Is Spanish hard to learn for English speakers?

Is Spanish hard to learn for English speakers?

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated February 10, 2023

Spanish is a relatively easy language for English speakers to learn because the two languages share a lot of similar vocabulary and grammar. Sure, Spanish and English come from different branches of the Indo-European language family; Spanish evolved from Latin, while English is a Germanic language. With that said, Spanish and English use the same alphabet and share very similar pronunciation. There might even be some things that are easier in Spanish than they are in English. So, is Spanish hard to learn for English speakers? ¡No, para nada (Not at all)!

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Is Spanish an easy language to learn?

Students experiencing noobie jitters often ask, “Is Spanish easy to learn?” In general, Spanish is not difficult to learn. As with any new skill, the more you study and practice, the better you become. Here are two tips to ensure you progress as quickly as possible:

  • Focus on skills: Whether you study independently or take a course, you’ll need to learn reading, writing, listening and speaking. Which skills you prioritize will vary based on your needs and goals. Speaking of which… 
  • Have a goal: Goal-setting is a great way to keep track of your progress. As a beginner, set an attainable goal, like singing a song in Spanish or watching a Spanish telenovela (soap opera)

What is the easiest language to learn for an English speaker?

You may be encouraged to hear that Spanish is one of the easiest languages for an English speaker to learn and ultimately master. Apart from Spanish, there are some languages that English speakers might find relatively easy to learn:

  • Swedish and Norwegian: These are not-too-distant cousins of English, and their grammar is not so difficult for a native English speaker to understand. With that said, they still take a lot of practice!
  • Bahasa Indonesia: There are significant differences between the Indonesian and English languages, but Bahasa Indonesia is generally considered one of the easiest languages to learn among Asian languages.
  • French: Like Spanish, French shares a significant amount of words and grammar in common with English. English even borrows many of its words from French.

How hard is it for English speakers to learn Spanish?

English speakers will find some aspects of Spanish a breeze. Maybe even easier than in English. Let’s look at what is easy and what may be more challenging.

What makes Spanish easy to learn?

1. The alphabet

English speakers will find the Spanish alphabet very familiar. It uses the same Roman alphabet and shares all the same vowels and consonants. In fact, Spanish vowels are even more simplified than their English counterparts. In English, vowel sounds (a, e, i, o, u) don’t follow strict pronunciation rules. For example, the word “banana” is spelled with only one vowel, yet makes two distinct /a/ sounds. 

This generally does not happen in Spanish. Spanish vowels make only one sound each and do so consistently. Therefore, pronouncing words correctly when reading is much easier in Spanish than in English.

2. Cognates 

Spanish and English share a lot of vocabulary. A lot of Spanish cognates are immediately recognizable to English speakers. Cognates are words that share the same or similar meaning and spelling with another language. For example:


3. Grammar

Spanish and English have similar grammatical components, such as auxiliary or “helping” verbs. These are common verbs like can, should and want. As in English, these verbs follow the structure [subject + auxiliary + infinitive].

I can run.Yo puedo correr.
She should buy it.Ella debe comprarlo.
I want to dance.Yo quiero bailar.

What makes Spanish difficult?

Well, some things can be. Here are a few details that English speakers might find challenging.

1. The rolled “r”

 A unique letter in the Spanish alphabet is the “rr,” or rolled “r.” This is similar to the sound a cat makes when it purrs. Rolling your “r” in Spanish can change a word’s meaning, so pronouncing it correctly is crucial. For example:

  • Pero = but
  • Perro = dog

2. False cognates

 Some words in Spanish look or sound similar to an English word, but do not have the same meaning. These are called false cognates and can be a headache. Here are some common ones to keep in mind.

SpanishSounds like…Actual meaning in English
MolestarMolest (assault)Bother (mild annoyance)
AsistirAssistAttend (an event)

3. Listening and regional variances

 Not all Spanish is the same. About 500 million people speak Spanish across 20 countries. There are a lot of differences in the vocabulary, cadence and pronunciation of Spanish around the world. Chileans, for example, have an infamously difficult accent to decipher. For a beginner, listening to and understanding regional differences can be a challenge.

How long does it take to learn Spanish for an English speaker?

If you want to learn Spanish fast, you need practice, structured learning and quality feedback. The US Foreign Service Institute estimates Spanish language proficiency takes about 600 classroom hours. If you have the time and can put in a dedicated effort, you can learn Spanish in two months

Learning a new language is a process unique to everyone, so no time frame is set in stone.

Learn Spanish? ¡Sí se puede!

Is Spanish hard to learn for English speakers? Considering all the similarities, no, it’s not. Spanish is certainly more similar to English than languages like Arabic and Mandarin. English speakers will find cognates and the alphabet relatively easy to master, though regional accents may pose a more enduring challenge. You can learn Spanish quickly if you have the time and put in the effort. Lingoda can help you learn Spanish fast.

Learn languages at your pace

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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