Learning a foreign language can be hugely rewarding on both a personal and professional level. The ability to speak multiple dialects can expose individuals to new worlds and cultures. It can also open up new career opportunities as businesses worldwide continue to engage with international markets and seek multilingual experts to support this. But with so many possibilities, choosing which dialect you’d like to learn often boils down to which is the easiest language to learn.
Some of the easiest languages to learn
Dialects with fewer verb conjugations and simpler sentence structures can often be considered easy to learn. But that does depend on what your native language is, and what new one you’re hoping to become fluent in.
For this particular post, we take a look at the easiest dialects for English speakers to learn, according to language learning app, Babbel:
- Norwegian: This particular dialect was ranked as a relatively easy language to learn due to its connection with the Germanic family of language, which English is also a part of. As a result, there are similarities in some of the vocabulary you will learn, making it much easier to grasp. Its grammatical structures are also considered relatively easy to adapt to, with word orders often the same as you would use in the English language.
- Swedish: Perhaps unsurprisingly, second on the list is Swedish – another member of the Germanic language family. As with the Norwegian language, there are similarities between several words that make it easier to learn. For example, ‘grass’ is ‘gräs’.
- Spanish: One of the other relatively easy to learn languages is Spanish. Known as one of the ‘romance languages’, it has long held its appeal for native English speakers. However, with differing verb tenses, it can be slightly trickier to master than Norwegian and Spanish.
- Dutch: Fourth on the list is another of the Germanic languages and many consider it to sound like a cross between German and English. Some words are spelt the same in Dutch and English, making it easier to adapt to. However, what can complicate your learning is the fact that pronunciation may be different. ‘Rat’, for example, is spelt the same, but pronounced ‘rot’ in Dutch. There are also some words that will be familiar for English language speakers, but actually mean different things. As a prime example, the Dutch word for ‘law’ is ‘wet’.
- Portuguese: Another one of the romance languages, Portuguese is widely spoken across Brazil and Portugal. However, as with Dutch there are words which sound similar to easily recognisable English statements, that actually translate into something different.
- Indonesian: Perhaps one that very few of us would expect to see on the list of the easiest languages to learn, Indonesian actually uses the Latin alphabet, making it one of the easier Asian languages to pick up.
- Italian: This particular romance language’s Latin foundations mean that English speakers will often recognise some of the sounds, making it easier to learn. However, it is prone to potentially complex tense variations that can be tricky for some to adapt to.
- French: Arguably an unsurprising language on the list is French. As a language that is spoken by almost 76 million people across the globe and something that is taught in many English-speaking education programmes, it’s perhaps no surprise that many people consider French relatively easy to learn. However, pronunciation is slightly more difficult to adapt to than other dialects.
- Swahili: Last on the list, but by no means the most difficult, Babbel lists Swahili as one of the easiest languages – another that many people perhaps wouldn’t initially consider as easy to learn. However, with most of the words sounding exactly as they are spelled, pronunciation is relatively easy to adjust to. It also uses straight forward grammar and verb conjugations.
Harder languages to learn
While the above are considered the easiest languages to learn, there are of course a number that are thought to be tricky to pick up – here are the top five according to Babbel:
- Mandarin: It might come as no surprise that Mandarin is top of the list for the most difficult languages to learn. However, it is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and is a language that appeals to numerous global employers.
- Arabic: With multiple varieties of the language that are dependent on the region they are spoken it is no wonder that Arabic is second on the list of most difficult languages to learn. It also excludes vowels in most words which makes translating the written word in Arabic challenging for native English speakers.
- Polish: While the Polish language uses a Latin alphabet, which makes it much easier to learn than Mandarin and Arabic, words are quite often consonant-heavy which can make pronunciation tricky to master.
- Russian: As with Polish, the correct pronunciation of Russian words can leave some learners tongue-tied. However, it is a language that can open up doors for those bilingual experts looking for a political career.
- Turkish: The Turkish language can be complex to learn. In particular, the use of vowel harmony – interchanging vowels to make a word flow more smoothy – can be a challenge to pick up.
Knowing which language to choose
If you’re looking to become fluent in another language to expand your career options, sometimes choosing the easiest language isn’t necessarily the right approach. Instead, take a look at what bilingual skills are in demand for native speakers like yourself.
For native English speakers, for example, there’s demand for people to teach English as a foreign language (EFL) in many destinations. Look at where there’s the need for these abilities and tailor your choice based on this and if a job in EFL appeals to you. If you’re looking to learn a new language but not sure where to start, read our blog on the most in demand dialects.
A career in languages
It’s perhaps safe to say that throughout 2020, more people have considered learning a new language in their spare time. With large numbers of people furloughed from work, new hobbies were picked up, including learning a foreign language.
For those who went down this route at the beginning of the pandemic and found it rewarding and interesting, there are a fantastic range of career opportunities that could be perfect for you.