Foreign Languages for English Speakers to Learn: Easiest V.S. Most Useful

10/31/2013

As have been summarized by the Telegraph and many other media, linguists pick up 10 languages that are easy for native English speakers to learn:

1.       Dutch:

It is considered by many scholars as the easiest for English speakers to learn. Dutch belongs to the West Germanic language family as English does, and its vocabulary and grammar are very similar to English. Dutch resembles German in many ways, but it does not have cases (accusative and nominative, e.g.: I-me, he-him), and has simpler grammar.

2.       Afrikaans:

Another West Germanic language. It has no verb conjugation for tenses, no genders for nouns (French has), and is non-inflective. It shares many Germanic-derived words with English. Afrikaans is believed to be a great language for people who are afraid of grammar. "What is this in Afrikaans?" in Afrikaans goes as "Wat is dit in Afrikaans?"

3.       French:

It is said that around 1/3 of the modern English language are based on French roots. More than 8,000 words are deprived from French. Therefore, French vocabulary is more familiar and easy for English speakers to comprehend than other languages. Difficulties may lie in its gendered nouns and its 17 verb forms.

4.       Spanish:

Most Spanish words are written as pronounced, which makes it easy for beginners to write and speak. Spanish only has 10 vowels and diphthong sounds compared with that of 20 in English. It also has fewer irregularities than other Romance languages.

5.       Norwegian:

Its syntax and word order are similar to that in English. Verbs do not conjugate by the number of people. Conjugation for tense is also simple: add a suffix "e" for the past tense and an "s" for the passive voice.

6.       Portuguese:

Its interrogative form (questions) does not needs a rearrangement of sentence phrases, but is only expressed in a question intonation; but beginners may find it hard to pronounce the nasal vowels in Portuguese.

7.       Swedish:

It shares many words with English, and also follows the Subject-Verb-Object syntax. Its conjugation rule is the same as that in English. Swedish is also regarded as a melodic language easy to pronounce.

8.       Italian:

Like Spanish, Italian words are mostly written as pronounced. It has only 21 letters. Its sentence structure is quite rhythmic: most words end in vowels.

9.       Esperanto:

Created in the 19th century, the language is designed for easy learning. Now it is recognized by UNESCO. It has a regular and phonetic spelling system and very simple grammar. An advocate used to claim that he had managed to learn the language in 4 hours.

10.   Frisian:

Though known by few people, it is English's "closest sibling". Many Frisian sentences and English sentences are interchangeable.

 

In the UK, a CBI Education & Skills Survey 2012 interviewed 542 UK company managers, and figured out the 10 most useful foreign languages for British people to learn: (words in parentheses suggest possible reasons why the language is useful)

1.       German (Germany is UK's largest export market outside the US)

2.       French

3.       Spanish (a major European language and leading language of Latin American economies)

4.       Chinese–Mandarin (China is the world's most dynamic economy)

5.       Polish (Poland is a large consumer market for UK)

6.       Arabic (business)

7.       Cantonese (tie to Hong Kong and many other places in the world)

8.       Russian (Russia is UK's fastest-growing major export market)

9.       Japanese (trade)

10.   Portuguese (tie to Brazil)

 

While in the US, words have come that the US Department of State have considered the following 13 languages "crucial to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness" (Rai, HubPages):

1.       Arabic (terrorism v.s. a shortage of Arabic speakers in the US)

2.       Azerbaijani (gas)

3.       Bangla (terrorism; Muslim)

4.       Chinese (world's largest-to-be economy; hold most US debts)

5.       Hindi (Bric country; links to US)

6.       Korean (long tie with US)

7.       Indonesian (Muslim)

8.       Japanese (tie to China)

9.       Persian (Iran is a major "antagonist" to the US)

10.   Punjab (maybe some terrorists speak this Indian dialect)

11.   Russian (another "antagonist"; Bric country)

12.   Turkish (Muslim)

13.   Urdu (spoken in Pakistan where Al-Qaeda bases)

 

Have interests in any of the foreign languages listed above? Click here to choose a language course to study online!

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