If you’ve ever hung out at an International Airport, you have likely encountered a myriad of foreign tongues. To a non-speaker, these words are merely unintelligible sounds. And, unfortunately, for a mind-numbingly bored traveler killing time during a layover, this lack of comprehension makes eavesdropping for entertainment’s sake much less fun. Imagine just how much better your life–and your hours trapped in an airport–would be if you could master a new language.
Thankfully, some tongues are relatively easy for an English speaking person to master. Yes, by choosing the right language, you could be speaking–and eavesdropping–fluently in a new tongue in no time at all. Here are a few doable options.
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According to linguistic experts, Afrikaans is by far the easiest language for English-speaking people to master. Imagine a language that requires no verb conjugation, no pronouns, and no noun genders and you’ve got yourself Afrikaans, a language spoken in South Africa and Namibia. Plus, as ‘4 Easy Foreign Languages You Never Thought of Learning (And Why You Should)’ adds, ‘9 out of 10 words in Afrikaans derive from Dutch, a Germanic language chillin’ out just a couple of branches over from English on the West Germanic language tree.’
Mastering this tongue will transform a layover at the O.R. Tambo International Airport from ho-hum to a whole lot of eavesdropping fun.
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Bouquet, destination, transformation, and lion are all words belonging to what language? If you said English, you’d be correct, but if you said French, you’d be right too. With what experts believe to be over one-third of the English language influenced by French, this is one wise choice for anyone wanting to learn a new tongue.
Admittedly, it’s masculine and feminine nouns and complex parsing of verbs do pose a challenge to English speakers, but the Telegraph offers that French has more in common with English than any other Romantic language and that for conversational learning, it’s relatively facile. And it will double your fun at Mirabel Airport as well.
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As previously mentioned, Dutch is a very close relative of English on the West Germanic language tree, meaning that it is a comfortable tongue for native Anglos to learn. Syllables are stressed in a similar manner, sentence structure is familiar, and Dutch words share common roots with English.
For instance, ‘De beer dronk bier’ translates to ‘The bear drank beer.’ Cool, right? So put on your clogs, grab a Dutch Phrase Book and head off for the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. And, as the Dutch would say, ‘Succes!’ Looks familiar, doesn’t it?
Imagine a language that, for the most part, enables you to pronounce words just as they are written. No silent k’s or p’s–think knife or pneumonia–or g’s that sound like j’s as in ginger. Thanks to its simple orthography, Spanish is a ‘what you see is what you get’ tongue that English speakers will find relatively easy to read.
The only hitch is that the Spanish tongue does have a number of false cognates–words that appear to be the same as an English word, but have a completely different meaning. Hipo, for instance, does not refer to a hippo, but to a hiccup. And juicio means judgement, not juice.
Any effort put into learning Spanish, however, may prove worthwhile. As the Business Insider states that with 37 percent of employers rating Spanish as a useful language to know, mastering this tongue could prove both intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding. Plus it makes layovers in Madrid much more interesting.
In case you are up for a linguistic challenge–and you have a great deal of time to dedicate to the task–there are a few languages that are extremely difficult for English-speaking people to conquer. Arabic, Japanese, Thai, Estonian, Cantonese, and Korean are all heavy weights. And, according to ‘Why Are Some Languages Harder to Learn than Others?,’ Mandarin is particularly tricky with 2000 basic characters which form a huge number of combinations and the need to get the tone absolutely right in order to be understood.
Whether you choose to say adieu, adios, totsiens, or doei, saying ‘good-bye’ to your unilingual existence will greatly enhance your life. And turn long, boring stopovers into hours of covert entertainment.
What second language have you mastered? How did you go about learning it?