What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?
September 15, 2019
So it turns out I have to take a language credit in university. So I’m going to take the easiest language in the world! Good day everyone. One of the most common questions about language learning is “What is the easiest language to learn?”. Now, there is no exact answer to that question that applies to everyone because it depends on a few different factors. So, the factors it depends on are your native language, any other languages you happen to have learned, and also the complexity of the language in question. So, if your native language is English, then the easiest language for you, is probably the one that’s the most similar to English. And if it’s not, then maybe you’ve learned another language, like if you’ve learned French, then maybe the language that’s easiest for you to learn is the one that’s most similar to French. because you’ve already learned a lot of the concepts that those languages have in common, so you have already done a lot of the work in the past already. Okay, so it could be your native language, the one that’s closest to your native language, closest to other languages you’ve learned and also another factor is the complexity of that language. So it could be a language that’s similar to your own, but if that language happens to be quite complex, then maybe that’s not the easiest one So it’s kind of a balance of those different factors, there’s no precise formula, but we have an idea just from those factors. Now, the American Foreign Service Institute that trains American diplomats to go overseas, which trains them in language skills before their placement overseas, they’ve done a lot of research into this topic as it relates to English speakers because they’re training their American staff to go abroad. So, they’re English speakers, but they’re learning other languages. So, they have lot of data about how many hours it takes, about how intensively they have to study these different groups of languages. So, they have it categorized into five different groups, So there’s category one, which is the easiest languages to learn for native English speakers Then they’ve got two, three, four, and then five is the group of the most difficult languages to learn. And the people studying those languages, study for, I believe, 88 weeks. Full time. So that’s like a year and a half, something like that. People who study the category one languages I think are in there for 23-24 weeks, full time. So it’s almost times four if you learn a level 5 language. So, which ones are in level one, the easiest category. They are the Germanic languages such as Dutch and Afrikaans. The Northern-Germanic languages, from Scandinavia, like Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. Not Finnish, that’s a separate language group. And then you’ve got the Romance languages like French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese and I believe also Romanian is in there. So those ones are the most closely related to English. You’ve got the Germanic ones like Dutch and Afrikaans, and I think those are probably the most closely related to English, and the easiest to learn. I haven’t actually studied those personally, but a lot of people say that Dutch is the easiest for English speakers. I have studied French, and French has been the easiest language that I have personally studied. I used to think it was Indonesian because Indonesian is really simple, and really straightforward. And I made really fast progress in it and I could communicate in Indonesian after studying for just a couple of months before a trip. But when I started to study French, I realized how much of an advantage that shared vocabulary is. Because English vocabulary is something like 35% French, so when I would look at a French text I would recognise a lot of the keywords already and I could basically understand half of the text without ever having studied French. So, after a few weeks I could basically read and after a few months I could communicate and speak. Not fluently, but I could make myself understood. And I could understand pretty much whatever was said to me. Face to face at least. Not on the radio or not third person, but face to face I could understand. So, French has been definitely the easiest one for me. Category 2 by the way consists of only German. German is a Germanic language, just like Dutch or Afrikaans and it’s closely related to English. But, it’s also quite complex grammatically, it’s not that complicated from what I hear, But it does have some complications like grammatical case endings that other Germanic languages don’t have. And that’s why it’s not in category one, it’s a little bit more complex than the category one languages that puts it in category two. And I believe it’s the only language in category 2. So, it’s kind of on its own, because it’s related to English, but a little bit complicated. The hardest has been Japanese. By far and that’s one of the category five languages according to the Foreign Service Institute. Now what makes Japanese so hard is, first of all the grammar is very different from English, it’s about as different as you can get. And also the writing system is extremely complex. And I think that the FSI categorisation of level 5 doesn’t even take into account the writing system. It’s just the spoken language. It matches my experience with French versus Japanese. It feels to me like it took about five times as long to get conversant in Japanese as it did with French. About five times as long. But then the writing system on top of that, takes a lot longer than that. Maybe ten times or twenty times, thirty times as long as it takes to long to read French, to read and write French, because you’re learning four different writing systems and combining them together, you’re learning ideographic pictures, those are the Chinese characters, Kanji. Those are very complicated, there’s 2000 of them that you need just to read a book comfortably. And they’re read in different ways, there’s different pronunciations for each one, so learning Japanese is a real long term intensive thing. So it’s been the hardest for me. Second to that would be Arabic, because when you’re learning Arabic you’re learning not only one language but you’re learning the formal language, which is kinda outdated and an archaic language, but then you have to learn a dialect at the same time, and then you have to learn how to communicate with speakers of other dialects. So, with Arabic you’re learning a whole language family, that’s what makes it hard. But the easiest have definitely been French, followed by Indonesian, because of its simplicity. Indonesian by the way is a category three language according to FSI, obviously it’s one of the more simple languages, but it doesn’t have that shared vocabulary with English, that French or Spanish or Italian or Dutch or Afrikaans would have. That’s why it’s not in category one, even though it’s very simple. Anyway, I hope that was helpful, I hope that gave you an understanding, and I hope you’re not choosing the language to study just based on how easy it is, I hope you’re just interested in getting that information. Alright, have a good night. See you later!