The ubiquity of the English language can make its native speakers a little lazy in learning other languages, but it can be done…
To mark International Mother Language Day, introduced by UNESCO in 2008, as a way to celebrate multiculturalism and acknowledge language as a powerful instrument in furthering our heritage. Your mother language can also help discover new cultures. In honor of the internationally recognized event, the linguists at language learning app Babbel (which uses the mother tongue as a foundation to unlock a new language) have put together a list of the 9 easiest languages to learn for English speakers:
This may come as a surprise, but Norwegian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn, primarily because both languages are members of the Germanic family of languages. Not only do they share a fair amount of vocabulary, such as vinter and sommer, but the grammar is also very straightforward. Norwegian verbs only have one verb form for each tense, while the word order is also very similar to English, for example kan du hjelpe meg? translates to ‘can you help me?’ Lastly, due to the vast number of accents in Norway, there is more than one correct way of pronouncing something.
Another member of the Germanic family of languages, Swedish is another language that is not as difficult for English speakers to learn. The two languages have a large number of cognates. Cognates are words in different languages that stem from the same language, or sound similar to one another. Similarly, English speakers have had a lot of subtle exposure to the Swedish language thanks to IKEA. For example, IKEA Lack tables are named after the Swedish word for ‘varnish’, while the children’s items in the furniture catalogue are named after animals.
Many English-speakers are adept at learning Spanish. Derived from Latin, this romantic language shares a lot of cognates with English. Spanish likely comes as less of a surprise, given it is such a popular choice for English-speakers to learn, due to its wide reach and practicality. Additionally, the Spanish pronunciation is fairly straightforward as it’s a phonetic language, meaning that it is pronounced as it is spelt. Lastly, Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the world, meaning that you are likely to already be familiar with a lot of the words, even if you don’t know it yet.
Yet another Germanic language, Dutch is spoken across the Netherlands, as well as part of Belgium and Germany. Interestingly, Dutch has a lot of words that are spelled exactly the same as they are in English (more so than any other language), however, they are often pronounced differently. For example, ‘rat’ has the same spelling and meaning as the English, but it is pronounced like the English ‘rot’.
Another member of the Romance language family, Portuguese is spoken across Portugal and Brazil. Similar to Spanish, it shares a lot of vocabulary with English, which makes it easier to learn. However, look out for false cognates, for example ‘pasta’ in Portuguese means ‘folder’.
Another surprising addition to the list, Indonesian is a good pick for English speakers for a number of reasons. First of all, it is a language spoken by a massive 23 million people, while also being one of the few Asian languages which uses the Latin alphabet. Indonesian is also a phonetic language, making the pronunciation aspect incredibly easy. The grammar is very different to the English, but the lack of rules make it easy and exciting to learn.
Another Romance language, which has an impressive 63 million speakers. Due to its Latin roots, it shares a lot of cognates with English, such as future (future) and lotteria (lottery). The best thing about learning Italian is that you can learn with food. Italian cuisine is such a staple in Western countries, that a number of the words are already part of the English vocabulary.
The last of the Romance languages on the list, French is often a favorite amongst English speakers. Although it isn’t as easy as some of the other languages, it is spoken in many corners of the world, from France to Canada to Madagascar. One of the benefits of learning French is its shared vocabulary, as English speakers are familiar with words such as avant-garde and a la carte.
The least easy of the easy languages, it is slightly less conventional than the eight languages listed above. Swahili is spoken across a number of countries in south-eastern Africa, usually as a lingua franca. It is said to be the easiest of the African languages for English speakers, as the pronunciation is relatively easy to manage, while a lot of the words like penseli means ‘pencil’ and mashine meaning ‘machine’ are derived from English.
The Babbel app for web, iOS and Android makes it easy to learn 14 different languages from 7 display languages. Bite-sized lessons fit into everyday life and are split into useful real-world topics, from introducing oneself, to ordering food and making travel arrangements. The app’s effective game mechanics ensure that learners stay motivated to achieve their goals, with the average user continuing to learn with Babbel for more than 12 months. Uniquely, every course is created specifically for each language pair by a team of education experts, linguists and language teachers.