We’ve previously covered the 12 hardest languages for English speakers to learn. In that entry, we discussed certain factors within each of those languages that make them challenging anglophones. We’ll do the same for this entry. The only difference, of course, is that we’ll cover the various factors that make the languages on this list a lot less taxing for the brain.
Why don’t we get into it? Let’s start with the most widely spoken Romance language in the world—Spanish.
Spanish is easily one of the easiest languages to learn. Not just for anyone but especially for those who speak English as their native language. In the U.S., Spanish is taught in most grade schools, which means a lot of Americans learn this language from childhood. But even if you’re an adult and are learning it for the first time, you will find that Spanish is a fairly easy language to master.
One reason? Well, for one, it’s a phonetic language. That means words are written exactly as they are pronounced and vice versa. This is already one huge obstacle taken out of the way.
Not only that, but many Spanish words are recognizable since they have the same Latin roots as most English words. The Spanish word estudio, for instance, can easily be recognized as “study.” English-Spanish perfect cognates also abound. These are words from two different languages that are either spelled or sound the same and mean the same exact thing. The words cheque, actor, altar, and director are examples of these.
Spanish conjugation is also trouble-free. Verbs are conjugated based on three classes, and these depend on the ending of the word. Let’s take the word “write,” for instance, which falls under -IR verbs.
Notice how minimal the change the root word has to undergo in each verb form?
Finally, most of the grammatical rules of Spanish are identical to that of English. Nouns, verbs, and adjectives have to agree in number in gender, sentences follow the subject-verb-object (SVO) structure, and tenses align to those of English.
Next on our list is Italian, the language of love!
Italian is easy for English speakers to learn for mostly the same reasons that Spanish is. Words are pronounced as they are spelled, English-Italian cognates are abundant, and the alphabet is the same with that of English (although the letters j, w, x, y and k are used only in foreign words).
And since both English and Italian borrow from Latin, you won’t have a difficult time guessing the English equivalent of most Italian words when encountering them the first time.
The word abilità, for instance, is clearly the word “ability” in English, and dentista is the word “dentist.” Some words may be spelled a bit differently, but it’s still easy to figure out what they mean.
That is the case with the word legalmente, which means “legally” in English, as well as the word corruzione, which means “corruption.”
In pronouncing Italian words, you’ve experienced yourself how the vowels and consonants in both languages make similar sounds. That means you’ll be able to read the majority of the Italian words correctly. Yes, you may have to practice rolling your “Rs” more, but once you get past that, it’s all a walk in the park.
Italian word order is also similar to that of English. Take a look at this:
“I study Italian.” Io studio italiano.
As you can observe, the basic, practical details are the same. The structure changes as the sentence becomes more complex. But, the fact that the nuts and bolts are the same, it’s a lot easier to break complicated Italian sentences down to get to their essence. You’ll probably make mistakes along the way, but as they say: “Sbagliando s'impara”— “It’s by making mistakes that we learn.”
If Italian is the language of love, French is considered the world’s sexiest language. As such, it’s also one of the easiest for English speakers to learn. For years, French has been one of the top three most studied languages with currently over a hundred million learners. If you wish to learn French but are a bit intimidated by it, don’t let your apprehensions about the language get in the way.
You’re not starting from scratch when learning French. That’s because it shares the same alphabet as English. The majority of French words also have a lot in common with English words. Café, encore, geographie, académies, présentation, prononciation — these are French words, and yet, you know exactly what each of them means. If you’re fluent in English spelling and pronunciation, you won’t have a hard time learning French at all.
The simplicity of French tenses is another thing that makes it effortless to learn. Unlike English, French doesn’t have a lot of different implications and nuances when talking about the past. In French, “I did”, “I did do”, and “I have done” are all “J'ai fait”. In the same manner, “I would do”, “I was doing”, and “I used to do”, are all “je faisais” in French.
Finally, French verbs are a lot simpler than those of German, Italian, and even Spanish. Take the verb “to study”, for instance:
It may seem intimidating at first glance, but if you break things down, you’ll realize that four of the words are pronounced exactly the same. That’s because the final ‘s’ for étudies is silent, and the final ‘ent’ for étudient is also silent.
Norwegian is considered by many a more exotic language than other European languages. That’s because it’s a pitch-accent language, which means it has word accents: one syllable in a word is more emphasized than the others. That makes people think it’s a difficult language. In fact it’s one of the easiest.
From the beginning, you will notice that Norwegian has a lot of similarities with English. That’s because it’s also a Germanic language. Norwegian has a lot of words that will look familiar to English speakers. The word velkommen, for instance, which means “welcome,” is one of them.
Norwegian pronunciation is uncomplicated. With the exceptions of the letters e (sounds like the ‘e’ in egg), j (sounds like ‘y’), and i (sounds like the ‘ee’ in ‘see’), letters of the Norwegian alphabet tend to be pronounced like their English equivalents.
As a Scandinavian language, Norwegian also has a grammar that’s easier than both German and Dutch. In terms of verb conjugation, for instance, you simply add -r to the verb to form the present tense. This is regardless of who's doing the action. So, whether it’s “I studied,” “you studied,” or “they studied,” the verb remains in the same form (studerte).
In terms of word order, Norwegian is also very close to English. In many languages, the word order changes when a sentence is translated to English. This happens in Norwegian, too, but only in very complex sentences. And even in long sentences, only one or two words change positions when translated.
The sentence “I have not studied today”, for instance, becomes “Jeg har ikke studert i dag” in Norwegian. If you notice, the words studert (“studied”) and i dag (“today”) remain in the same position. In some languages, like German, the verb would move to the end of the sentence.
They say that Romanian is the “forgotten” Romance language, but we definitely haven’t forgotten to add it to our list.
Just like the English language, Romanian uses the Latin script. This is an instant advantage for English speakers. If you know English and would like to learn Romanian, you will find Romanian to be easy as most of the words are recognizable.
If you’ve experienced learning Russian, Thai, or other languages that don't rely on the Latin script, you would agree that memorizing vocabulary words to memory can be challenging. With Romanian, you won’t have any trouble visualizing words since most of the letters will be familiar to you. There are a few exceptions, of course, such as the letters î and â, but they are fairly easy.
Most of the English words that end in the suffix -ion can be directly translated to Romanian. You can do that by replacing the suffix with -ție. For instance, “station” becomes “stație”, “emotion” becomes “emoţie”, “innovation” becomes “inovație”, and so on.
When it comes to pronunciation, with Romanian, you won’t have to guess how a word should sound. That’s because the language is consistently phonetic. So, when you hear a word you don’t understand, you can simply search for it in the dictionary and be certain that you’re looking for the exact word that you’ve just heard.
When it comes to languages having the most similarities with English, German is near the top of the list. Both English and German are Germanic languages. They have shared origins and utilize the same letters from the Latin alphabet.
Sure, you’ll have to learn the rules of writing the umlauts (ä, ö, and ü), as well as the Eszett (ẞ). Aside from that, the German alphabet is the same as the English one.
Many German words have the same origin as their English counterparts. Some may be spelled slightly differently, but you will probably be able to figure out what they mean at a glance. Don’t believe me? Look at these German words:
akzent effectiv fabulös känguru maschine ozean schule vulgär
German verb patterns are similar to English. For instance, you have “sink”, “sank”, and “sunk” in English, and in German, you have sinken, versank, and versenkt.
And speaking of tenses, German uses one past tense—the present perfect tense—at least in conversations. So, if you want to say, “I ate pizza with my friends” or “I was eating pizza with my friends”, you say both as “Ich habe mit meinen Freunden Pizza gegessen” in German.
And it doesn’t matter if you want to say “I have eaten pizza with my friends” or “I did eat pizza with my friends”. In German, it’s still “Ich habe mit meinen Freunden Pizza gegessen”.
A lot of English speakers tend to get intimidated by Portuguese. The language has features that make it seem a little bit more complicated than English. For instance, you have to be aware of which nouns are masculine and which ones are feminine. You also have to ensure that articles, pronouns, and adjective endings agree with the gender of that word.
Don’t let the slight differences between Portuguese and English stop you from learning Portuguese, though. The truth is that it’s one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.
Portuguese it is an S-V-O language just like English, which means the subject usually comes first in a simple sentence, followed by the verb, and then the object.
“I study Portuguese”, for instance, is “Eu estudo Português”. Notice how the words are in the same position in both languages.
In addition, Portuguese words can be similar to their English counterparts. You will observe this in some word endings, such as -mente, which is equivalent to the English ending -ly. Here are some examples:
Portuguese is a Romance language which is generally easy to learn because of its many similarities with English.
Forming plural words in Portuguese is also done by adding -s to the end of nouns. The plural form of língua (“language”), for instance, is línguas (“languages”). The plural form of livro (“book”) is livros (“books”). And the plural form of escola (“school”) is—you got it—escolas (“schools”).
Finally, when it comes to asking questions, there’s no need to invert subjects and verbs in sentences in Portuguese. If you want to turn the statement “Você assistiu ao filme” (“You watched the film”) into an interrogative sentence, you simply add a question mark at the end: “Você assistiu ao filme?”
There’s a misconception that Swedish is difficult to learn. This is understandable, considering that some words can be rather lengthy and seem hard to pronounce. Look at words such as: sjuksköterska (“nurse”), tjugosju (“twenty-seven”), and Söndagsångest (that feeling of Sunday anxiety you get knowing that it’s the start of another work week).
Apart from these rather complicated Swedish words, the Swedish language is actually relatively easy to learn. One reason is that verb conjugation is simple. Imagine not having to worry about how the spelling of the verb changes depending on its subject. In English, verbs have to agree with the subject. The verb “study,” for instance, becomes “studies” if the subject is singular. In Swedish, the spelling of the verb remains regardless of the verb’s subject:
Now, when it comes to the alphabet, did you know that Swedish uses the same Latin Script that English does? That’s right! All 26 letters that the English language uses. Plus three additional letters. But these three letters Å, Ä, and Ö, have pronunciations that are very easy to memorize.
Perhaps the most compelling reason that Swedish is easy for English speakers to learn is the fact that it shares more than 1,000 words with English. If you count how many words are similar in both languages, you’ll get a total of 1,558! Some of the words are pronounced slightly differently, but they are spelled the same and share the same meaning.
Did you know that there are around 20 million speakers of the Afrikaans language? That makes it the fourth-most spoken language of Germanic roots. The top three are English, German, and Dutch. Speaking of Dutch, Afrikaans actually comes from Dutch. It’s also one of the youngest languages so far. But what makes Afrikaans easy for English speakers to learn?
Well, for one, it doesn’t have the grammatical gender that languages like German, Dutch, and Icelandic have. Just like English, it uses a single article for both singular and plural subjects. Thus, in Afrikaans, you only use one article for words like “boy,” “girl,” and “house.” That article is die or “the” in English. That’s easier to remember compared to German’s die, der, and das, or Dutch’s de and het.
And when you want to use the articles “a” or “an,” you simply say 'n, which is pronounced like the letter “a”, by the way.
And you would agree if I said that verb conjugation is usually an uphill climb when you’re learning a new language. In Afrikaans, it’s almost nonexistent. Even irregularities are rare. The verb “to be”, for instance, doesn’t conjugate at all as shown below:
Finally, Afrikaan words are not that difficult to pronounce. Yes, you will encounter words with the guttural g sound, but most words will feel natural to native English speakers since they are mostly pronounced as they are spelled.
Indonesian and Malaysian have a lot in common. For instance, both are said to be hard to master. The truth is that both languages are easier than most languages to learn, especially for English speakers. Unlike Chinese or Vietnamese, for instance, they are not tonal languages. With tonal languages, you have to get the tones right, as they might have different connotations and meanings.
There is also no need for you to worry too much about grammatical errors when learning Indonesian. The language doesn’t have a lot of complex grammatical rules. For example, it doesn’t have verb tenses at all. Instead of verbs changing in spelling, extra words are used with the verbs to convey the time the action takes place. For example:
English“I am studying.” “I have already studied.” “I will study.”
IndonesianSaya sedang belajar. Saya sudah belajar. Aku akan belajar.
MalaysianSaya sedang belajar. Saya sudah belajar. Saya akan belajar.
In all instances in both languages, the verb “study” maintains its form. And guess what. When studying Indonesian and Malaysian, you won’t have to memorize the plural forms of nouns at all! That’s because, in both languages, you simply need to reduplicate nouns to form their plural!
Take a look at this:
There are irregularities, of course, but they don’t have strict rules. For Indonesian personal nouns, for instance, you’ll need to use para to form the plural. The word “teachers,” for example, is para guru, the plural form of guru or “teacher.”
Overall, both languages are relatively easy for English speakers to learn, especially since the grammatical rules are not too strict. Even if you fail to follow the rules in forming your sentences, you will still be understood by a native speaker as long as the main thought is properly communicated.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen The Lion King multiple times. And if you’re like me, you also probably didn’t realize that some of the characters in the movie spoke and sang in Swahili. Yes, I learned that just now while doing some research about the language. One thing I also learned is that Swahili is spoken by 100 million people.
And while most of these people don’t speak it as their first language, it’s considered as one of the national languages of East Africa. That is due to the large number of people who can speak it. And yes, that’s how easy Swahili is to learn as a second language.
One of the easiest aspects of Swahili is pronunciation. The short vowels sound the same as in Indonesian or Spanish. Consonants, on the other hand, come with rules, although they’re not that complicated at all.
For instance, the letter c should always be accompanied by the letter h, producing the ch sound. The gh sound, which sounds like an aspirate kh, is also familiar, especially if you’ve learned Arabic or German in the past. As for written Swahili, it’s also not that difficult since the words are written as they are spoken. Keep in mind, though, that the Swahili alphabet lacks the letters Q and X.
Nevertheless, many Swahili words have been borrowed from English. This makes learning Swahili vocabulary less complicated. In Swahili, you will encounter familiar words like baiskeli (“bicycle”), basi (“bus”), shule (“school”), and penseli (“pencil”).
Finally, you won’t have to worry about grammatical cases in Swahili as they are nonexistent. There are also very few irregular verbs. What’s more is that these irregular verbs are mostly short words and are used in daily conversations, which means they can easily be learned by example.
You will definitely encounter some obstacles along the way as you study these languages. But overall, these 12 are the easiest for English speakers to master. If you want to make things easier, then you should consider using language learning tools, such as VocabChat. This free tool is designed to help you memorize as many vocabulary words as you want in any language you wish to study. And with patience and dedication, who knows how many of the languages on this list you’ll soon master?