The Defense Language Institute, one of the USA's top language schools, categorizes languages into four difficulty levels based on the amount of class time they've found it takes native English-speaking students to reach a particular level of fluency.
Source: DLI’s language guidelines (ausa.org) Steven Grimm
- Category I languages, 26-week courses, include Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.
- Category II, 35 weeks, includes German and Indonesian
- Category III, 48 weeks, includes Dari, Persian Farsi, Russian, Uzbek, Hindi, Urdu, Hebrew, Thai, Serbian Croatian, Tagalog, Turkish, Sorani and Kurmanji
- Category IV, 64 weeks, includes Arabic, Chinese Mandarin, Korean, Japanese and Pashto
From the comments: an infographic as well! Although I doubt Romanian is really an ‘easy’ language for foreigners/English native speakers, with common words originating from Slavic languages, complicated plural forms and three genders for nouns (like in German) – neuter is actually a mixture of masculine and feminine – and enclitic definite articles.
Japanese looks very complex though – and I would still like to learn it sometime:
There is polite Japanese, plain Japanese, and then there is honourific Keigo containing 3 honourific languages. The word for 'I' has at least six different words; watashi (polite), watakushi (very polite), boku (for men only, casual), ore (men only, very casual), washi (antiquated) and chin (only used by the Emperor). simonsaysjapan