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These 9 languages are the easiest for English speakers to learn

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Helen Booth
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According to a report from America’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), many of the world’s languages can be placed in one of four categories – from easiest to hardest to learn.

Learning a new language is something that most of us have attempted at some point in our lives.

And whether you are now fluent in multiple tongues, or struggled to get through a few terms of French classes at school before giving up, it’s commonly accepted that picking up a new language is a challenging task (although recent research claims we get better at it with a little alcohol).

However, there are some languages that are trickier to learn than others. According to a report from America’s Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which teaches languages to diplomats, many of the world’s languages can be placed in one of four categories – from easiest to hardest to learn, depending on how long it typically takes for a native English speaker to reach ‘professional working proficiency’ in each respective tongue.

The report, which assumed that the learner is on an FSI course and therefore has a “very good or better aptitude for classroom learning of foreign languages”, found that languages like French, Italian and Spanish are quickest to learn (typically taking between 24-30 weeks), while most of the languages listed fell into category three – meaning that they typically take around 44 weeks to learn.

Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean were named the hardest to learn, and can take a lot longer (an estimated 88 weeks).

And while the East Asian languages are predictably difficult for English speakers, there are a few languages on the trickier end of the list that may come as more of a surprise to the uninitiated, such as Hungarian, Finnish and Polish.

The full list can be found below, with one very obvious takeaway – if you’re struggling to learn a new language, it’s best to give yourself as much time as possible. Especially if it’s a category four.

Category 1: 24 to 30 weeks to learn

Danish
Dutch
French
Italian
Norwegian
Portuguese
Romanian
Spanish
Swedish

Category 2: 36 weeks to learn

German
Haitian creole
Indonesian
Malay
Swahili

Category 3: 44 weeks to learn

Albanian
Amharic
Armenian
Azerbaijani
Bengali
Bulgarian
Burmese
Czech
Dari
Estonian
Farsi
Finnish
Georgian
Greek
Gujarati
Hausa
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Kazakh
Khmer
Kurdish
Kyrgyz
Lao
Latvian
Lithuanian
Macedonian
Mongolian
Nepali
Pashto
Polish
Russian
Serbo-Croatian
Sinhala
Slovenian
Slovak
Somali
Tagalog
Tajiki
Tamil
Telugu
Thai
Tibetan
Turkish
Turkmen
Ukrainian
Urdu
Uzbek
Vietnamese

Category 4: 88 weeks to learn

Arabic
Chinese
Japanese
Korean

Image: iStock

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Helen Booth

Helen Booth is a London-based writer, digital editor and part-time maker who loves interiors, crafts and keeping tabs on trends. She also co-founded the weekly newsletter Lunch Hour Links.

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