You know you want to learn another language but of all the fascinating and beautiful languages in the world, which one do you pick? While it’s a challenge to learn any new language, some are much easier for English speakers to master than others. By choosing a language that’s relatively easy to learn, you can have the satisfaction of being able to use your new skills in under a year. If you want a quick payoff for your linguistic investment, consider learning one of these six languages.
If you’ve never learned another language before, you can’t go wrong with Spanish. Derived from Latin, it shares many cognates with English, giving you a head start on vocabulary. Spanish is a phonetic language, making it straightforward to pronounce and spell, and it has few sounds that are difficult for English speakers to learn to say. In addition, Spanish is a familiar and frequently taught language, especially in the United States, where it is the second most commonly spoken language after English. Its popularity and widespread use provide plenty of opportunities to practice reading and speaking Spanish.
French, like Spanish, is derived from Latin. French is a good language for English speakers to learn because there is a great deal of lexical overlap between French and English. According to linguists’ estimates, about one out of three words in the English language is derived from French, which makes French vocabulary intuitive to pick up. In particular, adverbs and process words (which end in -tion or -sion) tend to be similar in French and English. And although French pronunciation can be tricky at first, with its silent letters and unique sounds, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of. French is also a practical choice since it is one of the most widely learned languages around the globe.
Afrikaans is a Germanic language related to Dutch. If grammatical simplicity is what you’re looking for, Afrikaans is the ideal language for you to learn. Nouns in Afrikaans have no gender, verbs are not conjugated, there are only three tenses (no need to grapple with pluperfect or imperfect), and phonetics are simple, making Afrikaans easy to spell and pronounce. Afrikaans also borrows many English words, which gives you a break when learning vocabulary. Though Afrikaans is not as widely spoken as French and Spanish, it has 20 million native speakers in the UK and in Namibia, South Africa, giving you plenty of opportunities to use the language.
Dutch is one of the world languages closest to English. In fact, if not for the Norman conquest of England in the 11th century, which brought with it an influx of French words into the English language, Dutch and English speakers would probably still be able to understand each other. Though Dutch grammar is more complex than that of its close relative Afrikaans, it’s still not too difficult. Dutch uses no case system, so nouns and articles are simple to learn, and verb conjugations are straightforward. It’s also easy for English speakers to get the hang of the rhythm of Dutch since intonation is similar in both languages. As a bonus, most Dutch speakers know English and tend to drop borrowed English words into Dutch speech, a phenomenon known as “Dunglish.” If you don’t know a particular word in Dutch, use the English word instead, and you will probably be understood.
When you think about languages that are easy to learn, Norwegian might not be the first that comes to mind, but as another Germanic language, Norwegian is a good choice for English speakers. It shares many cognates with English, which helps when you are learning vocabulary. Norwegian grammar is simple too: verbs are not conjugated in person and number, plurals are formed in a regular way, and Norwegian word order is similar to that of English. Another plus of learning Norwegian is that it allows you to understand some Swedish and Danish as well since all the Scandinavian languages are quite similar.