So you’re thinking about learning a language? Awesome!
Want to learn Spanish for your travels? Learn Japanese or learn Chinese to progress in the business world? Learn Russian to boost your MI5 application? Learn French to bond with your parents-in-law? Or simply gain an awesome new skill that’ll change your life and connect you with fascinating people, countries and cultures?!
Umm… YES PLEASE! Anyway. There are thousands of reasons to learn a language.
Of course. You want it to be easy. Right? But if you’re here to find ‘THE’ easiest language to learn… SORRY! There’s no objective ranking system that applies to everyone or a league table of easy-to-hard languages.
But let me guess… You’ve got limited time and you’re looking to learn as quickly and easily as possible? We like your thinking. You’ll be happy to hear that some languages can be a little easier to learn than others. In fact, if you focus on learning what you’ll use in different situations in the real world, you can grasp any language! 😉
Why some languages are easier to learn than others
Just how ‘easy’ learning a language can be depends on a few factors:
Your native language
A similar language to your native language is likely to be easier to pick up than one that’s very different. That’s why a Spanish speaker will probably find it easier to learn Italian than a native Russian speaker would!
Your native language’s language family!
WAIT! What’s a ‘language family’? Languages that share the same origin are grouped into families! For example: French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian are part of the ‘Romance family’ that originated from Latin (spoken throughout the Roman empire). Cool, right?
In theory: learning a language in the same family as your native language (or another language you speak!) can give you a head-start.
So for example:
A native Russian speaker (Russian is from the Slavic language family) or Japanese speaker (a language isolate: meaning its origin is unclear) – will probably find it harder to learn Portuguese than a Spanish native speaker would. Make sense? Wicked.
Your motivations for learning
Sounds simple. But why you want to learn (and consequently) how much you want and need to learn determines the difficulty. Learning 2000 Japanese kanji to live and work in Japan? Yep, might take some time. But just need to know how say I love you in French to woo someone? Easy!
Your exposure to other foreign languages
Do you listen to Enrique Iglesias in Spanish or sing BTS in the shower?
You may have tuned yourself to other languages more than you realise. So you might find these languages easier to learn than others!
How hard you work!
The age-old saying: hard work pays off. But it’s true! With language learning, it’s the short & sharp sessions that drill the knowledge home. Little and often. Repeat. Repeat. REPEAT! Go for it and welcome those mistakes because you learn from them.
How you decide to learn a language (We got you on this! 👀)
Learning a language is easy if you focus on what you’ll use in the real world. There’s nothing worse than learning something you’ll never use! Life is too short for that. But amazingly: lots of learners study boring grammar & vocab books or online programmes only to realise: this isn’t helping me communicate with people IN REAL LIFE!
That’s why we believe in the Street Smart (NOT Book Smart) way of learning a language. Learn what you need and don't sweat the rest. We’re talking real-world competence people. Bin boredom and immersive yourself in language by listening to audio & video clips of real native speakers. And learn to speak those phrases yourself!
Feeling inspired? Sign up to a Memrise course online to get cracking!
More reasons why some languages are easier to learn than others:
Similar grammar and vocabulary
Taking the English verb ‘to like’ as a starting point, look how similar the verb conjugations are in these Latin (or Romance) languages.
Cool fact. The Germanic language family (including Danish, Swedish, Dutch, German and Afrikaans!) also show similar grammar and vocabulary.
For example see the numbers for 0 to 10!
Adjusting your ear to unfamiliar sounds takes some getting used to. That’s why languages with similar sounds to your native language can be easier to learn than others. For example: let’s compare how do you say ‘good game’ in Spanish and Italian
The beating heart of any culture is the language. That’s why immersing yourself in a culture helps you understand a language – and we love language learning immersion so much!
Just as learning a language similar to your native language might be easier than learning one alien to it, deciding to learn a language with cultural similarities to your own could be an easy way in.
Japanese culture likes politeness. To the extent that there are different ways of speaking (for example how to say hello in Japanese) when talking to your boss, your colleagues, your friends, family, or a stranger.
Ohayō gozaimasu おはようございます= good morning (formal)
Ohayō おはよう = good morning (casual) (don’t say this to your boss!)
Use otsukaresama desu (お疲れ様です) to say hello in the workplace.
Now. Since language politeness is also an important part of Korean culture… a Japanese native may find it easier to learn Korean (and vice versa) than a native English speaker like me because our language puts less emphasis on this.
몸건강하세요 = take care (polite)
What's the easiest language to learn?
Listen VERY closely.
Learning a language is not some far-off dream that only the very special can reach. You DO NOT need to be born with a divine ability to learn a language. This perception is plain wrong!
Anyone – especially you reading this article – can learn a language!
Easiest languages for native English speakers to learn?
A question you’re itching to ask – what are the easiest languages for native speakers to learn?
Good question. There are 2 sides to this.
English is part of the West Germanic language family (with Dutch, Danish, Swedish and German). Yes really. It’s believed they all come from the same original language.
Take ‘good morning’ as an example
- German = Guten Morgen,
- Dutch = Goedemorgen,
- Norwegian = god morgan
- Swedish = God morgon
- Danish = Godmorgen.
See the resemblance?
Many consider Dutch as the easiest language to learn for English speakers because their spelling, grammar and pronunciation are very similar. It’s why many Dutch people speak English very well!
Here are a few words that show you the similarities:
|Drink = drinken||Beer = bier||Coffee = koffie||Tea = thee||Restaurant = restaurant|
|Fruit = fruit||Sugar = suiker||Pepper = peper||Milk = melk||Wine = wijn|
I have a problem = Ik heb een probleem.
On the other hand, English's similarities with Romance languages make French & Spanish easy to learn.
58% of vocabulary used in English today comes from French or Latin (Romance languages). It’s why English speakers find words they recognise in French and Spanish. Like the déjà vu (French: already seen) and macho (Spanish: male).
Learning a language is within reach. Put simply: you’re spoilt for choice!
Easiest second language to learn for English speakers:
Easiest Asian language to learn?
Chinese, Korean and Japanese are the most studied Asian languages. But they also have a reputation for being some of the hardest languages to learn.
Learning Chinese (or Chinese Mandarin, learning Korean, learning Japanese, learning Arabic or learning Mongolian present a difficult (but not impossible!) language challenge.
These languages form the heart of cultures that fascinate people worldwide. So to learn even a basic amount of an Asian languages makes you pretty darn cool. Even better: it immerses in the culture... and lets you order sushi with swagger (if that’s your thing).
Like we mentioned earlier, some factors can influence the difficulty of learning a language: most strongly your native language and previous exposure to other languages. English speakers, for example, will find it harder to learn Japanese than Chinese or Korean speakers – as they have to get used to a whole different writing system: hiragana, katakana and Japanese kanji. In contrast, Chinese language speakers find the Chinese language can help learn Japanese.
But… above all:
Learning any language is easy... if you know how!
Listen up. You can learn any language if you’re Street Smart with it. 👀
We’ve created a language learning program that makes learning what you want and need – easy. Using 1000’s of video and audio clips of native speakers speaking the language to you, you’ll understand how and when words & phrases are used, plus how to say them yourself (and be understood!).
Learn how to use language to interact with the world around you and create new amazing experiences.
Discover what it’s like to learn a language with Memrise by hitting the button below!