- 1 Starter kit: Easiest language to learn
- 1.1 What makes a language easy to learn?
- 1.2 What makes a language hard to learn?
- 1.3 Tips to make your experience comfortable and enjoyable
- 2 Top 10 Fastest and Easy Fluent Languages to Learn
- 3 Winner: Spanish
- 4 Bottom Line
- 5 Why?
Starter kit: Easiest language to learn
In a world where backgrounds are as divergent as the people themselves, there is need to be flexible enough to fit almost everywhere. And one good way of achieving that is to learn another modern language other than your mother tongue. But according to surveys about 50 percent of the world’s population cannot speak a second language.
In an environment that is becoming more globalized and multi-lingual rapidly, getting by with just one or two globally accepted languages is no-longer enough. Knowing another language will not only help you make more money, but it will also help you enhance your opportunities both professionally and personally. With that in mind, what is the simplest language to learn?
Actually, there is no one definitive answer to that question as language difficulty is very hard to measure. Many factors come into play such as psychological barriers, need or desire to learn, the surrounding culture as well as motivation and interest. Besides, every individual is different, so it won’t be the same adventure for everyone, It all boils down to your own intelligence level and perspective.
The best thing to do, however, is to have realistic expectations and to be open minded. Do not expect to learn a new language in a week or so. It is like “an-all things being equal or nothing is easy in learning languages” equation. Though it is fun to compare and analyze languages to ascertain which one is easy to learn and which one is difficult to learn, the results only matter in a “perfect” world. This is because a language that your friend considers easy might be hard for you or someone else to learn. If you want to know some of the effortless languages to learn in the world, you will have to read on..
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What makes a language easy to learn?
As mentioned earlier, everybody is unique, and many factors determine whether a language is easy or hard for somebody to learn. Some of these factors include:
When it comes to learning any foreign language successfully, motivation is one of the most important aspects. It does not matter how easy or hard the language is, but you will not make any meaningful step if you are not motivated. Even if you are trying to study anything new in your mother tongue like a medical or legal terminology, you will not learn it easily if you are not interested or motivated. In other words, no language that is easy or hard to learn. If you have the desire and will, you can learn even the most “difficult” language in the world.
Your native language
How close is your first language related to the language you want to learn? The more closely related, the easier it will be for you to learn the language. For instance, if French is your native language you will find Italian easier to learn than Swahili or Dutch. If your first language is Swedish, you will find it easy to learn Norwegian than it would be for a native Romanian speaker. In other words, if the language you want to learn has a correlation with your first language in terms of vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, you have the upper hand.
Your other languages
Is there any other language that you speak other than your native language? If yes, the second or third language is likely to affect how easy it will be for you to learn your target language. Besides, the more similar your target language is to any language that you speak, the more efficiently you will study it. This applies particularly to those who have studied a second language rather than acquire it as their first language. This is because unlike your first language, studying the second one after childhood technically means memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules and to have to cautiously think every time you construct a sentence. This sensitive awareness of the main features of the language technically means if you try to study any other related language, you will have an advantage.
It is a fact that our diverse cultures determine how we speak. For example, in Spanish, you can talk politely to somebody, but in many Asian languages, you will use a different verb conjugation depending on who you are addressing, although you might be passing out the same information. In Japanese, on the other hand, you will use different connotations depending on whether you are talking to a stranger, your boss or sister. These types of differences can be tough to understand and definitely add to the complexity level of a dialect.
Apart from any other languages that you know or your native language, there are also other aspects that come into play when determining how easy or difficult a language is to learn. Absolute aspects like listening ability, memory & talent for languages and your intelligence are key. The good news, however, is that most of these factors can be enhanced or learned quickly with regular practice and training.
The writing system
The writing format of a language can also have a huge influence on how hard or easy it is to learn it. For example, most European languages use a similar script as English but also have a few other additions that are not in English to show sounds associated with that language. For instance, “n” in Spanish and the “o” in Norwegian.
But there are other languages that have a totally different writing system altogether. Russian, Hindi, Greek and other Slavic languages all use different formats. Furthermore, Languages like Arabic and Hebrew are written from left to right, further adding to the complexity of the languages.
Some Asian languages like Chinese, Korean and Japanese use several writing scripts. For example, in Chinese, every vocabulary has a symbol, meaning for you to read it well, you must know all the symbols. In addition, the thousands of symbols are not phonetic, so there are no hints as to what they represent or how they are pronounced.
Of course, different languages have different sounds, but all human beings generally use the same sounds. There are distinct sounds in foreign languages that you don’t use in your first language as well as some that you use. Some of these words are hard to pronounce while others are easy. For example, an Italian “o” is not the same as a Spanish or Dutch “o” but a Chinese “r” is very identical to a French “r.” It may take a while to grasp these new sounds but if you have the resolve and you practice regularly things will get better easily. Not practicing to pronounce those strange sounds or not training your mind to know them may make a language seem difficult to study when in a real sense it is not.
What makes a language hard to learn?
Picture a native English speaker trying to learn Korean or a Thai speaker struggling with Arabic. It is very hard to study any language that is very different from your first language. Studies show that these difficulties are as a result of neurological preferences. The human brain can easily recognize similarities between languages and will reuse a known language’s features and vocabulary to make sense of any similarly structured language.
So technically the hardest’ language for you to learn is that one which has phonologies with strange sounds, distinct inflection for nouns and sophisticated inflection systems. In addition, a language that has different spoken and written forms or an unfamiliar writing script will be even harder to learn. Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic are good examples. Arabic with its pharyngealized consonants and Chinese with its tones. Japanese and Chinese also share a very unfamiliar non-alphabetic writing system with Japanese having 3 different writing systems. Arabic, on the other hand, has an enormous dialectal difference with the standardly written variety as well as the spoken varieties.
Arabic‘s alphabet is also deceiving; you can’t speak the language by simply learning the vocabulary. Most of the letters in the language have three different versions that look very different to a learner. The vowels are also not written which means if you have not studied a specific word by listening, it will be extremely difficult for you to understand it. In addition, written Arabic doesn’t necessarily reflect the way it is spoken. It also has sophisticated sound and grammar systems. The beginnings and the endings of different words change depending on who the speaker is, whether they are asking a question or not and who they are referring to. Because of these complexities and an alphabet script that doesn’t reflect the way the language is spoken, learning Arabic seems like a hard nut to crack for almost all non-native speakers of the language.
Tips to make your experience comfortable and enjoyable
Although learning a foreign language will never be a hundred percent easy, it can be fruitful and enjoyable. So, what can you do to make everything easier?
Know your limits and objectives
Are you learning the language for pleasure, to communicate with other family members or for professional reasons? With an ultimate goal in mind, figure out a way to learn only what you need. For instance, the vocabulary you need to communicate effectively at work is very different from that which you need to move around Europe on tour. Concentrating on your goal will help you avoid unnecessary headaches.
Enjoy the experience
Though you can no longer be an all-rounder as you used to be when you were a kid, you can try to be as inquisitive as a child. Play and immersion are crucial. One good approach is going for a program that blends language learning with cultural and travel immersion.
Go for something similar to what you already know
Do you know any foreign language? If yes, diving into a somewhat similar option will give you a head start. For example, you can go for Dutch/German or Danish/Swedish/Norwegian or Spanish/Portuguese. Your knowledge of the other language will help you grasp the new language quite swiftly.
To regularly seek out new learning experiences, motivation is key. Studies show that motivation is one of the main factors that influence language learning success. So, find yours before you start the journey. It can be anything from buying an attractive notebook for classes, navigating a foreign country with your language exchange partner to doing your homework in your favorite eatery.
Surround yourself with the right material
Try to make everything around you about the target language. You can do this by changing the language on your phone, computer and social media accounts. You can also watch movies or listen to music in the target language or read novels and magazines.
Don’t get frustrated
When trying to learn a new language one of the first things you will easily notice is the speed at which natives speak the language. You may understand a written word, but when you hear it spoken by a native, you can easily feel like you are listening to a disorganized collection of loud sounds. But instead of getting frustrated, acknowledge that this is a short-term challenge and can be countered by training your brain to link the sounds with the written format.
Accept that it is not a walk in the park
Realize that you are trying to learn a new skill and you are bound to make mistakes. Cherish the fun moments and do not fear embarrassment or failure. Accept that your accent is not 100 percent perfect and you do not know everything. At the end of the day, all these will not matter, what is important is the result.
Top 10 Fastest and Easy Fluent Languages to Learn
Though mainly spoken widely in Namibia and South Africa, Afrikaans has a strong connection with Dutch. The West Germanic language has over 6 million speakers worldwide located in Botswana, Zimbabwe, United States, New Zealand and Australia. The language has many similarities with Dutch especially in terms of pronunciations and vocabulary. Though Afrikaans is not spoken widely today as it was in the 90’s, it is still one of South Africa’s official languages.
Widely spoken in South America, Belgium, and Netherlands, Dutch is one of the less difficult dialects to study. It has the same Germanic origin as English and many words similar. For example, tomato for tomaat and apple for appel, this makes it a straightforward language to learn for any English speaker. But one feature that can easily confuse you is that unlike English, verbs are usually placed at the end of sentences, just like German. But generally learning Dutch will also make it easier for you to learn Afrikaans, English, and German as they are all members of the Germanic tree. Some people also find it easy to pick up Norwegian, Danish and Swedish after learning Dutch.
Currently spoken by over 2 million people and created over 100 years ago, Esperanto was designed to be a global language. Because it was meant to be a universal media, it was modeled to be very easy to learn. The name Esperanto was derived from Esperanza a Latin word which means hope. It was the designer’s hope that the language would help bring people together.
The growth of the web has also helped enhance Esperanto’s presence, and enrollment in online language programs has soared tremendously over the years. There are also some reputable search engines like Google that are available in the language.
One of the key features of Esperanto that make it very easy to learn is that it has very few grammatical rules. It has only 16 grammar guidelines in total. A good percentage of the words have their roots in Latin with most of the words being a combination of suffixes and prefixes. Though not among the most widely spoken languages in the world, there is a possibility that it will spread a few years to come, so it will be a good option if you are looking to expand your linguistic knowledge.
Italian is not only the official language in Rome, but it is also one of most spoken languages in Argentina and one of the official dialects of Switzerland. Furthermore, most Italian words like fiasco, al fresco and propaganda are used all over the world in other languages. There are also some Italian words that sound very similar to other languages like English and you can easily guess their meaning is, though the spelling might be different.
Another feature that makes Italian popular and easy to grasp, is that it is written as it is read. In other words, it sounds the way it looks. The language also has a close relationship with many Latin Origin languages in terms of vocabulary and scripts and once you learn the dialects’ basic rules you should be able to learn everything else quite swiftly. Also, if you know Spanish, Portuguese or French, learning Italian will be a walk in the park.
Danish has only 9 verb forms and some of them are familiar to English speakers. It is also grammatically easy, has unique speaking patterns and has a lot of Germanic based words which are soft and quick. Any motivated English speaker will find this Scandinavian language very easy to learn.
Picking up German Is a bit difficult for most people who don’t know the language. The 4 noun case endings, long words and difficult pronunciations can be a hard nut to crack. Many experts refer to German as a descriptive dialect that is very easy to learn if you learn the exceptions. In addition, its logical grammar has many similar words that are related to English.
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Romantic is not just another way of describing the French language: It is a way of defining the entire French culture. It is like that handsome dude who knows he is the most good looking in class or that pretty girl next door. You never know what to expect next. In fact, it was once one of the most valued dialects on the planet.
Though those good old days are gone, you can easily feel the language’s presence almost everywhere on the planet. Planning to travel to Haiti, Switzerland, Belgium, Congo or Algeria? Study French. Want to surprise your next girlfriend or boyfriend? Learn the language of love.
About its difficulty? French has a lot of Latin vocabulary, and it has a strong connection with English. For example, when William the Conqueror stomped on England in 1066, he made medieval French the lingua franca of the ruling class. During this time English, integrated over 10,000 French words. William’s impact is still felt today in words like coup d’État, serviette and encore.
Planning to travel to the world’s 6th largest economy? Learn Portuguese. The language has very few propositions but they are not always used in the same way as English. This technically means they can be easy to cram but also difficult to implement. Interrogatives are relatively easy to remember and are usually expressed by intonation alone. Pronunciation is also not difficult, with practice fluency can be achieved within a few months.
Norwegian is part of the North Germanic tree and it very easy to learn grammar as it has consistent pronunciations. Verbs are pretty direct and they do not require conjugation according to a person or number. The basic guidelines are very straightforward “-s” for passive verbs and “-e” suffix for past tense.
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Overall, the clear winner in this list is Spanish. Speaking, grammar and writing will come naturally to any motivated learner. It has only 10 diphthong and vowel sounds and doesn’t have any strange phonemes. It also has a similar structure, roots, and rules with other languages like English, Italian, and German. Reading and writing in the language is also easy as it has a shallow orthographic depth which means almost every word is pronounced as written. All these features make Spanish the easiest option on this list.
Overall, all languages are both easy and hard to learn. It all boils down to your approach. Experienced linguistics will tell you that tones, writing systems, grammar complexity and other related factors of a language do not influence how easy or difficult that language is to study. In simpler words, no dialect is harder to learn than the other.
Take for example a child that is born in Spain and a child that is born in Norway; they usually take around the same time to pick up their first languages. If indeed some languages were more difficult than others, some kids would take longer than other to learn their first languages. The best thing that you can do to help your language learning process is not to think about how hard or easy the target language is, but by choosing enjoyable ways to learn and learning a language that you “want” to learn. Though the process might be slightly affected by factors like your culture and your first language, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should limit it. Enjoy and learn as you did when you were a kid and the hard or easy part will become insignificant!
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