It’s never too late to become good at something new — especially if it’s one of the easiest languages to learn on your own.
Contrary to popular knowledge, adults are still capable of learning a new language — sometimes even as fast as children.
Arieh Smith, better known as Xiaoma, is a New Yorker who speaks near-native level Mandarin Chinese and some other Chinese dialects that are enough to confuse native speakers, including his in-laws.
He’s renowned for learning various languages in a week. One video saw him talking in the native language of various global leaders at a conference.
One study showed that adults of any age can obtain incredible mastery over a language nearly as quickly as children.
There’s also the snowball effect, which argues that the greater your knowledge in a given field, the faster you can learn.
It shows that you are able to learn more words a day when you’re older as compared to when you were younger.
Another research paper from University of Kansas linguists supports this theory.
It found that adults can quickly begin mentally processing sentence structures in a second language like a native speaker.
Why is this the case?
Kshipra Gurunandan, a researcher at the BCBL Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language, explains that adult brains are more flexible than we think.
“The brain remains flexible enough to learn new languages well into adulthood, even if nailing the accent might get harder with age,” Gurunandan told Inverse.
As an adult, your vocabulary range is much wider than a child’s.
This makes it easy for you to understand the meaning of several foreign words by understanding common patterns and similarities to your native language.
All of this explain how you can learn a new language but why should you invest time and effort to do so?
Why should we learn a new language?
Being multilingual makes you more employable.
With a globalising economy, speaking a second language can help you land high-skill jobs in countries worldwide.
A study showed that having a foreign language in your CV can increase your salary by 11% to 35%.
It makes you just as qualified as those from Europe, a region in which some parts have 100% of students able to speak multiple languages.
Besides improving your job prospects, learning another language has other benefits too.
In France, the locals expect foreigners to pick up the language quickly or at least try to. Smaller countryside towns may not have a population that is comfortable speaking English.
Malaysian-born Shah Farid Rashid faced this massive hurdle when he landed in Beijing.
“I had zero basic knowledge of the language, so there were many problems,” he told Study International.
“The language barrier prevented me from going out, buying food, using public transportation and more. I’d always have to ask someone to come with me.”
Perhaps the biggest perk is how it slows down ageing and just makes you a better person in general.
For example, some studies indicate a link between multilingual skills and preventing dementia. Others show that speaking a foreign language can help with your multitasking abilities.
Dan Berges, Managing Director of Berges Institute — one of the fastest-growing Spanish language schools for adults in the US and Europe — shared that there are also personal reasons for students to learn a new language.
“We did a survey with our students a few years ago and 62% said they were learning Spanish for personal growth,” he says.
“We also have other people that have personal relationships. Maybe their in-laws speak Spanish and it’s really cool that they’re able to go to family meetings and speak Spanish.”
5 easiest languages to learn on your own for free
The following easiest languages to learn on your own are free. You don’t have to spend much, attend classes or live in a country that speaks them to become fluent in them. However, there are a few things to note.
How easy or how hard a language is can be subjective. It depends on your native language, why you’re doing this, and how you learn best. In short, it depends on you.
That said, with enough time and effort, you can master the following easiest languages to learn on your own.
Each language is listed below for its own unique reasons why they’re part of the easiest languages to learn on your own.
Mandarin is often considered one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn, but there are a few reasons to show that this is just a myth.
Start with the fact that it has relatively few grammar patterns — most of which are straightforward.
There are also no tenses in the Chinese language and Chinese words do not alter their form or conjugate like English verbs.
If you don’t know the stroke of a specific Chinese character, you can use the phonetic writing system of Chinese characters to text or write.
As Chinese has four tones and one natural tone, singers or those recognise tones well will find it easier than someone who is tonedeaf.
It’s also best for someone who is surrounded by Chinese-speaking people. If you have questions, you can get answers immediately, accelerating your progress.
Practising your Mandarin with Chinese friends will also be invaluable.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Mandarin:
- Chinese for Beginners, Peking University (Coursera)
- Learning Chinese : Start From Scratch (零到一學中文), National Taiwan University (Coursera)
Spanish is an easy pick for many English speakers due to its practicality and wide reach. Much of this has to do with the fact that more than 450 million people around the globe speak this language.
It’s also the official language in 20 countries, such as Puerto Rico, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, and many more.
Spanish is one of the Romance languages, which is one of the largest language groups. It derives from Latin, like many English words. Here are some examples:
- Correcto means correct
- Pizza is pizza
- Delicioso means delicious
In terms of pronunciation, Spanish is a phonetic language. For the most part, you can say the words the way they’re spelt.
However, Spanish does have a number of verb tenses and exceptions to grammar rules which can get confusing.
The good thing is that these tenses largely align with the ones we use in English, so it’s easy to pick up this language.
Spanish is also highly regarded by employers.
In the US, 79% of recruiters cited Spanish as the most in-demand additional language.
What’s more, the language is infiltrating everyday life as well.
It was estimated that more than 70% of billboards in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross were in Spanish.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Spanish:
Would you have thought Norwegian would be one of the languages on this list?
Neither did we.
Norwegian is a member of the Germanic family of languages — like English. This means that both languages share quite a bit of vocabulary, such as the seasons “vinter” and “sommer”.
What sets Norwegian apart from other languages is that the grammar is pretty straightforward. There’s only one form of each verb per tense and the word order closely mimics English.
For example, “Can you help me?” translate to “Kan du hjelpe meg?”. The words are in the same order in both languages, so it’ll be easy for new learners to master the sentence structure.
Due to the different accents in Norway, you have more leeway with the pronunciation when learning Norwegian since there is no correct way to pronounce words.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Norwegian:
Did you know that there are around 11 million people around the globe that speak Swedish?
The language is classified as “Category 1” by the Foreign Service Institute — meaning it’s easier for both native and non-Swedish people to learn the language.
Like Norwegian, Swedish has relatively simple grammar rules and similar words to English.
For instance, grass is “gräs” in Swedish — a clear cognate (words from different languages that have similar spellings, pronunciations, and meanings).
It also comes from the Germanic family of languages.
As a local in Scandinavia, Astrid shares why it’s easier for new learners to pick up Swedish.
“Swedish is easier because it’s (more or less) spoken as it’s written,” the founder of Seek Scandinavia shares.
“This is different from German, which has an array of unspoken words due to vehicular language that changes words all the time. In an informal conversation, you’ll likely understand some German after taking some time to learn it, but you’ll realise that it isn’t spoken as it is written.”
Thanks to IKEA, the Swedish language has great exposure. English speakers around the globe have been exposed to a number of Swedish words when shopping for furniture.
The popular minimalistic lack tables are named after the Swedish word for varnish. Stockholm rugs got their name from Sweden’s capital.
Learning the Swedish language can provide a good foundation for picking up languages that share similar linguistic similarities with other Nordic countries, such as Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn Swedish:
At the moment, there are over 300 million speakers who are adept at French, either as their native tongue or as a second language. Many businesses similarly communicate in the language.
As with the other Romance languages, French is one of the easiest languages to learn on your own because it shares many words with English.
This, however, isn’t solely attributed to its linguistic roots.
Throughout the war and conquests between France and England, key language components were passed from one country to another.
That’s why some French vocabulary was added to the English language, such as “avant-garde” and “à la carte.”
While it can be tricky to pronounce some French words, hearing French accents in pop culture can make it easier to replicate these words and nail the pronunciation.
French is a fairly simple language to pick up at uni, especially if you’re attending one in Europe.
Be sure to consult your uni for options on how to take up this language or integrate it into your curriculum.
Here are some free resources for a quick and easy method to learn French: