Have you seen that infographic with 30 languages sorted by their difficulty to learn? If you haven’t, this is the post for you.
When we saw the State Department’s spectrum of language learning difficulty (infographic here), we decided to make a couple lists of our own to find the easiest languages to learn, based on feedback we receive on Unbabel’s translation platform.
Unbabel allows native English speakers to translate from a foreign language into English, and vice versa. The ease/difficulty of learning another language depends on the language’s family. Languages that are part of the same family share similar characteristics like roots, usages, and pronunciations. The more related a target language is to a speaker’s first language, the easier it will be to learn while the opposite is true for languages in different families. Hence, you’ll notice that many of the most difficult languages for English speakers to learn come from different families, while the easiest all come from the Indo-European family that is shared with English.
10 Easiest Languages for English speakers to learn
The following ten languages are most closely related to English and are the easiest for a native English speaker to learn – and, because they’re the easiest to learn, they’re also the quickest ways to start making money with Unbabel.
Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family. It shares many Germanic-derived root words with English and has a logical and non-inflective structure, making it straightforward to speak. Additionally, Afrikaans has neither verb conjugation nor word gender – less for a learner to worry about. This makes it one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Approximately a third of the modern English language has been influenced by French, making it familiar territory for a native English learner. English has more in common lexically with French than with any other romance language, meaning an understanding of French vocabulary will come easily.
Fortunately for learners, most words in Spanish are written as pronounced–straightforward pronunciation means straightforward writing and speaking. In general, Spanish has fewer language irregularities (like the letter ñ) than other romance languages.
Another member of the West Germanic language family, Dutch mirrors English both structurally and syntactically. The two are similar with regards to vocabulary as well; groen is “green,” in English, oude man is “old man,” in English.
A language of the North Germanic family, Norwegian has consistent pronunciation and easy-to-learn grammar. Verbs are straightforward, requiring no conjugation according to number or person. The rules of general conjugation are simple, requiring an “-e” suffix for past tense and an “-s” suffix for passive verbs.
Portuguese shares many direct similarities with English. For example, a question is introduced by intonation instead of rearranging verb forms like it is in English. “We’re arriving now,” becomes a question by inflecting up at the end of the sentence: “We’re arriving now?”
Because it is a Germanic language, Swedish shares cognates like “midnatt” (midnight), and “konferens” (conference) with English. In addition, Swedish syntax follows the English subject-verb-object structure.
Italian has a vocabulary rooted in Latin, creating many English-Italian cognates like “calendario” (calendar), and “foresta” (forest). Italian is highly readable, sporting a simple alphabet consisting of only 21 letters (English has 26).
Romanian is a unique language. It is the only romance language developed in the Eastern part of Latin Europe–it still has Latin roots, however, making it similar to English. It shares some common words with English, like “contemporanii” (contemporaries), and “week-end bun” (good weekend).
A slightly more difficult language to learn than the top nine, Hindi will take the average English learner slightly longer to master. That being said, however, many words in English are either Hindi or of Hindi origin, such as jungle, guru, and karma.
From similar vocabularies to parallel structures, all of the above languages relate to English in some way. Using Unbabel’s platform, a native English speaker skilled in these languages can begin quickly and easily making money.