You may have had “learn a language” as your new year’s resolution for a long time, but have you gotten any closer to achieving it? Well, don’t worry if not, because we’re here to point you towards the easiest languages for you to get started with!
What makes a language easy to learn?
So, before we get started, it’s important to note that “easy” is an incredibly subjective term! Even though this list is geared towards fluent English speakers, the differences between each learner can be significant.
While there is no way to gauge how hard it will be for you, there are ways to see how challenging the language can be in general.
For this list we’ll be following the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Language Studies’ guidelines — a branch of the US Department of State that specialises in language teaching to government employees. We’ll also be focussing on languages with 20,000 speakers or more, to make sure that you find the language that helps you the most!
1.Dutch: The easiest language for English speakers to learn
Let’s get off to a strong start with what may very well be the easiest language for English speakers to learn: Dutch. As both English and Dutch share a Germanic root, a speaker of one will have a strong head start on the other. While other Germanic languages (such as German!) have evolved their own slightly more complicated grammar rules, Dutch has retained a simple structure that students love! You’ll notice that many of the English words you use daily will show up in your Dutch journey, and you’ll be able to use plenty of the same grammar rules.
While English is a Germanic language, it has strong Latin influences, which make it a great starting point to learn other Latin languages. Of all these, Spanish is likely the easiest for you to pick up. Grammar rules in Spanish are generally simple and, in many cases, can be easier than English. Among Latin languages, Spanish also has the largest number of speakers, making it a helpful language for you to learn after English and an easy one for you to stay motivated with.
Italian language fact file
- Average number of weeks to learn: 24
- Number of worldwide native speakers: 63 million
- Number of countries with Italian as an official language: 3
- Where you can learn it with ESL: Italy
Italian is another Latin language — in fact, it is the closest to its root language of the group! (so if you studied Latin in school, Italian is definitely a language for you). In comparison to Spanish, Italian can be much easier for new learners to pronounce, mainly as most words are pronounced exactly how they’re spelt, with very few major variations (The English language should take some notes on this!). On the flip side, Italian grammar can be more complicated than its sister languages, as it contains plenty of rules that aren’t as common in others (e.g. the dreaded subjunctive) so, in general, you can expect Italian to be slightly more challenging than Spanish but still a great choice for new learners.
Of the most widely-spoken Latin languages, Portuguese is likely the one that new learners have the most trouble with. Portuguese has somewhat of a more complex set of grammar rules and can be trickier to pronounce than Spanish or Italian. In addition, Portuguese has a strong variation between the two main countries that speak it natively: Portugal and Brazil. In comparison to Italian (which is primarily just spoken in Italy) and Spanish (which generally remains similar throughout all countries that speak it) — Portuguese, on the other hand, has major variations between European and Brazilian dialects. That being said, despite these challenges, Portuguese still remains one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn, so with a bit of practice, you’ll get it in no time!
Romanian language fact file
- Average number of week to learn: 24
- Number of worldwide native speakers: 25 million
- Number of countries with Romanian as an official language: 1
- Where you can learn it with ESL: Nowhere (yet!)
While Romanian may not be the most common choice for language learners — it is , in fact, one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn due to its Latin roots. Of all the Latin languages we’ve spoken about so far, Romanian is the one that is most divergent from its source and the one where you’ll likely find the fewest partners to practise with. However, if you’re looking for a challenge, or plan to visit Romania any time soon, then this is a great option for you to add to your language arsenal.
French is technically in the top category of “easiest languages for English speakers to learn” as defined by the FSI — the reality can be slightly more tricky. While French is indeed a Latin language like the others, it has certain aspects that make it slightly more difficult as a whole. For starters, the grammar structure and rules in French can deviate greatly from those found in English, and many students struggle in the middle of their language journey because of this. In addition, French pronunciation can be especially difficult for English speakers as syllables tend to be stressed more uniformly in French (while in English, these sounds are more distinct).
Despite being slightly more difficult than other Latin languages, French still shares a great deal of similarity with English, and as one of the primarily spoken languages of Europe, you’ll have plenty of people to practise with!
With a list like this, German really is a category on its own! On the one hand, German is (of course) a Germanic language and thus follows a similar structure and shares certain words with English. In fact, in some ways, it can be easier than English — for example, German has only six tenses (compared to the overwhelming amount in English). Also, while in many languages, punctuation can be inconsistently used (we’re looking at you, English!) German punctuation is fairly strict in this regard.
While this should be reassuring for potential students, the fact remains that German grammar is a headache for new and seasoned learners alike. No doubt, you will also have trouble with it, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll find that German is a very logical language, and once you’ve mastered the complicated aspects, you’ll find that they help you express yourself very concisely with your new-found vocabulary.
8. Malaysian & Indonesian
Malaysian & Indonesian language fact file
- Average number of week to learn: 36
- Number of worldwide native speakers: 220 million
- Number of countries with them as an official language: 5
- Where you can learn it with ESL: Not available (yet!)
Indonesian and Malaysian are two Southeast Asian languages that are found in South East Asia. While they are different languages, the two are mutually intelligible (with the main differences stemming from the Dutch influence of Indonesian and English influence in Malay) So we’ve opted to group them.
While it may not seem obvious at first glance, these languages are actually some of the easiest Asian languages that you could learn! In general, both Malay and Indonesian are incredibly easy languages, as neither have conjugations, plural, verb tenses, or even gender! What’s more, the aforementioned European influences will make your language journey as an English speaker that much simpler!
Did you see a language you’re interested in? Or is your favourite language missing? Contact us today and we’ll help you on your journey, no matter the difficulty!