“Another language is another vision of life,” said the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, and he was right. Learning languages will not only open up new horizons for you (that’s for sure!), but it will simply make you smarter.
Which language should be the first to learn?
The demand for a language depends both on the scope of its application and on the tasks it faces. If a company works in the international market, of course, it will be more appreciative of specialists who speak several languages. The vast majority of people whose mother language is not English, start with it, as it is the working language around the world (and also because it is learned in school). Sometimes the first is German, and then you need to urgently pull up English, which is absolutely easy to do. After all, German is so hard to learn! English and German are both languages of the same Germanic group. Once upon a time, ancient Germanic tribes spoke a common language, so the grammar of both modern languages is similar, with only vocabulary and phonetics being different. German is an excellent choice for those interested in medicine, robotics, “smart” architecture, and other professions of the future. A bonus is free education in public universities in Germany, so the language is very promising and can serve as a good start in an academic career. There is also a nice nuance – knowing English and German, you can easily understand the basic idea in all Scandinavian languages, as well as in Dutch and Flemish. But it is not advisable to start with them – complex spelling and phonetics may lead you to think to stay only with good old English.
What language should I learn as a second language?
So, you know English and are already bored of knowing it. Look in the direction of France; there are a lot of interesting things there! The eternal confrontation between the English and the French is good for modern students. Despite the fact that languages belong to different groups, the warlike Norman conquerors brought a lot of their grammar to English. And the vocabulary was “given” even earlier to both languages by the Romans, so those who have ever tried to learn Latin will have no trouble mastering French. This language is necessary for those who plan to live and work in Canada (in its French region), Belgium, and Switzerland. These are all countries with high standards of living and excellent career prospects, but in order to become your own in the francophone states, you need to know French a little more than well.
Of course, after French, you can easily learn the other “useful” languages of the Romance group: Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. There are also exotic Romanian, Catalan, Ladino and others, but because of the small number they are not in demand.
People often ask if it is difficult to start with French as a second language. Yes, it is difficult, but after that, the other languages are much easier to learn because you already know the basics. If you dream of living in the U.S., then choose Spanish as a second language. And if you plan to move to Canada, only French, for this, the immigration service gives extra points. However, this condition applies only to Quebec; the rest of Canada lives in English. For those who have studied both languages, here is some advice. If possible, bring the average level of Spanish, because at an advanced level, all are equally difficult. What about Italian – easy and useless? Italian is the direct descendant of Latin, so you’ll use it to improve your English, Spanish, and – nice coincidence! – Italian and French are 70-80% similar in vocabulary!
Study only the languages you really need. Psychologists have proven that no motive works as well as a material one. If a language provides you with basic needs, your self-esteem will skyrocket, you’ll be interested, and you’ll make time to study. The brain saves resources, and no matter how hard you try to make rational arguments, unconsciously, you will resist the “unnecessary” waste of time. And rightly so; our memory is not infinite, especially given the changes of age.
Learn difficult languages with a teacher. You can learn to read and write at a decent level by yourself in Chinese or Japanese. You can even learn to understand the tone of oral speech, but you still need an interlocutor to practice dialogues. A teacher (not just a native speaker) will help you to set goals and achieve them.
Below is a list of the most promising languages after English:
Top five easiest languages for English speakers to learn, according to experts
As we’ve already mentioned, there are also some languages that are generally considered easier to learn than others.
Check out the top five suggestions, which are rated on three main factors: spelling (writing), pronunciation (speaking), and grammar (comprehension).
We had a chance to talk to a student from the United States who has some experience in learning different languages, who was kind enough to share with us his experience in learning other languages with his first language English. His name is Bob and he will tell us which language is easier for English speakers to learn. So, the story will be told on his behalf, to make it easier for you to perceive the practice.
Foreign language comparison
I am a university student currently studying French and Portuguese. In school, I learned some German, a good bit of Spanish, and some Mandarin. Recently, I even tried to learn Japanese.
I think it’s great to be able to communicate with strangers in a totally new language. It forces your mind to think in a totally different way, and I truly believe that it changes us as individuals.
Throughout my studies, I have noticed that some languages are naturally easier to learn than others. So I wondered if there was one language that stood out from the rest as being the easiest for an English speaker to learn. I did some research, and here are my findings.
1. Afrikaans and Dutch
Afrikaans is spoken mainly in South Africa, but also in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is not very different from Dutch. Dutch speakers can understand it when they hear it and vice versa. Therefore, these two languages are considered the easiest to learn for an English speaker. Dutch is a Germanic language, just like English, which makes many words and sounds quite similar. For example, “Welcome” in Dutch is “Welkom,” and “Hello” is “Hallo.” Also, to make life easier, Afrikaans removes some of the more complex features of Dutch. There is no gender for nouns and no conjugation for verbs. There are also only three tenses – past, present, and future – which makes it much easier to master.
Famous speakers of Afrikaans and Dutch include actress Charlize Theron, actress Audrey Hepburn, and soccer player Luis Suarez.
2. Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish
This family of North Germanic languages, more commonly known as Scandinavian, is not only very similar to English but also to each other. In fact, most of the time, all three languages are intelligible. Norwegian is considered the best of the three languages to begin with, as it is the central link between the three languages and has the most similarities. A Norwegian can understand written Swedish and spoken Danish very well. The sentence structures are similar to those of English, and most of the time the sentences can be translated in exactly the same order as they are written in English. For example, “I want to eat breakfast this morning” in Norwegian is translated as “Jeg vil spise frokost i morges.”This means that once you’ve learned the basics, all you have to do is learn the vocabulary.
Famous speakers of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish include actor Viggo Mortensen, comedian and presenter Sandi Toksvig, and actor Christopher Lee (but not fluently).
The second most spoken language in the world, Spanish is incredibly useful to learn. What’s more, it’s relatively easy to learn for English speakers. Since it is a Romance language, many of its words come from Latin, just like in English. In addition, the pronunciation of Spanish is quite easy – many words are pronounced exactly as they are written, and there are many concordances with English. Although there are different tenses to learn, such as the pluperfect and the conditional tense, they align with those used in English, which makes them much easier to master. What makes Spanish even more fun and easy to learn is the availability of TV shows and music. With over 400 million speakers worldwide, there are countless shows translated into Spanish or originally made in Spanish that we English speakers can watch and use to improve our language.
Famous Spanish speakers include singer Shakira, actress Sofia Vergara, and politician Jeb Bush.
I am currently learning this language myself, and I can confirm that it is relatively easy to learn. Most of the words are similar to English, and the tenses are even easier. For example, you can use the present tense to express the future. “Eu vou,” means “I go” and “I will go.” The hardest part for me is the pronunciation because it is much harder than Spanish, but it is not impossible, and with a little time and practice, you can master it. The advantage of learning Portuguese is that it is spoken by over 250 million people worldwide, mainly in Brazil. Although there are some subtle differences between European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, it is easy to learn both at the same time, as many features are the same in both versions of the language, and the differences are minimal. For example, in Portugal, the word “tu,” which means “you,” is used informally, and “você” is used formally, while in Brazil, “você” is used in both cases.
Famous speakers of Portuguese include soccer player Ronaldo, singer Shakira, and singer Ricky Martin.
Having studied this language myself, I can confirm that it is relatively easy to learn for an English speaker. Many words are shared between French and English, such as “le week-end,” and the pronunciation, while tricky at first, can be mastered with a little practice and by listening to French radio stations and watching French television (widely available, just like in Spanish). French is incredibly useful as a “lingua franca” (or common language) for foreigners. For example, if you’re traveling abroad and someone doesn’t speak English, they’ll often be able to speak at least a little French. This has happened to me many times on my travels in Europe (especially Italy), and it means we were able to communicate without knowing the other’s language. For English speakers, there are thousands of free online resources for learning French, which can be very helpful, and it’s easy to find native speakers, online or in person, who can help you learn the language.
What makes a language easy to learn? 6 factors to consider
1. Your familiarity with other foreign languages
Whether you speak English and your grandparents speak Italian, or you just have a lot of Mexican friends who speak Spanish, any familiarity with a foreign language will probably mean you’ve already started picking up the pieces without realizing it.
So, would you choose to learn a foreign language from scratch or learn a language that would allow you to build on your existing knowledge? That wouldn’t be a problem to choose a second language.
2. Your strengths as a language learner
While some of us may have an aptitude for grammar (guilty as charged – we love learning to conjugate verbs and the like!), others may enjoy memorizing vocabulary or even a whole new alphabet.
Whatever your language abilities are, it’s worth identifying them so that you can choose a language that leverages your strengths. That way, the “hardest” parts of learning a particular language will be the most fun for you!
3. Your understanding of grammatical structures
The way you understand grammar will again be naturally related to the patterns and structures you are used to seeing in English. And for this reason, you will often find that foreign languages with sentence structures and word order similar to English are easier to learn.
4. Your pronunciation
They say that where you come from helps you decide where you’re going, and the same can be said about which foreign language is easiest for you to learn.
A huge part of mastering any language is the conversational part, so if you choose to learn a language that uses sounds similar to the ones you’re already used to pronouncing, you’ve already won most of the battle of learning.
For example, there’s a reason why Scots, who are used to spinning the letter “r,” have an easier time learning Spanish pronunciation than most.
5. Your motivation
Having said all that, don’t forget that you have to really want to learn the language to make the learning process seem “easy.” As much as we all would like to think otherwise, learning a new language doesn’t happen overnight.
6. Useful and effective tools
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One last piece of advice
Whatever language you decide to learn, have real fun with it! Knowing a language is not only a goal; it’s also quite a long process. Learn the language every day, trying new things, from cards and podcasts to couchsurfing and volunteer camps. Only then will the language seem alive to you, and you’ll understand how to master it effortlessly.
Unfortunately, even such an easy way, at first glance, will not work if you do not have the right system of learning a foreign language.
Therefore, we have compiled everything we know into a mini-book that presents a master plan for your learning: from beginner level to fluency. You can follow it step by step and learn French, Portuguese, Spanish or any other foreign language at a high level as quickly and effectively as possible.
And the best part? This guide is completely free and you can start using all these techniques right now. No prior knowledge of the language is required.
Click the “Get Now” button below to get your copy of the guide.