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The Top 3 Easiest Languages to Learn for English Speakers

Hey guys, today we’ve got another guest post from Jeff at Living Bilingual, enjoy:

Let me start off by acknowledging that finding the easiest language to learn is highly subjective, and that there is no one, clear-cut, hands down easiest language to learn. However, if someone were to take a stab at it, the list may play out similar to the following one I have presented here.

There are several organizations and government entities which classify language difficulties for English speakers in terms of hours needed to reach conversational fluency and various other factors. I’m sure a lot of time and research has gone into these classifications presented by the Foreign Service Institute and Department of State, however I hope to expand on their information by adding a bit of a personal touch to it; breaking it down even further.

The List

According to the FSI and Department of State, the following languages come from the list classified in “Category 1” of languages closely related to English. This means that these languages will take roughly 575-600 class hours to get to a good level of fluency.

[One important note here: 600 class hours would mean if you studied a language for one hour per day, 5 days a week, it would take you 2.3 years to get to this level.]

#1: Afrikaans

The Good: Afrikaans seems to top a lot of easiest language to learn lists. A few reasons are:

The grammar is logical and easy. There is no verb conjugation and it has no gender. The languages I speak, Spanish and German, are beasts in both: Spanish is the king of verb conjugation and German has 3 genders. I can assure you all of that is very annoying. It’s a Germanic language closely related to German and English. It shares a ton of vocabulary. A lot of words are very similar; words like ‘wat’ for ‘what’ and ‘dit’ for ‘this’ are much easier to remember.

The Bad: Afrikaans is a fairly isolated language. There are not a lot of speakers and it isn’t as easily accessible as some languages, like Spanish or French, in the United States.

Other Facts:

Native Language Of: South Africa, Namibia (Botswana/Zimbabwe)

Number of Native Speakers/Total Speakers: ~7.1 million / ~15 million to ~20 million

Famous Person Who Speaks It: Charlize Theron

#2: Norwegian (norsk)

The Good: Norwegian is another popular choice for the easiest language to learn for English speakers. Again, like Afrikaans, the vocabulary is derived from the same root Latin-based vocabulary which makes learning new vocabulary words relatively easy.

The Bad: Norwegian has a lot of dialects and variations. This makes it hard to communicate in some situations. While not as bad as languages like Arabic, this still can create confusion for language learners. Also, the relative isolation of the language and smaller number of speakers can make it slightly harder to find opportunities to practice the language.

Other Facts:

Native Language Of: Norway
Number of Native Speakers/Total Speakers: ~5 Million (not real well known)
Famous Person Who Speaks It: Viggo Mortensen (some Norwegian)

#3: Spanish

The Good: I put Spanish on the list because it falls into the first category and it really is a fairly easy language to learn. What pushes it over the edge for me and makes it one of the easiest languages to learn is the fact that language practice abounds in the United States. Almost all movies you rent are subtitled in Spanish, there are tons of bilingual books and other resources, as well as literally tens of millions of speakers throughout the United States. It is incredibly easy to practice Spanish in the United States. This helps immensely when learning the language.

Technically speaking, Spanish again has a very similar past to English. A lot of words are mutually intelligible, if not exactly the same, or just need a slight variation to make them Spanish instead of English. Additionally, the close proximity to the United States makes a lot of English words work their way into Spanish. Mexicans use the English word for things like lunch, pickup, etc…

The Bad: There are about a thousand ways to say anything you want to say. Spanish has a lot of sayings or dichos as they call them. Also, the verb conjugation throws a lot of people for a loop. In addition, the subjunctive and various versions of past tense are a little difficult to get initially. It is basically the opposite of Afrikaans with genders, verb conjugations, and non-logical changes in grammar (at least for us English speakers) like the subjunctive/etc.

Other Facts:

Native Language Of: Mexico, Spain, and almost all of Central/South America (too long of a list)
Number of Native Speakers/Total Speakers: ~410 Million / ~470 Million
Famous Person Who Speaks It: Jennifer Lopez (Why not?)

A quick note from Andrew: if you’re interested in teaching yourself Spanish…

I have a short post and video (that are free to read and view of course, won’t cost you more than a few minutes of your time) on how to do precisely that with the system that I put together which allowed me to become fluent in Spanish in just 6 months after years of trial-and-error by watching Spanish-language TV shows (like telenovelas, hence the name of the system) and movies, reading Spanish books and comics, and listening to Spanish music. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out by clicking the link below (the following link should open in a new tab or window for you when you click it so I’m not asking you to leave this article here):

“The Telenovela Method of Learning Spanish” (a “telenovela” is a Spanish-language soap opera, they’re what I initially used to teach myself Spanish!)

I also include some quick and valuable tips for learning Spanish as well as a couple of the most useful free Spanish-learning websites that I recommend.

Conclusion:

There are several languages that are all relatively the same in relation to how difficult they are for English speakers to master. While lists like this are fun to make, they really don’t get at the essence of what it means for a language to be easy. Language learning is a long process full of hard work, dedication, persistence, determination, and about a billion other things. In order to make it to the end of this long journey, you need to have the sufficient motivation. The easiest language to learn is the one you most want to learn. Picking one off this list to learn because “it’s easy” is not going to give you very good results in the end.

It’s important to figure out which language fits your lifestyle and in your heart; then go learn it. If you’re heart is screaming for two languages, try learning two languages at once!

Are you interested in learning Latin American Spanish with an emphasis on speaking (as opposed to reading or writing) it? Are you a beginner who doesn’t know how to get started and is afraid of doing it the wrong way?

Then you’ll want to read this very short recommendation I’m going to make that I suggest you at least check out and evaluate right now if you’re serious about getting fluent in Spanish, particularly if you’re more interested in learning to speak it than read or write it, and even more so if you’re primarily interested in learning Spanish as it’s spoken in Latin America (Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, etc.). What I’m going to recommend:
  • Will teach you to speak everyday conversational Spanish, Spanish as it’s spoken by native speakers every day in Latin America when they converse with their friends, parents, colleagues, store employees, spouses, etc.
  • Is available entirely online via their website and lets you download all of the course material, that way you can use/access it anytime from anywhere if you’ve got internet access plus you can download things like the audio lessons to listen to later on your MP3 player while exercising or driving.
  • Includes very extensive post-lesson testing to not only ensure you’ve thoroughly learned the material but also to help you review it at the same time. I guarantee you’ll master the Spanish they teach you such that you’ll be able to call on it instantly later on when you need it such as when talking to native Spanish speaker.
  • Provides a very active private forum (dozens of new posts per day, members only) where you can not only get help from fellow students but also native speakers and Spanish teachers whose job it is, specifically, to help you.
  • If this sounds like something that might be of interest to you, I highly recommend you sign up for their free 6 day trial that will give you complete access to the full course, for free, and no you don’t need to provide a credit card:

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