You have probably already asked yourself this question if you are planning to learn a new language. Which languages are the easiest to learn? English and Spanish, for instance, are allegedly easy languages. But what does this really imply? Moreover, what does an easy to learn language actually mean?
What makes one language easier to learn than another?
We are not always in awe of someone who has successfully learned English or German, as these languages are considered easy to acquire. However, as we will see a little further on, this is not always true. On the other hand, as soon as someone says they have learned Chinese, Russian or Arabic, the accomplishment immediately becomes more impressive. But what makes a language easier or harder to learn than another one? Is this impression of ease or difficulty always warranted?
Guidelines for determining the level of difficulty of a language
Level of lexical similarity
In linguistics, the degree of proximity between two languages and their level of similarity are evaluated by means of a lexical similarity index. This equates to the percentage of common words that exist between two languages. The higher the index, the more similar the vocabulary of the two languages being compared.
Two languages from the same language category ( Latin, Slavic, Celtic, Germanic…) are therefore more likely to have a high index of lexical similarity. Based on this criterion, languages of Latin origin would consequently be easier to learn for French speakers.
It goes without saying that the category of origin of the language is not the only significant factor. The way in which the language developed over the centuries is also relevant. For example, although English is a language of Germanic origin, the influence of French is nevertheless very much present. Linguists consider that 30% of English words come directly from French. This is mainly because the use of French was imposed on the English court for almost 300 years.
Although English and French vocabulary are relatively similar, grammar is not quite the same. Also, what about German grammar and its declensions? Or even Mandarin, where there is no verb agreement? These grammatical variations should also be taken on board when determining the level of difficulty of a language.
One one hand there are languages wth sounds similar to our own, and on the other, some that seem unpronounceable to us. Since learning a language requires a command of both oral and written skills, it is very important to determine the degree of phonetic similarity with one’s mother tongue to determine the difficulty of the language.
Other factors that define the difficulty of learning a language
One could easily stop at the four criteria mentioned above to find out which languages are the easiest to learn. In fact, this is what the calculator on the eLinguistics site mainly uses to determine the degree of “genetic proximity” between two languages. However, we feel it is important to consider two other factors.
Access to educational materials
A language may seem accessible to you, but if you don’t know where to find the dedicated resources, you’ll have a hard time learning it. How can you learn a language without a trainer, without supporting documents, without exercises…? The supply of teaching resources is an aspect you most definitely mustn’t neglect.
✨ At 1to1PROGRESS, our trainers are native in the languages they teach and will provide you with the documents and learning materials you need. What’s more , our online learning platform is brimming with content adapted to the level of each learner.
A language might be very close to French, with simple phonetics and accessible grammar, but you will have difficulty learning it if you are not motivated. By contrast, if you are determined and have a real appetite for the language you are learning, you will have the upper hand, even if it is considered to be a difficult one to learn!
The 3 easiest languages to learn for French speakers
If you fancy taking on a new language to challenge yourself, here are 3 that are very close to French. Take note! Just because a language is supposed to be easy to learn doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do a little work. Your commitment is essential to the success of your language learning.
Italian is a language very close to French, if not one of the closest. Moreover, its musicality makes it a very pleasant language to study and speak. In terms of career, learning Italian can also be very interesting, as it is France’s second most important trading partner after Germany.
Contrary to popular belief, Romanian is not a Slavic language. It is, like French, a Latin language. Therefore, there are many similarities between both languages. By learning Romanian, you will have the pleasure of discovering the culture of Eastern European countries without having to learn Cyrillic.
It is true that English is not THE easiest language for a native French speaker. However, its lexical (and geographical proximity and the abundance of learning resources available make it a relatively easy language to learn (and a useful one on top of that!).
Keep in mind that learning a new language is rarely a walk in the park, even with the so-called “easy” languages. Your level of motivation will be a key factor in the success of your language earning.
Don’t know which foreign language you want to learn yet? At 1to1PROGRESS, we teach 8 different ones! Contact one of our Training Consultants to develop your language training project.