No More Lost in Translation: 3 Easiest Second Languages To Pick Up in Asia

Thinking of living in Asia, but worried about grappling with a strange alphabet?

Some Asian languages – like Japanese and Mandarin – have a well-deserved reputation for being incredibly difficult to master.

But don’t let that put you off. Some Asian languages, like Malay, are relatively easy to pick up, and in a relatively short amount of time, too.

Here are the top three easiest-to-learn Asian languages (in no particular order).

1. Malay

Image credits to dayakinfo.wikispaces.com 

Also known as Bahasa Melayu, this language is a must if you’re heading to South East Asia, as it’s spoken by nearly 300 million people.

Also, it’s the official language in three different countries within the region: Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Why You Should Learn It:

Malay has a Latin script, it’s not tonal, and you won’t have to worry about verb tenses and conjugation.

Bahasa Indonesia (Malay’s Indonesian cousin) is equally easy to get to grips with:

It has a simple grammatical structure, as well as Dutch and Portuguese loan words that English speakers may recognise.

2. Korean

Image credits to www.modernseoul.org

You might be surprised to see Korean on the list, but it’s simpler to pick up than most people think.

It’s by no means a breeze, but all it takes is a little hard work, as opposed to a never-ending slog, to get comfortable with the language.

Why You Should Learn It:

Korean has a super simple alphabet, called Hangeul that you can nail in a matter of hours. The grammar is straightforward as well.

There aren’t many exceptions to rules, and there’s no gender or plural conjugation, so I eat (먹어요); you eat (먹어요); he eats (먹어요) are all conjugated (and look!) the same.

Bonus? You simply say words how they’re written.

3. Tagalog

Image credits to omniglot.com

Tagalog is spoken widely in the Philippines, particularly in Manila.

It’s the mother tongue for a quarter of the country’s population and a second language for the rest. About 70 million people speak it, and it’s related to Malay (so you can kill two birds with one stone).

Why You Should Learn It:

Like Malay, Tagalog also has a Latin script. It borrows quite heavily from English, so speaking the language quickly becomes a mishmash of English and Tagalog called Taglish.

It’s one of the few languages that you’ll be able to ‘ease’ yourself into!


Learning an Asian language doesn’t have to be time-consuming or out of reach. Forget about memorising thousands of characters and impossible pronunciation.

Depending on your goals and needs, you could be fluent in an Asian language, like Tagalog or Malay, in a matter of months.


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