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What is an easy language to learn quickly?

Star

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I may need to have basic fluency in a language other than English for a business school I am considering to apply for. Out of the usual suspects French, German, Spanish, Italian, French which of these would be the easiest to get basic proficiency in? Basic proficiency is being able to hold a basic business conversation. I would need to get to this level over a period of one year.

Some of my initial research suggests French as being relatively easy however I find the pronunciation a little daunting (having to speak while pinching your nose). German is meant to be also relatively easier however does have some tough grammar rules. Although Spanish is second most spoken language (or has Chinese caught up?) in the world it has never done it for me.



Advice?
 

rach2jlc

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No language is easy, but with authentic input and decent effort, you can definitely get to conversational level in a year in most any language.

I'd say Spanish, for several reasons. But, again, it all depends on the method of instruction and how you are planning to go about it. 10 years of crappy instruction/study (i.e. grammar/translation, memorizing verb lists) will be less useful than two months of very good instruction (authentic input, content-based instruction, etc.).

How are you planning to learn this language?
 

Star

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I imagine learning a language is like learning almost anything else i.e. You figure the fundamentals that holds it together and then it all starts to happen for you.

I know there are a million products, services, courses out there and I can easily become a sucker if not careful. I would really like to avoid rope learning vocabulary, sentences and phrases; and instead get inside the language and understand the method to create sentences and to be able to express yourself.

I think I would go to an introductory course, and then either get a tutor or try to find a speaking group. Living with a speaker of the chosen language I guess would also help?
 

rach2jlc

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Originally Posted by Star
I imagine learning a language is like learning almost anything else i.e. You figure the fundamentals that holds it together and then it all starts to happen for you. I know there are a million products, services, courses out there and I can easily become a sucker if not careful. I would really like to avoid rope learning vocabulary, sentences and phrases; and instead get inside the language and understand the method to create sentences and to be able to express yourself. I think I would go to an introductory course, and then either get a tutor or try to find a speaking group. Living with a speaker of the chosen language I guess would also help?
You can actually do it quite cheaply; I wouldn't waste money on expensive books, tapes, etc. The more "natural" and authentic the input, the better. Yes, having a roommate who is native is great (REALLY great), but also, finding a community center/organization for that language that has events, getting a conversation partner, etc. An introductory course might help, but again, I wouldn't go pay for an expensive course. As well, sometimes Uni courses actually don't help much either; my colleague does research into Spanish Instruction and has found that many (if not most) Spanish professors and Departments (this also carries over to most European/Romance language departments) come from Literature backgrounds, and know NOTHING about language acquisition or teaching. SO, don't get into the mindset that a course may necessarily solve all your problems. The more "real" you make it, the easier it is and the faster it will happen. This includes real-stakes conversations, for example, having to USE the language, as opposed to simply trying to remember how to use subjunctives. Go places where the language is spoken and make yourself use it. Also, you might want to think what you are using the language for... what area of business? What do you want to do with the business? This will help determine not only what language you pursue, but how you pursue it. Short answer is figure out what you need, then get creative, and be willing to put in a little footwork if you really want to do it. Otherwise, you'll have a few convos that you'll forget within weeks of not practicing it. All of the above is why I mentioned Spanish; you can find activities, groups, and events VERY easily to help you get better in most any town. French, German, Italian, etc. may be tougher if you don't live in a large area. AND, how useful will they be for your future career?
 
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my method was decent...i used a Pimsleur Vietnamese class and bailed up my secretary three days a week to go through it with me and correct my pronunciations as need be. Did that for about six months (and Vietnamese is damn hard)...so ya, if you did that with Spanish, I would say within a year, you would be functioning pretty well. The advantage to this method is that Pimsleur has thought out your syllabus for you, rather than just jumping right in with no structure to your learning.

Maybe craigslist a language exchange partner as well, assuming you are in the US, Spanish is the standout for availability, and the various Latin-rooted similarities to English at least give you some inherent basis.
 

Nereis

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Do Spanish. Hire a maid and talk to her in Spanish. Done.
 

Don Carlos

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If English is your native language, in theory Dutch or German is the easiest foreign language to learn. Once you get over the crazy-sounding words and pronunciations, you realize that the entire grammatical structure is virtually the same. This is a BIG deal. In any given language, syntax and grammar and tenses are much, much, much harder to learn than vocabulary. The most useful language to learn, however? Probably Spanish by a wide mile. Maybe Mandarin if you're ambitious. Either way, Spanish undoubtedly goes the furthest here in the States and in its immediate surroundings. You're also able to immerse yourself pretty easily if you want to, and language immersion is key.
 

mack11211

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Spanish for ease of access to not only classes, but communities, people, and cultural materials.

Also for the range of places you can use it in real life.

Basic language learning is hard. Rules, conjugations, etc. No way around it.

The fun stuff is cultural stuff. Among available cultural materials, TV is better than movies or radio because TV people talk more and you can see them talking. There is much more TV in Spanish than in any other non English language, at least in NY.
 

rach2jlc

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Originally Posted by Arrogant Bastard
If English is your native language, in theory Dutch or German is the easiest foreign language to learn. Once you get over the crazy-sounding words and pronunciations, you realize that the entire grammatical structure is virtually the same.
I disagree; while it becomes pointless to talk about "ease" of languages, as they are all difficult, I think it is a mistake to buy into the "English is a germanic language and so german should be easiest" myth. There are a million pitfalls awaiting the happy English speaker as he begins his foray into German. And, as for Dutch, why bother? Might as well learn Coptic or something. (haha j/k) What ultimately will make a language "set" in your mind are a lot of factors beyond grammatical structures, pronunciation, or anything else. The brain is adaptable, and no languages are so similar for a native-English speaker that they won't require entirely new ways of thinking. As such, that language to which you have easiest access to pure, authentic input, and the investment in learning it through real-world stakes will keep, those that you dont... won't. SO, if you live in a German neighborhood, go for it. Again, I'm saying go for Spanish. If you want purely useful languages for business, then learn Chinese.
 

Don Carlos

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Originally Posted by rach2jlc
I disagree; while it becomes pointless to talk about "ease" of languages, as they are all difficult, I think it is a mistake to buy into the "English is a germanic language and so german should be easiest" myth. There are a million pitfalls awaiting the happy English speaker as he begins his foray into German. And, as for Dutch, why bother? Might as well learn Coptic or something. (haha j/k) What ultimately will make a language "set" in your mind are a lot of factors beyond grammatical structures, pronunciation, or anything else. The brain is adaptable, and no languages are so similar for a native-English speaker that they won't require entirely new ways of thinking. As such, that language to which you have easiest access to pure, authentic input, and the investment in learning it through real-world stakes will keep, those that you dont... won't. SO, if you live in a German neighborhood, go for it. Again, I'm saying go for Spanish. If you want purely useful languages for business, then learn Chinese.
I don't disagree that easy access and immersion trump most other considerations. But from a purely structural standpoint, German is easier to learn. That's not a myth; that's been borne out by linguistic studies. Obviously, if one doesn't have ready access to German speakers, than the point is somewhat labored, if not entirely moot. If I were to learn one language today, it would almost certainly be Mandarin Chinese, for the reason both of us have hinted at. If you want to climb the corporate ladder? This is the way to go. If you want to start your own major business? This is the way to go. If you want to be useful, if not invaluable, to people? This is the way to go. I'd also put Korean up there. Nowhere near as useful as Chinese, but pretty darned important in the future. Korea is the new Japan. All that said, the OP asked for "an easy language to learn quickly," so that definitely rules out Mandarin.
 

rach2jlc

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Originally Posted by Arrogant Bastard
I don't disagree that easy access and immersion trump most other considerations. But from a purely structural standpoint, German is easier to learn. That's not a myth; that's been borne out by linguistic studies. Obviously, if one doesn't have ready access to German speakers, than the point is somewhat labored, if not entirely moot. If I were to learn one language today, it would almost certainly be Mandarin Chinese, for the reason both of us have hinted at. If you want to climb the corporate ladder? This is the way to go. If you want to start your own major business? This is the way to go. If you want to be useful, if not invaluable, to people? This is the way to go. I'd also put Korean up there. Nowhere near as useful as Chinese, but pretty darned important in the future. Korea is the new Japan. All that said, the OP asked for "an easy language to learn quickly," so that definitely rules out Mandarin.

Not to belabor the point... but "structural" elements don't necessarily matter much, and haven't for several decades of language research, as the situation for language acquisition is considerably more complicated than just structures and how the brain adapts them. BUT, I do see what you mean, I just want the OP or anybody to be clear that there are no "shortcuts" to language proficiency, and his own needs and environment should immediately trump ANY supposed "ease" of a language itself. I used the word "myth" only because language structures and language socialization have been looked at very differently, and the "classic" ways of looking at languages have largely ignored real acquisition in favor of abstract grammars.
 

Don Carlos

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Originally Posted by rach2jlc
Not to belabor the point... but "structural" elements don't necessarily matter much, and haven't for 40-50 years, as the situation for language acquisition is considerably more complicated than just structures.



Let's just avoid an argument on this topic, both because I lack the energy for it, and because I don't think either of us is going to come around to the other's side here.

BUT, I do see what you mean, I just want the OP or anybody to be clear that there are no "shortcuts" to language proficiency.
I've neither said, nor implied, that there are shortcuts.
 

rach2jlc

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Originally Posted by Arrogant Bastard
Let's just avoid an argument on this topic, both because I lack the energy for it, and because I don't think either of us is going to come around to the other's side here. I've neither said, nor implied, that there are shortcuts.

I don't think we're saying fundamentally different things, to be honest. I'm just saying the whole "XXYY is easier than XXZZ because of innate structural similarities" relies on a comparative method of language acquisition that has been largely dismissed, or at least heavily modified, in favor of socialization practices, and is also one that has led many people astray. Looking into language "families" for similarities is something historians might enjoy, but one that most SLA research has not found particularly useful. Sorry if it seems a moot or belabored point; I just want to make sure that we're being extra careful/clear, as language has largely been taught in the most backwards, ridiculous, impossible-to-become-proficient ways throughout the last century, and I worry for the OP that he'll fall into the same bad habits awaiting many-a-million potential language learners in the US.
 

why

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Originally Posted by Arrogant Bastard
I don't disagree that easy access and immersion trump most other considerations. But from a purely structural standpoint, German is easier to learn. That's not a myth; that's been borne out by linguistic studies. Obviously, if one doesn't have ready access to German speakers, than the point is somewhat labored, if not entirely moot.

I tried not to comment on this thread, but unfortunately you won't give up. No, German is not easier. German may have more similarities to English (specifically that it's more analytical than many other languages), but it has multiple significant divergences which still make it much more difficult to learn than other languages, especially in compound sentences where the primitive 'Ich bin sehr gut' word order gets scrambled and words start being marked for case and compound tenses. This is especially difficult for many English L1s to speak correctly because it forces them to create sentences with a more complex grammar than their foundational grammar. Still, even reading and trying to discern advanced German can be difficult -- read a page or two of Kafka and tell me it resembles English at all.

The English = Germanic distinction is superficial and elementary anyway, and concluding from those categories that Modern English is closer to High German because many people classify English as Germanic relies on the terminology and belies the basis for the categorization (what's in a name, et al.). The dichotomous 'Germanic' and 'Romance' families aren't used in historical linguistics much because they imply that the languages involved progressed simultaneously. Besides, the distinctions are often drawn based on historical language change, not their resulting forms.

Originally Posted by rach2jlc
I'm just saying the whole "XXYY is easier than XXZZ because of innate structural similarities" relies on a comparative method of language acquisition that has been largely dismissed, or at least heavily modified, in favor of socialization practices, and is also one that has led many people astray.

Trying to learn a language without learning its grammar is futile. The grammar is the language. Langue, not parole. Without it, there is no set of shared rules with which to communicate. Modern teaching methods might try to obfuscate this with candy and games of hangman, but the foundation is always present even if it's not apparent.
 

srendam

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The easiest language to learn is the one you want to learn.
 

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