If you’re a native English speaker, some languages will be easier to learn than others. In this article, we’ll talk about the 6 easiest languages for English speakers to learn.
Why should you learn a second language?
There are tons of reasons why you should learn a second language. First, it makes your brain smarter. It’s true! Bilinguals and multilinguals tend to show better cognitive abilities like multitasking and memorizing sequences.
Second, you open a world of new professional and academic possibilities. For example, bilinguals tend to have more job opportunities available, and they have an easier time earning a higher income. Plus, the chances of working and living abroad increase considerably!
Third, with a second language living in your head, you’ll find it easier to travel abroad, meet new people, and understand new cultures.
Which language should you choose?
Any reason is more than valid to kick off your journey. But with so many languages out there, which one should you learn?
Here’s an idea: We all live busy lives and – full disclosure – acquiring a foreign language is no simple task. So why not go for an easy language to begin with?
We’ve already mentioned that if you’re a native English speaker, some languages will be easier to learn than others. Consequently, going for a simple language first can boost your confidence in language learning, save you valuable time, and even give you tools and strategies that’ll make learning your third, fourth, and even fifth language easier to grasp.
Keep reading to discover what makes some languages easier or harder to learn. Additionally, you can jump straight to this section to see which are the 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Lastly, remember that our tried-and-tested, 4-step language learning method offers the most efficient way to learn any of the 13 languages available–English, French, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (LA), Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese (Brazilian), Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, and Russian. So, download the Fluent Forever app and join our Live Coaching program to start your journey to fluency today.
6 things that make a language easy or difficult to learn
1. Closeness to your native language
The easiest languages to learn for English speakers will typically be in the same or similar linguistic families. Alternatively, languages with entirely different origins will be harder to learn. For example, Dutch and German, which are Germanic languages like English, will be easier to learn than Russian and Chinese.
Among other things, closely related languages usually share similarities in vocabulary, grammar, word order, and sounds. For instance, Dutch shares a high amount of cognates – similar-sounding words with the same meaning – with English. Therefore, as an English speaker, you’ll frequently come across words you already know as you learn Dutch.
2. Writing systems
A language that shares the same alphabet with your native tongue will be easier to pick up, while one with an entirely new alphabet will take more time.
Some languages don’t use the Latin Alphabet we’re familiar with. Rather, languages like Japanese and Russian use the Kana system and Cyrilic alphabet, respectively. Getting to grips with new symbols, or even writing directions (as in Arabic), is bound to make the process harder.
3. Sounds and tones of the language
The easiest languages to learn for English speakers usually have similar tones and sounds to English. Some languages rely heavily on entirely different sounds to alter the meaning of words; these might prove harder to learn.
Regardless of the language, however, rewiring your ears to identify the sounds of a foreign language is the first step to learning it. That’s why the first of Fluent Forever’s 4 steps is to train your ears to recognize and understand your target language’s sounds.
The Fluent Forever app will help prepare your ears to perfectly understand the sounds of 13 different languages.
4. Exposure and opportunities to practice
When looking for the easiest language to learn for English speakers, you should consider how much exposure and practice you can actually get in said language. The more you can get, the easier it will be to learn.
On the other hand, if the location where you’re based doesn’t give you too many opportunities to hear, speak, or read the language, chances are you’ll have a harder time. For example, if you’re living in Mexico while trying to learn Spanish, picking it up as a second language will probably be easier than, say, learning Japanese.
5. Motivation is key
Motivation plays a key role in figuring out what the easiest language to learn for English speakers is. It actually plays a key role in language learning in general.
Staying motivated makes learning any language easier, while a lack of motivation can render the process burdensome and rather tedious.
Choosing a new target language to master provides you with ample practical opportunities to stay motivated. You might want to opt for Chinese, which is one of the most spoken languages in the international business world.
On the other hand, you can choose a language that’ll help you reach a personal goal that you care about. For example, you could go for Spanish to better connect with friends or colleagues.
Check out our article on the Fastest Way to Learn a Language, where we explore motivation and other key elements needed to quickly master your target language.
6. Quality language learning resources
Access to good learning resources on vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation can give you the additional support you need in your target language. If your local library carries 20 language books in Japanese but only two in Hebrew, you’ll most likely have an easier time learning the former.
At the same time, online resources like educational apps and software tend to only cover widely spoken languages like French, German, Spanish, and English. This makes learning less widespread languages through these tools more complicated.
So, if you want to complement your language learning with quality support resources, which makes the process easier, you’ll have more luck if you stick to the most taught languages. For example, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian, are some of the most taught second languages in the United States.
The 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers
Using the information above and the categories from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), we’ve ranked the following 6 languages from easiest to slightly more difficult. We’ve talked about the FSI before, but, in case you need a reminder, the institute is in charge of preparing people in the US to become diplomats, which includes teaching them new languages.
The FSI’s language institute developed a system that ranks languages based on their difficulty for English speakers. This system assigns an amount of study hours each language requires for a learner to master it.
Each language on this list features its corresponding amount of hours next to it. So, without further ado, here are the 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
1. Dutch (575–600 hours)
- It belongs to the same Germanic family of languages as English, meaning you’ll find lots of cognates. For example, Hallo and Welkom mean exactly what you think they mean.
- Modern Dutch speakers tend to incorporate a lot of English when they speak. It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like Ik voel me een beetje awkward (I feel a bit awkward).
- The language is spoken by 23 million people worldwide, including the Netherlands and Belgium. Few will know that it’s also the official language of Suriname as well as of Aruba, Curaçao, and St Maarten in the Dutch Caribbean.
Hint: If you’re keen to learn Dutch, you’ll be glad to know that we’ve just announced it as part of our Live Coaching program. Start practicing with a Dutch native speaker!
2. Spanish (575–600 hours)
- While not a Germanic language, it’s heavily influenced by Latin, just like English. This makes Spanish and English cognates fairly common.
- It’s highly phonetic, which means most words will sound just like they’re spelled.
- It has few conjugation irregularities. Once you learn some of the rules, you’ll find that most verbs and nouns follow the same patterns.
- You’ll have no problems finding top learning resources, especially in the form of speakers to practice with. Of the 559 million people who speak Spanish globally, 460 million are native speakers – making it the second most spoken language per native speaker worldwide.
- Spanish is the second most taught language in countries like the US. The chances of you practicing Spanish and finding quality learning material are substantial.
- In addition to being the official language of Spain, it’s the official language of 18 countries across America.
Hint: If you’re interested in this widely spoken language, check out 20 Amazing Reasons To Learn Spanish.
3. Portuguese (575–600 hours)
- This Romance language shares the same Latin alphabet as English and Spanish.
- It shares some cognates with English, although you’ll find fewer here than in Spanish.
- Syntax and word order are similar to English, which makes forming Spanish sentences rather straightforward.
- This widely spoken language has over 200 million native speakers. Brazil and Portugal are probably the most famous Portuguese-speaking countries, but it’s also used in Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe.
4. Italian (575–600 hours)
- Another highly popular language that’s easy to learn because of the number of learning resources available.
- If you’re from the US, there are large communities of Italians spread across the country, which makes it easy to find people to practice with.
- With Italian being a Romance language, you will come across some cognates as an English speaker.
- Over 60 million people speak Italian as their first language, with the biggest bulk living in Italy. Parts of Switzerland and Croatia also speak it.
5. French (575–600 hours)
- Although also a Romance language like Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, its sentence structure, conjugation, and sounds are slightly more complicated.
- Just like in Italy’s case, France’s cultural impact worldwide means you’ll have no issues with finding French learning resources.
- Far more regions worldwide speak French than Italian. It’s the official language in regions like Africa, Oceania, and the Caribbean, so finding native speakers to practice with might be easier than you think.
- More than 250 million people speak French on a day-to-day basis. And over 75 million claim it as their native language.
6. German (750 hours)
- It’s a Germanic language, along with Dutch and English. You will find some cognates here and there, and English has been incorporated into some of its daily use.
- German word order, cases, and pronunciation can make it a bit trickier to learn. That said, German has few grammatical exceptions – once you learn its core rules, you’ll pick up the language significantly fast.
- 130+ million people around the world – including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, parts of Italy, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein – speak the language.
- Germany is a culturally and economically important country, so you should find plenty of language learning resources around you.
Hint: Don’t forget to check out our resourceful guide to the Best Way To Learn German.
How to learn any language easily – 4 surefire tips
We wanted to leave you with the four most effective tips to learn any language easily. That’s right, this handy advice from our founder Gabe will help you master the target language of your choice regardless of your native tongue.
Tip #1: Rewire your ears…at the start!
[Advantage: Bumps your retention by +20% permanently]
If you can’t hear it, you’re going to have a brutal time remembering it. And that’s going to be a problem, whether you’re learning Spanish or Korean. Spend your first two weeks focused on the sounds of your target language. Test yourself on similar-sounding words in the language (like “niece” vs “knees” in English, or “toma” vs “doma” in Spanish).
Start with ear training. It makes every step thereafter way easier.
Tip #2: Learn words using images, not translations
[Advantage: Bumps your retention for words by +100%]
Translating is difficult. There’s a reason why simultaneous translators are paid more than $100/hr: it’s hard work, partly because words and sentences don’t actually translate well from language to language, and partly because translations are extraordinarily difficult to remember.
How much time did it take you to learn the word quesadilla? You saw one, you saw the name, someone said it out loud, and poof, you had it memorized. If anything, you may have struggled a bit with the pronunciation (which is why Tip #1 is #1), but the actual memorization process was almost instantaneous because you saw what it was and your brain’s ability to remember images and connect them to words is phenomenal.
If your first encounter with a quesadilla was on a vocabulary list where you were trying to remember that “quesadilla is the Spanish word for grilled cheese,” you probably would have forgotten it within a few minutes.
Don’t memorize translations. Your brain hates them. Learn with images instead, and you’ll find your learning speed doubles.
The Fluent Forever app automates this optimized way of learning through flashcard creation. Our proprietary SRS algorithm ensures that you review specific flashcards periodically to help you remember those words and sentences at exactly the right time.
Tip #3: Learn grammar using stories with fill-in-the-blank sentences and images
[Advantage: Bumps your retention for grammar rules by +100%]
Tip 3 is just a slightly more complex version of Tip 2, “Learn words using images, not translations.” Your brain hates translations because they’re too abstract to hold on to, whereas images are clear, concrete, and meaningful. This phenomenon just gets worse with grammar, which you invariably discover the moment you try to memorize that “‘Eres’ is the second-person singular of ‘to be.’”
Don’t memorize grammar rules in the context of totally abstract pieces of sentences like “I am | you are | he is | she is.” Instead, learn grammar through stories: “I am hungry.” “You are a monster.” “She is an ax murderer.”
Stories actually mean something, particularly when you stick pictures next to them:
Stories are a tool that your brain actually likes when it comes to memorizing prepositions, verb conjugations, noun declensions, and all the juicy stuff that allows you to take the individual words you learned with Tip #2 and turn them into actual language.
Tip #4: Personalize everything
[Advantage: Bumps your retention for everything by +50–100%]
If you are learning ‘dog’ from “The dog chases the cat” vs “My dog’s name is [your dog’s actual name] and he’s [a huge jerk | the cuddliest fuzzy wuzzy | black as the blackest night],” you’ll find that the second sentence sticks twice as well as the first sentence.
If you’re learning a word and you drew the image for it or grabbed it from your own photo album, you’ll find that it sticks around 50% better than a random image you chose from a search engine. Similarly, if you’re learning a word that you put into the app rather than one we chose for you, you’ll get the same effect.
Personalization works. It ensures that the content you’re seeing is relevant to you. Plus, it gives your brain a lot more to work with when it comes to remembering a new concept [e.g. dog] because that new concept just got connected to an old memory [e.g. your dog being a jerk].
We built our Coaching program specifically to maximize this effect by giving folks a way to ensure that every sentence they study in our app is literally a sentence about their own dog/life/job/hobbies. And while I can cite studies and things to tell you about how powerful that effect is, I keep finding that the main way to really get a feel for how powerful Tip #4 is is to actually try it out using fully personalized content.
And that’s everything from us on the easiest languages to learn for English speakers, followed by Gabe’s tips on how to master any language easily. What language will you choose next?[shareaholic app="share_buttons" id="28313910"]
Enjoy what you're reading?
Sign up for more