A ranking of world languages based on how long it takes native English speakers to become proficient
Thinking about taking up a new language, but not sure you have the time to do it right? You might want to first check out this ranking of languages, compiled by the U.S. government’s foreign service training agency. Categorized from easiest to hardest according to how long it takes native English speakers to learn them, the list will give you an idea book that trip for six months from now or if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) has helpfully placed 68 world languages into four classes, from Category I “world languages” that are closely related to English and only take about 6 months to learn, to Category IV “super-hard languages” which can take over a year and a half of intensive study to achieve proficiency.
One caveat: The FSI notes that it is assumed that “the student has a very good or better aptitude for classroom learning of foreign languages.”
Among the easiest languages to pick up are Danish, Dutch, Italian, and Spanish, which the FSI says take 24 weeks or 600 class hours to learn.
German, Hatian Creole and Swahili (36 weeks) are a little more difficult. The bulk of languages ranked fall into the “hard languages” category, and include Albanian, Hebrew, Polish, and Urdu (44 weeks).
Hardest of all are Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean which would take good students 88 weeks or 2,200 class hours to learn.
Here’s FSI’s full list languages from easiest to hardest.:
Category I: 24-30 weeks
Category II: 36 weeks
Category III: 44 weeks
Serbian / Croatian
Category IV: 88 weeks
Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin)