If you’ve ever tried learning a new language, you know that it’s not always a cakewalk. With so many things to consider—grammatical exceptions, puzzling pronunciation, confusing vocabulary—language learning can be pretty overwhelming at times.
With that in mind, it makes sense to figure out which language would be the easiest to learn. By doing that, you’ll be able to avoid some of the hurdles and help to set yourself up for success.
Below, we go through the easiest languages to learn for German speakers, what makes them the easiest, and what linguistic features could still present some challenges.
As German and English are both West Germanic languages, they share a lot of similarities, making English an easy second language for German speakers to learn.
Alphabet: English and German use the same alphabet, for the most part—German also has umlauts and the scharfes (sharp) S (ß).
Pronunciation: They also have some similar pronunciations, like the “t” and “d” sounds, for example.
Vocabulary: What’s more, they have a lot of cognates—words that look and sound the same, and have similar meanings.
Just look at these words, for example: accent (Akzent), banana (Banane) and insect (Insekt).
Usage: On top of the similarity of English to German, its widespread use in popular culture means that learners can be exposed to it regularly.
Phonology: German and English have differences in phonology that are worth noting: German doesn’t have the “th” sound, for example.
Pronunciation: English pronunciation is also less straightforward and more likely to have exceptions than German.
Grammar: There are several differences between English and German grammar. Just for starters, while English has no noun genders, German has three. German also uses cases and different verb placements. And, although most people would say that English grammar is easier than German grammar, the former has tenses that the latter doesn’t (like the continuous tense), which can lead to confusion.
Dutch, another West-Germanic language, is undoubtedly one of the easiest languages to learn for German speakers. It’s said to be the middle ground between English and German, as it shares linguistic features with both languages.
Alphabet: German and Dutch use the same alphabet, with the exception of the scharfes S (ß) used in German.
Vocabulary: The two languages have a lot of the same vocabulary.
For example: schaden (German) / schaden (Dutch) = damage or harm, helfen (German) / helpen (Dutch) = help and die Gesundheit (German) / de gezondheid (Dutch) = health.
Grammar: Simple Dutch and German sentences also use the same present tense structure (subject-verb-object).
Grammar: Dutch grammar is a lot simpler than German, and a lot less rule-oriented. While that might sound like a good thing, it can actually cause problems for learners who are expecting more rigid rules like those in German.
Vocabulary: German speakers learning Dutch should be careful of false friends (words that look or sound the same but have different meanings).
These include bellen = to call (Dutch) / to bark (German) and slim = smart (Dutch) / schlimm = bad (German).
Next up is Luxembourgish, a dialect of German that’s spoken mainly in—that’s right!—Luxembourg (but also in France, Belgium and Germany).
As part of a group of high German languages, Luxembourgish is the closest language to German—more closely related to standard German than some of the other high German dialects you’ll hear in countries such as Austria and Switzerland.
Alphabet: Luxembourgish has the same alphabet as German, again, minus the scharfes S (ß).
Vocabulary: Since Luxembourgish evolved from German, the two languages have some similar vocabulary, such as: bringen (German) / bréngen (Luxembourgish) = bring and Mensch (German) / Mënsch (Luxembourgish) = person or human.
Grammar: Since they’re both West-Germanic languages, many of their grammar structures are the same as well, such as simple present sentences. Written Luxembourgish, in particular, is relatively easy for German speakers to understand.
Influences: In addition to having German and Dutch influences (great!) Luxembourgish is also heavily influenced by French, which isn’t particularly easy for a German speaker to learn. This mélange (see what we did there?) of languages could also be confusing to a learner.
Pronunciation: The pronunciation of the two languages (especially vowels) is quite different. That makes listening comprehension of Luxembourgish more difficult for German speakers to grasp.
Having evolved from Dutch, this Germanic language has a lot of similarities with German (and with Dutch, obviously). In general, Afrikaans is known as a simple and easy-to-learn language.
Alphabet: Afrikaans and German share basically the same alphabet, except that Afrikaans doesn’t use scharfes S (ß).
Vocabulary: A common feature in German is the compound word: a term that’s formed from two or more words.
Afrikaans also uses compound words; for instance: woonstelblok (apartment block) and soetkoekies (sweet cookies).
Afrikaans also has a similar vocabulary to German, as you’ll see in words like: Sonntag (German) / Sondag (Afrikaans) = Sunday and braun (German) / bruin (Afrikaans) = brown.
Grammar: Much like Dutch, Afrikaans grammar is a lot simpler than German. If you’re someone who likes the German rules about articles, genders, etc., then you might find Afrikaans a bit frustrating.
Spelling/pronunciation: Although the two languages share similar words, their spelling and pronunciation differ considerably.
Yiddish is a language that was developed from a dialect of German, so it’s no surprise that the two have some similarities.
Vocabulary: Since Yiddish is in the same language family as German, they’ve got some similar vocabulary, such as: frau (German) / froy (Yiddish) = woman and nein (German) / neyn (Yiddish) = no. What’s more, about 120 Yiddish terms are commonly used in the German language.
Pronunciation: Their common roots mean the pronunciation between the two languages is also quite similar.
Grammar: You’ll also find a lot of the same grammar. For example, Yiddish and German both have three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. Both languages use the same word order as well.
Alphabet: German and Yiddish use different alphabets, which definitely makes Yiddish more work for a German speaker to learn.
Reading/writing: While understanding and learning spoken Yiddish would be fairly easy for a German speaker, reading and writing is another story—thanks to the languages’ differing alphabets.
What are the easiest languages to learn for German speakers?
English, Dutch, Luxembourgish, Afrikaans and Yiddish are relatively easy languages for German speakers.
While learning any language can be super rewarding, choosing one of the languages we discussed above will help set you up for a successful language-learning experience!
Andrea is a Canadian freelance writer and editor specializing in English, e-learning, EdTech, and SaaS. She has a background as an ESL teacher in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. In her free time, Andrea loves hanging out with her husband and son, creating recipes in the kitchen, and reading fiction. She also loves camping and jumping into lakes whenever possible. Learn more about Andrea on LinkedIn or check out her website.