Distance Between Languages


Who hasn’t been asked by their students one the following questions:

“Which is the hardest language in the world to learn?”

“How long will it take me to learn English from beginner level to advanced?”
“Why do the members of our class with L1 x seem to learn English so much more quickly than students with L1 y?”

What lies at the heart of of these questions is the idea of linguistic distance between languages, and language families. I’m definitely going to pull out this infographic on the Lexical Distance Among the Languages of Europe the next time I have to explain that:

…there is no one hardest language–that it depends on the distance between your L1 and the target language.
…that the time it takes you to learn English depends on a host of factors, one of which is the distance between your first language the English.
…your classmates whose L1 is linguistically closer to English will tend to learn English more quickly than someone whose first language is more distance from English.


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