Challenges are fun, but sometimes it’s nice to know that the task ahead is going to be easy. When it comes to learning languages, is there a language that is the easiest to learn?
Learning a new language is definitely a challenge, but since all languages are different, they won’t all be as challenging. Some might be even easy for you to learn. The million-dollar question is: which is the easiest language to learn?
The truth is… it depends.
The easiest language for me may not be the easiest language for you. Why not?
In this article, we’re going to look at what makes a language easy to learn for you, and we will give you some suggestions to get you started. By the time we’re done, you will be ready to pick your next language challenge!
What makes a language easy to learn?
Before we go into detail, I want you to understand that there is no language that is inherently harder than others. We know this because children all over the world pick them up just as easily, and there are no significant differences in terms of language acquisition.
That being said, language acquisition doesn’t work the same way when you’re learning a language as an adult, and there are several factors that will affect your ability to learn a new language.
1. Your native language
Many languages are related. The more related they are, the more they will have in common. Similar grammar, similar vocabulary, similar syntax, similar pronunciation… it all helps. So if your native language is English, for example, it will be easier to learn a language with Germanic or Latin roots, since English has both.
It won’t all be a match, and maybe the grammar is similar but the pronunciation is not, but in general, the more closely-related your target language is to your native one, the easier it will be.
Things to look out for:
Grammar and word structure
English has a SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) structure, but not all languages are like this. You are used to saying “John eats an apple”, but a Japanese person is used to saying “John an apple eats” because Japanese has a SOV structure. There are six possible combinations, but most European languages follow the SVO structure.
We recommend that you also look at how many verb tenses the language has, and things like articles, noun genders, etc.
Learning new sounds isn’t always easy, and can be a big obstacle when learning to speak a new language. Some languages don’t have necessarily tricky sounds, but pronunciation rules can be very confusing and it can be hard to know what sound you have to make, even if you know how to make the sound in itself. If in doubt, head to Youtube and google some samples.
All languages have been influenced by other languages. When your native language and your target language have similar roots, you will find many similar words, which will make it easy for you to understand new words and improvise when you don’t know a word. Spanish is a language that originates from Latin, just like French, Italian or Portuguese, and when you speak one of them, you instantly have a headstart with the rest of the family. This chart compares the lexical similarity of some languages with English.
Even if the sounds are easy, a different writing system is always an extra challenge. Japanese is very easy to pronounce, but writing Japanese is a whole different matter. Languages like Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Hindi, Arabic and Russian all require you to learn a new writing system, so have that in mind. Learning a new writing system can be a lot of fun, but it certainly doesn’t make the language easy, which is what we’re going for.
2. Your other languages
If you already speak another language, you have a big advantage. The more languages you know, the more similarities you will find when learning a new one. If you have learned those languages as an adult, you will also have a deeper insight into the workings of language.
When you learn your native language as a child, you basically just absorb it and start speaking without giving it much thought. You develop a natural sense for the language, and you never had to study any grammar to know how to make a sentence, nor had the need to memorize vocabulary in order to remember it. But it doesn’t work like that when you’re older.
When we learn a new language as adults (or teenagers), we don’t have that intuition for how it works and most people need to understand the formal structure of the language to be able to form sentences with it. Let’s be honest, some had never heard the term “subordinate clause” or even the word “adverb” before beginning to study a second language.
Some of these concepts can be confusing in the beginning, so if you’re already acquainted with them it will be easier to understand how your target language works and a sentence like “you have to use the subjunctive when the verb is in a subordinate clause” won’t sound like Chinese to you.
3. Your motivation
Most people underestimate this one since it’s not something you can study or categorize, but without it, you can forget about learning a new language successfully.
The right motivation can make you achieve anything. You can be confronted with a theoretically easy language and a theoretically difficult one, but if you have no motivation for the first one and plenty for the second, I can assure you that the “hard” language will be easier for you, and you will enjoy learning it much more.
That’s also why getting a boyfriend or a girlfriend that is a native speaker of your target language produces such amazing results. Love is an extremely powerful motivation, and so can be other things. So before you choose a language to learn, ask yourself: What is my motivation? What will give me the drive to put in the effort to learn this language and make it fun for me?
If you don’t have a specific motivation, talking to native speakers is always a great incentive. With Swap Language you can find native speakers to talk to in your city. Being able to use what you’ve learned with real people feels great, so don’t underestimate what that can do for you.
4. Your access to the target language
You may be highly motivated to learn that Polynesian language that your grandfather learned during his travels, but let’s face it, unless you move there, you might as well say goodbye to it.
It is indisputable that practice is essential when learning a language. You need to be exposed to it some way or another. Be it books, youtube videos, friends, native speakers, music songs or whatever you’re into, you need something. The Internet is an almost bottomless pit of resources, but the smaller and more remote the language, the harder it will be to find relevant resources to help you.
The good news is that the opposite is also true. The bigger the language, the more you will find. Learning a language like English or Spanish nowadays is easy, because there is so much out there. No matter where you are in the world, chances are you can find a native English or Spanish speaker nearby.
So be realistic. Do you have access to enough resources? Will you have a chance to find native speakers to practice with?
In our connected world, it shouldn’t be too hard, unless the language you want to learn is very remote. But hey, don’t be too picky. Remember that we’re going for the easiest language to learn here, right? Do a quick Google search and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s out there. And if you’re ready for some real-life practice, don’t forget to check if there are any native speakers near you on Swap Language.
5. Your strengths as a language learner
Some of us like grammar, some of us hate it. You may be great at memorizing vocabulary or maybe you can jump into a conversation without being intimidated by the natives. Whatever it is, exploit it, and avoid the parts that give you nightmares. If grammar is not your thing and you absolutely hate the idea of verb conjugations, then stay well away from Spanish or French. If you love speaking, go for a language that has a similar system of sounds, so you can start talking as soon as possible.
The easiest languages to learn for English speakers
Now that we have established what makes a language easy to learn, let’s get to what you are actually here for: which is the easiest language in the world?
There is no universal answer to this question, but we have compiled a list of languages that should be easy if English is your native language. If English is not your native language, we recommend you to check out this test.
English is one of the most spoken languages in the world and has become pretty much the language for international communication. That doesn’t mean that there is no need for English speakers to learn other languages. In fact, we very much recommend you to learn a second language. How about these?
Grammar: fairly easy
Speaking: very easy
Writing: very easy
Spanish is the 4th language with most speakers in the world, and the second language in terms of native speakers. This means that resources are readily available and your chance to find native speakers to practice is high. If that wasn’t enough, Spanish is famous for it’s simple phonetic system, so starting to speak and write won’t be too challenging. Thanks to its Latin roots, Spanish shares a lot of words with English, so you will find many words that are familiar to the ones you already know. Yes, they do conjugate verbs like French and Italian, but nobody expects you to master it from the start.
Grammar: fairly easy
Speaking: fairly easy
Writing: fairly easy
If you were to ask which is the most similar language to English, the answer would be Dutch. You may need to get used to its pronunciation and spelling, but once you’ve got the basics down, you’ll make progress very quickly.
Grammar: fairly easy
Speaking: very easy
Writing: fairly easy
A close cousin to Spanish, Italian and Spanish are quite similar. Spelling is a bit trickier, but still very manageable, and so is the pronunciation. And hey, what better excuse than studying Italian to treat yourself with a trip to Italy and enjoy some delicious food while practicing the language with the locals?
Grammar: Slightly challenging
Speaking: Slightly challenging
Writing: Fairly easy
The nice thing about French is how many French words are already part of the English language. It is estimated that French has influenced up to one-third of the modern English language. Sure, they don’t necessarily pronounce words the same way, but it still helps. Pronouncing French can be slightly challenging, but you won’t let that stop you from learning the language of love, right?
Grammar: Fairly challenging
Speaking: Fairly challenging
Don’t get us wrong, German is still easier than most languages for English speakers, but you will still have to get used to its longer words and grammar. The way German combines sounds in words can be a challenge at first, but luckily German is considered a very logical language, so once you learn the rules you will feel a lot more confident. Just be careful of exceptions!
The Top 10 Easy Languages for Native English speakers, According to Research
In the United States there’s a diplomatic training agency called The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) that has made it a topic of their research to find out which languages are easy to learn so they can design their courses. They have different categories, based on language difficulty and how long it will take to learn the language.
According to the FSI, the easiest languages to learn are:
Bonus Question: Is English One of the Easiest Languages to Learn?
English is everywhere and is the de facto lingua franca of the world. It must be the easiest language, right? Yes and no. From a linguistic point of view, English is certainly not the simplest language, although it’s not particularly challenging. What makes English easy is that it’s everywhere.
Even if you have never studied English in your life, it is very likely that you have been exposed to thousands of English words in your daily life. English learning resources are pretty much endless, and if you don’t study English in this day and time it is because you don’t want to, not because you can’t.
The internet is full of resources for learning English. And we’re not just talking actual study resources. Youtube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Netflix and Reddit, to name a few, offer plenty of opportunities to practice and get lots of exposure to English. You just can’t avoid it, and this means a lot when you’re learning a new language.
Choosing The Right Language For You
By this point, you know that there is no absolute answer to the question “What is the easiest language”. It depends on so many things, and most of these things are individual to you. You got a few language suggestions that will probably be easier than other languages, but remember the importance of motivation in the whole thing.
The biggest impact on your language-learning success isn’t how easy or hard the language is, it’s about how easy or hard the studying is.
So choose a language you’re actually interested in. Choose a language you will feel like studying so that finding the time doesn’t become a problem. And do yourself a favor and find some native speakers to practice with. It will make it so much more fun and as a bonus you will also get to learn about the culture.
You can find language partners in your area for free on Swap Language. Just type your native language and the language you want to practice and you’re ready to go.
So, what language are you going to study next? Let us know in the comments!
How can Swap Language help you to make language learning as easy as possible?
SwapLanguage (SWL) offers different services (free and paid) and events to help you break down language and cultural barriers, all of which are customized based on your motives, needs, level, and schedule! We can help you on your journey to learn languages through:
If you are looking for a language partner to improve your foreign language skills you can find it on swaplanguage.com.