Learning a new language comes with many benefits: it boosts your career, helps you enjoy your vacation abroad even more, and reduces the risk of age-related cognitive diseases. Moreover, it's a fun and productive way to spend your time. There are many languages in the world and, without a doubt, some are easier to learn than others. Bear in mind that everyone’s learning experience is unique though. This way, the language perceived as the easiest to learn by the majority might be the hardest for you.
What Makes a Language Easy to Learn?
Many factors influence a language’s difficulty level, but it mostly depends on how similar the language you're learning is to your own. It's not rocket science, really. If you learn a language that uses the same alphabet, follows identical grammar structure, includes similar words, and articulates sounds like your native language, it will be easier for you to learn it.
Easiest Languages to Learn
It may come as a surprise to you, but Norwegian is one of the languages that English speakers can learn more easily. Since it's a Germanic language, it shares quite a bit of vocabulary with English (legg, vinter, banan). Moreover, Norwegian's grammar is quite straightforward – verbs only have one form per tense – and it follows the same sentence structure as English.
Since the Dutch colonists had a huge influence on American English in the 1600s, it's not surprising that it's the language closest to English worldwide. Apart from learning how to pronounce new sounds like ‘sch' or ‘jj', learning Dutch is quite easy. The language shares various pieces of vocabulary and verbs (although conjugated differently) with English.
Spanish is the most popular language for English speakers to learn. It's practical, has a wide reach, and is also one of the simplest languages to study. While Spanish isn't a Germanic language, it derives from Latin, which is also where various English words originate from. While vocabulary isn't completely equal, words are very similar and easy to understand. Moreover, since Spanish is a phonetic language, words are pronounced how they're spelled – which makes it easier to pronounce words correctly. That being said, Spanish grammar is quite difficult, as there are various verb tenses and rules’ exceptions that you'll need to memorize. Despite this, since Spanish is such a prevalent language in our daily lives through music and media, you'll have an easier time engaging with the language regularly.
Hardest Languages to Learn
While Mandarin grammar rules are fairly simple, everything else can be quite tricky to grasp. Not only is Mandarin a tonal language, where four different tones substantially change a word's meaning, but it also uses characters for its writing system. This means that you'll have to learn a new alphabet from scratch, translating into long hours of memorization exercises. Due to its tonal characteristics, Rosetta Stone is the perfect tool to get the basics of Mandarin, as it provides you instant feedback on pronunciation through the company's voice-recognition technology.
Japanese is another challenging language to learn in general. Although pronunciation is straightforward, everything else is quite overwhelming. Instead of a completely new alphabet, you will have to study three different alphabets – hiragana, kanji, and katakana – each one with its own set of characters. If that wasn’t enough, Japanese sentence structure differs from English, as the verb always comes before the object (in English, it would sound like ‘I a newspaper read').
To make things even more complicated, due to Japanese culture, you need to be aware of the language's critical hierarchical nuances which change the way you say something depending on who you're speaking with. If you're still up for the task of learning Japanese, then Babbel is the perfect app for you due to its attention to cultural and grammar details.
It's already head-scratching trying to learn a language that doesn't include vowels in its writing. But things get even worse when you realize that Arabic follows a different word order than most languages. Instead of how you’re used to writing your sentences, Arabic places the verb before the subject – ‘read I this article’, for example. It also has a unique character-based alphabet and distinctive sounds that you'll have to learn from scratch. To top all of this off, Arabic is a macro language, meaning there are 30 different varieties worldwide. So, it's no wonder why Arabic is one of the most challenging languages to learn for English speakers. Fortunately, there a few pieces of software you can use to take on such a challenge. Pimsleur is a decent option as it provides courses for Eastern, Egyptian, and Modern Arabic.