Did you know the US Department of State ranked Italian as one of the easiest foreign languages to learn?
Therefore, is Italian hard to learn? Italian is easy to learn because it is similar to the English language. Based on Foreign Service Institution's 70 years of experience teaching different languages to US Diplomats, the number of hours expected to speak and read Italian is around 24 weeks compared to 30 weeks for French, 36 weeks for German and 88 weeks for Asian languages like Chinese, Japanese. It takes around 600-750 language class hours to learn Italian compared to 2,200 class hours to learn Asian languages.
The actual time can vary based on a number of factors, including the language learner’s natural ability, prior linguistic experience, and time spent in the classroom. Below are other easy languages with the number of native Italian speakers at around 61.7, making it the 20th-most spoken language worldwide.
Language Learning Difficulties from the US Foreign Service Institute (FSI)
Using their 70 years of experience of US Diplomats learning foreign languages, FSI estimated that the Italian language is one of the easiest languages. It takes a student to reach “Professional Working Proficiency” in the language, or a score of “Speaking-3/Reading-3” on the Interagency Language Roundtable scale.
The Italian language is also considered easier to learn than French which takes around 30 weeks.
The Italian Language was determined to be 3 times easier than the Asian language to learn due to the similarity to English. Below is a list of the easiest language and hardest languages.
- Danish (24 weeks)
- Dutch (24 weeks)
- Italian (24 weeks)
- Norwegian (24 weeks)
- Portuguese (24 weeks)
- Romanian (24 weeks)
- Spanish (24 weeks)
- Swedish (24 weeks)
- French (30 weeks)
- Arabian (88 weeks)
- Chinese (88 weeks)
- Japanese (88 weeks)
- Korean (88 weeks)
As a second language, learning Italian will give you access to over 60 million native speakers of the world from the area of Rome to Milan to Sicily to San Marino.
Italian is currently considered as one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn with almost zero efforts as the grammar and also the sentence structure of this language is quite different from English but also of a simple kind.
English and Italian came from the Latin Root
As English and Italian roots come from earlier stages of the Latin language, they also have thousands of cognates that they are sharing through each other and also words that sound almost the same and have the exact same meaning just apart from the accent that they are being spoken on.
In fact, the Italian alphabet is a simplified version of the English alphabet, with only 21 letters without j, k, w, x, and y.
Consider the following sentence in Italian: made up almost entirely of Italian English cognates
ristorante antico si trova vicino al Museo d'arte.
Restaurants, museums, and art are almost the same just by a preliminary examination. There is a huge Italian word list that is similar to native English. You might also guess that
- "Antico" looks a lot like antique and
- "Vicino" looks like vicinity.
Just by putting all together with some more words while also maintaining the simple manner of assumption, you would have the sentence:
the old restaurant is near the art museum.
Huge Number of Italian Native Speakers
Among the easiest foreign languages to learn, Italian is the 3rd in the number of native speakers behind Spanish and Portuguese.
Having over 60 million Italian speakers meant that it is relatively easy to find many Italian culture media such as TV series, songs, podcasts, and movies to learn from while having fun.
It is also easier to find people who speak Italian. With the proper amount of guidance and supervision, you can easily learn Italian from the language learning podcasts without going to any language school for Italian language learning.
On the other hand, if you wish to learn from language classes, you can also find hundreds of hours of interactive language courses available for you to get started with the speaking right from the first lesson of learning the language of Italy.
Comparing Italian to Chinese
In the language world, I know Chinese as a second language. The learning resources for Chinese are huge given the number of Chinese. Even with audio lessons, you can never pick it up in a short time given the huge differences and need to recognize the different strokes and words.
The Chinese language does not have an alphabet system as it is based on strokes. The learning methods for the Chinese relied on memorization as you need to know a huge word list to guess how to pronounce other words. This memorization creates a steeper learning curve especially if you do not have a good memory.
It takes time to have a basic fluency and reasonable conversation in Italian due to the differences in Italian grammar and cultures.
To do something and to define something as hard or easy always depends on the comparison. Relatively speaking Italian is not a hard language to learn compared to other languages.
To start, why not read our post on Italian greetings and the difference between Italian and Spanish.