The ease or difficulty involved in learning another language is often a factor in which ones we choose to study. High-school students tend to go with French and Spanish for a reason: because these are easier and take less time to learn than, say Chinese, or Hungarian. But others love tackling the hard ones because of the challenge involved. And indeed, there is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with mastering a particularly difficult tongue. Let’s take a look at what are the 3 easiest, and hardest, languages to learn, and a few tips to help you get started!
Easiest languages: 23-24 weeks/575-600 hours of study to achieve proficiency.
Spanish is probably one of the languages that takes the least effort to learn, one of the reasons being that it bears enough similarities to English to make it a bit easier to pick up. Spanish also has a whopping 400 million native speakers all around the globe, so it’s easy to find people to practice with!
Learning Tip: Many Spanish language learners get stuck when it comes to the notorious Spanish trilled ‘r’. Take time to think about the physicality of the sound. Watch the shapes others make with their mouths and tongues, and practice doing this on your own.
You’re probably noticing a common theme here, and that’s that easier languages tend to be Romance languages. Portuguese has a simpler grammar structure than English and even an accent that has more in common with American English than Spanish!
Learning Tip: When starting out learning Portuguese vocabulary, lend the majority of your focus to remembering nouns and verbs. Adjectives are something that will come later (and more naturally) as you progress in your language learning.
Yet another Romance language makes our list! French is an easy language for English speakers to learn due to its Latin roots and the cognates it shares with English. These cognates can sound similar and carry the same meaning in both French and English, which makes memorizing vocab a breeze!
Learning Tip: Be wary of focusing too much on learning how to read and write in French. Written French and spoken French are almost two different languages as there are many silent letters, liaisons, and other features which really set spoken French apart from written.
Hardest languages: 88 weeks/2,200 hours of study to achieve proficiency.
Arabic is spoken mostly across the Middle-East and in parts of Africa, and has over 230 million native speakers. It’s also considered the most difficult language in the world for English speakers to learn due to the lack of resemblance between English and Arabic, and also its unique writing style which can be a challenge to learn.
Learning Tip: Spoken Arabic can vary from country to country and there are many dialects to choose from. Decide early on which dialect you want to study, and commit to it. It’ll make things easier for you in the long run, and help you avoid sounding like a total language novice when you speak to locals.
Not only is Japanese vastly different from English, but it also uses not one, but three different systems for writing! Two of these are syllabary: hiragana and katakana, while Japanese also uses kanji, a writing system similar to the Chinese language’s use of characters.
Learning Tip: When learning Japanese, don’t study writing basics without the supervision of a tutor. While they may seem an easy thing to teach yourself, there’s actually an essential stroke order that goes into each character. If you don’t learn the proper order, people will assume you couldn’t be bothered to learn it correctly—which is never a good thing.
It seems as if Chinese is designed to trip up the native English speaker. Not only does it use characters for the writing system, but it’s also a tonal language. This means that a word can sound the same but have different meanings depending on the rising, falling, neutrality, or guttural nature of the tone. This makes it a real challenge for those who are used to the blander style of English!
Learning Tip: Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by how difficult Chinese may seem, there are aspects of it that are actually incredibly simple! The grammar structure in Chinese is probably one of the easiest to learn, and the lack of conjugations makes tenses a breeze!
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Have you ever decided to learn a language because of how easy or hard it is? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!