Thinking about learning a new language? If you speak English, some languages will be easier to pick up than others. Check out this list of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers.
Is it ever easy to learn a language?
Whether traveling for business or pleasure, or planning to move to another country, being able to communicate is very important and can make all the difference to your experience. If you can speak different languages, you’ll be able to immerse yourself into new cultures and connect with people who you would never have gotten the chance to otherwise. But is it every easy to learn a language?
Most of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers are Germanic languages. This means they’re in the same language family as English. Needless to say, this is extremely helpful because you’ll find many cognates and similar sentence structures. However, learning any language still requires a high level of commitment.
The US Foreign Service Institute states that the easiest languages for English speakers to learn are in Category I, and they take about 24 weeks of studying. Category II languages require 30 weeks of class time, and Category III takes 36 weeks on average to be proficient in reading and speaking.
So, even the “easy” languages to learn still take a lot of time and effort.
What are the easiest languages to learn for English speakers?
Having a tough time choosing which foreign language to learn? While learning a new language is no easy task, this list will help you decide which is best for you to learn as an English speaker.
Category I (550 to 600 hours)
If you plan to jet off to South Africa or Namibia, you’ll want to learn some Afrikaans. The good news is that for English speakers, this language is relatively easy to learn. As a Dutch derivative, Afrikaans has a lot in common with other Germanic languages.
You’ll be relieved to know that Afrikaans, like English, only uses “die” for “the,” so you don’t have to worry about using grammatical gender. It’s also a phonetic language, and some vocabulary is the same in English in Afrikaans. But possibly the best part? Nearly no verb conjugations!
There are some obstacles native English speakers may face while learning Afrikaans, like using a double negative and mastering the word order. Sometimes, the structure is identical to English and in other circumstances, it’s more complicated.
Afrikaans is a fantastic language to learn, especially since so many Afrikaans speakers live internationally. English speakers will surely appreciate how Afrikaans parallels English.
Category I (575 to 600 hours)
If you’re looking for a practical language that’s easy enough for English speakers to learn, Spanish may be just perfect. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world, with almost 500 million native speakers, and is the official language of more than 20 countries.
Spanish and English share the Latin alphabet, with the addition of only one extra letter, ñ. Getting used to the tilde is a fairly easy adjustment. English speakers will also have to learn Spanish accents over some vowels, like á, é, í, ó, ú, which indicate a stressed pronunciation. Again, these are pretty easy to learn.
Plus, as one of the most popular languages in the world, Spanish may already sound familiar to many English speakers. Countries like the USA even have a Spanish TV channel!
Another bonus to learning Spanish is that the plural forms of words are the same as in English. “Apple, apples” or “manzana, manzanas!” That being said, verb conjugations will take some extra practice.
Spanish is hands down one of the simplest languages for English speakers to learn, though it takes a lot of dedication to master.
Enrolling in language lessons can help you to quickly and easily improve your Spanish speaking skills. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an advanced learner, you can find the perfect instruction in Spanish for you and will find that you steadily improve over time.
Category I (575 to 600 hours)
Inspired to learn Portuguese? Being in Category I, English speakers will have a leg up in learning this language. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola, and Mozambique, and is spoken by over 250 million people.
As a romance language, Portuguese shares Latin origins with English. For instance, “sal” and “câmara” might seem familiar. They mean “salt” and “camera.” As far as sentence structure goes, some patterns will be identical to the English language while others will vary.
Although English and Portuguese both use the Latin alphabet, pronunciation can be a bit tricker as Portuguese has new vowels and consonant sounds to get used to.
There are plenty of similarities between Portuguese and English that make this language easy to learn. If you want to learn a language that you’ll be able to use in a number of countries, Portuguese is a smart choice.
Category I (575 to 600 hours)
If you’re intrigued by the beautiful country of Denmark or you’ll be spending time there, give learning Danish a shot. A planned visit to Denmark is a great opportunity to learn this new language as most of the six million people who speak Danish live in the country.
The crossover between English and Danish words makes it an easy language to learn in terms of vocabulary. “Arm” is identical in both languages, “halvt” means, you guessed it, “half,” and “lang” is “long.”
One difficult part of the language to master is its system of numbers. Instead of counting by tens, they refer to twenties. Danish words are also often gendered, which would take some getting used to by native English speakers.
Although it’s not as widely spoken as other languages in the world, Danish is still a fascinating language. A perk to learning Danish is that it will make learning other Scandanavian languages like Swedish and Dutch easier than ever.
Category I (575 to 600 hours)
If you’ve ever assembled IKEA furniture, or even stopped by their glorious food court, you’ll already have some experience with Swedish. This language is spoken by just under 10 million people in Sweden and some parts of Finland. It’s an interesting language to know, especially if you’d like to visit Sweden.
Both English and Swedish have similar alphabets, despite Swedish having three more letters. Something to be on the lookout for while learning Swedish is that while there will be many words that sound and look the same, there are also some false cognates. For example, “bad” is actually “bath” and “fart” is “speed.”
Another tough aspect of learning Swedish is gendered words. Actually, in standard Swedish, the feminine and masculine genders are usually combined, but you’ll still have to differentiate between these and the neutral words. Still, this is easier than gendered words in French, Spanish, or Italian.
All in all, learning Swedish can open many new doors for you, especially if your travels will take you through the stunning country of Sweden.
Category I (575 to 600 hours)
Whether you dream of sightseeing at the Eiffel Tower or you’re traveling to France for business, French is a relatively easy language to learn for English speakers. Since French is used around the globe by over 220 million people, you’ll have ample opportunity to test out your skills.
Like the other languages on this list, French and English share many similar-sounding words. In fact, a good amount of English words directly came from French. Chances are, you even use many of these day to day like “menu,” “boutique,” or “radio.”
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Yes, the words look the same, but the French pronunciation can add a layer of difficulty for native English speakers. You’ll need to conjugate verbs in French, too.
Learning French can help you make connections internationally between parts of Canada to Haiti, Belgium to Monaco, and so many more places.
If you’re thinking of learning the language, trying to study French online can open up a convenient and accessible learning pathway. A wide range of resources are available such as Busuu, allowing for flexible learning at your own pace.
Category I (600 hours)
No one could blame you for wanting to learn Italian, such a gorgeous, rhythmic language with an incredible homeland. If you speak English, you’ll be excited to know that the two languages have a good amount of overlap. So, if Italian is your target language you’re in luck!
Italian is an iconic language around the world, with over 63 million speaking it as their mother tongue and another three million as their second language. Like other romance languages, Italian comes from Latin, which means you’ll already know a lot of Italian words. You’ll most likely recognize a lot of food-related words like “gelato,” and generally similar ones like “fantastico!”
Italian is a phonetic language, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out difficult pronunciations. The conjugations are also not too challenging compared to other languages. However, you’ll want to spend a bit of extra time studying the gendered words since the entire sentence must follow the same gender pattern.
Learning Italian can be a lot of fun if you let yourself enjoy the journey. It’s also a great excuse to stop by an Italian restaurant for some practice. Mangia, mangia!
Category I (600 to 750 hours)
If you have an interest in Vikings, Norse culture, or plan to visit Norway, you’ll be happy to hear that Norwegian is one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. Keep in mind that different regions in Norway use different dialects. Generally, Oslo is the widely spoken dialect in major cities and is used as the standard tongue.
As a germanic language, Norwegian follows the same subject-verb-object structure as English. The alphabets are also quite close, with Norwegian having 29 letters and only three new vowel sounds, æ ø å. Many words are nearly identical to English, with slight variations in pronunciation like “glass” pronounced “gloss,” “bank” pronounced “bah-nk,” and “under” as “unn-err.”
Norwegian is a fantastic choice for English speakers to learn and will open you up to a world of interesting culture and history in Norway.
Category I (600 to 750 hours)
If you’ve had your eyes set on a holiday in the Netherlands, you’re in luck as Dutch is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Dutch has about 23 million native speakers and 60 million people who speak it as a second language. English and Dutch are both West Germanic languages, so they share many grammar rules and sentence structures.
There are quite a few Dutch words that are identical in English, even with the same spelling. For example, ambulance, arm, stop, and water. Other words are pronounced similarly enough for English speakers to easily remember them, like “wat” meaning “what” and “klok” as in clock.
Native English speakers may find some difficulty in tackling the pronunciations of certain words that involve rolled r’s or the throat-clearing sound. The Dutch “g” sounds more like a “ch” which is tricky for many native English speakers, such as in “Vliegtuig,” or “airplane.”
Overall, learning Dutch is going to be one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers, once you familiarize yourself with the tricky pronunciations.
Category II (750 to 900 hours)
As you probably noticed, German kicks things up a notch as a Category II language. This means that on average you’ll likely have to invest a bit more time, but the flip side of this is that there are endless resources for learning this popular language.
German has a reputation for being a rather harsh-sounding language due to some pronunciations, but it can be a blast to learn and practice. You’ll already have a good knowledge base since both English and German have indo-European roots. You’re bound to find a lot of words that sound close like “Ich kann singen,” “I can sing,” and “Ich kann surfen,” I think you can probably guess what that means.
While learning German, you’ll face learning some new pronunciations like ä,ö, ü, and ß. German also often uses longer compound words, which may be a shock for some English speakers to see. Once you get the flow of the language, though, you’ll start to pronounce these like a pro.
With over 79 million people speaking German worldwide, you’ll be in good company learning this language.
Category III (900 hours)
Surprised to see Indonesian on this list? While learning Indonesian is considered a bit of a lengthier process than learning other languages, you may be shocked to know that it has a lot in common with English.
Indonesian uses a Latin 26-letter alphabet just like English, and (drumroll, please) they don’t conjugate verbs. One more reason why it’s easier to learn than you might imagine is that it’s a phonetic language, so everything sounds exactly how it’s spelled.
While many people first learn formal Indonesian, if you ever visit Indonesia, you’ll discover that in person they speak a colloquial variation. After you’re comfortable with Indonesian, learning the conversational way to speak will be a breeze.
While there are many reasons to learn Indonesian, its close relation to English gives it major bonus points.
Final Thoughts About Learning New Languages
Choosing to learn a new language is an exciting undertaking. If you speak English, this list is a great starting point for exploring which one you should choose.
Some keys to language learning are frequent practice, good listening skills, and an interest in the culture or history of the language itself.
While you can rank them (as FSI did) based on technical closeness to English and how long they take to master, the actual sign of how easy a language will be is how high your motivation is to learn it. So it’s smart to pick one that aligns with your interests, such as where you want to travel, work, or study.
Regardless of which you decide to learn, there’s no doubt that having a second language under your belt will open countless new doors for you.
What is the hardest language to learn for English speakers?
The hardest languages to learn for English speakers are Asian languages like Mandarin Chinese or Cantonese Chinese. This is due to several factors like their use of tones and characters in place of letters.
What’s the easiest language to learn in the world?
The easiest language to learn is highly subjective as a language that might be simple for you is challenging to others. This could be based on what your native language is, what your world experiences are (i.e. your exposure to other languages), and if you have any second languages.
For example, if you already know Norwegian, then other Scandanavian languages will be much easier than learning, say, French. But if you’re familiar with Italian, then learning Spanish will take no time at all.
However, if we can generalize based on the average English speaker, Norwegian or Spanish will likely be the easiest languages to learn.