If you are curious by definition and passionate about life-long learning, this is probably among the top 1,000 most essential questions you asked or will ask yourself during your life: what is the easiest language to learn? But what about the hardest? Well, since we already answered your second question in a previous post, today you are focusing on the top 6 easiest languages to learn by an English speaker.
As a general rule, when you are doing a hierarchy or a top of any kind, you should first research and consult the highest authority in the field. When talking about the hardest or the easiest languages to learn, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Government holds the responsibility of having the most pertinent results. As you probably already guessed, the FSI is preparing American diplomats and other professionals to advance U.S. foreign affairs interests overseas. With around 800 language learning courses in 70 languages, the FSI has over 70 years of experience in instructing people to learn languages.
Now back to our topic of discussion. The award for the easiest languages to learn by a native English speaker goes to… Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, and Swedish! So yeah, Afrikaans is one of the easiest languages to learn. Did you see that coming?
As the FSI confirms, the native English speaker would need about 575 hours or 23 weeks to achieve professional working proficiency (level 3 on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale) in Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian and Swedish.
Just to put things into perspective, the same native English speaker would need around 2200 hours or 88 weeks to reach the same level of fluency in one of the hardest languages to learn: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or Korean.
1. Afrikaans – the easiest language to learn for both English and Dutch speakers
Afrikaans, the same as English, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, is a Germanic language. This is what makes it obviously easier to learn by a native English speaker. These languages use the same alphabet as English, have comparable stress and intonation patterns, and sometimes even share some vocabulary words.
The Afrikaans language is spoken in South Africa, Namibia and in some regions of Botswana and Zimbabwe. But the most exciting thing you must know about Afrikaans is that 90 to 95% of its vocabulary is of Dutch origin as a consequence of Dutch settlers establishing in Cape Town in 1652. As a result, the Afrikaans language gradually arose in the Dutch Cape Colony during the course of the 18th century.
Thus, if you are a language nerd that also wants to become a polyglot, with Dutch you can kill one and three-quarters of a bird with one stone because you’ll also understand a big part of the Afrikaans language.
Danish, the official language of Denmark, is spoken by around 6 million people principally in Denmark and in some minor communities in northern Germany, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Canada, The United States, Argentina, and Brazil. Due to immigration, around 20% of the population of Greenland also speaks Danish as a first language.
What makes Danish easy to learn by English speakers is the fact that there are around 900 Danish words we already use in English. Plus another 900 other words that linguists can’t yet decide if they were borrowed from Danish or just simply resemble their Danish equivalent.
As we already mentioned, Dutch can be considered Afrikaans’ oldest sibling since they share almost the same vocabulary (90-95%). With around 24 million speakers, Dutch is the third most widely spoken Germanic language – the first two being English and German – and the official language of the Netherlands and Belgium (together with French and German).
Careful though! The spoken language of Dutch is tricky as it has many dialects. While Standard Dutch is used for official purposes, its dialects are used in a great variety of informal situations. Sometimes you’ll find villages that use a Dutch dialect of their own.
With around 5 million native speakers, Norwegian has an interesting story behind its two distinct norms: Bokmål (also known as Dano-Norwegian or Riksmål) and New Norwegian (also known as Nynorsk).
The story started back in the 15th century after the union of Norway with Denmark. That’s when Old Norwegian writing traditions gradually began to die out, and Dano-Norwegian took over. Then, in 1814, Norway became independent, and although the linguistic union with Danish persisted, the people felt they needed a language of their own. That’s when the New Norwegian norm began to be used. Today, the people of Norway learn to read and write in New Norwegian, but only about 20% of them use it as their language of choice in writing.
Spoken by 10 million people in both Sweden and Finland, the Swedish language is known to be mutually intelligible with Norwegian and Danish (to some extent). Good news, right?
An important characteristic of Swedish grammar that makes is different from English is the placement of the definite article after the noun. However, its vocabulary contains many loanwords from German, French, and English. That means you’ll have a better chance at mastering is faster if you already know the above-mentioned languages. Everywhere you look in the world of languages, there’s a connection that can help you learn faster. Make the most of it!
6. The romance languages are almost just as easy to learn
For a native (or not) English speaker such as yourself, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish are practically just as easy to learn for you as the Germanic languages. To achieve a professional working proficiency level in any of these languages, you’ll need about 600 hours or 24 weeks of study. That’s only an extra week!
Well, not that you know what are the easiest languages to learn for a native English speaker, you can get to work because being a polyglot is sooo much easier when you have Mondly. Download the app, or just give it a try on the web, choose any of the 33 languages available and go wild! You’ll get to expand your vocabulary while also practicing REAL conversations with a chatbot with speech recognition.
Try Mondly now and learn Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian or Swedish faster than you could ever imagine.