What is the Easiest Language to Learn
“The easiest language to learn” isn’t a straight-cut answer. It’s one of the questions that brings people to this site though, so it’s something that I’ll address in this article.
The easiest language to learn is determined by three simple metrics. Having learned a romance language (close to my native language) and a Sino-Tibetan language (in progress), these are the metrics which mean it’ll take longer to learn a language.
Note: no language is impossible to learn. The easiest language to learn isn’t going to be like that scene from The Matrix either: You are never going to be able to ‘download’ a new language instantly.
Without further pause, here are the three main aspects when deciding what the easiest language to learn is:
If the pronunciation is similar to your native tongue, it will be easier. Some people might say, “false cognates,” and “getting confused,” but those are excuses. If you’re an English speaker, I might tell you that in Language X you have to pronounce this word: XtclShwshbii.
That’s more difficult than remembering that constipado is a false cognate.
If your L1 and L2 have a similar grammar system, then it makes the language easier to learn. For instance, a completely alien language (like Mandarin) can have a similar grammatical structure. “The boy eats the apple.” This means learning sentences takes less time. In a language where the subject, verb and object are in different places, the language takes longer to learn. “The apple boy eats.” The easiest language to learn thus needs a similar grammar structure.
Three: Writing System
If you can’t read a language, then it’ll take longer to learn. If you can’t write it, then your active ability in the language decreases by half. If you can read a language before you start (for instance, a Scandinavian might be able to read Swedish and Norse) then you’re off to a great head start, because you can read simple texts and learn by accumulating vocabulary.
Whereas, a new script or character-based language takes an exponentially longer time to learn.
Four: So, What’s the easiest language to learn
With that in mind, people will still want to know, “What is the easiest language to learn, exactly?”
This is my opinion: Each language is infinitely complex. We can only determine difficulty by familiarity between language. To apply that, we’d have:
For an English Speaker: The easiest language to learn is either Dutch, German, French or Spanish. Based on grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary and alphabet. Each of the four have their own quirks which you’ll have to come – again, no one language can be learned immediately.
For an Eastern European/Slavic first language speaker; the easiest will be Russian due to the availability of materials, generally. Outside that, the countries which you border with are probably linked closest.
For a Spanish first speaker it’s Portuguese (unless you include Latin American Spanish/European Spanish as different.)
Obviously, there are dialects that are spoken within the country of a native speaker. For instance, an English Speaker might try and learn or consider the Geordie or Scottish dialects a seperate language. Those will be the closest to your own in most instances, so if you wanted to “dip your feet” before embarking on a bigger language project, you could learn dialectal differences between your dialect and another dialect of your language. It might help with the IPA.