The Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers
Here’s a series of rapid-fire questions: How well do you speak English? How many other languages can you speak? Do you want to learn a new one? How long do you think it’ll take you to learn a new language? Fancy a pizza? Sorry, let’s save that one for later…
Here’s the thing: regardless of whether you speak English as a native or foreign language, chances are you already know a good percentage of another global language that shares a few features with English. So, what’s holding you back from learning a new language?
For better or worse, we as language learners tend to focus on either the major similarities or differences between our native and target language, making the process of learning a new language on top of English all the more daunting. Naturally, this begs the question:
What’s the easiest language to learn for English speakers, really?
I’ve been asked this same exact question at least a hundred times in my teaching career.
Every single time, I’ve given the same exact answer: German.
The reason is simple: English and German share quite a few similarities, from their history and global popularity to words and grammar rules, all of which ease the process of mastering German as a foreign language.
In this article, we’ll take a look at all the reasons that make German easy to learn for English speakers and why you should add German to your polyglot résumé.
English and German are closely related through history.
Today, we know them as two languages. However, just 500 years ago, they were one and the same. Both English and German are Germanic languages from the Indo-European language family. This is probably the main reason why so many similarities are shared between the two.
In fact, more than a third of non-technical lexicon in English are still words from the West Germanic language, with German adopting a lot of that vocabulary, as well. Talk about a lifelong language love story, huh?
English and German share the same alphabet
Both English and German use the same 26 letters from the Latin alphabet. Of course, German also has the umlauted letters ӓ, ӧ, ü, and ẞ, but the huge resemblance is a plus either way you slice. It makes it easy for English speakers to learn new words in German that are closely sounding and create a correlation between the two languages, e.g. Apfel vs. apple.
It also enables English speakers to learn German as a whole more easily when compared to languages such as Arabic or Mandarin, which use completely different writing systems. Imagine the challenge in that!
English and German share a lot of the same words
If you can speak English, there is a good chance you already know some German words. Whether it’s German words in English, such as pretzel, spritzer (apple) or rucksack (backpack), or vice versa, such as information, hobby or computer, the two languages share quite a lot of words.
Their word similarities can be put into three categories:
Words that are written and pronounced exactly the same: hobby/Hobby, T-shirt/T-Shirt, tourist/Tourist, park/Park, etc.
Words that are written differently but pronounced the same or similarly: house/Haus, university/Universitӓt, camera/Kamera, mouse/Maus, etc.
Words that are written the same but pronounced differently: zoo/Zoo, name/Name, bus/Bus, radio/Radio, etc.
English and German use the same number patterns.
The two languages both use the Arabic numbering system and numerals. However, this similarity goes a step further, as the numbers 10 to 20 share the same structure in both languages. Let’s take a look:
English: ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty
German: zehn, elf, zwӧlf, dreizehn, vierzehn, fünfzehn, sechzehn, siebzehn, achtzehn, neunzehn, zwanzig
Granted, these may not be the same exact words but the pattern of adding the suffix -teen or -zehn remains exactly the same, which makes memorizing these numbers much easier.
Some grammar rules are the same in both English and German
English learners attempting to learn German will definitely have a hard time with inflections! In German, words change depending on gender, number, order or tense. For example, a single word can appear in 3 or more forms, e.g. Mann, Mannes, Mӓnner.
This isn’t the case in English, as the only real inflections appear in plural noun forms, adding the suffixes -s or -es to almost any word, and verb inflections based on tenses. However, this is where another great similarity between English and German lies.
Some German verbs that are similar in spelling and pronunciation to English also have similar inflected forms, making their grammar somewhat more ‘connected’. Here’s an example:
English: drink (present simple), drank (past simple), drunk (past participle)
German: trinken (present), trank (preterite), getrunken (perfekt)
English and German are both popular global languages
Last but not least, there is the fact that you can never go wrong if you decide to learn German on top of English. For someone living in Europe, this is especially true, as I can literally find my way in almost any country if I know how to interact with others in one of the two languages.
There are also plenty of other reasons which make German a popular global language:
German is the most widely spoken language in the European Union.
It is the official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and more.
German is recognized as the official language of many minorities around the world.
One tenth of all books in the world is published in German.
German is the second most utilized language in science, making any amount of German knowledge a possible plus when finding a job in scientific fields.
All of these sound pretty cool, right? This just speaks to the importance of the German language in the world and why your decision to learn it next should be that much easier.
Sure, there are plenty of other examples I didn’t mention in the article that also speak to the close similarity between English and German. Nonetheless, I think you’ve got more than enough to reach a verdict on which language you should learn next.
Learn German faster
To get to a level where you can converse in German takes time. However, you can achieve fluency as long as you are motivated and have a willingness to learn and study on a regular basis. One way to give your studying a boost is to immerse yourself in German. Thankfully, you no longer needed to be in Germany to do such a thing due to the amount of German content you can find online.
The problem is, sometimes it’s hard to find the right content best suited for your needs. Also, there’s the trouble of looking words up and finding a way to organize everything into one place. That’s why one of the best ways to learn German is to use LingQ. A language learning app that lets you use content you love to learn any language.
LingQ comes equipped with beginner mini-stories all the way to advanced news articles for you to dive into. The platform allows you to listen to audio, look up words, and save vocabulary with a single tap so you can review them anytime. And hey, if mini-stories and news aren’t interesting to you, you can learn from German blogs, YouTube videos, movies, and so much more due to LingQ’s import feature. Pretty sweet, right? LingQ will turn your favorite content into interactive lessons and save them in your library for easy access.
As you can see, I imported the Beatles’ Sie Liebt Dich into LingQ. Audio included. I can listen, read, and look up German vocabulary with ease.
This is just the tip of the iceberg with what you can do using LingQ. If you want to learn German on your own, using content you love, check out the app today and try it for free.
Jasmin Alić is an award-winning EFL/ESL teacher and writing aficionado from Bosnia and Herzegovina with years of experience in multicultural learning environments.