So you want to start learning a foreign language. Great!
But which one to pick?
The following map shows the difficulty and the average hours needed to become fluent in each respective language.
Major thanks goes to the Foreign Service Institute. They have sorted all major languages around the world into 5 categories:
Category I: 575-600 hours (23-24 weeks)
Category II: 750 hours (30 weeks)
Category III: 900 hours (36 weeks)
Category IV: 1100 hours (44 weeks)
Category V: 2200 hours (88 weeks)
The categories are based on how similar the language is to English. The hourly estimates are based on both oral and written fluency. (That’s probably why a relatively “easy” spoken language like Mandarin Chinese is ranked as a category 5 language.)
Protip: Choose a Language Your Already Kind of Familiar With.
You probably already know at least one language. Maybe more. This serves as a good starting point to see what language you can easily learn next.
At a glance, Germanic languages such as Dutch, German, Danish and Swedish share common roots with English, and are grammar-wise very similar. German grammar is slightly harder, and if you aim for perfection, it will be the most difficult Germanic language to master. Afrikaans is an interesting mixture between rather pidgin-like Dutch and English .
Romance languages are all based on primarily on Latin. These include Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Romanian. These are more or less ordered in descending order to their likeliness to Latin and cross-similiarity.
The further south or east you go, generally the more difficult learning a language gets. There are less commonalities you can rely on.
Here is a list of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers, and the average time needed to achieve fluency, by findings of the Foreign Service institute.
The Foreign Service Institute List Of Language Difficulty