The easiest languages for English speakers to learn
28th October 2019
Learning a new language is difficult, especially when it comes to different grammar and slang. However, some languages can be relatively easy for English speakers to learn. They often share a common linguistic history and similar language structures.
English is a Germanic language, which mean its sentence structure (syntax) and morphology (how words are formed and relate to each other) will be similar to other languages from the same family, which includes many Scandinavian languages.
What to expect when learning a foreign language?
There are certain traits you’ll come across when learning a language. These include:
- Objects have genders, meaning that a chair or a table will have a gender. Genders can be feminine, masculine or in some cases neutral. This sounds strange as English is a genderless language, but once you grasp it, it’s easy to learn.
- Concord or Agreement happens when a word changes depending on the other word it relates to. A noun would change depending on the adjective, article (the/a), demonstrative (this/that), possessor (my/his) or gender added to it.
- Different forms of ‘you’ which are used depending on how polite the speaker wants to be. An incorrect use can cause offence, so it’s important to get them right.
- In some languages, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, determiners, participles, prepositions, numerals, articles and their modifiers take different inflected forms, depending on their case.
- Verbal inflection. While the regular verb in English has just 4 verb forms, for example clean/cleans/cleaning/cleaned, Spanish has 51 and they change depending on the tense, aspect, mood and the gender.
It sounds difficult, but just remember the many benefits that knowing a second language holds. It will not only better your career prospects, improve your decision making skills, memory and attention span but also enhance your cognitive abilities. Surely that’s enough to give it a go?
Which language should you learn?
There are so many languages to choose from, making it hard to decide which language is the one for you to learn. Many options come to mind including choosing the most widely spoken languages, language spoken by your family living aboard, language used at your regular holiday destination or language that could help you progress in your career.
Commonly learnt languages by English speakers include Spanish, French and Italian. This doesn’t come as a surprise.
Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world and valuable to business deals.
French is spoken by more than 220 million people around the world and is recognised as the language of international relations.
Learning French may give you that je ne sais pas factor employers are looking for.
And finally, Italian, the language of fashion, classical music and romance. As James Howell said, Italian is the best composed language in terms of fluency and smoothness.
Which languages are most similar to English?
- Germanic languages include German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Swedish and Afrikaans. As these languages are in the same family as English, the sentence structure and morphology will be similar.
- Romance languages include Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and Romanian, all of which originate from the same parent language (Latin). Roman languages derive from Latin as do many English words.
According to Hannah McElgunn, a Canadian linguist based at the University of Chicago, languages within the same “families” are also closely related. “The reason people who speak French can understand some words in Spanish is because they’re in the same language family,” the linguist notes. “Likewise, if you already know Norwegian, you could probably learn Danish pretty quickly.”
Pick a language and jump in! You will thank yourself later. And for the worst days, here are some learning tips to keep you motivated.