A Guide to The Easiest World Languages to Learn
If you’ve decided to learn a new language, good for you!
Next, you need to decide which language is best suited to you. Maybe you’d like to learn a politically relevant language like Russian? Perhaps one of the languages known for romance? Or, maybe a language you could use on your next holiday?
There are many different reasons to learn a new language, and while learning a new language requires dedication and practice; some are easier than others to master.
With that in mind, in this guide, we’ve put together our list of the languages that are great for English speaking beginners to learn.
This might be a slightly unusual option for many, but we believe Norwegian is one of the best languages to learn for English speakers. This is because, along with English, Norwegian is a member of the Germanic language family. As a result, the two languages have vocabulary in common. A good example of this is the seasons of the year: winter in Norwegian is vinter and summer is sommer.
Another common thread with the Norwegian language is the grammar and structure of the sentences. The word order of a sentence is very similar to English and contains only one form of verb per tense.
For instance, if you were to ask: “Can you help me?” in Norwegian it would translate to “Kan du hjelpe meg?” – as you can see, the structure of the sentence, the spelling and the pronunciation of these words are instantly recognisable to an English speaker.
In many languages the pronunciation is incredibly important and often very nuanced. However, in the Norwegian language – again very similar to English – this isn’t as important, since there are many different accents, so there’s much more leeway in this respect.
The second language we’ve chosen again comes from Scandinavia and is another member of the Germanic language family. Similar to Norwegian, Swedish is easy to grasp for most English speakers due to the number of cognates the two languages have in common.
Cognates are words that, although they come from two separate languages, sound and look very similar due to their shared familial language. For example, the word for contact in Swedish is “kontakta”, which both looks and sounds very similar.
Again, Swedish is relatively simple when it comes to grammar and sentence structure, since it’s very similar to English.
And thanks to brands like IKEA and H&M, Swedish food, furniture, and fashion are enjoying increased exposure here in the UK, which means Swedish is fast becoming a popular and relevant language to learn.
Spanish has long been a favourite for English speakers looking to learn a new language; not least because of its romantic connotations, but also for its practicality and wide reach.
Spanish is one of the so-called “Romance languages”, and shares many cognates with the English language, which is why some basic words are picked up easily by English speaking tourists in Spanish-speaking countries. Here are a few good examples:
- Correct > Correcto
- Delicious > Delicioso
- Curious > Curioso
In fact, many words aren’t just cognates, but are exactly the same. Here are a few:
Although Spanish pronunciation can be a little trickier than the two languages we’ve already mentioned above, the good news is that Spanish is a largely phonetic language, which means words are generally pronounced how they’re spelt. It’s not all plain sailing however as the difficulty lies in the fact that some of the letters are pronounced differently from their English counterparts. For example in Spain; c is often pronounced th, v is often pronounced b & z is often pronounced th.
Spanish also has a few variable grammar rules and verb tenses, which can often confuse those learning the language at first. However, these more or less run parallel to those we use in the English language, so they’re relatively easy to pick up and understand.
One of the biggest reasons that people choose to learn Spanish is the sheer number of countries where the language is spoken. As explained on britannica.com, Spanish is spoken by 360 million people across the globe, and is the third most studied language after English and French.
While Spanish is obviously spoken predominantly in Spain, it is also widely used as a first or second language for most South American countries, apart from Brazil where Portuguese is the primary language.
This is another Germanic language, and in addition to being the first language of most of the citizens of the Netherlands, it is used widely in Belgium too. After German and English, Dutch is the third-most spoken of the Germanic languages, which explains why the language shares so many features with both English and German.
Interestingly, Dutch shares many words with English that are spelled exactly the same way, which may lead beginners into believing Dutch is easier to learn than it really is. However, even though these words are spelt the same, in many cases they’re pronounced differently.
For example, “rat” still references the same small mammal and is spelt the same, but the Dutch pronunciation makes the word sound more like “rot”. There are also plenty of words that you will recognise, but some of these will be false cognates. For instance, the Dutch word “wet”, which you may assume means the same, actually means “law” in Dutch.
You may notice by now that we’ve included three Germanic languages in this list, but we haven’t included German. We chose not to include German because, although it shares plenty of cognates with English, the grammar makes German a particularly tricky language to grasp and master.
Portuguese is another “Romance” language, and one which is spoken not only in Portugal, but as the primary language in Brazil as well as in some parts of Africa and Asia
Similar to Spanish, there are a large number of shared words, which makes taking up Portuguese as a language, much easier. The same applies here as it does with Dutch though, there are a fair few false cognates. For example, if someone asks you about pasta in Portuguese, you’ll be given a folder and not a tasty meal!
Just like Spanish, Portuguese, particularly Brazilian Portuguese, is a language that benefits from global exposure. Brazilian culture, such as food and drink, music, films, and fashion, are now widely known across the globe, giving students ample opportunity to further their learning.
This is another language that is said to be romantic, and while not as widely spoken as either Spanish or Portuguese, you’ll benefit from plenty of reach since there’s more than 63 million native speakers. With a root in Latin, learners will quickly recognise words and their meanings, such as “futuro” which means future and “lotteria” meaning lottery.
Italian culture has firm roots in Western countries, which means we’re already familiar with many phrases used every day without even realising – think espresso; ravioli; opera; piano; lava – the list is pretty considerable.
The last of the Romance languages in our roundup, French is a firm favourite with learners all over the world. Although not as easy to master as some of the other languages on our list, French and its sub-dialects are widely spoken, not just in France, but in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and even many countries in Africa, such as the Ivory Coast, where French is the official language.
Just like the other Romance languages on our list, the biggest benefit of opting to study French is the considerable portion of shared words. However, this isn’t just because it shares similar linguistic roots.
Due to the considerable history of overlap between the two countries during war and conflict, much of the two languages have intersected over the centuries. In fact, from 1066, French was the official language of the courts, nobility and government in England for nearly 300 years.
Today, French words are used on a daily basis in the English language, such as champagne, cliché and even television. The same applies to the French language with words such as weekend and brainstorming creeping into everyday use.
Initially French pronunciation is a little awkward, but we’re used to hearing French accents in our culture, particularly from films and sports stars – so it’s quite easy to pick up with some practice.
In the modern world learning a second language can be an incredibly beneficial string to your bow – both personally and professionally. With a plethora of free language learning apps, it has never been easier to start learning a language. Continued globalisation and increasingly improved technology mean that the world is seemingly smaller than it’s ever been, where diverse cultures and communities are frequently in contact with each other.