What Language is Closest to English?

What is the closest language to English?

Well, that depends.

If you consider Scots (as in that stuff spoken in Scotland that’s not English or Scottish Gaelic) to be a language then it’d be Scots.

That said, there’s no real consensus among language exerts as to what really constitutes a dialect or a separate language… and Scots is particularly tricky. While some people think it’s a language, many others say no, it’s a dialect. Now, since Scotland also has Scottish Gaelic (which is very much a separate language) I’m inclined to say Scots is a dialect…

Which makes the answer…

… Frisian.

Or rather I should say, the Frisian languages.

Because actually Frisian isn’t one language… it’s three. West Frisian, spoken by around 450,000 people in the Netherlands, North Frisian spoken by about 8000 people in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and Sater Frisian… spoken by about 2000 people in the German state of Lower Saxony.


So how similar are English and Frisian?

Not very.

Both English and Frisian come from West Germanic, but they started going their own separate ways all the way back in the 6th Century when West Germanic became Anglo-Frisian and then split into Old English and Old Frisian. The later became Frisian, and Old English became Middle English after the battle of Hastings, then eventually turned into Modern English.

If you listen really carefully… you can catch a few things.

And there are a lot of words that both English and Frisian share like “Dei” and “Day”.

But really it just sounds like Dutch to me.

Though apparently Dutch people can’t really understand it either.


I can’t say Frisian is high on my list of languages to learn.

But if I WERE to learn it…

I’d start by learning the words which DO overlap with English first, following the principals laid out in “English Learning Done Right” to ensure I never forget them.

If you haven’t got your copy yet, you can (and should) do so here.


P.S. By the way…

If you’ve already got ELDR (which is the same as “Secrets of Structured Learning – I changed the name), be sure to register your copy to get the free audio version.

There’s a URL in the Resources section.

People who have the book also get extra lessons by email based on the book (and don’t see these promotions to get it). If you don’t have it though…

Get your copy here.



Meet the Author

Julian Northbrook

Julian Northbrook is an unconventional punk of the business English learning world. A leading expert in English education and direct response marketing, he’s fully equipped to drag you kicking and screaming from English-mediocracy to speaking at an outstanding level. After being turned down for his dream job in the art industry, Julian suffered three long years as a crap Japanese speaker. He understands exactly what it’s like to feel like a total idiot every time you speak. But Julian overcame his language problems, mastered the language, and went on to work first as a freelance translator, then as an executive member of a Japanese company. But he soon grew sick of the corporate world and left it to pursue something infinitely more satisfying — running his own business helping small business owners and entrepreneurs get so good at English that they forget that it’s not their first language. He writes the infamous Doing English Daily Newsletter which you can (and should) subscribe to.