Easiest language to learn blog image, with the Scottish, Ulster, Frisian and Dutch flags.

The 8 Top Easiest Languages For Native English Speakers to Learn

What is the easiest language to learn for English speakers? What if I told you one of the easier languages to learn in the world is often not even recognised as a language by many people, but called a ‘dialect’*? And yet – linguists recognise it as a language variety.

Welcome to Scots!

In this article we are going to look at which are linguistically the easiest languages to learn, and despite some writers who suggest fascinating languages like Indonesian, Malay, Haitian Creole and Swahili, they are not in our top eight.

In order of linguistic similarity, the three easiest languages are Scots, West Frisian and Dutch.

In fact all of the top eight easiest languages for English speakers are either a Germanic language or Romance language, or Esperanto – a constructed language based on Romance languages, with Germanic, Slavic and Greek influences.

*’Dialect’ is a poorly defined term, and not a word used by linguists anymore – we prefer ‘language variety’, which places all linguistic forms on an equal footing, not subjected to political or cultural preferences.

1. Easier Language to Learn for Native English Speakers

Conventional wisdom says that language variations that are closest to English are going to be easiest for native or fluent English speakers to learn.

Based on that assumption, the following table lists some of the common and not so common languages that share many features with English, and consequently are likely to be easier for English speakers to learn.

LanguagePhonetic & PhonologicalLexical ComparisonSyntactic StructuresMorphological FeaturesMutual Intelligibility
Scots85%90%85%80%70%
West Frisian80%85%80%75%65%
Afrikaans75%80%70%65%60%
Dutch80%70%75%70%55%
Norwegian75%65%70%65%50%
Esperanto65%55%60%75%40%
French60%50%60%55%25%
Spanish50%40%55%45%20%
Top 8 Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn, based on Linguistic Similarity.

2. Three Languages Easy for English Speakers – Scots, West Frisian & Dutch

Scots, West Frisian, and Dutch are three of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn – and all from the same West Germanic branch of the Germanic language family as English.

Scots shares a lot of vocabulary with English, making it highly intelligible to English speakers.

West Frisian closely resembles Old English, which makes its structure and words feel familiar.

Meanwhile, Dutch aligns well with English in terms of sentence structure and word forms, making the learning process simpler.

These languages not only make learning easier due to their similarities to English but also provide fascinating insights into the evolution of the Germanic language family.

Scots

Scottish Flag

Scots, a language (sometimes called a dialect) spoken by around 1.5 million people, primarily in Scotland and in Ulster in Northern Ireland is often perceived as charmingly straightforward for native English speakers. It boasts an impressive 85% pronunciation similarity to English.

Flag of Ulster

Its vocabulary is nearly as familiar, sharing about 90% commonality, making it the easiest language to learn for English speakers to grasp.

(For this reason, many people will argue that Scots is a ‘dialect’ of English – but given the number of speakers of English who can’t understand spoken Scots, we might need to rethink that!)

Additionally, with grammar and sentence structures showing around 85% and 80% similarity, respectively, learners can achieve fluency quickly, often within 24 weeks or 600 class hours, using resources like practical guides and interactive online platforms.

Scots Resources:

Scots Language Education website: http://www.scotseducation.co.uk

West Frisian

Flag of Friesland

West Frisian has approximately half a million speakers, primarily in the province of Friesland in the Netherlands. It stands out as a highly approachable choice among the Germanic languages for English speakers, sharing an impressive 80% pronunciation and 85% vocabulary similarity with English.

This ease extends to its grammatical structures, with about 80% similarity in sentence construction and 75% in word grammar, making it one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

Despite its modest number of speakers compared to more widely spoken languages, its familiarity and the available engaging learning resources significantly shorten the language acquisition process.

West Frisian Resources:

EduFrysk: https://afuk.frl/en/oer-it-frysk/

Dutch

Flag of Netherlands

While Afrikaans is listed next in my table, it is almost as closely related to English as Dutch, which is a much more widely spoken language.

As the previous two languages are very regional and spoken by only a small population, I thought I would talk more about Dutch.

Dutch is an inviting choice among the Germanic languages for English speakers, with a pronunciation similarity of 80% and vocabulary overlap of 70%.

Its sentence and word grammar similarities, at 75% and 70% respectively, position Dutch as one of the easier languages for English speakers to learn.

While not as widely spoken as French or Spanish, two very popular languages to learn, its familiar structure and substantial number of speakers make it an easy and practical option for English speakers to learn quickly.

Dutch Resources:

OpenCulture: Provides free Dutch language learning materials including audio files, textbooks, and online courses – http://www.openculture.com/freelanguagelessons

3. How to Determine the Easiest Language to Learn

FSI estimates learning times for 66 languages based on their relevance to U.S. diplomatic needs, including factors like language prevalence and official status in key regions.

‘What is the most widely spoken language?’

‘What is the official language of the nations we want to influence?’

Easiest languages to learn according to the Foreign Service Institute in the USA

That’s fine … but not always applicable to all language learners.

It is generally easier to learn a new language when the words are similar to those you already know from your native language/s or another language you have learned.

When determining how easily you can learn a new language, consider factors such as pronunciation and phonetics, grammar complexity, vocabulary similarities to your native language, and the availability of learning resources.

These factors collectively make it easy for English speakers to learn new languages, especially those with considerable grammar, vocabulary similarities, spelling, and pronunciation parallels to English.

A. The Sound System of the Language – Pronunciation, Phonetics & Phonology

When you’re looking at learning a new language, understanding its sound system, especially if it’s a phonetic language, can really help you figure out how easy or tough it might be for you.

Phonetic languages include Indonesian, Malay, Haitian Creole and Spanish, where words are spelled as they are pronounced, making the pronunciation straightforward and similar to their spelling. Dutch is also quite a phonetic language.

This similarity makes these languages particularly accessible for English speakers, as it simplifies the learning process.

Think about the sounds that vowels and consonants make in that language compared to yours. If they’re pretty similar, you’ll probably find it easier to get the hang of them, since you’re already used to making those sounds.

How words are stressed in sentences also matters a lot. If the new language stresses words like your own, it’ll feel more natural for you to speak it.

The same goes for intonation, which is how the pitch of your voice goes up and down when you talk.j

Both of these factors make French pronunciation tricky for English speakers to learn

If the new language uses pitch in ways you’re familiar with, it’s likely to be simpler for you to learn.

The pronunciation, intonation and general prosody of a language is much of what gives a language its unique ‘feel’. You might even be able to recognise a language from it’s sound alone, without even being able to discern any words.

I love how this video shows how recognisable languages can be, just from their sound alone:

Basically, the more the sounds and rhythms of the new language match up with what you’re used to, the easier you’ll find it to pick up.

B. Grammatical Structures

When you’re trying to learn a new language, looking at how its sentences are put together can give you a good clue about how easy or hard it might be for you.

This means checking out the order in which they put words in a sentence.

If it’s like what you’re used to, you’ll probably find it easier to make sense of it.

English vs Japanese verb grammar. Source: Twitter/X User @Noveltiques

For example, if both your language and the new one usually go “subject-verb-object” (like “I eat apples”), that’s an indicator that your languages are similar.

Also, think about how they handle time – like past, present, and future. If they talk about time in a way that’s familiar to you, you’ll likely find it simpler to express yourself in that language.

Basically, the more the new language’s grammar feels like what you already know, the easier it will be to learn.

Additionally, the presence or absence of complex grammar rules significantly influences the learning curve for English speakers, with simpler grammatical structures generally leading to a quicker and easier learning process.

C. How Words Are Built – Morphological Features

When you’re looking at a new language, understanding how it builds words can be a big help in figuring out if it’s going to be easy or tough for you to learn.

This includes things like prefixes and suffixes – those little bits that get added to the start or end of a word to change its meaning.

Turkish – An Agglutinative Language

Turkish is an example of an ‘agglutinating language’, where suffixes can create a single word to communicate what in English is a complete sentence. Source: Will Styler PhD

Also, look at how words change to show different things, like past tense or plural.

A critical aspect to consider is the complexity of verb tenses, especially in languages like Spanish, which has a greater number of verb tenses than English. This complexity, along with the presence of exceptions to grammar rules, can significantly impact the learning process for English speakers.

Spanish verb tense table

If the language you want to learn does these things in a way that’s similar to your own language, you’ll probably find it easier.

For example, if both your language and the new one add a similar bit to a verb to make it past tense, it’ll be simpler for you to get the hang of it. However, the increased number of verb tenses and exceptions in some languages could pose additional challenges.

The more the way this new language forms words feels like what you’re

D. Vocabulary Similarity

When two languages share words, they are said to be lexically similar.

When languages are closely related, they share not only grammatical and structural similarities, but also vocabulary. This is often because they belong to the same language family, where languages share vocabulary, grammar rules, spelling, and pronunciation that are similar, making them more accessible for learners.

English – ‘nature’ vs French – ‘nature’
English – ‘street’ vs Dutch – ‘straat’

These similarities make a language easier to learn, because there are less new words to learn. For native English speakers, learning languages such as Dutch, Spanish, and French can be particularly easy due to shared vocabulary and cognates, significantly reducing the time it takes to achieve proficiency.

Even when languages are not from the same language tree, if there are a significant number of “loan words” from a language you already know the lexicon is easier to learn.

Analysing the extent of shared vocabulary, including cognates (words derived from a common ancestral language) and loanwords gives us an indication as to how easily we might learn it.

A higher percentage of shared vocabulary suggests closer linguistic relations.

This makes language learning much easier, as you would expect, because the word is quickly recognisable.

E. Script Similarity

Script similarity plays a significant role in determining the ease with which you might learn a new language.

If the new language uses a writing system that’s similar to one you’re already familiar with, you’ll likely find it easier to get started.

For instance, if you’re proficient in a language that uses the Latin alphabet (like English), learning another language that also uses the Latin alphabet (like Spanish or French) can be less daunting.

Even languages that use an alphabet can have very different scripts. Sourch: Omniglot.com

You won’t need to learn a whole new set of symbols or characters from scratch.

On the other hand, moving to a language with a completely different script, like Arabic or Mandarin, poses an additional challenge, as it requires learning and becoming comfortable with a new set of writing symbols.

In essence, the more familiar the script of the new language is to you, the quicker you can progress to focusing on other aspects of the foreign language itself, like vocabulary and grammar.

It is, in fact, a large part of the reason that Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Korean and Chinese are considered so difficult – they use different graphical representations.

If you do not intend to learn the written language, then this of course is of little consequence.

F. Personal preferences and individual learning styles

The number one influence on how easy a language is to learn? Your own personal motivation for learning that language!

When diving into the world of language learning, the key to success often boils down to personal motivation and aligning your goals with your interests.

If you are motivated to learn a language, then how close or far it is linguistically from your native language is irrelevant.

For instance, learning a Germanic language like Swedish might not just be about adding a skill to your resume— it could be fueled by a love for Scandinavian culture or a dream to travel there.

Swedish, with familiar letters and clear pronunciation rules, can be one of the easiest languages for English speakers to grasp, especially given its use of the same script, although there are a few unfamiliar letters like å.

On the other hand, if your passion lies in the arts, music, or literature of Southern Europe, you might be drawn to Romance languages.

Signpost pointing to many languages.
Often the easiest language to learn is the one you WANT to learn!

Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French – these most popular of the Romance languages, not only unlock the doors to rich cultural histories but are also some of the most widely spoken languages globally.

These languages share numerous similarities in vocabulary and grammar, making it easier for learners to transition from one to another.

It’s also essential to consider different learning styles and strategies that cater to individual needs.

Some may find that immersive language courses, which can demand up to 900 class hours, are a way to mastery.

Others might prefer a more relaxed approach, learning through apps or casual conversation with native speakers.

No matter the path, the most important thing is that it resonates with your personal learning preferences and life goals.

4. How to Choose a Language to Learn

Choosing which language to learn can be as personal as selecting a favorite book or movie. There are many factors to consider, each depending on your goals, interests, and lifestyle. Here’s a straightforward guide to help you decide on the perfect language for your learning journey:

A. Identify Your Goals

Professional Advancement: Are you aiming to boost your career? Consider languages that are dominant in your industry or required by potential markets.

For example, Mandarin is invaluable for business in China, while Spanish can be beneficial in the United States and Latin America.

Personal Interest or Heritage: Maybe you want to connect with your heritage or have a passion for a particular culture. Learning a language like Italian could enhance a trip to Italy or help you enjoy Italian cinema in its native tongue.

Educational Opportunities: Some languages might open doors to educational programs abroad, such as German, which is widely used in strong engineering and humanities programs in Europe.

Cognitive Improvement: Perhaps you want to learn a language to stimulate your cognitive abilities – then choose a language that stretches you a little.

Social Diversity: Learning a language can be terrific for diversifying your social circle to new and interesting people, with different cultural frameworks. Then you will want to learn a language relevant to that community.

B. Consider Cultural Affinity

Reflect on the cultures you are drawn to. Are you fascinated by Japanese anime, French cuisine, or Brazilian music?

Learning a language is not just about words and grammar; it’s about embracing the culture that comes with it.

C. Evaluate Learning Resources

Before committing, check what learning resources are available.

Major languages like French, Spanish, and German have abundant materials, including apps, textbooks, online courses, and local classes.

For less commonly taught languages, resources might be more limited, which could slow down your learning process.

D. Think About Practicality

Consider the practical aspects of the language. How widely is it spoken? Where is it an official language?

Languages like English, Spanish, and Mandarin are spoken by large populations, which may provide more opportunities to practice and use the language regularly.

E. Assess Difficulty Level

Be realistic about the difficulty and the time commitment required. Languages that share similar structures and vocabulary with your native language will generally be easier to learn.

For instance, Dutch and Swedish are relatively easier for English speakers due to their linguistic similarities.

F. Listen to Your Heart

As we mentioned, ultimately your motivation plays a primary role in sustained language learning.

Choose a language that excites you, as passion is a powerful motivator. Whether it’s the sound of the language, its musicality, or the joy of understanding a film without subtitles, make sure it sparks joy.

By considering these factors, you can make an informed choice that aligns with your personal and professional aspirations, ensuring a rewarding and enjoyable language learning experience.

5. Conclusion

Embracing a new language is much like discovering a hidden treasure trove of culture and history.

As we have seen, for English speakers the easiest languages to learn are Scots, West Frisian, and Dutch, because of their linguistic similarity to English.

But in the end, what makes a language easy to learn is your own motivation and emotional attraction to a language.

So why wait? Dive into the delightful world of language learning; it’s an enriching journey that not only enhances your communication skills but also bridges cultures, all while being easier than you might think!

6. FAQ

What is the easiest language to learn in the world?

Looking only at linguistic features, the easiest language to learn in the world is the one with the most shared features with your native language. For most people, this means, a language in the same language family.

Which is simplest language?

The simplest language in the world, in terms of vocabulary, is Toki Pona, a constructed language designed to encourage positive thinking and simplify thoughts.

Is German easy to learn?

According to the Foreign Service Institute in the USA, German is a language of ‘medium’ difficulty, and they assign 900 hours for their students to learn the language to a basic working proficiency.

What is the easiest language to speak badly?

The easiest language to speak badly (and still be understood) may very well be English. With over 200 varieties of the language, native English speakers have a high tolerance for hearing their language spoken with poor pronunciation, sentence structure, and a variety of vocabulary used for similar concepts.

Similarly, Spanish, Mandarin, and many pidgins and creoles have a high tolerance for differences in usage.

Are Some Language Easier To Learn Than Others?

Yes, some languages are easier to learn than others, depending on the learner’s native language and linguistic familiarity.

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) classifies languages into different categories based on the relative difficulty for native English speakers.

Languages similar to English, such as Dutch and many Germanic languages, or French and Spanish and other Romance languages, are typically easier and require less time to achieve proficiency.

In contrast, languages with significant differences in grammar, syntax, or writing systems, like Arabic and Chinese, are classified as more challenging and require more study hours to learn effectively.

How Common are Easy Languages?

The languages listed here, and in the ‘easiest’ category of the FSI courses, have significant numbers of speakers and are spoken in multiple countries:

Danish: Approximately 6 million speakers, primarily in Denmark​ (TransL10N)​.
Dutch: About 24 million native speakers​ (Wikipedia)​.
Norwegian: Around 5 million speakers, mostly in Norway​ (TransL10N)​.
Swedish: About 10 million speakers, predominantly in Sweden​ (Milestone Localization)​.

For the Romance languages listed:
French: Approximately 77 million native speakers​ (Berlitz)​.
Italian: Roughly 70 million speakers, mainly in Italy and Switzerland​ (PoliLingua)​.
Portuguese: Over 220 million native speakers worldwide​ (PoliLingua)​.
Romanian: Spoken by about 24-26 million people as a native language​ (AmazingTalker)​.
Spanish: Around 460 million native speakers​ (Wikipedia)​.

Other languages in our list:
Scots is spoken by about 1.5 million people in Scotland.
West Frisian is spoken by about 470,000 people mainly in the Dutch province of Friesland and a few border villages in Groningen.
Afrikaans has around 7.2 million native speakers, mainly in South Africa and Namibia.
Esperanto, while not an official language of any country, has an estimated 2 million speakers worldwide.

Which language speakers learn languages easily?

The ability to learn languages easily can vary greatly among individuals, but there are some general trends based on linguistic background and environmental factors.

Generally, speakers of languages with a wide variety of sounds (phonemes), grammatical structures, and vocabulary that are shared with many other languages may find it easier to learn new languages due to the similarities and overlaps.

As we have discussed, it is easiest to learn a second language that is close to your own native language/s.

1. Dutch, German, Norwegian, Swedish & Danish Speakers often find it easier to learn English and other Germanic languages due to shared grammar, vocabulary, and sound systems.

2. Russian, Polish, Czech Speakers, and those of other Slavic languages find it easier to learn other Slavic languages due to shared grammatical structures and vocabulary.

3. Speakers of Romance languages like Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian find it easier to learn other Romance languages because of the shared Latin roots and similar grammatical structures.

4. Multilingual Societies: People from multilingual countries like India, Switzerland, or South Africa are often exposed to several languages from a young age, which can make learning additional languages easier. This is due to the cognitive flexibility developed through managing multiple linguistic systems.

Ultimately, the ease with which someone learns a language can also depend on their exposure to that language, motivation, the language learning environment, and personal aptitude.

How Long does It Take to Learn Easy Languages?

To reach a level of “General Professional Proficiency” (Level 3 on the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale) in any of these easiest languages to learn, if you are studying with the FSI, you need 22-24 weeks (at 8 hours/day) or 600-750 hours.

This is around a B2 level on the CEFR scale, and is functionally conversational and fluent enough for most daily life. According to the CEFR, it takes 600 – 800 hours to reach working proficiency at this level.

Essentially, at this level, learners are expected to be able to use the language effectively and efficiently in a broad range of professional and personal contexts.

Cate is a language enthusiast sharing her language learning journey here. Apart from her native English (albeit 'Strine'*!), as an adult she has also learned Auslan (Australian Sign Language) to approximately a C1 level, Dutch to around B1/2, French to around A2, and has a smattering of other languages.

B.A. (Anthropology/Marketing), Grad. Dip. Arts (Linguistics), Grad. Cert. Entrepreneurship & Venture Development, (CELTA).

Auslan Interpreter (NAATI), and general Language Nut.

*For more information on 'Strine', visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strine