The English language is closely related to many Germanic and Romance dialects, so when it comes to language study English speakers aren’t starting from scratch.
We’ve compiled a list of the easiest ones to get your tongue around, should you be so inclined.
Like English, Afrikaans is in the West Germanic language family. Unlike English, its structure won’t make your head spin. A great feature of Afrikaans, especially for grammar-phobes, is its logical and non-inflective structure.
Unlike English, there is no verb conjugation (swim, swam, swum). In addition to this, vocabulary-building is as easy as pointing to an object and asking, ‘Wat is dit in Afrikaans?’
English has more in common lexically with French than any other Romance language. This means that French vocabulary is more familiar, recognisable, and easy to comprehend. Advanced French learners may struggle with its gendered nouns and 17 verb forms, but for conversational learning, it’s relatively facile.
This North Germanic language has consistent pronunciation and, for English speakers, some pretty breezy grammar. Norwegian and English also have very similar syntax and word order. Verbs are an especially simple feature, with no conjugation according to number or person. The rules of conjugation are particularly straightforward, with a simple –e suffix for past tense, and –s for passive verbs.
Esperanto advocate Leo Tolstoy claimed to have learned it in four hours. Most linguists class it among the easiest languages to learn, especially for Indo-European language speakers.
Though not an official language in any one country, Esperanto has been recognised by the French Academy of Sciences and UNESCO, and now has an estimated two million speakers worldwide. Created in the late 19th century, this nationally and politically neutral language was constructed for easy acquisition.
What makes this man-made language so simple to learn? The spelling system is regular and phonetic, and the rules of grammar are simple and designed without irregularities. Words are constructed building-block style out of regularised prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
This language is native to Friesland in the Netherlands, and is spoken by fewer than half a million people. Still, it is English’s closest sibling, uniquely connected in the tiny linguistic category of North Sea Germanic languages. The two parted ways, so to speak, when Old English and Old Frisian started evolving independently around the 8th century.
Despite their geographical and historical separation, the similarities between English and Frisian are uncanny, with near-identical vocabulary, structure, and phonetics. There’s a linguistic saying, ‘Good butter and good cheese’ (Goed bûter en goed tsiis) is good English and good Fries. Spoken aloud, the Frisian and English versions of the sentence are interchangeable.