Us Brits have it easy. Almost 400 million people speak English as their first language, with over 1 billion speaking it as a second language.
Yet we shouldn’t rest on our laurels.
Being multilingual comes with huge benefits, especially in business. A language can add between 10% and 15% to your wage, according to recruitment agency Euro London. English is actually the third most-spoken language in the world, with Mandarin and Spanish coming out top.
Not only this, but languages are infinitely useful for travelling and can also boost your brain function, memory and decision-making ability.
Worried about your ability to learn a language?
“If you’ve ever doubted whether you’re a good language learner, then bear in mind that you’ve already learned one language very well indeed – your first,” argues Robert William McCaul for the British Council.
It’s also easier than you think for English native speakers to learn certain languages. English comes from West Germanic, Norman French and Latin, so actually shares a lot in common with many other languages. This means you’re not starting from scratch – you’re actually already familiar with the alphabets, sentence structure, vocabulary and pronunciation of many other languages.
Here’s the easiest languages to learn for English-speakers, according to The Telegraph.
|Afrikaans||Also from West Germanic descent, Afrikaans offers simple sentence structures that English speakers find easy to follow. Also, “unlike English, there is no verb conjugation (swim, swam, swum)” which makes it even simpler.|
|French||About 45% of English words come from French, making the vocabulary extremely easy for us to learn and pronounce.|
|Spanish||Most Spanish words are pronounced, as they are written, making reading and writing easier for English speakers to guess at.|
|Dutch||Another Germanic language, similar in both structure and pronunciation to English, many linguists consider Dutch the easiest for us to speak.|
|Norwegian||This Germanic language is similar in sentence structure and grammar to English and the rules for conjugation are very straightforward, for instance, adding an ‘e’ makes a word past tense.|
|Portuguese||Portuguese is more grammatically similar to French, however the intonation is very similar to English. We’re leaving now can become a question just by raising your voice at the end (“We’re leaving now?”) which is a natural linguistic habit of English speakers anyway.|
|Swedish||Many Swedish words are similar to English ones, for instance konferens (conference), midnatt (midnight), and telefon (telephone), as well as having similar grammar. Unsurprisingly, it’s another Germanic language.|
|Italian||Both English and Italian share Latin roots, which means they also share very similar words like foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious). It’s also easy to read as words are pronounced how they’re spelt, and the very rhythmic sound of the language makes it easy to pronounce.|
So how do you go about learning a language?
Translation site Babbel.com have shared tips from someone who can speak nine different languages. If anyone can teach you how to become multilingual, it’s this guy.
Have a good reason to do it, and use this as your motivation
Do you want to improve your career? Do you want to live in another country? Or marry someone from France one day?
Don’t do it alone
Join a language class, find a language-learning buddy and even talk to yourself. Having other people around you pushes you to work harder whether it be from support or rivalry. Talking to yourself also gives you more practice and keeps things fresh in your mind. Language apps are helpful, but nothing beats learning in a real-world environment.
Keep it relevant
Think about how you will use the language in an everyday setting and focus on that part of the language, whether it be having general conversations, using it for business or writing love songs.
Have fun and don’t be afraid to play with the language
Be creative with the language – try writing a short story, exchanging funny emails with your language-learning buddies or just keep talking to yourself. It will expand your vocabulary and make you feel less afraid of making mistakes.
Don’t be scared to try. Making mistakes is the only way to improve so leave your comfort zone as much as possible and talk to strangers. Don’t worry too much about grammar and pronunciation, it’s important to just get comfortable.
Expose yourself to the language
The more you hear other people talk and pronounce the language, the easier it will be for you.