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10 languages that are easiest for native English speakers to learn

by Amelia Knott

A recent survey conducted by the European Commission revealed that 61% of British respondents didn't speak a second language. With global economy on the rise, languages are nothing short of essential for professionals who want to make the most from opportunities offered in globalized markets. Fortunately, English speakers will find out that their native language is linked to many different European languages. Did you now that over 50% of English vocabulary has roots in Latin and French?

When it comes to learning another language, in many cases English speakers don't have to start from scratch. Here are 10 foreign languages which are relatively easy for English speakers to learn.

1. Norwegian

This language belongs to the North Germanic language group. English speakers will find its pronunciation easy and grammar understandable. That's because Norwegian and English boast very similar syntax – when speaking Norwegian, all you do is practically translate every word to its Norwegian counterpart without having to worry about their order.

Just like in English, there's no conjugation involved in verbs, neither to number or person. What about tenses and moods? It cannot be easier. Add an –e suffix for past tense, and –s for passive verbs. That's it! Learning Norwegian, you'll also find out that its pronunciation is based on a simple system of a tonal pitch accent, where you stress either the first or second syllable in matching words (think English “desert” and “dessert”).

2. Spanish

Spanish is very easy to pronounce because in the vast majority of cases speakers pronounce words exactly as written. Reading a Spanish text is a piece of cake. English speakers will find Spanish pronunciation easy – the only problem might be that peculiar sound of ñ.

When it comes to grammar, Spanish is your best pick among other Romance languages which feature far more irregularities. But that's not all. The beauty of Spanish lies in the fact that so many people speak it – it's an official language on 3 different continents and economically relevant due to growing economies in South and Latin America. Spanish is simply a useful language to know.

3. Dutch

Another Germanic cousin of English, Dutch is way easier than you'd expect. It has the same structure and syntax, as well as common Germanic root words. Sure, some sounds might be new for English speakers, but in general Dutch pronunciation parallels the English model of syllable stress.

This means that you'll be intuitively able to correctly pronounce Dutch words. Dutch is often considered the easiest language for English speakers because it doesn't have the complicated grammar system and cases of German. All in all, a great pick!

4. Portuguese

Another Romance language, Portuguese has similar grammar but offers one significant way to make it easier. If you want to ask a question, you can do it with intonation alone, not by rearranging your phrase. This is something English speakers find just natural.

Sure, the nasal vowel sounds might be a bit problematic, but the rhythm of the language is easy to follow. With Brazil's economy on the rise and the upcoming Olympic Games, Portuguese is a sound choice.

5. Frisian

This language is spoken in Friesland, the Netherlands, by less than half a million people. Still, it's like a half-brother of English. That's why you can find some many similarities in vocabulary, syntax or pronunciation. You can easily interchange English and Firsian versions of the same sentence and get away with it!

6. Afrikaans

Afrikaans has an easy structure. In some ways, it's even easier than English – it has a non-inflective structure, so say goodbye to verb conjugation! Moreover, there's no gender for nouns and the vocabulary boasts lots of Germanic words that will sound familiar to English speakers.

7. French

English boasts a lot of French words, so expect it to give you a head-start in learning French vocabulary. In fact, no other Romance language shares as many common words with English. Verb forms can be tough and gendered nous seem crazy, but if you want to converse in French, you're well-prepared to do it!

8. Swedish

Another Germanic cousin of English, Swedish shares lots of vocabulary and has a similar grammar. Conjugation is simple because Swedish verbs are uninflected and normally constant – this essentially means: “I speak/you speak/he speaks” becomes jag pratar/du pratar/han pratar. Wonderful, isn't it? For pronunciation, expect a bit of trouble with the four extra vowels (ö or å) and that Scandinavian “sje”.

9. Italian

Italian has strong roots in Latin, so English speakers can expect to find lots of vocabulary in common. Italian is easy to read and pronounce. Its structure is rhythmic and you'll find that most words end in vowels. Not to mention that it's simply fun to reproduce that Italian intonation.

10. Esperanto

That's right, Esperanto was designed as the non-national, non-political and basically easiest language to learn for Indo-European language speakers (in case you're wondering, English does make part of that group). Esperanto isn't an official language in any country, but it's recognized by both UNESCO and the French Academy of Sciences as a real one. Actually, it has an estimated 2 million speakers worldwide. The spelling system is highly regular and grammar is fairly simple, without any irregularities. Words are often build from compounds of prefixes, roots and suffixes. These combinations are logical – just consider birdokanto (birdsong) or akvobirdo (waterfowl).

Even if you always thought of yourself as someone with no talent for foreign languages, try one of these a you'll soon find out that learning a new language is much easier than it seems.

About the author

Amelia Knott is a team member at AuBiz.net – an ABN (Australian Business Number) lookup platform. She is passionate about foreign languages and develops her passion through acquiring new linguistic skills.

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