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"Easiest foreign languages to learn..."

(29 Posts)
Erebus Fri 10-May-13 13:08:26


Purely out of interest!

Erebus Fri 10-May-13 13:09:22

Did I once read that you needed a speech defect to be able to speak Afrikaans accurately? grin

Vietnammark Fri 10-May-13 13:47:25

Here is some info on easiest foreign languages to learn:

cory Sat 11-May-13 13:09:00

Swedish as number 7, eh? I have never met a foreign language learner, even among people who have lived in the country for decades, who had a decent Swedish accent (defining decent as one that is easily understood by the natives). Otoh I know several people who speak Italian and German well enough to be mistaken for native speakers.

She calls Swedish "fairly easy to reproduce": somebody should tell her that it is like Chinese in that getting the tonal accent wrong distorts the whole of the sentence (I think we can all agree that there is a fair bit of difference between "the Holy Spirit" and "the duck").

As for claiming that there are no phonemes found in Spanish that are not found in English apart from the n (which I cannot write out) is not true: ime English language learners struggle enormously with long vowels like e and o, because they want to turn them into diphthongs. And what about ll and j?

The statement that Spanish is grammatically easier than French is often found, but what is it based on? Last time I looked Spanish had the same gendered nouns, the same subjunctives and the same irregular verbs as French. Could anyone explain what they're on about?

Bonsoir Sat 11-May-13 14:18:38

Spanish genders are easier to learn than French (nouns ending in -o are masculine, nouns ending in -a are feminine and they are the majority) - French genders are a nightmare! And there are many irregular gendered endings of adjectives.

choccyp1g Sat 11-May-13 14:32:16

I was thinking about this in the light of several recent "triple science or foundation science" threads, and I wondered if there could be scope for a "foundation foreign languages" course.

you'd learn the basics (especially the pronunciation!) in several different languages, but not get too bogged down in the fine detail of grammar for example

hello my name is, I am x years old
hello how are you
i'm fine thankyou
the days of the week
the months of the year
how to order from a menu
food names
I like .. I don't like

It would be a sort of travellers /beginners course. I think it would be really interesting to see how languages work, the similarities and differences etc. etc.....

[probably completely irrelevant to this thread though]

Bonsoir Sat 11-May-13 14:40:46

I think lots of UK schools do introductory language courses these days - one term each of French, Spanish and German for example.

A complete waste of time IMVHO...

choccyp1g Sat 11-May-13 15:13:09

Good point Bonsoir, DS's primary did that, pretty much alternating French and Spanish from reception to Y6, and most of it was singing and colouring in....

He has got quite a good accent for some phrases, but actually has no idea which bit of "my name is" is my, name or is, in either language.

you see part of me thinks this kind of "foundation" language would be fabulous, and another part thinks "no it would be rubbish, just like foundation science, because they would just teach random easy bits and pieces instead of the actual building blocks.

muminlondon Sat 11-May-13 17:41:22

The easiest languages for English speakers aren't the most useful or widely spoken. (Although even the definition of 'useful' is debatable - for trade, tourism, Old/Middle English or comparative literature studies, community relations, opera singing, understanding of historical/scientific research?) English for speakers of other languages ticks a lot of boxes at a time. I still think French and/or German would cover a lot of bases too.

But I do agree that term of French and then a term of German is a waste of time. A taster week of five different languages with activities like cookery, music, films, calligraphy, theatre, etc. would be fun though.

crazynanna Sat 11-May-13 17:44:23

I chose Italian at school instead of French..and everything seemed to end in A,O or I...still failed though blush

cory Sat 11-May-13 18:18:20

Still a few irregulars in Spanish (la mano). But yes, the nouns are a good point.

I still found French easier, because the fast, rather slurred and very monotonous delivery of Castilian Spanish makes it harder to follow. I have studied Spanish for many years and done a language course at Salamanca, but I still find it far easier to follow a lecture or news item in Italian, a language which I have never studied at all. Also easier to get into French or Italian because there is more accessible literature (most Spanish fiction isn't all that accessible imho).

MousyMouse Sat 11-May-13 18:35:04

the easiest language to lern is one with the easy possibility of immersion (tv programmes in that language, visits/exchanges).

MousyMouse Sat 11-May-13 18:35:26

if you find any typos you can keep them...

DolomitesDonkey Sat 11-May-13 18:43:37

Frisian is more NE Scotland dialect than English, but there are similarities. I don't believe it's quite as straight forward as she implies- my Dutch friends joke about Friesland and of course they're native Dutch speakers. Otoh my great-grandparents got stuck there (fishing boat) and my granny got by using her scots dialect - which isn't understood outside Aberdeenshire.

Bit tight I feel making Dutch, Frisian and Afrikaans separate languages.

I wonder what level of fluency she refers to. Having English, Dutch and a smattering of German I can follow Norwegian and Swedish - bit I'm far from dinner part ready!

kelda Sat 11-May-13 18:45:28

I speak Flemish and can understand Afrikaans fine.

The best languages to learn are the most useful ones.

Portofino Sat 11-May-13 18:52:12

My French is OK, though despite trying I find it nearly impossible to speak Dutch beyond the basics. Though I understand a lot. My Spoken Italian is better.

kelda Sat 11-May-13 18:55:38

Porto, flemish and French are so different, if you speak one, it is hard to switch to the other.

I'm struggling with french at the moment. I understand a lot when it's written down, but I'm finding it impossible to speak.

Portofino Sun 12-May-13 09:19:46

Ha. When we have team presentations etc there is this annoying habit to keep switching between the 2. My poor old brain can't keep up. Better if they stick to one or the other grin

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 12-May-13 09:57:35

Hmm. I would say that Dutch is probably the easiest to learn for native English speakers. Spanish is easy from the grammar point of view (Dutch uses some constructs from German grammar, rather than English) as it is very regular. Swedish is tonal, so I wouldn't say that was easy for English speakers to reproduce. And languages do "follow on" - I picked up Dutch very quickly, living in Belgium, because I speak German. I learned Romanian quickly because I did Latin and Spanish at school - and if you speak Romanian, you can understand Italian, though apparently it doesn't work the other way round, according to my Italian colleague.

kelda Sun 12-May-13 10:05:10

The problem with dutch is that you don't hear it regularly enough outside of dutch speaking countries. And there is not much point to learning it unless you are living in one of those countries. And even them I know plenty of expats who live here for years and never need to learn dutch.

I'm going to encourage my children to learn something that might be far more useful in years to come - Arabic or one of the Chinese languages.

Bonsoir Sun 12-May-13 10:19:22

I agree about Spanish fiction - it is either a poor imitation of French fiction or else pretty unique and inpenetrable. Spaniards and Latin Americans seem to grapple long and hard with issues the rest of us don't bother with!

happygardening Sun 12-May-13 11:17:25

Italian for me I am no linguist but after a fortnight in Italy I was surprised at how much I could understand and how much I could correctly guestimate.

ZZZenagain Sun 12-May-13 15:24:05

It depends what you are trying to achieve. Is the aim true mastery and the attainment of a native-like pronunciation so that you might be mistaken in speech and in writing for a native speaker or is it about being able to read a newspaper and manage in a work environment? The former is difficult in every language and you have to be a bit of a fanatic to get there.

If we are trying to communicate in everyday situations with an intelligible pronunciation and read a newspaper, no west European language is really that difficult. It would take about a year of steady application and exposure (internet for instance). If you want to read specialist literature in your field but don't really need to speak the language, that is even easier.

To reach the level where you can comfortably and pleasurably read serious works of fiction is more challenging because you need both a wider vocabulary, including some obselete vocabulary and you need the meta language, all the background cultural information which the author is drawing on. Very up-to-date novels which include a lot of slang can be difficult to read too IMO.

Out of the western European languages, I imagine Portugese being the most difficult because I personally find it very difficult to hear anything out of a flow of Portugese speech (unlike French which most of us have learnt to some extent, Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish). Portugese is the one that my ear finds the most slippery - or elusive maybe.

cory Sun 12-May-13 17:05:41

I'd say even the intelligible pronunciation is difficult to achieve in Swedish within a year because mistakes in tonal accent really does distort the meaning.

My husband can't pronounce my name accurately because after 30 years of living together and practising the language he still can't even hear that it has a different tone, let alone reproduce it. My family often struggle to understand what he is saying because he uses the wrong tone so ends up speaking totally different words.

losingtrust Sun 12-May-13 17:16:26

Trying to learn Swedish at the moment and finding it easier to read as have degree in German but struggling to understand prononciation in shops etc whereas I also found Italian really easy after having done French. Russian was easier than Swedish. Got by more in Russia than Sweden. However the level of English is soo good in Sweden compared to Russia that the effort with Russian may be a better pay off. I have enjoyed Russian much more and DS and friends choosing to learn Russian and German.

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