Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

What are the easiest languages to learn?

Find out which are the quickest languages for English speakers to understand – whether you’ve heard of them or not.

English is quite a difficult language for foreign speakers to learn. This is because although it is technically a Germanic language which developed from the language of Northern European tribes like the Saxons, English also includes influences from Romance languages like French and Spanish, based on the Latin mainly spoken in Southern Europe during the Roman Empire. This means it doesn’t follow quite the same grammatical rules as either, and certain words like ‘meet’ and ‘meat’ sound the same but have different spellings and meanings, while others like ‘wound’ are spelt the same but have different meanings and sounds.

However, because other languages have stricter rules and structures, they can be easier for English speakers to understand, particularly if they are a phonetic language where words are spelt the same as they sound. It also helps if the language uses a similar alphabet to English so you don’t have to learn new letters and symbols as you would for Arabic or Mandarin, for example.

The Daily Telegraph has compiled a chart based on research by the US State Department into the easiest languages for English speakers to learn. Of course, if you’re thinking of studying a modern language, things like how interested you are in a country and how useful it will be for your career are more important than how simple you think it will be when choosing a course – particularly since some of the easiest languages are so obscure that while they might not be a struggle to speak, they will to find a qualification in!

  • Frisian: Spoken by less than half a million people in parts of the Netherlands, Frisian has more words and grammatical structures in common with English than any other language.
  • Esperanto: Invented as an ‘easy-to-learn’ international language in the 19th century, Esperanto isn’t the official language of any nation, but over a million people speak it as a second language worldwide.
  • Italian: The closest language to Latin, Italian has relatively simple grammatical rules and regular rhythmic structure.
  • Swedish: A Germanic language, Swedish has more vowel sounds than English, but many words like ‘telefon’ (‘telephone’) sound and mean the same.
  • Portuguese: The structure and pronunciation of questions in Portuguese is similar to English, and over 180 million people speak it worldwide.
  • Norwegian: The syntax and grammar of Norwegian share a lot with English, and verbs are less complex than in other languages.
  • Dutch: Like English, Dutch developed from Germanic languages but also includes a lot of French influences.
  • Spanish: One of the world’s most widely-spoken languages, Spanish is easy to pronounce with less individual sounds to learn than English.
  • French: As the most commonly-taught language in English schools, you’ll probably already have a head start in French, and it’s also the closest Romance language to English.
  • Afrikaans: A close relative of Dutch, many factors that make that language easy to learn also apply to Afrikaans.

Related links