Language Difficulty Ranking For English Speakers
Learning a new language as an adult is big undertaking – so if you want the best value for your time, choose wisely.
For most people, there are no time constraints on becoming fluent in another language, but for the Foreign Service Institute – the U.S. government’s main provider of foreign affairs training – quantifying the “learn time” of various languages is vital. American diplomats, for example, need to become proficient in the official language of their posting country, and it helps immensely to know how long that might take.
The FSI organizes languages into five broad categories based on how different each language and culture is to the United States:
Category I: The Quick Ones
Category I languages are the easiest for English speakers, who can reach reading and speaking proficiency within about half a year of intense study. There is a mix Romance and Germanic languages in this classification, including Dutch, Swedish, French, Spanish, and Italian.
It might be surprising also to learn that Afrikaans is in this “easiest” category as well. It uses 26 letters in its alphabet like English (although it also contains additional phonetic sounds), and has a lot in common with modern Dutch.
Category II: Es ist schwer zu sagen
Though German is very closely related to English, there are grammar quirks that bump it up in difficulty. FSI estimates it would take 30 weeks of intense study to become proficient in German.
Category III: Intermediate
Category III languages are mainly spoken in Southeast Asia, and they include Indonesian and Malay. Swahili also counts as a Category III language. (Note: there are no Category III languages spoken in Europe.)
Category IV: For people who like a challenge
Category IV includes the most challenging European languages for English speakers to pick up. Here you’ll find Slavic and Baltic languages such as Polish, Croatian, and Latvian, as well as Greek, Turkish, and Icelandic.
This category also includes Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian. These Uralic languages have the distinction of being particularly challenging for English speakers to master as they have little in common with any other European languages. FSI estimates it would take a year of intense study to become proficient in these languages.
Category V: For people who really like a challenge
Languages in category V are the most challenging for English speakers because they generally have completely unfamiliar scripts and cultural assumptions. These languages are most common in Asia and the Middle East.
While Mandarin, Arabic, and Korean are sufficiently difficult to comprehend, Japanese has a reputation for being the toughest in this group thanks, in part, to multiple writing styles.
Mastering Japanese could take years, but FSI estimates that it’ll be at least 88 weeks before you’re chatting your way through Tokyo.
This map was inspired by one created by Redditor, Fummy.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets in the Last 10 Years
This telling chart shows how national wealth markets have changed over the past decade, highlighting the biggest winners and losers.
The Best and Worst Performing Wealth Markets
A lot can change in a decade.
Ten years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers sent the world’s financial markets into a tailspin, a catalyst for years of economic uncertainty.
At the same time, China’s robust GDP growth was reaching a fever pitch. The country was turning into a wealth creation machine, creating millions of newly-minted millionaires who would end up having a huge impact on wealth markets around the world.
The Ups and Downs of Wealth Markets (2008-2018)
Today’s graphic, using data from the Global Wealth Migration Review, looks at national wealth markets, and how they’ve changed since 2008.
Each wealth market is calculated from the sum of individual assets within the jurisdiction, accounting for the value of cash, property, equity, and business interests owned by people in the country. Just like other kinds of markets, wealth can grow or shrink over time.
Here are a few countries and regions that stand out in the report:
Developing Asian Economies
In terms of sheer wealth growth, nothing comes close to countries like China and India. The size of these markets, combined with rapid economic growth, have resulted in triple-digit gains over the last 10 years.
For the world’s two most populous countries, it’s a trend that is expected to continue into the next decade, despite the fact that many millionaire residents are migrating to different jurisdictions.
European nations saw very little growth over the past decade, but the Mediterranean region was particularly hard-hit. In fact, eight of the 20 worst performing wealth markets over the last decade are located along the Mediterranean coast:
|Rank (Out of 90)||Country||% Growth (2008-2018)|
European Bright Spots
There were some bright spots in Europe during this same time period. Malta, Ireland, and Monaco all achieved positive wealth growth at rates higher than 30% over the last 10 years.
While it’s expected to see rapidly-growing economies as prolific producers of wealth, it is much more surprising when mature markets perform so strongly. Singapore and New Zealand fall under that category, as does Australia, which was already a large, mature wealth market.
Australia recently surpassed both Canada and France to become the seventh largest wealth market in the world, and last year alone, over 12,000 millionaires migrated there.
The long-term economic slide of Venezuela has been well documented, and it comes as no surprise that the country saw extreme contraction of wealth over the last decade. Since war-torn countries are not included in the report, Venezuela ranked 90th, which is dead-last on a global basis.
Short Term, Long Term
In 2018, global wealth actually slumped by 5%, dropping from $215 trillion to $204 trillion.
All 90 countries tracked by the report experienced negative growth in wealth, as global stock and property markets dipped. Here’s a look at the wealth markets that were the hardest hit over the past year:
|Wealth Market||Wealth growth (2017 -2018)|
The future outlook is rosier. Global wealth is expected to rise by 43% over the next decade, reaching $291 trillion by 2028. If current trends play out as expected, Vietnam could likely top this list a decade from now with a staggering 200% growth rate.
Map: A Visual Guide To Europe’s Member States
Europe has members in at least four major treaty groups. This map shows how these groups fit into the big picture of Europe’s member states.
Map: A Visual Guide To Europe’s Member States
EU, NATO, and Schengen, oh my!
Amidst whispers of Brexit and potential changes within NATO, you might be wondering how these organizations fit into the big picture of Europe’s member states.
Europe has members in at least four major treaty groups, each of which governs a different aspect of the region’s infrastructure.
Let’s break down each group:
European Union (EU)
The European Union is primarily a political organization. It promotes economic, social, and political cooperation among its member states, encompassing more than 510 million citizens. The last nation to join was Croatia in 2013, while the United Kingdom will be the first to officially withdraw on March 29, 2019.
The EU is governed according to a supranational parliamentary system, with representatives elected by member states. The union maintains common policies on trade, agriculture, and regional development. It also enacts legislation on justice and home affairs, ensuring the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within its borders.
The EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its contribution to the “advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy, and human rights in Europe.”
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
NATO is a military alliance between the United States, Canada, Turkey, and 26 other European countries.
Established in 1949 as a response to post-WW2 Soviet aggression, NATO exists for the collective defense and security of the group. Members share few laws and regulations, but an attack on one constitutes an attack on all, and member states are obligated to act in defense of one another.
Iceland remains the only member without armed forces. Their strategic geographic location earned them a spot as a founding member of NATO, but they have no standing army and joined on the condition they would never need to establish one.
The Eurozone is a monetary union of 19 EU nations which have adopted the Euro as their common currency.
Established in 1999 to control inflation, the Eurozone is managed by a board of central banks, but members share no fiscal policies. The remaining EU members are obliged to adopt the Euro at some point in the future, except for the UK and Denmark, who are exempt and permitted to retain a unique currency.
The Euro is also used in a number of non-EU states. Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City obtained formal agreements to issue and use their own Euro coins. Kosovo and Montenegro also adopted the Euro, but without formal permission, meaning they cannot legally issue currency.
This grouping of 26 European states abolished passports and other types of border control at their mutual borders in 1995. For travel purposes, Schengen states function as a single country with a common visa policy.
This visa doesn’t cover residency or work permits, but allows tourists and visitors to obtain a single visa for the entire area, making border restrictions virtually non-existent. While travellers face stringent controls when entering or leaving the Schengen zones, visa holders can pass between Schengen countries without a passport or ID.
Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City are not formally part of Schengen, but maintain open borders within the Schengen area.
The map of Europe’s member states has changed constantly over thousands of years. As political shakeups continue and the United Kingdom prepares for their exit from the EU, it might be interesting to see how different this map looks a few years from now.
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