What's the Closest Language to English? (2024)

What's the Closest Language to English? (1)

Circle Translations


What's the Closest Language to English? (2)

While researching the multitude of languages spoken across the globe, those passionate about linguistics and history may ask themselves which language bears the closest resemblance to English.

This article delves into the linguistic ties and elements that connect English with other tongues. Embark on this expedition with us to reveal the answer and gain deeper insight into the bonds that have molded the English language.

Exploring the Closest Languages to English

In order to understand the English language, it’s crucial to examine its roots.

English emerged from the Anglo-Frisian dialects, transported by settlers and invaders hailing from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands to a land where originally Celtic languages were spoken and where elements of Latin had been already spread by the Romans. Consequently, the impact of various languages has transformed English into a distinctive blend of Germanic and Romance tongues.

Dutch, Frisian, and German stand as the nearest kin to English, with Frisian holding the strongest resemblance. The syntax, lexicon, and phonetics of both Frisian and English demonstrate their shared lineage. Dutch shares sizable portions of vocabulary and grammar with English, making it relatively easy for speakers of either language to learn the other.

Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian also have a major linguistic tie to English. It all goes back to the days of the Vikings raiding the British Isles from the 8th to the 11th century. And those Vikings didn’t just pillage; they also stuck around and interacted with the Anglo-Saxons. And as a result, Old Norse had a huge impact on Old English.

Let’s now focus in great detail on the five languages that are the closest of the close to English.

Scots: A Language Intricately Connected to English

Scots, alternatively referred to as Scottish English or Lallans, is essentially a West Germanic language spoken predominantly in Scotland and some regions of Northern Ireland.

Interestingly, its historical origins can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon dialects spoken by settlers in Scotland during the early Middle Ages. As these settlers interacted with the native Celtic-speaking population, an entirely new language began to take shape.

Subsequently, Scots diverged from English in the late Middle Ages and early Modern period when Scotland and England existed as separate nations. While Scots shares a common ancestry with English, it has undoubtedly developed its own unique flavor over time.

The question of whether Scots is merely a dialect of English or an entirely separate language has been a topic of intense debate among linguists and the general public. There’s no denying the similarities between the two languages, but there are also significant differences to consider. Although Scots speakers can often understand English speakers, the variations in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation are substantial enough to differentiate the two.

Scots is truly captivating, as it boasts a plethora of intriguing linguistic elements that offer insight into its rich history and development. Some words and forms found in Scots have an archaic quality and are no longer prevalent in modern English. Additionally, the influence of other languages, such as Gaelic, French, and Dutch, is evident in Scots, as they have all contributed to shaping the language over the years.

Several features distinguish Scots, including its distinct vowel sounds and the commonly used word “ken,” which simply means “know.” Furthermore, double modals, which are relatively uncommon in English, appear frequently in Scots (e.g., “might can” or “will can”).

The relationship between Scots and English is even more fascinating when considering their separate histories and Scots’ classification as a regional language, which adds to its cultural importance.

As interest in Scots continues to grow, it is crucial to acknowledge and cherish its uniqueness as part of our linguistic legacy. Gaining a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between Scots and English enables us to preserve and appreciate both languages and the shared history they embody.

Get a free consultation

Frisian: Uncovering the Linguistic Ties with English

Both Frisian and English belong to the Anglo-Frisian language group, sharing a deep-rooted common heritage that is intriguing to explore in terms of their history and usage.

Originating from the West Germanic language family, Frisian, and English encompass traces of dialects spoken by Germanic tribes during the early Middle Ages. The story becomes even more interesting when considering that the Anglo-Saxons who migrated to Britain had direct ties to these tribes, thereby establishing a strong linguistic link between Frisian and Old English.

While both languages evolved independently and acquired distinct features over time, Frisian preserved certain elements no longer present in English.

Nowadays, Frisian can be found predominantly in Friesland, along with specific regions in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. It comprises three primary dialects: West Frisian, East Frisian, and North Frisian. Despite having a smaller number of speakers compared to English, Frisian has sustained its distinctive identity and is even acknowledged as a regional language.

Even though they have developed independently for centuries, these languages still exhibit numerous similarities in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. For instance, “brea” (bread), “tsiis” (cheese), and “goedemorgen” (good morning) are virtually identical in both languages.

Additionally, English and Frisian share comparable auxiliary verbs and sentence structures.

Admittedly, comprehending spoken Frisian could pose a challenge for most English speakers due to variations in pronunciation and vocabulary. However, the similarities become evident in written form, particularly when examining basic phrases and sentences.

In essence, the connections between Frisian and English offer us a fascinating insight into their shared heritage as part of the Anglo-Frisian language group. Delving into the relationships between these languages allows us to appreciate the immense diversity of human language and the unifying nature of our linguistic heritage.

Dutch: The Language Bridging English and German

Dutch, a West Germanic language, shares a distinctive bond with both English and German.

The linguistic commonalities between Dutch and these languages, including compound nouns, auxiliary verbs, and a parallel sentence structure, demonstrate their interconnectedness. Although Dutch grammar is more akin to German, it maintains its individuality.

The majority of Dutch speakers reside in the Netherlands and Belgium, with minority communities in France and Germany, as well as in former Dutch colonies like the Dutch Caribbean and Suriname. Boasting approximately 23 million native speakers, Dutch ranks as the third-largest group of Germanic language speakers, following German and English.

The Dutch language and culture and language possess a distinctive allure, capturing interest due to their exceptional qualities. The literary tradition of the Netherlands is celebrated globally, featuring esteemed Dutch authors such as Harry Mulisch, and Cees Nooteboom.

Furthermore, Dutch has independently contributed numerous loanwords to English, showcasing the cultural and historical ties between the languages. The widely spoken Flemish dialect of Dutch also exhibits unique pronunciation and vocabulary elements.

In essence, Dutch establishes a crucial connection between the dominant languages of German and English and plays an integral role in the rich tapestry of global languages, boasting an extensive cultural legacy.

German: A Close Relative of English in the Germanic Family

German and English both originate from the West Germanic language family and can be traced back to a common ancestor spoken around 500 BCE.

As various groups migrated throughout Europe and established settlements, these languages evolved and developed into Old High German and Old English. Despite their distinct evolutions over time, they continue to exhibit numerous resemblances due to their shared roots.

A remarkable aspect of German and English is the extensive overlap in their vocabularies. Numerous cognates, or words with similar origins, are common to both languages. For instance, “Haus” means house, “Apfel” means apple, and “Garten” means garden in both German and English. This shared vocabulary is like a secret code between the two languages, accessible only to those familiar with their linguistic nuances.

In terms of grammar, English and German also exhibit several similarities, including the use of auxiliary verbs, a similar sentence structure, and the formation of compound nouns. However, German has a more complex grammatical system with three genders, four cases, and a more intricate verb conjugation system. These differences can be attributed to the language’s evolution and adaptation to the unique linguistic needs of its speakers.

German is a widely spoken language, ranking as the most spoken native language in the European Union, with approximately 100 million native speakers worldwide. It is the official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, as well as one of the official languages in Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The prevalence of German as a widely spoken language has contributed to its cultural significance and influence in various fields, including literature, science, and philosophy.

Mutual intelligibility between German and English speakers is limited due to differences in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. However, the shared linguistic features and cognates can facilitate the learning process for speakers of either language who wish to acquire the other.

On the whole, the close relationship between German and English as Germanic languages offers valuable insights into their historical and linguistic ties. By examining their shared origins, linguistic similarities, and mutual intelligibility, we can appreciate the cultural significance and global impact of these two widely spoken languages. The exploration of these connections fosters a deeper understanding of the intertwined histories that have shaped the development and evolution of German and English over time.

Norwegian: The Surprising Scandinavian Connection to English

Initially, the relationship between Norwegian and English might appear surprising, as they belong to distinct branches of the Germanic language family – North Germanic and West Germanic. However, closer examination reveals a strong historical connection, primarily due to Old Norse’s impact on the English language.

Investigating the similarities and differences between Norwegian and English offers insights into their linguistic characteristics and variations, potentially challenging traditional language classifications.

The influence of Old Norse on the English language dates back to the Viking Age when Scandinavian settlers, including Norwegians, reached the British Isles. This era saw considerable interaction between Old Norse and Old English, resulting in an extensive exchange of vocabulary and grammar.

Old Norse contributed numerous loanwords to English, especially in areas such as daily life, governance, and technology. Examples include “husband,” “window,” and “knife.” Additionally, Old Norse affected English grammar by simplifying its inflectional system and introducing new pronouns like “they,” “them,” and “their.”

Though they belong to separate Germanic branches, Norwegian and English exhibit several similarities, underscoring their historical ties. Both languages employ similar sentence structures, featuring the subject-verb-object (SVO) order in declarative sentences.

Furthermore, they both form compound words, utilize auxiliary verbs, and employ modal verbs to convey varying degrees of obligation, possibility, and permission. These common linguistic features can aid learners in mastering either language more effectively and efficiently.

One of the most noticeable differences between English and German lies in the use of stress and tone to convey meaning. The Norwegian language uses tonal accents that can alter a word’s meaning entirely, whereas English depends more on the emphasis placed on specific syllables to express nuances.

Naturally, each language has its own distinctive vocabulary. While some cognates exist due to their common Germanic heritage, many words are exclusive to one language or the other.

Another intriguing element that is worth noticing is the more comprehensive inflection system in Norwegian compared to English.

It’s also important to highlight the variation in Norwegian across different regions of the country. There are two official written forms that represent regional dialects and diverse historical influences. Moreover, numerous spoken dialects possess unique pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar rules, contributing to the richness and diversity of the Norwegian language. This complexity and nuance make me appreciate the intricacies of language even more.

In summary, exploring the connections and disparities between Norwegian and English is a captivating task. By examining the influence of Old Norse on English and recognizing the distinct characteristics of each language, we can gain a deeper understanding of their shared history and what makes them unique.

Embracing Language Diversity: Bridging the Gap with Translation Services

In modern times of increased global interconnectedness, it is highly imperative to value linguistic diversity and encourage cross-cultural discussions. This includes recognizing and cherishing the many different languages that are spoken globally, such as German, English, and Norwegian. Translation services act as an indispensable tool in connecting people from different backgrounds by bridging the language barrier and enabling effective communication.

By offering accurate and context-sensitive translations, individuals, businesses, and organizations can overcome linguistic challenges, which in turn promotes the exchange of ideas and knowledge across different cultures.

Choosing the right translation company or professionals helps establishing a more inclusive and interconnected world where communication and mutual understanding thrive.


Get a free consultation

Related Blog Posts

Here Are The Top 12 Languages of the Future

The Top 6 Fastest Growing Languages

What's the Closest Language to English? (2024)


What's the Closest Language to English? ›

Closest Major Language: Dutch

What language is the closest to English? ›

Exploring the Closest Languages to English

Dutch, Frisian, and German stand as the nearest kin to English, with Frisian holding the strongest resemblance. The syntax, lexicon, and phonetics of both Frisian and English demonstrate their shared lineage.

What is the easiest language to learn closest to English? ›

The 6 easiest languages to learn for English speakers
  • Dutch (575–600 hours) It belongs to the same Germanic family of languages as English, meaning you'll find lots of cognates. ...
  • Spanish (575–600 hours) ...
  • Portuguese (575–600 hours) ...
  • Italian (575–600 hours) ...
  • French (575–600 hours) ...
  • German (750 hours)
Jul 20, 2022

Which language is easy similar to English? ›


At first glance, you might be thinking no way is Norwegian easy to learn! But it's actually super similar to English, making Norwegian one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

What language sounds like English but isn t? ›

The Cornish language, a Celtic language native to the west country, England, sounds extremely similar to English in general, especially to American and Irish accents, like American English they have the rhotic R sound.

Is English closer to Spanish or German? ›

English vs Spanish

For instance, Spanish is more closely related to Portuguese and Italian, while English is closer to German and Dutch. However, Spanish and English are more closely related to one another than they are to any of the Russian, Mandarin, or Polish languages.

Is English closer to French or German? ›

The short answer: German. However, English is basically a Creole Language of Old French and Old English. The basic elements and grammar of English is more closely related to German than French and most of our verbs are German.

What is the 1 easiest language? ›

1. Norwegian. This may come as a surprise, but we have ranked Norwegian as the easiest language to learn for English speakers. Norwegian is a member of the Germanic family of languages — just like English!

What is the hardest language to speak? ›

The Hardest Languages To Learn For English Speakers
  1. Mandarin Chinese. Interestingly, the hardest language to learn is also the most widely spoken native language in the world. ...
  2. Arabic. ...
  3. Polish. ...
  4. Russian. ...
  5. Turkish. ...
  6. Danish.

What is the 3 easiest language to learn? ›

5 easy languages to learn
  • English. It's the most widely spoken language in the world, making practice possible. ...
  • French. French has over 100 million native speakers and is – as the official language in 28 countries – spoken on almost every continent. ...
  • Spanish. ...
  • Italian. ...
  • Swahili.

What is the hardest language to learn if your English? ›

Generally, if you're an English speaker with no exposure to other languages, here are some of the most challenging: Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese, Finnish, Japanese, and Korean. Here's the good news; when you're excited to learn a new language, even the hardest ones can simply seem fun.

What language is French closest to? ›

French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spoken in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) largely supplanted.

What language is least related to English? ›

The least similar language to English is also the least similar to every other language. Basque language has about a half dozen dialects and is a language isolate. It belongs to no language family. The English language is part of the Germanic language branch of the Indo-European languages.

What language only has 11 sounds? ›

Rotokas is believed to have the smallest alphabet of all known languages, with just 12 letters and 11 sounds (two of the 12 letters share one sound). Its only potential rival for this title is Piraha (see Dec 2019 Monthly View!).

Is there a word pronounced the same in every language? ›

There is no word or phrase that sounds exactly the same in every language, but some words like "okay" or "Coca-Cola" have a similar pronunciation in many languages.

What sounds exist in Spanish but not English? ›

There are other allophonic variations (differences in how a single phoneme can sound) of the “b,” “d,” and “g” sounds that exist in Spanish that we do not produce in English.

Is English closer to French or Spanish? ›

In fact, the lexical similarity between French and Spanish is about 75%, meaning that a high percentage of the words in these languages are very similar. For comparison, French and Spanish both share a less than 50% lexical similarity with English.

What languages is English a mix of? ›

So, English is made of Old English, Danish, Norse, and French, and has been changed by Latin, Greek, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Dutch and Spanish, along with some words from other languages. English grammar has also changed, becoming simpler and less Germanic.

What is the easiest language to learn? ›

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). Apart from this, knowing a language related to the target language can make it easier to learn!

What language is farthest to English? ›

These scores suggest a ranking of linguistic distance from English among these languages: Japanese being the most distant, followed by Mandarin, then French and then Afrikaans, Norwegian and Swedish as the least distant.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Domingo Moore

Last Updated:

Views: 6129

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Domingo Moore

Birthday: 1997-05-20

Address: 6485 Kohler Route, Antonioton, VT 77375-0299

Phone: +3213869077934

Job: Sales Analyst

Hobby: Kayaking, Roller skating, Cabaret, Rugby, Homebrewing, Creative writing, amateur radio

Introduction: My name is Domingo Moore, I am a attractive, gorgeous, funny, jolly, spotless, nice, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.