It’s never too late to become good at something new — especially if it’s one of the easiest languages to learn on your own.
Contrary to popular knowledge, adults are still capable of learning a new language — sometimes even as fast as children.
Arieh Smith, better known as Xiaoma, is a New Yorker who speaks near-native level Mandarin Chinese and some other Chinese dialects that are enough to confuse native speakers, including his in-laws.
He’s renowned for learning various languages in a week. One video saw him talking in thenative language of various global leadersat a conference.
One study showed that adults of any age can obtainincredible mastery over a languagenearly as quickly as children.
There’s also thesnowball effect, which argues that the greater your knowledge in a given field, the faster you can learn.
It shows that you are able to learn more words a day when you’re older as compared to when you were younger.
Another research paper from University of Kansas linguists supports this theory.
It found that adults can quickly begin mentally processing sentence structures in a second language like a native speaker.
Why is this the case?
Kshipra Gurunandan, a researcher at the BCBL Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language, explains thatadult brains are more flexiblethan we think.
“The brain remains flexible enough to learn new languages well into adulthood, even if nailing the accent might get harder with age,” Gurunandan told Inverse.
As an adult, your vocabulary range is much wider than a child’s.
This makes it easy for you to understand the meaning of several foreign words by understanding common patterns and similarities to your native language.
All of this explain how you can learn a new language but why should you invest time and effort to do so?
Learning a new language can help you adapt to living and studying in a new country. Source: Issac Lawrence/AFP
Why should we learn a new language?
Being multilingual makes you more employable.
With a globalising economy, speaking a second language can help you land high-skill jobs in countries worldwide.
A study showed that having a foreign language in your CV can increase your salary by 11% to 35%.
It makes you just as qualified as those from Europe, a region in which some parts have 100% of students able to speak multiple languages.
Besides improving your job prospects, learning another language has other benefits too.
In France, the locals expect foreigners to pick up the language quickly or at least try to. Smaller countryside towns may not have a population that is comfortable speaking English.
Malaysian-born Shah Farid Rashid faced this massive hurdle when he landed in Beijing.
“I had zero basic knowledge of the language, so there were many problems,” he told Study International.
“The language barrier prevented me from going out, buying food, using public transportation and more. I’d always have to ask someone to come with me.”
Perhaps the biggest perk is how it slows down ageing and just makes you a better person in general.
For example, some studies indicate a link betweenmultilingual skills and preventing dementia. Others show that speaking a foreign language can help with yourmultitasking abilities.
Dan Berges, Managing Director of Berges Institute — one of the fastest-growing Spanish language schools for adults in the US and Europe — shared that there are also personal reasons for students to learn a new language.
“We did a survey with our students a few years ago and 62% said they were learning Spanish for personal growth,” he says.
“We also have other people that have personal relationships. Maybe their in-laws speak Spanish and it’s really cool that they’re able to go to family meetings and speak Spanish.”
With Asian businesses and ventures dominating the market, Mandarin is increasingly making its mark globally. Source: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP
5 easiest languages to learn on your own for free
The following easiest languages to learn on your own are free. You don’t have to spend much, attend classes or live in a country that speaks them to become fluent in them. However, there are a few things to note.
How easy or how hard a language is can be subjective. It depends on your native language, why you’re doing this, and how you learn best. In short, it depends on you.
That said, with enough time and effort, you can master the following easiest languages to learn on your own.
Each language is listed below for its own unique reasons why they’re part of the easiest languages to learn on your own.
Mandarin is often considered one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn, but there are a few reasons to show that this is just a myth.
Start with the fact that it has relatively few grammar patterns — most of which are straightforward.
There are also no tenses in the Chinese language and Chinese words do not alter their form or conjugate like English verbs.
If you don’t know the stroke of a specific Chinese character, you can use the phonetic writing system of Chinese characters to text or write.
As Chinese has four tones and one natural tone, singers or those recognise tones well will find it easier than someone who is tonedeaf.
It’s also best for someone who is surrounded by Chinese-speaking people. If you have questions, you can get answers immediately, accelerating your progress.
Practising your Mandarin with Chinese friends will also be invaluable.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Mandarin:
- Chinese for Beginners, Peking University (Coursera)
- Learning Chinese : Start From Scratch (零到一學中文), National Taiwan University (Coursera)
Spanish is an easy pick for many English speakers due to its practicality and wide reach. Much of this has to do with the fact thatmore than 450 million peoplearound the globe speak this language.
It’s also the official language in 20 countries, such as Puerto Rico, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, and many more.
Spanish is one of the Romance languages, which is one of the largest language groups. It derives from Latin, like many English words. Here are some examples:
- Correcto means correct
- Pizza is pizza
- Delicioso means delicious
In terms of pronunciation, Spanish is a phonetic language. For the most part, you can say the words the way they’re spelt.
However, Spanish does have a number of verb tenses and exceptions to grammar rules which can get confusing.
The good thing is that these tenses largely align with the ones we use in English, so it’s easy to pick up this language.
Spanish is also highly regarded by employers.
In the US,79% of recruiterscited Spanish as the most in-demand additional language.
What’s more, the language is infiltrating everyday life as well.
It was estimated that more than70% of billboardsin the Atlanta suburb of Norcross were in Spanish.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Spanish:
Despite being an isolated country on the outskirts of Europe, Norway has one of the most easiest languages to learn for English speakers. Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP
Would you have thought Norwegian would be one of the languages on this list?
Neither did we.
Norwegian is a member of the Germanic family of languages — like English. This means that both languages share quite a bit of vocabulary, such as the seasons “vinter” and “sommer”.
What sets Norwegian apart from other languages is that the grammar is pretty straightforward. There’s only one form of each verb per tense and the word order closely mimics English.
For example, “Can you help me?” translate to “Kan du hjelpe meg?”. The words are in the same order in both languages, so it’ll be easy for new learners to master the sentence structure.
Due to the different accents in Norway, you have more leeway with the pronunciation when learning Norwegian since there is no correct way to pronounce words.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Norwegian:
Did you know that there arearound 11 million peoplearound the globe that speak Swedish?
The language is classified as “Category 1” by theForeign Service Institute— meaning it’s easier for both native and non-Swedish people to learn the language.
Like Norwegian, Swedish has relatively simple grammar rules and similar words to English.
For instance, grass is “gräs” in Swedish — a clear cognate (words from different languages that have similar spellings, pronunciations, and meanings).
It also comes from the Germanic family of languages.
As a local in Scandinavia, Astrid shares why it’s easier for new learners to pick up Swedish.
“Swedish is easier because it’s (more or less) spoken as it’s written,” the founder of Seek Scandinavia shares.
“This is different from German, which has an array of unspoken words due to vehicular language that changes words all the time. In an informal conversation, you’ll likely understand some German after taking some time to learn it, but you’ll realise that it isn’t spoken as it is written.”
Thanks to IKEA, the Swedish language has great exposure. English speakers around the globe have been exposed to a number of Swedish words when shopping for furniture.
The popular minimalistic lack tables are named after the Swedish word for varnish. Stockholm rugs got their name from Sweden’s capital.
Learning the Swedish language can provide a good foundation for picking up languages that share similar linguistic similarities with other Nordic countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Swedish:
At the moment, there are over300 million speakerswho are adept at French, either as their native tongue or as a second language. Many businesses similarly communicate in the language.
As with the other Romance languages, French is one of the easiest languages to learn on your own because it shares many words with English.
This, however, isn’t solely attributed to its linguistic roots.
Throughout the war and conquests between France and England, key language components were passed from one country to another.
That’s why some French vocabulary was added to the English language, such as “avant-garde” and “à la carte.”
While it can be tricky to pronounce some French words, hearing French accents in pop culture can make it easier to replicate these words and nail the pronunciation.
French is a fairly simple language to pick up at uni, especially if you’re attending one in Europe.
Be sure to consult your uni for options on how to take up this language or integrate it into your curriculum.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn French:
5 easiest languages to learn on your own for free? ›
German. German is rooted as a West Germanic language, like English, and those who are somewhat proficient in English, Dutch, Yiddish, or more will have a much easier time learning. For example, notice the similarities in German and Dutch in the example below: "What came first: the chicken or the egg?"What is the easiest language to learn for non English speakers? ›
German. German is rooted as a West Germanic language, like English, and those who are somewhat proficient in English, Dutch, Yiddish, or more will have a much easier time learning. For example, notice the similarities in German and Dutch in the example below: "What came first: the chicken or the egg?"What is the easiest language to learn on your own? ›
- Afrikaans. Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family, once thought of as a Dutch dialect. ...
- French. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Norwegian. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Swedish. ...
- 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. ...
Riau Indonesian is different from most other languages in how simple it is. There are no endings of any substance, no tones, no articles, and no word order. There is only a little bit of indicating things in time.What is the closest language to English? ›
The closest language to English is one called Frisian, which is a Germanic language spoken by a small population of about 480,000 people. There are three separate dialects of the language, and it's only spoken at the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany.What is the most useful language to learn after English? ›
- Spanish. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin, and not a surprise at the top of languages to learn. ...
- German. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Mandarin. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Russian. ...
Of these, Spanish and Italian are the easiest for native English speakers to learn, followed by Portuguese and finally French.Which language should I learn first as a beginner? ›
Benefits of Learning Python
Python is one of the most chosen programming languages to learn first for its wide use and simplicity. Moreover, it is a great stepping stone to learning more complex programming languages and frameworks!
Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.
What is the sweetest language in the world? ›
If a message circulating on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is to be believed, Bengali has been voted the sweetest language in the world. Conducted by Unesco, the vote ranks Spanish and Dutch as the second and third sweetest tongues respectively.What are the top 3 languages hard to learn? ›
- Mandarin. Mandarin is spoken by 70% of the Chinese population, and is the most spoken language in the world. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Japanese. ...
- Hungarian. ...
- Korean. ...
- Finnish. ...
- Basque. ...
Iceland's language makes British manners impossible to impart – there is no word for please. Icelandic does offer 45 different ways to say the word green, however.What is the least known language? ›
Dumi is the world's least spoken language and one of the rarest.What language has the shortest words? ›
|Native to||Papua New Guinea|
|Native speakers||(4,300 cited 1981)|
|Language family||North Bougainville Rotokas–Eivo Rotokas|
Aramaic is best known as the language Jesus spoke. It is a Semitic language originating in the middle Euphrates. In 800-600 BC it spread from there to Syria and Mesopotamia. The oldest preserved inscriptions are from this period and written in Old Aramaic.What is the most spoken language in the world? ›
According to Ethnologue, English is the most-spoken language in the world including native and non-native speakers. Like Latin or Greek at the time, English has become the world's common language. It is the default language in international business, tourism, technology, and much more.Whats easier French or Spanish? ›
Spanish grammar is considered more difficult to understand than French grammar. The vocabulary of the French language is less challenging because of the similar words French and English share. Vocabulary is harder to learn in Spanish because there are less similar words to the English language.What is the best language for an American to learn? ›
If we consider the number of speakers, location, career possibilities and ease of learning, the overall three best languages for Americans to learn are (drum roll, please): Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese.
What is a good second language to learn? ›
Spanish (405 million native speakers)
Without a doubt, Spanish is one of the most valuable second languages if you're in the United States-even if you never plan to travel outside the country. That's because it's the most common language in the US aside from English.
Mandarin. Mandarin is likely to be the most spoken language in 2050 because of its vast number of speakers. The economic influence of China will also prove vital for the continued use and spread of Chinese languages around the world.What is the easiest language in America? ›
According to the US State Department, the easiest language for English speakers to learn is a toss-up between Danish, Dutch, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Swedish. All of these languages take approximately 600 hours to learn to a professional level.Which is the oldest language in the world? ›
Sumerian can be considered the first language in the world, according to Mondly. The oldest proof of written Sumerian was found on the Kish tablet in today's Iraq, dating back to approximately 3500 BC.Which language is the second hardest? ›
Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.Which language skill comes first? ›
Language development starts with sounds and gestures, then words and sentences. You can support language development by talking a lot with your child, and responding when your child communicates. Reading books and sharing stories is good for language development.Is 1 year enough to learn a language? ›
They've suggested that a person can become fluent in language for social contexts in six months to two years. However, it can take 5-7 years to become fluent in academic language. So within one year, it's absolutely possible to get fluent in a language for social uses, although probably not for academic purposes.Should a beginner learn two languages at once? ›
So the short answer to the question in the title is YES! You should learn two languages at once, especially if you have the time and the motivation to. Learning another language at the same time is not likely to hurt your abilities in either language.What is the hardest language in America? ›
Finally, the “Big Four.” According to the US Department of State, the four most difficult languages to learn are Arabic, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. To become conversational in one of these languages, you'll probably need 1.69 years, spending 2,200 hours in class!What is the 7 hardest language to learn? ›
- 1 – Chinese (Mandarin)
- 2 – Arabic.
- 3 – Japanese.
- 4 – Korean.
- 5 – Hungarian.
- 6 – Finnish.
- 7 – Xhosa.
What is the most soft spoken language? ›
Latin languages tend to be "soft" to the ear because they tend to use more vowels than consonants at least in speech. German, Dutch, Russian, Arabic, probably some of the Caucasian languages like Georgian, etc sound "Hard" because they have groups of consonants with fewer connecting vowel sounds.What language is romance? ›
What are the Romance languages? The Romance languages are a group of related languages all derived from Vulgar Latin within historical times and forming a subgroup of the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family. The major languages of the family include French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian.Why is English hard to learn? ›
The language features grammatical rules that are often broken, an alphabet that can confuse people who are used to a character-based system, and spelling and pronunciation irregularities that perplex even native speakers.What is the 15 hardest language to learn? ›
- Mandarin Chinese. There are over 900 million speakers of Mandarin, making it one of the most widely spoken native languages around the world. ...
- Arabic. ...
- Korean. ...
- Navajo. ...
- Icelandic. ...
- Turkish. ...
- 7. Japanese. ...
- Hindi. Script: Devanagari. ...
- Hungarian. Script: Latin alphabet with added accents. ...
- Navajo. Script: Latin alphabet, plus added letters and accents to represent unique sounds. ...
- Vietnamese. Script: Latin alphabet with a twist. ...
- Korean. ...
- Arabic. ...
- 7. Japanese. ...
- Mandarin Chinese.
Arabic. Arabic is fifth out of the most spoken languages in the world, with the number of native speakers amounting to 319 million.Which language has no swear words? ›
Without curse words, the Japanese language managed to articulate its way across hundreds of years of evolution, though with some limitations to apply. Looking into another language and its special traits, even just the smallest aspects like profanity, is truly inspiring.What language has no word for yes? ›
The Goidelic languages (Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx) do not have words for yes or no at all.In what language is no a yes? ›
In Polish, no means 'yes'.What is the rarest language? ›
What is the rarest language in the world? Kawishana is the rarest language in the world.
What is a very uncommon language? ›
Kawishana. Spoken near the Japura River in Brazil, Kawishana (Kaixana) was once a popular language utilized by many. The numbers began dwindling, eventually dropping down to 200. Now, there remains only one documented person still able to speak the language.What is the top 10 most spoken language in the world? ›
Currently, these are the 10 most spoken languages in the world in 2023, sorted by number of mother language speakers: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Yue chinese, Vietnamese.What language does not have an alphabet? ›
A few languages don't use an alphabet altogether – including Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Traditional Chinese – or Mandarin – uses thousands of variations of glyphs instead. Chinese is spoken by over 845 million people in the world, and is one of the most important business languages in the modern day.What is the youngest language in the world? ›
The world's youngest language, coming in at only 100 years old (officially), is the South African language of Afrikaans. Surprised? Afrikaans, the natively spoken language of 7 million South Africans, was born from the white Dutch, French, and German colonizers in South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.What is the hardest language to learn if you re not English? ›
– Mandarin Chinese is considered the most difficult language to learn for non-English speakers. – The language has over 50,000 characters and a complex writing system. – Mandarin Chinese has four tones, which can change the meaning of a word completely.What are the 4 most frequently spoken non English languages? ›
- English (1,452 million speakers) ...
- Mandarin (1,118 million speakers) ...
- Hindi (602+ million speakers) ...
- Spanish (548+ million speakers) ...
- French (280 million speakers)
What are the most challenging languages to learn for non-English speakers? Dutch, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish, Romanian, Japanese.What is the #1 hardest language to learn? ›
Across multiple sources, Mandarin Chinese is the number one language listed as the most challenging to learn. The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center puts Mandarin in Category IV, which is the list of the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.What is the 2nd hardest language to learn? ›
Arabic is the queen of poetic languages, the 6th official language of the UN and second on our list of toughest languages to learn.Which language has hardest grammar? ›
The grammar of Hungarian is significantly different from that of Indo-European languages such as English. The language has no grammatical gender and it uses suffixes instead of prepositions which makes Hungarian one of the most difficult languages in the world.
What is the most complete language? ›
1. English – 1,121 million speakers. It is the most widely spoken language in the world because of the global impact of England and the United States in the last three centuries.What is the most spoken language in USA? ›
English is by far the most prominent spoken language in the U.S., with over 239 million English-speaking people across the country. In fact, English is commonly mistaken as the official language of the United States, which doesn't actually have an official language on record.What is the easiest language to learn if you speak English? ›
Of these, Spanish and Italian are the easiest for native English speakers to learn, followed by Portuguese and finally French.What is the most difficult language skill in English? ›
Writing: It is the most difficult of the four language skills. It requires a command over vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structure. When children graduate to writing short paragraphs, it also involves establishing links among different sentences. All these help in creating meaning.Why is English so hard to learn? ›
The language features grammatical rules that are often broken, an alphabet that can confuse people who are used to a character-based system, and spelling and pronunciation irregularities that perplex even native speakers.