In the ideal world, you learn a new language abroad. But for now you have a full-time job.
This full-time job also means you may not have the energy to dedicate to complex languages vastly different than your native tongue, no matter how much more money you can earn with said coveted knowledge. You need something easy to get your language learning juices flowing.
But at the end of the day, if you can click into an article about how to make it happen, you probably have enough time (see point #1) and enough passion (see point #3) to learn a new language even if you work 40+ hours a week.
What you think you need is a definitive answer as to which language is the easiest to learn if you have a full-time job, but what I am giving you are five steps to choosing the correct (and, of course, the easiest) foreign language unique to your life.
At least until you can take time off to learn a new language abroad.
Step #1: Learn the Language Efficiently
Let’s say you sleep 8 hours a night and work 8 hours a day. You are left with 72 hours to dedicate to responsibilities, chores, daily tasks and, well, enjoying life (hopefully). You probably have a daily commute upwards of an hour a day. You’re busy.
However, even after subtracting hours dedicated to things you need to get done in life, that is still plenty of time left over to efficiently learn a new language. There are lots of ways to manage your time and prioritize language learning which, in turn, makes retaining the foreign language easier on your brain.
Take step one before you even think about choosing a language. I call this the pioneer step.
On-the-Go Language Tips
You need to be time savvy.
That’s because hours dedicated to language learning while working a full-time job differ from hours you have to dedicate at a table with a tutor. How so?
Busy people need to utilize study time in the shape of audiobooks during a commute, songs on the radio, and Podcasts before bed as opposed to worksheets and grammar books.
Waiting in line for the bus? Study! Waiting in line at the bank? Practice! Zoned out at a meeting? Either pay attention or review your target language. Get the idea?
You also need to study smarter. That means using apps designed to help busy people learn languages as opposed to pocket dictionaries and random vocabulary flashcards that provide little value in the long run.
There are numerous apps aimed at boosting memory with mnemonics and repetition techniques. Delete your Twitter app and download one of them.
Step #2: Choose a Language You Are Passionate About
This is an important one. In a perfect world, you would read this article and decide upon your ideal “easy” language to begin studying. And in this perfect world you have an abundance of motivation. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
You can choose the language declared to take the least amount of hours. You can choose the language closely related to your native tongue. But if you don’t have a fire burning inside that gets you to open a book and dedicate precious daily minutes to learning the language, all of your good intentions will collect dust in a cupboard.
After I learned Spanish as a foreign language in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the easiest choice for me was another romance language.
I got decently far in Portuguese for that reason and because of my proximity to Brazil. Easy score: 7/10.
I was offered free high-quality German lessons but my interest in the language, unsurprisingly, waned. Easy level: 4/10.
Then came French. In the same language family as Spanish and one I am passionate about. 9/10 on the easy scale.
If there is a specific language you have been passionate about, that’s the one you should choose. Japanese? Russian? Arabic? It will surely take more man hours but passion drives a person more than any statistic I can show you or any pep-talk that I can give.
Step #3: Think of Foreign Languages Present in Your Life
When I was working in tourism in Argentina, I came into contact with Brazilians every single day. And while I had no wild intention of learning Portuguese, I naturally picked up quite a bit simply by being exposed to it.
So think about your daily life: did you grow up with a family member speaking Italian at home? Does your company work with a client across the pond? Do you occasionally watch Spanish telenovelas?
Those influences will make learning a language easier. Whether you have been exposed to a foreign language or you already have a L2 under your belt, you are hyper-aware of the features in the language (conjugations, sounds, vocabulary) which really helps out.
Step #4: Concrete Ways to Choosing Easier Languages
Now that I’ve talked about the sugar-sweet ways to choose a foreign language, let’s talk some concrete ways for determining which is the easiest to learn.
Assuming you are a native English speaker, Western European languages are great options because they are largely part of the Germanic family of languages, just like English. Staying in the same language family will make it a breeze to understand.
Try: Dutch, Norwegian, or Swedish
If the hard sounds of Western European languages do not appeal to your ears, you may have an easier time with the flow of romance languages. Spanish is one of the Romance languages, which derive from Latin — as do many English words.
Try: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian
The Easiest Languages to Learn According to The Foreign Service Institute
Let’s get down to business. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the US government’s diplomatic training agency specializing in teaching foreign languages to English speakers, ranked languages into levels (AKA from easiest to hardest).
So, according to the FSI, the languages that fall into the easiest category are:
Keep in mind that French has been allotted 30 weeks to master, whereas all others take 24 weeks. These 24-week courses account for 600-750 classroom hours in total. The FSI created this list with the idea of studying 10 hours each day.
But you work full-time. You don’t have that many weekly classroom hours and an uber-specialized tutor every day. If this notion stresses you out, refer back to Step #1 and plan out the number of hours you can dedicate each week.
If you are an English speaker with no knowledge or exposure to a foreign language, the above list is a great place to choose which language to tackle.
You are busy, but even busier people still find time to learn new languages. Studying a foreign language during pockets of time you would otherwise be wasting is a wonderful time-saver. And even busier people than you take a few weeks of to Study Spanish abroad at Expanish.
Twenty-four weeks, thirty weeks, an hour per day, 8 hours per day—be as it may. Scheduling hours for language learning and gathering an overall look at what’s the easiest language to learn if you have a full-time job is wonderful for setting realistic language-learning goals and reaching fluency in a foreign language in an attainable amount of time.
But these are just numbers. Your preparation, dedication, and passion to a language are what will make it the easiest language to learn as you balance a 40-hour work week.
So perhaps you choose a FSI-categorized Level 1 language, call up a friend who you can practice with, and download some useful apps. That sounds pretty easy, right? With the right tools and the right mindset, it absolutely is.
Winner: Spanish. Of course, at Expanish Spanish School, we choose Spanish. Level 1 Category easy-peezy. Easy to jump to from lots of different first languages. Welcoming people to help you learn Spanish abroad in Latin America and in Spain. A useful and adventurous language to keep you excited about it.
Has Spanish been easy for you to learn? Comment down below!