a solid foundation in French, Spanish, Italian and German. You will love our language-learning program. You need to check it out. You can find us at OUINO.com. Thanks a lot! 🙂
We have combined everything we know from years of language acquisition and research to create an awesome language-learning method. Visit OUINO.com to learn more.
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