Is One Language Easier To Learn Than Another Language?

I picked up a new language a few months ago. It was just laying on the ground, dirty, so I scooped it up and popped it in my mouth.” ― Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

Learning a second language can be difficult. Is there one language that is easier to learn than others? Read the article below to find out.

Learning A Language: The Easiest Language To LearnBy Jeffrey D Nelson

Why learn a languageLearning a language can be, well, is, a daunting task. Nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions (I hate prepositions.. especially the languages that don’t have them!) It’s tough to learn any language, but the benefits of being bilingual are a strong pull even for the most cowardly of us all. I propose, in the eloquently written paragraphs that follow, a plan to decide which is the easiest language to learn… for you.

Why should I learn a new language?

Learning a language can be a fun experience. A new language means a new culture, a new world, a new way to see the world in which we live. It means peering through the looking glass into a new world; one dominated not by our own prejudices or our old way of thinking, but by the history of another people. It means looking at a new world; or, at least, the old world in a new way.

Aside from the many benefits that exist with regards to just learning a language, the benefits of being bilingual are many. I use the term “bilingual” loosely. Someone who can reasonably communicate in two languages, in my opinion, is bilingual. Even 10 minutes per day, consistently, over a long period of time, can have a great impact in language learning.

Let me be clear here – you will not be fluent in your language after learning a language for 10 minutes per day for six months. That is a fact (unless you are some sort of genius, but even then I doubt it).

So what’s the point?

The point is, we need to remove our rose-colored glasses with regards to language learning. Learning a language is messy; it’s not clean. It’s not linear, and it doesn’t reduce down to a nice equation of x+y=z. As it’s said, it’s more of an art than a science. Sure, there is a lot of science involved, and there are a lot of proven techniques and best practices.

None of that matters, however, until you figure out the most important aspect of learning a language. The most important question to ask yourself in language learning is why. Why do I want to learn this language? Why do I want to speak this language? Why? Once you can answer that satisfactorily you are well on your way to learning a language.

Is there an “easiest language to learn” when learning a language?

The easiest language to learn is the one you are most passionate about, or at least the one you have the best answer to the question why. If you don’t have a fairly solid need to speak a language, then there is very little point in doing it and very little chance you will succeed.

Several lists exist out there of how many hours it takes to speak a language well depending on what your native language is; the government loves this kind of stuff. None of that matters. The only thing that matters is your desire, your motivation. Without it, you aren’t going to put in even the smallest amount of time (500 hours) to be “conversational” in another language.

What are some of the good why’s?

Here are a few good why’s off the top of my head:

  • Connect with your spouse: You marry someone who speaks another language and you want to connect with them in their own language. This is a great one.
  • Connect with your family: You have family members who speak another language and you’ve always wanted to learn it to be able to converse with them.
  • Connect with your roots: Your family came from another country (Mexico, Norway, Germany… ) and you want to be able to speak the heritage language but were never taught; now is your chance!
  • Connect with your future – You want to take your destiny by the horns and break out of your monolingual box! I can respect this one! I’m not sure if it’s practical, but I’d like to think it is.
  • Connect with another culture – If you really love a certain culture and want to further connect with them, learn their customs, get a more in-depth look at their lives and how they think, you have to learn the language. Language can be a means to an end, if the end has a strong enough pull.

There is an obvious pattern above. To learn a new language is to connect with something new and powerful. This connection has a draw to it. It’s deep and not superficial. If you just want to impress someone, look cool, or be able to write “I speak language x” down on a resume, then you’re probably not going to get real far.

The Japanese are very intense language learners and concentrate on English from a young age. Their thought process is that English is important and a precursor to success. Because of this, they spend a lot of time force-feeding English to their children. The children don’t connect with this because, well, children don’t connect with future success 15 years down the road. Therefore the children hate it. Is it effective? Yes, but only because the children can’t stop. These methods don’t work if you have free will… which I’m guessing most of us do.

How can I learn a new language?

Skinning this proverbial cat has as many methods as verb conjugations in Spanish. What is the best way to learn a new language is a question that plagues the world of language learning. Countless research studies, anecdotal evidence, trial and error, and just-wing-it attitudes have produced results in every form; from horrible to incredible.

The common thought process in the practical language learning community (as opposed to the theoretical – linguists, etc) is to get out there and do it. One must read in the language, speak the language, study the language, get together with friends in the language.

In my humble opinion, it mostly boils down to exposure. As long as you are getting the right kind of exposure, meaningful exposure, you can certainly get to a decent level in a language in a reasonable amount of time. What level that is, and in what timeframe, depends a lot on the individual person and their level of commitment. I would surmise that in a matter of six months a person should be fairly good at it.

So what does this all mean?

Nothing wagered nothing gained, right? To me, this all means that if you want to learn a language, do it! If you have always wanted to order your food in a French restaurant while sipping wine, then make that your goal. If you want to be able to talk fútbol with the local waiter at the Mexican restaurant, do that.

Learning a language doesn’t mean being able to do everything in that language; that is impossible. It simply means to learn something about the language, to do something in the language. It isn’t a waste if you set out to learn a language and only learn it to a beginner level. You will never lose that, although it will get increasingly rusty, but it will always be there. You have a whole lifetime to build on it, so get up, get out, and learn something today!

Go learn a language today. Teach it to your kids. Raise some bilingual babies. Give them the numerous benefits of being bilingual. They will thank you later.

Jeffrey Nelson

Jeffrey Nelson is an author living in a bilingual family. He is raising his son multilingually with his wife.

Other articles that may be of interest:
How Many People Are Bilingual? http://livingbilingual.com/2013/05/28/exactly-how-many-people-are-bilingual/

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Michael

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