If you're here, then you have most likely decided to embark on the at times daunting, at times adventurous, and at other times magnificent journey of learning a new language. Good on you! Give yourself a pat on the back.
Learning a second language has a wide range of benefits, including improved brain function and increased job and travel opportunities. It can also prove useful in everyday life by taking your communication skills to the next level.
There is no doubt, however, that some languages will be easier to pick up and can therefore save language learners like yourself, a headache or two.
Or perhaps you are one of the brave ones and would like to take on the challenge of learning some complex alphabets or even delving into some fancy phonetics and vocabulary.
The Easiest Languages to Learn
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which is the easiest language to learn, as this will vary depending on your personal strengths and weaknesses.
Different languages will present different challenges. These rest upon a variety of factors, including the similarity of the target language to your native language, how much time you are willing to dedicate to learning, and what your goals for learning the new language are.
If your aim is practicality, then you might want to pick one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Your Mother Tongue
The role that your mother tongue plays in how easy a language is to learn has long been debated by linguists. Most say that it’s easier to learn a second language if it shares common roots with your mother tongue, however some do maintain that grammar is more important.
It does seem logical that the easiest languages to learn are those that belong to the same family as the learner's mother tongue.
In this case, English speakers will find Germanic and Romance languages to be the easiest since both groups belong to the Indo-European family and have a shared vocabulary and alphabet.
The Romance Language Family
Romance languages like Spanish, French, and Italian are considered to be some of the easiest to learn since they share many similarities with English.
They derive from Vulgar Latin, which was spoken between the 3rd and 8th centuries. In today's world, they're mostly spoken throughout the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Along with the Germanic subgroup, they have Latin roots and use the Latin alphabet as a writing system.
As opposed to English though, they have gendered nouns and slightly more complex grammar rules. In case you're really feeling heroic and want to venture into more than one simultaneously, their shared vocabulary does make it smoother to learn two languages at once.
Learn Spanish and you will be in for some well-deserved fun. As a Romance language that uses the same alphabet as English, Spanish is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
It has about 540 million speakers worldwide and it's also the second most common language in the United States, which makes it a useful language to have under your belt!
Many words are similar to English words. For example, 'completo' is very close to the English word 'complete.'
Moreover, it's a phonetic language, which means that you'll be able to determine how a word is pronounced simply by looking at how it's written.
If you want to get started with your Spanish journey by learning with real-life content, give Lingopie a try.
As another romance language, Italian is considered an easy language to learn. Most words that come from Latin in the English language will find a counterpart in Italian words, 'simile' and 'similar' or even 'educazione' and 'education.'
When learning Italian, one must only beware of false cognates, which can sometimes be tricky. A good example of that is 'accidente', which actually means 'coincidence' or 'misfortune', as opposed to 'accident', which in Italian is 'incidente'.
Verb conjugation tends to represent the greatest challenge for an English speaker who decides to learn Italian, but heading out to Italy and tasting the original gelato makes it well worth the effort!
We have a full article dedicated to answering the question Is Italian Hard to Learn for English Speakers? Give it a read!
Portuguese is also a Romance language, sharing its linguistic roots with Italian and Spanish, so it makes the list of the easiest languages to learn.
It's spoken by 283 million people around the globe, with Portugal and Brazil being its two main destinations.
Brazilian pop culture is well-known in the West. Think Carnival and samba... All good incentives for Portuguese learners to crack on!
However, unlike Spanish, Portuguese isn't a phonetic language. So, for learners of Portuguese, the more challenging pronunciation will represent the greatest obstacle.
But keep calm and learn Portuguese! Because here are some great articles to help you accomplish your goal:
- Portuguese Phrases for Travel
- Spanish vs. Portuguese: Which is easier to learn?
- Understanding the differences between Brazilian vs. European Portuguese
Another Latin language, French is one of the easiest languages to learn for English native speakers.
Out of all of them, French has the greatest Germanic influence, it's also spoken in many different countries around the world, so if traveling is your goal, French will prove handy in an eclectic array of countries.
If you learn how to conjugate verbs in French, then you'll be good to go with Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian.
So, if you love verb conjugations but would like to stick with languages that share a common root with English, French could definitely be for you!
Why not give it a go and learn French with Lingopie?
If you feel like reading some more, you could start by seeing the language in action with French conversation starters or watching these 13 French movies for beginners.
Romanian, which shares similarities in grammar and vocabulary with other Romance languages, is said to be one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
It is nonetheless one of the hardest to find resources for learning, which can make the process more difficult.
However, if what you're looking for is a more secluded travel destination within Europe, Romania may allure you with its breathtaking nature.
Here's a full article on Romance languages if you want to do some more reading on the topic!
Other foreign languages which are easy to learn for English Speakers
Any learner whose first language is English will be able to spot the similarities between English and other Germanic languages, such as Dutch, Afrikaans, Swedish, and so on.
Since it belongs to the Germanic subgroup, Dutch is considered by some to be the easiest language to learn for English native speakers.
It's positioned somewhere between English and German, even though it's much easier to learn than the latter since it doesn't have all those peculiar cases.
Just beware of word order and exceptions! Dutch is known within the language sphere to comprise many exceptions.
Apart from that, you're in for a smooth ride if you've decided to learn Dutch.
Afrikaans – the easiest language to learn for both English and Dutch speakers
What makes Afrikaans such a great contender to be the easiest language to learn? Well, it shares the same roots as English and Dutch and is incredibly similar to the latter.
Furthermore, it uses only a single gender, as does English. Its simple grammar rules make it even more trouble-free than Dutch.
Additionally, its easy pronunciation is relatively straightforward to learn and there are few verb conjugations.
Swedish is also a Germanic language, so it shouldn't be too much of an ordeal for English speakers to pick it up.
With the right incentives, you'll be heading to the North of Europe for that degree you've been meaning to do in no time!
Its many cognates and loanwords make it fairly straightforward for English speakers to learn. For example 'studera' means 'to study.'
Norwegian is also part of the North Germanic language family. Given the parallels in vocabulary and grammar, learning the Norwegian language will be fairly straightforward if you are a native English speaker.
Even though they're pronounced differently, many words are actually the same as English words, i.e. problem, finger, and glass.
Although less phonetic than its Scandinavian siblings, Danish is still considered to be fairly easy to learn for an English speaker.
The word order may change when compared to English, French, or Portuguese, but it has a Germanic-influenced vocabulary.
What is the Hardest Foreign Language to Learn?
In order to learn a new language, you need to be motivated. And for some people, the idea of learning a difficult language is more motivating than the idea of learning an easy one.
Language learning will vary from person to person depending on a wide range of factors. As we saw above, your mother tongue will play an important role, as will the country’s culture.
Another factor is the alphabet used. Different writing systems to your mother tongue will be the hardest. If you speak English, Asian languages are typically considered some of the most difficult languages to learn.
Mandarin Chinese, for example, is often considered the hardest language to learn for an English speaker, alongside Arabic and Japanese. Is this truly the case, though? We'll take a look shortly.
Swahili is a Bantu language and the official language in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Yet it is spoken in over 13 countries in East Africa. Some Swahili words are actually derived from English.
Swahili is often considered one of the easiest African languages for an English speaker to learn. It's a tonal language, meaning that the pitch of your voice can affect the meaning of words. This makes it relatively easy to pick up some basic phrases, as you can usually get the gist of what someone is saying even if you don’t understand all the words.
Chinese (Mandarin Chinese & Cantonese)
Mandarin Chinese and Cantonese are widely spoken languages, Mandarin being the second most spoken language in the world.
They are considered to be some of the hardest languages to learn. This is primarily because of their complex writing systems, which use thousands of characters.
However, once you have mastered them, you will be able to communicate with over 1.3 billion people!
Cantonese can be even more difficult than Mandarin, due to its tonal system. While Mandarin has four tones, Cantonese has six, with pitch and contour shaping a syllable’s meaning.
It's no secret that Japanese is considered one of the most difficult languages to learn. Its writing system, which consists of three different scripts, can be very confusing for beginners.
However, you might actually be surprised to find out that some linguists disagree on how difficult Japanese actually is.
They argue that its pronunciation, phonology, and grammar are actually relatively simple if compared to Chinese. It might just be our mental barriers that impede us on this one!
So, challenge yourself to learn Japanese.
It's the native language of around 260 million people and alongside English, it's an official language in India. It's spoken by millions more around the world.
Hindi is a part of the Indo-European language family, so it's more closely related to English than Chinese or Japanese but it does use a different alphabet.
Arabic is a Semitic language and is the lingua franca of the Arab world. It's one of the hardest languages to learn, according to the Foreign Service Institute.
Arabic grammar is complex, with a number of verb forms and moods, and there are 29 consonant sounds in the Arabic alphabet!
Pronunciation can also be difficult, as some letters are pronounced differently depending on their position in a word. Even so, the Arabic language is rich in culture and has a number of dialects, so there is plenty to explore once you have learned the basics.
Polish is a Slavic language, which means it's considered a challenging language to learn right off the top!
It uses the same alphabet as English, but the spelling and grammar are a bit trickier. Lots of consonants and many cases - a bit like German, except harder!
Czech also belongs to the Slavic family, which makes it quite difficult for English speakers to learn.
It doesn't have that many different verb tenses, which is definitely a plus! However, its fewer vowels and numerous noun cases do make it quite challenging to learn for an English speaker.
Is Korean the easiest language to learn?
Rumor has it that Korean is the easiest Asian language to learn. Is that true for English speakers? It depends.
Korean is usually referred to as a language isolate, meaning it cannot be classified into a larger language family. Think of Basque, for example.
But, in reality, it's a member of the Koreanic languages - a small language family consisting of Korean and the Jeju language. Do you speak Jeju? If you do, well, then learning Korean may be easier.
Most of us don't speak Jeju, so comparing by language family isn't useful for us.
The Korean alphabet, Hangul, is made up of 14 consonants and 10 vowels with symbols you can combine into syllable blocks. Do you know about Hanja? Or what logograms are?
A logogram or logograph is a written character that symbolizes a word or phrase, and a writing system that is based on logograms is called a logographic system.
If you have previous experience with logographic systems - say, you learned Japanese Kanji or Chinese Hanzi, then picking up Korean Hanja will probably be easier.
Summing up: The Easiest (and hardest) languages to learn in 2022
There are hundreds of other languages which could make this list, but these include some of the most relevant nowadays.
Language learning can seem like an arduous linguistic endeavor but with enough dedication, anyone can learn a language, no matter how easy or hard to learn it's considered. It all depends on your goals!
The best way to learn is by using interactive resources like Lingopie, which offers learners a variety of tools that make the process more fun and engaging.
With a little bit of effort, you can be speaking a new language in no time!