English– no cases, no gender, no word agreement, arguably no grammar. The language is everywhere and can be heard, absorbed and used anywhere. Short words, verbs change only in the third person. Native speakers are very forgiving of mistakes as so many people speak it as a second language. This makes English the easiest foreign language to learn. No tutorials or tutors needed to get off the ground. Just start watching films and listing to music and step out your door and use it, it is in a word, elementary.
Easy to learn
Italian – No cases, easy clear pronunciation, vocabulary of derivative of Latin, therefore the vocabulary has congruences throughout the Indo-European Latin influenced world.
Spanish – similar to Italian in that the grammar and pronunciation is easy, also ubiquitous, everywhere, but Spanish people talk fast and you can get lost when trying to understand.
German– logical grammar but does have cases and long words as word building is important.
French – sixteen tenses and some grammar twist and a specific pronunciation that makes it a little harder the Spanish.
Esperanto – Although I respect the people who created this, I do not consider this a living language and should not be considered when ranking the Easiest language to learn.
This is in contrast to the hardest language to learn
- Some languages are just easy and some are hard to learn, that is a fact.
Languages are easy to or difficult dependent on one’s initial native language. However, they also have a range of how hard they are, based on what the human brain can process. This means some are objectively more complex and others are more basic and go into the human brain easier. Therefore, despite the relative aspect of language learning people argue, we can objectively state which language can be learned without difficulty compared to ones that take more effort. This is the thesis of this post. That is that there is some objective measure that goes beyond your linguistic starting point.
Languages have an absolute scale of tediousness depending on the complexities and expectations in:
- Grammar – Grammar is a nothing more than a ritualistic method of word changing and order. It brings clarity to the sentence if you are a native speaker because you are used to hearing it this way. For example, Slavic languages function without articles while English sentences are sparse on cases. It just so happens that because of the number of speakers native and nonnative using English to communicate, many of these grammar rituals have simply dropped off though linguistic evolution. Hence, English grammar is flexible, simple and in a word child’s play compared to case based Central and Eastern European languages. Asian languages are surprisingly elementary also in grammar.
- Pronunciation – For similar reason to grammatical evolution, words in English are short. If you have the average number of letters of in the English language it is like 3.8. That is a short language. English is a one or two-syllable language and if you can use a three syllable Latin based word than you are part of the intelligentsia.
- Receptiveness of the languages speakers to communicate with foreigners – This is a overlook evaluation criteria. For example, Americans have little inhibition to talking to foreigners while Slavic people are reserved and tenuous just to get them to open up a bit. To demonstrate this point you could say, Americans talk and ramble and speak loud. Slavic people talk in cautious whispers. The sheer number of words a person trying to immerse themselves in the language is many times more for English than any other language, just based on the social customs of communication.
- Media – Is the language used in films and music? If so there is a good chance that people can absorb the language through osmosis and have for years subconsciously. The average person as a twenty-five year old from any country has been exposed to about, well, twenty-five years of English regardless where they grew up.
- Scales of difficulties listed by websites or even the government or respected educational organizations are not the end of discussion as many of these are based on outdated methods, written by academics not normal people learning, based on reading and writing rather than speaking (the method that was used in the first one million years of human evolution).
- Script – People immediately conclude that when a language uses another alphabet it must be inaccessible to all those who are not language savvy. Many people are intimidated by Asian language scripts. They immediately declare with passion that Mandarin is the hardest language for example. This is not true. Writing was only accessible for the elite and educated for most of human existence. Communication was first gestures, tones and then vocalization for about thousands of years, therefore I would not put a high weight on written communication. Granted English is has complicated spelling, but who cares if you can speak it.
The language of friendship isn’t words but meanings. – Thoreau
Concluding remarks about second language challenges
Brain considerations – Neurobiologists are not studying Broca’s area the motor for speech and Wernicke’s area, the center for understanding or comprehension with MRI and PET scans studying aphasia patients and the gyri and basal temporal cortex to understand the algorithm of language. They look at neural plasticity and how other areas of the brain can recruit neurons for language. We are all different in the way our brains can process language, based both on experience acquiring a language and our interaction in the world. However, I think there can be an objective measure of difficulty. Saying that I think that English is the easiest language in the world. This is considering all factors, including media, ease of communication and opportunity to speak with native speakers, grammar and word length and pronunciation.
I invite you to participate in the conversation by commenting on your experiences with languages. I am open to revising my position but at this juncture I am sticking to my thesis that English because of its universality and flexibility and tolerance that nonnative speakers show others, it is an easy to communicate.
128 thoughts on “Easiest language to learn”
“Esperanto – Although I respect the people who created this, I do not consider this a living language”
Then you are wrong. Esperanto is a living language. This is an indisputable fact. Esperanto is used in the real world by real people for actual communication.
What on Earth is Esperanto, if not a living language? Go to youtube and watch hundreds of videos of people speaking Esperanto, even toddlers.
Do you mean that the language I use every day is not a living language?
Is this considered for English speakers?
English may look cool, which is a powerful motivation to many, but it is definitely not easy to learn. For instance, it has about 4’000 exceptions to pronunciation: if you do not know a word, you have no clue how to pronounce it or how to write it. In this respect are Finish, Greek, Czech and a few other way easier (or was it more easy ?)
“English is a one or two-syllable language and if you can use a three syllable Latin based word than you are part of the intelligentsia.”
That’s not true. 60% of English words are of Latin or Greek origin and usage is very common. Although very frequent usage of lengthy words is considered to be associated with the intelligentsia. This is sometimes frowned upon as it’s considered pretty obnoxious, in interpersonal terms. It’s really a question of etiquette and audience.
Also, the average English word is ~5.2-5.3 letters long, not 3.8.
Though I see your points on your criteria for scoring and generally agree, I think one aspect you’re missing is the size of the vocabulary, more specifically the words in common use. Because of the size of the English vocabulary and the spread of it’s geography, it’s very common to encounter unknown words. Though I’d still consider English a very easy language to learn to speak. If you know the vocab and the word order, you can generally be understood. The typical native English speaker is also very acquainted with other accents and pronunciations, making it easy to communicate.
Agree one-hundred percent! English is without a doubt THE easiest language in the world to…….mess up without impunity or shame, miscommunicate and mangle, cheat and steal:-)
Oh sure, English is definitely good for alotLOL It’s sooooo easy, that’s why nobody speaks or (especially) writes it properly.
Right on, Marek. I’m a translator, and many folks claim English is easy. That’s why you get some real zingers like Electrolux doing an ad a number of years ago, which apparently read, “Our vacuums really !” That’s my favorite “crazy translations” story, right up there with “Feel free to take advantage of the chambermaid” in a Japanese hotel.
Is English your only language or are confused with other languages? You said there are no case agreements and no grammar. First, there are cases agreements such as subject-verb agreements. Second, there is grammar in every language. I can’t believe you actually think this is true. Subject-verb agreement is grammar; commas, punctuations, apostrophies, capitalizing letters, et cetera is grammar; and even these semicolons I am using is grammar, and not to mention the rules on how to use them. The more people explain why English is easy to learn, the more sympathy I have for people learning English as a second language.
I would say Spanish (or maybe Italian) is the easiest to learn. Reading is easy, you read as it is written, you also have and accents placed if they are not normal (and than NOT happens in English). I didn’t saw any expections learning it (maybe there are some). The only problem may be verb conjugation, but I find it quite simple.
Why English is harder for me? You write different, you read different. Tons of expections, a lot of worlds has different accents (well, maybe that’s not a big deal but you won’t sound right). If you don’t know how to pronounce words you won’t be understood probably.
For Slavic people articles are a nightmare as well as multiple tenses, but it counts of all Germanic and Romance languages.
English is not easy to learn, especially the vocabulary. English doesn’t have as many verb conjugations or gender, but there are still rules and the vocabulary is horrendous (it may not be spelled the same way it sounds). People who say English is easy have either been speaking it all their life (most Americans will say English is easy) or can speak it without knowing how to read English.
In Italian accents are not written and many words change meaning depending on where you pronounce the accent and the use of verbs is not easy at all.
Norwegian, along with Swedish and Danish, is only marginally more complex grammatically than English, though isn’t it? You mention noun declension, but what you have shown of Norwegian is hardly comparable to all the morphological changes that take place in the Slavic languages or even German. I find it interesting that speakers of the three Scandinavian languages mentioned above always say that English is easy, but that their own languages are extremely difficult in comparison. This doesn’t appear to be true.