Rocket Languages Blog The Three Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn

The Three Easiest Languages for English Speakers to Learn



Let's face it: learning a foreign language isn't easy! From vocabulary to pronunciation, language learning can be frustrating. Luckily for you, we break down the easiest languages to learn!

There are some languages that are believed to be easier for English speakers to learn than others. A study by the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI) looked at a group of native English speakers studying a foreign language and created a list of the approximate time needed to learn them. 

According to the FSI, there are four basic language categories.

Category 1: languages that are the most similar to English.

The majority of these languages are Western European languages, like Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and German. 

In general, native English speakers take between 23 and 30 weeks to become proficient, according to the FSI study.

Categories 2 & 3: languages with considerable linguistic and/or cultural differences from English.

The list includes Hindi, Russian, Greek, and many others. Because of these linguistic and cultural differences, these languages take more time for English speakers to learn. After all, these languages are 'Greek to us'!

The learning time frame? Between 36 and 44 weeks.

Category 4: the impress-your-friends zone.

These five languages are known to be exceptionally hard for English speakers to learn: Arabic (all varieties), Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin.

One of the reasons for this is the completely different writing systems. In order to reach proficiency in these languages, FSI students required at least 88 weeks PLUS a second year of study in the foreign country.

While this sounds pretty daunting, don't let that scare you off learning a more “difficult” language. It's very important to remember that language difficulty is relative. What might take one learner three weeks to learn could take another learner just a few days.

What is the Easiest Language to Learn?

According to the FSI, there are 10 languages that fit into the first category of “easiest” languages. We'll focus on the most spoken languages in this category. After all, you don't want to just learn a language, you want to be able to use it as much as possible!

And now, with no further ado, the three most spoken, easiest languages to learn!

1. Spanish

Why should I learn Spanish?

With over an estimated 422 million native speakers worldwide, Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world (behind Chinese, Hindi, and English). It's an official, national, or widely spoken language in 44 countries, including the United States. 

Believe it or not, the United States is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. It's time for Americans to learn some more español to speak with their amigos and vecinos!  

What makes Spanish easier?

Spanish only differs from English in morphology (word formation) and phonology (pronunciation). Spanish uses most of the same alphabet as English and the pronunciation system is pretty straightforward: words are pronounced exactly as they are written. 

Grammatically speaking, Spanish actually has fewer irregularities than other Latin-based languages. English speakers also have many opportunities to be exposed to Spanish on a daily basis, especially us Americans.

But don’t be fooled by all the similarities between English and Spanish. There are many Spanish dialects which have strong differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar. Keep this in mind when starting to tackle español.

How much time is needed for proficiency?

According to the FSI study, a native English speaker requires an average of 23-24 weeks to become proficient in Spanish.

Want to get started right now? Take the free trial of Rocket Spanish here and try a few sample lessons from the full Rocket Spanish course.

2. Portuguese

Why should I learn Portuguese?

There are over 176 million Portuguese speakers in the world. These speakers are not just from Portugal and Brazil - Portuguese is also spoken in over 34 countries worldwide. Portuguese is the official language in 10 countries, including Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and East Timor.

In addition, Brazil's economy is currently ranked 6th in the world. This makes learning Portuguese incredibly valuable for professionals.

What makes Portuguese easier?

Much like Spanish, Portuguese only differs from English in morphology and phonology. The word order is pretty much the same, even though the nasal vowel sounds can be tricky to pronounce. 

One attractive feature of Portuguese is how a statement can easily become a question simply by changing your intonation. “We are dancing tonight,” for example, can become a question simply by raising your voice at the end.

How much time is needed for proficiency?

On average, a native English speaker needs between 23 and 24 weeks to achieve language proficiency in Portuguese, according to the FSI study findings.

Start learning Portuguese today! Take the free trial of Rocket Portuguese here and try a few sample lessons from the full Rocket Portuguese course.

3. French

Why should I learn French?

There are over 75 million native French speakers in the world today. There are another 190 million who have it as a secondary language, from Paris all the way to Africa. French is an official language in 40 countries and is spoken in 54 countries worldwide.

What makes French easier?

French features a few tricky components for native English-speaking learners, like gendered nouns, inconsistently pronounced letters, and lots of tricky silent letters. Even so, French is still one of the easiest languages for English speakers to learn.

We have history to thank for this. In the 11th century, the Norman invasion of England led to a new French-speaking government. This had a tremendous influence on the English language for almost a century.

Linguists estimate up to one-third of modern English has been influenced by French. It can be found in our “potatoes au gratin” to our “film noir” and “entrepreneurs.” English has more words and vocabulary in common with French than with any other Latin-based language.

How much time is needed for proficiency?

According to the FSI study, a native English speaker needs between 23 and 24 weeks on average to achieve language proficiency in French.  

Allez ! Take the free trial of Rocket French here and try a few sample lessons from the full Rocket French course.

Language Learning: An Important Note

By now, you have got to be wondering: “How is Spanish one of the easiest languages? I still can't figure out when to use por and when to use para!

It's very important to note that these findings are just based on ONE study. The study used relatively experienced language learners who were studying very intensively. Most of us don't have that kind of time on our hands!

In addition, every learner is different. What is easy for one learner might be very difficult for another. This is regardless of how similar or different the language is to English.

With time, resources, and most importantly, motivation, any language is within your reach.

If you are looking to see how possible language learning really is for you, our award-winning language software is a great place to start!

Enjoy a free trial of Rocket Spanish, Portuguese, French, or one of a dozen other languages. Learn how fun and easy it can be to learn a language!

¡Buena suerte! Boa sorte! Bonne chance !




Thanks for this Jason.

Just one thing occurs to me: as you say different people learn at different speeds, but the times to become proficient do seem short to me! Very dispiriting! Is this because of the intensive nature of the FSI training would you say?

I've looked through their material, and it seems to have a lot of drilling; also I believe that it's intended for a classroom setting, with several hours of dedicated study per day. (The original intention was to train military and diplomatic personnel, I believe.) 

Still, I'll struggle on…





Hi Pete

Yes, that caveat should probably be in there! Spending a lot of dedicated time is going to give faster results than say studying once per week for a year. 

Of course, few people can afford to do that with the busy nature of life these days!



Thanks Jason.

Well, I do try to put in at minimum 30 mins a day, preferably more. Not always with Rocket: I sometimes watch the videos recommended by other (German with Jenny, German with Anja etc). But sometimes “life happens”, as they say, and I lose a few days.

Different from several hours of classwork, obviously! 



Was reading Jason's post again and those intense sessions seem overwhelming. My father learnt Portuguese in 3 months. He went to a language school, tried to read the newspaper everyday. That said it was also immersion as we were living in Mozambique at the time. He was also not shy to speak and make mistakes. 

I have found that starting with Italian and then about a year later adding German, was really intimidating. Took me at least a month to get my thoughts and tongue around the German after the Italian. Am feeling more comfortable now and find the switch easier. The neurons and synapses are obviously getting used to it all. 



I've been studying Japanese.  The last bunch of months I have been concentrating on kanji, but I recently came back to focus on Rocket more.  I've noticed I'm doing better with Rocket now that I have a lot of Kanji under my belt.  Between both of these, I am feeling motivated.