20 Easiest Languages to Learn for English Speakers (2024)

20 Easiest Languages to Learn for English Speakers (1)

AnnaMarie Houlis

Did you know that 3.3 billion people speak more than one language?

Why not give it a go? With 7,151 known living languages, you’re spoiled for choice.

Luckily, native English speakers have a significant advantage since English has roots in both Germanic and Romance languages that still have heavy influences on vocabulary, grammar, structure and sound patterns today.

That means, according to language experts, there are a number of languages that are distinctively easier and faster to learn if English is your first language.

Why Learn Another Language?

There are plenty of reasons to learn another language. For you, it might just be fun.

Maybe you travel a lot, and you’d like to communicate better with the locals for a more immersive experience.

Perhaps you have family, like grandparents, who speak another language and you want to get closer with them or connect with your roots.

Being bilingual is also beneficial in the workplace. Many employers look for candidates who can speak more than one language so they can communicate with clients and customers of all backgrounds.

Research shows that being bilingual or multilingual is also proven to positively impact academic performance, result in improved concentration and account for a more powerful memory.

One study found that children who learn a second language are found to have sharper cognitive abilities as adults—with the ability to swiftly shift their attention and quickly detect visual changes between images on a screen.

What Makes a Language “Easy” to Learn?

While there are a host of factors that can contribute to the ease with which one adopts a new language, experts have determined several characteristics that native English speakers can count on to make learning a new language faster and simpler than others.

Lexical Similarity

Lexical similarity to one’s native language, a common parent language, simplicity of the grammatical structures and the number of verb tenses are all major factors that can make a difference in how easily you pick up the new language. Phonetics and the complexity of the sound system compared to one’s own are also significant.


New learners may also want to consider their proximity to authentic practice opportunities. For example, do you have relatives in Brazil? Are you close to the Canadian border? Having relatives or significant others with a different mother tongue can also be great sources of motivation that push us to learn faster. Already speak more than one language? Consider yourself on the fast track for the third–especially if two of the languages have similar family origins.


A major determinant of success in language learning is how much time you spend using effective methods to study and practice. Innovative tools like the Dorothy memory app, which uses active recall at intentionally spaced intervals, can optimize the time spent and manner in which you study.

20 Easiest Languages to Learn

With respect to English speakers, The United Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has compiled a list of the easiest languages to learn along with the approximate numbers of hours and weeks of study required to get to a proficient level. Here are some of those languages.

1. Afrikaans

The official language of South Africa may seem like an unlikely choice for beginners, but Afrikaans is considered the easiest language for native English speakers to learn. It is ranked number one on Unbabel.com and earned a top spot in the FSI rankings. Over eight million people worldwide speak Afrikaans as their native language.

Because Afrikaans shares West Germanic language family origins with English, they also share a number of Germanic-derived root words like “son” (sun), or “veld,” (field.) And since there is no change to most vocabulary based on gender, number or tense, English speakers can start building sentences as soon as they’ve learned the pronunciation. Another plus for beginners? Afrikaans has only three tenses: Past, present and future. Oh, and it doesn’t use verb conjugation or pronouns!

2. Norwegian

About 4.4 million people speak Norwegian, mostly in Norway. The Germanic origins of both Norwegian, or “Norsk,” and English give learners an advantage. Norwegian has simple grammar and sentence structures that mimic English with a subject+verb+object (SVO) order. English speakers will find consistent pronunciation and loads of cognates, or words that share similar origins and are, therefore, spelled and pronounced similarly, or even the same.

Words like “gress” (grass), “katt” (cat), “regn” (rain) and “snø” (snow) illustrate the close relationship to English that FSI looks for when ranking Category I languages like Norwegian. It is estimated to only take an average of 575 to 600 hours to learn!

3. Swedish

Another FSI Category I language that generally uses SVO word order, making it ideal for English learners, is Swedish. This Germanic and Scandinavian language only uses an additional three letters: two As (one using an umlaut and the other with a halo) and one O, using an umlaut, on top of the familiar 26 letter Latin alphabet.

Swedish and English share many words, syntax and conjugation rules, and luckily, Swedish only uses two genders: a common one for people and a neutral one for objects. Babbel.com ranks it the second easiest language to learn. In fact, about 10.5 million people speak Swedish, 90 percent of whom live in Sweden.

4. Danish

FSI estimates that it takes English speakers only 24 weeks to learn Danish due to its similar grammar patterns and shared Germanic origins. Cognates like the days of the week (“Mandag, Tirsdag, Onsdag, Torsdag, Fredag, Lordag, Sondag”) are plentiful and, therefore, learners can develop a strong lexicon in a short amount of time.

Danish is said to follow the 80/20 rule, in which you only need about 20 percent of the Danish vocabulary in order to express 80 percent of ideas. Pair that with only nine verb forms, and it’s easy to see why Danish is a strong choice. Plus, about 5.5 million people speak it, many of whom hail from Denmark.

5. Dutch

Spoken by about 23 million people in the word (mostly in the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname), Dutch is an easy choice for English speakers because a number of words do not change at all from one language to the other. A member of the West Germanic language family, Dutch also ranks as an FSI Category I language requiring only about 575 to 600 hours of study to achieve general proficiency.

The grammar is relatively simple, and Dutch contains similar verbs to English. Verbalicity, which offers language lessons, says: “Overall, Dutch is English’s closest cousin. In other words, easy-peasy.”

6. Romanian

About 17.2 million people worldwide speak Romanian (mostly in Romania). It’s an interesting language based in Latin but developed in Eastern Europe, which shares many similarities with the other Romance languages. Overlaps in vocabulary come from the Latin roots, which comprise about 80 percent of the Romanian lexicon.

For English speakers, Romanian is phonetic, so most words are easy to sound out and pronounce, and there aren’t multiple pronunciations of the same letter or digraph. Moreover, the grammatical structure will be familiar for learners, and there are roughly 22 to 26 millions native speakers in the world with whom to practice.

7. Frisian

Lingua, a language center, calls Frisian, “the language most similar to English” and, therefore, labels it the easiest language to learn. It’s the second official language in the Netherlands and is spoken in the Northern province of Friesland by about 450,000 people. Frisian and English share structural and lexical similarities, as they both belong to the Angofrisian group within Germanic languages.

Frisian is English’s closest living relative with 80 percent lexical similarity,” says Babbel.com, with all three of its subsets closely resembling one another and English. Cognates like “wolkom” (Frysk-West Frisian), “wäljkiimen” (Nordfrasch) and “wäilkuumen” (Seeltersk-Saterland Frisian) bear striking resemblances to one another and to their English counterpart: welcome.

8. Esperanto

Created by L.L. Zamenhof, Esperanto was the brainchild of one man’s quest to create a universal language—and it’s spoken by at least two million people. It boasts phonetic spelling, simple word order, predictable patterns and only 16 grammar rules. Instead of the hundreds of prefixes and suffixes used in English, Esperanto streamlines communication by using only a few dozen.

Verbalicity puts it this way: ”For many, Esperanto is the easiest language in the world and considered a stepping stone for learning other ones. While no country has adopted Esperanto as an official language, it’s been widely supported by the European Union and organizations like PEN International.”

Esperanto uses only five vowels, derives its lexicon from the Romance language family and, best of all, is completely regular. It does not include any irregular verb tenses, irregular plurals or irregularly used prepositions.

9. Spanish

As the official language of 548.3 million people, Spanish ranks as the easiest of Romance languages for English speakers to learn. It’s widely spoken around the world, from Latin America to Europe. Since Spanish derives from Latin, like many English words, learners will be pleased to find the two languages share hundreds of cognates, or words that are spelled the same or similarly, having derived from the same origins.

Words like “correcto,” “accidente” and “brilliante” should be easy for English speakers to translate, and others like “doctor,” “director” and “festival” take no effort at all. The lexicon is largely phonetic, meaning words are generally pronounced the way they are spelled. With only one additional letter, ñ, English speakers will otherwise be familiar with their traditional Latin alphabet.

10. Italian

Upwards of 85 million people speak Italian as their first language, many of whom live in Italy but many others who live around the world. Like Spanish, FSI estimates about 24 weeks for folks to learn Italian, though it has a few more vowel sounds to master. Italian comes quickly to native English speakers because words are generally written as they are pronounced, and the language tends to flow rhythmically which aids in distinguishing meaning through intonation.

Babbel.com says, “It’s Latin roots allow for a sizable chunk of cognates English speakers will recognize, such as ‘futuro’ (future) and ‘lotteria’ (lottery), two things we all wish we could ‘controllare’ (control),” earning it seventh place on their list of easiest languages to learn.

11. Portuguese

Another Latin-based language, spoken by 257.7 million people globally (largely in Portugal and Brazil, for example), is Portuguese, which is noted as a Category I language by FSI. Portuguese shares similarities with other Romance languages, especially Spanish.

Forming interrogatives is intuitive since it is all about intonation—say the word(s) with a voice that lifts at the end and you’ve made it a question. There are only a handful of prepositions, the nasal vowels are similar to English and it uses the same Latin alphabet as English. The only thing to look out for is that European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese can vary dramatically, so it’s best to learn one or the other.

12. French

The language of love is spoken by 300 million people in 39 countries (of course, including French), marking itself as the world’s fifth-most-spoken language. Its wide use across Europe, Africa and North America lends itself to plenty of practice opportunities and loads of available study resources.

Although French includes a number of nasal vowels that English speakers often find troublesome, the two languages share numerous cognates, or words that share the same linguistic derivation. “Communication” won’t take an “abondance” of “effort” if you pay “attention” to the similarities. If you read that with ease, it is because English and French have more lexically in common than other Romance languages.

13. German

About 130 million people speak German as their mother language or, at least, as a second language. It’s widely spoken in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, among other places. Although German has a tougher grammatical structure to master than some previous candidates, this language is mostly phonetic and pronunciation rules are consistent. Stemming from the same Germanic language family, there is considerable crossover in the realm of vocabulary, particularly with nouns.

Words like “bruder” (brother) and “haus” (house) display the linguistic overlap prominently and highlight why German can be easily acquired by English speakers. Having only one present and one past tense for verbs is another plus for learners. FSI estimates that natives of English can pick it up in about 36 weeks.

14. Indonesian

Like German, Indonesian is marked as a Category II language by FSI–a good choice for English speakers. In about 900 hours, they estimate you’ll be able to join the 43 million native speakers of Indonesian, many of whom hail from Indonesia.

Unlike with other Asian languages, English speakers can continue using the phonetic Latin alphabet, instead of learning new symbols or characters. Further, Indonesian does not use the dreaded gendered nouns and many words are similar to English, making them easier to learn. Additionally, there are no tones or distinct verb endings. Instead, Indonesian uses prefixes and suffixes to change the meaning of vocabulary words.

15. Swahili

Widely spoken throughout eastern and southeastern Africa, Swahili has approximately 15 million native speakers. Swahili functions without tone, making it one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up. Match that with relatively easy pronunciation, phonetically spelled words and loads of borrowed words from English, like “mashine” (machine) and “penseli” (pencil), and Swahili stands out as a great choice for an easy language-learning experience.

Like Indonesian, the grammar patterns are straightforward and logical, using prefixes instead of conjugations. FSI predicts it should take you only about 36 weeks to learn.

16. Malay

Malaysia’s native tongue, Malay, boasts no verb conjugations, plurals, verb tenses or genders to learn—all music to the ears of natives of English speakers. About 57 million people worldwide speak Malay as their native language, with a big population also in Indonesia.. FSI estimates about 36 weeks for learners to become proficient in this syllabic language.

It is not tonal like some other Asian tongues, and it’s spoken according to each syllable within each word. For example the word, “satu” (one) has two syllables and is, therefore, pronounced as sa – too. You may have just noticed another benefit, Malay uses the Latin script just like English, so that means there’s no new alphabet to acquire.

17. Haitian Creole

As the most popular creole in the world with about 10 million speakers in Haiti, Haitian Creole makes the FSI Category 2 list, meaning a native speaker of English should be able to learn it in about 36 weeks. This mix of French and African, also shows clear influences from English, Portuguese and Spanish. English speakers will be at an advantage because of the increasing amount of crossover in the vocabulary, creating tons of friendly cognates. Moreover, Haitian creole does not use conjugations, and its words rarely inflect.

18. Welsh

Welsh is spoken in Wales, but not all of the people there speak the language. Only 29.1 percent of people aged three or over were able to speak Welsh in 2021. Still, Welsh is said to be an easy language to learn. It’s has a simpler spelling system than English, and many of the sounds will be familiar to English speakers, though there are a few like the “ll” and “rh” that will take some practice.

Welsh vocabulary often shows obvious similarities between groups of related words that share a common context like “llyfr” (book), “llyfrgell” (library) and “llyfryddiaeth” (bibliography), making root words a strong bridge for building your lexicon. It also borrows a great deal from Latin, just like English. Welsh uses logical prefixes that take some getting used to, but they are sensical when creating compound words.

19. Greek

About 12.2 million people speak Greek, mostly in Greece. Although Greek is not a Romance language, the Latin alphabet actually derives from the Greek one, so many of the letters are indeed the same, though they may look a bit different than you are used to. Stresses in Greek are clearly marked with accents, making them easy to distinguish and learn. Grammatical concepts are said to be fairly simple to grasp and, although Greek uses cases, there are only three, and many look the same. FSI labels Greek a Category III Language, so it should take approximately 44 weeks for English speakers to attain the language.

20. Russian

There are about 258 million Russian speakers in the world, many of whom hail from Russia. But people speak Russia in multiple places: There are 138 million speakers in Russia, 14.3 million in Ukraine, 6.9 million in Belarus, another 6.9 million in Poland and 3.8 million in Kazakhstan.

FSI puts Russian in Category III, with an estimated learning time of approximately 44 weeks or 1,100 hours of classes. Using an unfamiliar Cyrillic alphabet might be off putting initially, but it is said to be surprisingly easy to learn. Resemblances with English shine through in vocabulary like “класс” (which is said like “klas” and means class) and “иде́я” (which is said like “ideya” and is Russian for idea). Once you learn the script, you will be able to pronounce most words accurately, and the sentence structures are less complicated than English–albeit directive. Russian also has fewer tenses than English and does not use articles like a, an and the.

20 Easiest Languages to Learn for English Speakers (2024)


What is the easiest language to learn for English speakers? ›

Languages that are related to English and easy to learn include most Germanic languages (Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, and German) and Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Romanian).

What is the #1 hardest language to learn? ›

1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. Mandarin Chinese is challenging for a number of reasons.

What is the 20 hardest language in the world? ›

Top 20 Hardest languages to learn for english speakers
  • Criteria for ranking language difficulty. The task of ranking languages by difficulty is a complex endeavour that requires careful consideration of various linguistic factors. ...
  • Mandarin. ...
  • Arabic. ...
  • 3. Japanese. ...
  • Korean. ...
  • Russian. ...
  • Cantonese. ...
  • Hungarian.
Feb 19, 2024

Which language has hardest grammar? ›

The top 10 hardest languages in the world include Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Georgian, and Navajo. These languages are renowned for their intricate grammar systems, complex writing systems, and significant differences from English.

What is the most useful language to learn after English? ›

The 7 Best Languages To Learn
  1. Spanish. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin, and not a surprise at the top of languages to learn. ...
  2. German. ...
  3. Arabic. ...
  4. Mandarin. ...
  5. Portuguese. ...
  6. Russian. ...
  7. French.
Oct 19, 2022

What is the hardest word to say? ›

7 most difficult English words that will let you forget what you wanted to say
  • Rural. ...
  • Sixth. ...
  • Sesquipedalian. ...
  • Phenomenon. ...
  • Onomatopoeia. ...
  • Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. ...
  • Worcestershire.

What is the oldest language in the world? ›

World's oldest language is Sanskrit. The Sanskrit language is called Devbhasha. All European languages ​​seem inspired by Sanskrit. All the universities and educational institutions spread across the world consider Sanskrit as the most ancient language.

What language has the easiest grammar? ›

Languages with Simple Grammar Rules
  1. 1) Esperanto. It is the widely-spoken artificial language in the world. ...
  2. 2) Mandarin Chinese. You did not see this one coming, right? ...
  3. 3) Malay. ...
  4. 4) Afrikaans. ...
  5. 5) French. ...
  6. 6) Haitian Creole. ...
  7. 7) Tagalog. ...
  8. 8) Spanish.

What is the most tricky language? ›

Mandarin is unanimously considered the most difficult language to master and is spoken by over a billion people in the world.

What is the sweetest language in the world? ›

One of the reasons why Bengali is regarded as the sweetest language in the world is because of its simplicity. It is very easy to speak and comprehend. The words and tonality are known to be absent of harshness and roughness. Additionally, Bengali also has simplified consonant and vowel sounds.

What is the top 20 easiest language to learn? ›

20 Easiest Languages to Learn
  • German. ...
  • Indonesian. ...
  • Swahili. ...
  • Malay. ...
  • Haitian Creole. ...
  • Welsh. Welsh is spoken in Wales, but not all of the people there speak the language. ...
  • Greek. About 12.2 million people speak Greek, mostly in Greece. ...
  • Russian. There are about 258 million Russian speakers in the world, many of whom hail from Russia.
Jan 31, 2023

Is English actually one of the hardest languages? ›

As we've seen, then, English is pretty challenging. But it's not the only contender for the World's Most Difficult Language. Other notoriously tricky languages include Finnish, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin.

Which English language skills is most difficult? ›

Writing: It is the most difficult of the four language skills. It requires a command over vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. When children graduate to writing short paragraphs, it also involves establishing links among different sentences.

What is the top 10 hardest language? ›

Top 10 Hardest Languages in the World
  • Mandarin.
  • Arabic.
  • Japanese.
  • Korean.
  • Telugu.
  • Cantonese.
  • Polish.
  • Finnish.

What is the hardest language for English speakers to learn? ›

Let's explore the 10 hardest languages for English speakers to learn, and the challenges they deliver:
  1. Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. 3. Japanese. ...
  4. Hungarian. ...
  5. Korean. ...
  6. Finnish. ...
  7. Basque. ...
  8. Navajo.
Mar 6, 2015

What is the 10 easiest language to learn? ›

10 Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn
  1. Afrikaans. Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family, once thought of as a Dutch dialect. ...
  2. French. Ah, the language of love. ...
  3. Spanish. ...
  4. Dutch. ...
  5. Norwegian. ...
  6. Portuguese. ...
  7. Swedish. ...
  8. Italian.

Is French or German easier for English speakers? ›

French tends to be easier for beginners, though it gets harder as you get into its intermediate and advanced layers. German has a tougher on-ramp for beginners, but gets easier as you go along.

Is it easier to learn French or Spanish? ›

However, for many English speakers, Spanish is often considered slightly easier to learn than French. Here's why: Phonetics and pronunciation: Spanish has a MUCH more straightforward phonetic system, with consistent letter-to-sound correspondence, making it easier to pronounce words correctly.

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