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Languages Most Similar to English

Which languages have the highest level of similarity to English (in written form).
Only includes languages which are official in at least one country
Index on a 0 to 100 scale with lower numbers indicating higher similarity
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: March 12, 2020
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First submittedMarch 12, 2020
Times taken28,362
Average score70.0%
Rating4.24
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Index
Origin
Answer
20.6
Europe
Danish
24.0
Europe
Norwegian
26.7
Europe
Swedish
27.2
Europe
Dutch
27.5
Africa
Afrikaans
29.3
Europe
Luxembourgish
30.8
Europe
German
36.6
Europe
Icelandic
47.8
Europe
Italian
48.7
Europe
French
67 Comments
+18
Level ∞
Mar 12, 2020
Note: Norwegian has two written forms: Bokmål and Nynorsk. The number shown is for Bokmål.
+32
Level 85
Mar 12, 2020
West Frisian is apparently official "in" but not "throughout" the Netherlands, and is often cited as being extremely similar to English.
+10
Level 85
Mar 12, 2020
its extremely similar. Since it has official status, it should be here.
+9
Level ∞
Mar 13, 2020
It is not an official language of the Netherlands.
+16
Level 75
Mar 13, 2020
https://www.government.nl/latest/news/2010/02/12/dutch-language-enshrined-in-the-constitution

https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/erkende-talen/vraag-en-antwoord/erkende-talen-nederland

Frisian is an official language in (one of the provinces of) the Netherlands, in the Dutch equivalent of the government page it's stated even as such with so many words. I assume you have chosen to ignore languages if they are not the official language of the entire country?

+3
Level 66
Jan 23, 2024
It's a regional language, not an official language. Those are two different things.
+9
Level 83
Mar 13, 2020
Yeah regional languages or dialects are chosen to be ignored. "In" could be changed to "of" to satisfy pedants.
+5
Level 56
Apr 22, 2020
But it is official "in" the Netherlands, which is what the question says.
+9
Level 86
Mar 19, 2020
"Bûter brea en griene tsiis. Wa't dat net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Fries." My Frisian grandmother taught me that when I was little. My parents grew up speaking Frisian, but had to speak Dutch when they went to school because Frisian was not an official language.
+3
Level 85
Mar 19, 2020
Similar experience to my parents. They were taught in Dutch as soon as they entered school. Now parents can choose to have their children instructed in Frisian until about the 7th grade.
+2
Level 75
Apr 17, 2023
What does it mean? "Buttered bread and green cheese. Who cannot say (eat? make?) that is not an upright Frisian"?
+1
Level 72
Mar 7, 2024
Ah, a shibboleth! From Wikipedia:

"Butter, rye bread and green cheese, whoever cannot say that is not a genuine Frisian" was a phrase used by the Frisian Pier Gerlofs Donia during a Frisian rebellion (1515–1523). Ships whose crew could not pronounce this properly were usually plundered and soldiers who could not were beheaded by Donia himself.

+10
Level 89
Mar 12, 2020
Interesting. Dutch to me and, I always thought most linguists, is more similar to English than any other Germanic language. They have influenced each other to the point that anyone fluent in German and English can learn Dutch fairly quickly. Most people in the Netherlands understand English very well.
+6
Level 69
Mar 13, 2020
Yea it is rather subjective. The source only used a few words to compare, and a lot of times their choice are very surprising. I-ik (dutch) has 0 similarity score, but I-jeg (danish) scores 50. Who- wie (dutch) again scores 0 and who-hvem (danish) scores 33. Most of them I would have scored differently.

And there is so much to take into consideration. Sound matters more than spelling imo and if it is the same word that dropped a part it often is closer than something more different alrogether(english used to use more prefixes like dutch as in feel/feeling-voel/gevoel (dutch) the "ge" has dropped in english (and added -ing). Danish word be feeling-følelse

+11
Level 75
Mar 13, 2020
Read the description. Lower numbers indicates higher similarity
+1
Level 79
Mar 19, 2020
Well, Hines brings up a good point...
+9
Level 56
Apr 22, 2020
Yes, and I must say I find it hard to believe that Afrikaans isn't closer to English than Dutch is. There is a famous poem which can be read in both English and Afrikaans (although it's kind of nonsense and in places the meaning is a bit different in the two languages):

My pen is my wonderland,

Word water in my hand.

In my pen is wonder ink.

Stories sing. Stories blink.

My stories loop. My stories stop.

My pen is my wonder mop.

Drink letters. Drink my ink.

My pen is blind. My stories stink.

(I don't think the last word is really "stink", but it works, and after a line like "my pen is my wonder mop" it seems more appropriate)

+3
Level 51
Mar 12, 2020
I forgot all about Afrikaans. It's surprising how similar an African language is to English!
+26
Level 69
Mar 13, 2020
Afrikaans is basicly dutch, but developed independently and exposed to different influences, so there are some differences (more than between us and uk english though, but still enough recognisable for anyone that know one language but havent studied the other). So while it is a language in africa it is in origin a european language (classified as western-germanic). Like spanish and portuguese in the americas, they are not in europe but that is where the language comes from (though those have stayed similar enough to still be called the same)

only since 1925 it is officially considered a language, before that it was seen as a dutch dialect. (Did not know it's official recognition was this late actually)

+2
Level 82
Mar 19, 2020
South Africa was originally colonized by Dutch farmers.
+5
Level 69
Mar 13, 2020
I'm having trouble believing that Danish is 80% the same as English. If that were the case, I would think that they would be nearly mutually intelligible. I just tried reading the Danish Wikipedia article about Denmark: https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danmark. I only see a few words that are the same (e.g. "land") or close enough to English to be fully recognizable (e.g. "historie"). Am I misinterpreting what it means to be 20% different?
+2
Level ∞
Mar 13, 2020
I think it was me who misinterpreted the source data. Clearly Danish and English are not that similar. I've changed the caveats accordingly.
+2
Level 69
Mar 13, 2020
Curious how it would compare to the dutch wikipedia page for you. I have no doubt it would be more understandable than danish, but hard to estimate the extent of recognition.

Don't ask me how or why but I feel like somehow english is more recognizable to dutch people than dutch is to "english" people, and I don't mean as a result of learning the language or exposure to it, but intuitively. (How it would be in the unrealistic case of zero exposure to the other language)

+1
Level 74
Mar 20, 2020
I knew no Dutch the first time I flew to the Netherlands and yet understood the spoken announcements at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol perfectly. So did my wife, who speaks no German and no Yiddish either.
+1
Level 34
Mar 25, 2020
Dasubergeek, no offense to your language abilities, but those spoken announcements you understood were in English.

For those trying to see how similar languages are by Wikipedia, do you know how to pronounce those languages? Would you know that jag in Danish sounds almost exactly like I?

+6
Level 70
Mar 13, 2020
Scots would make the list if official.

West Frisian might (but mainly spoken):

Brea, bûter en griene tsiis / Bread, butter and green cheese.

+1
Level 71
Mar 25, 2021
Both Scots and Frisian are in the source listed. Maybe non-official languages could be added too?
+4
Level 80
Mar 13, 2020
West Frisian is spoken by many people in NE Netherlands and is probably the closest language to English
+9
Level 74
Mar 13, 2020
I blame you, High German consonant shift!
+1
Level 89
Mar 19, 2020
Well, I appreciate this comment.
+1
Level 75
Apr 17, 2023
Eine Pfeife für einen Pfennig ist besser als eine Pfanne für ein Pfund!
+2
Level 71
Mar 13, 2020
I had no idea Danish was the most similar to English. Guess I'll just start speaking Danish to English speakers from now on..
+6
Level 83
Mar 13, 2020
Writing, not speaking. Spoken Dutch is way closer than spoken Danish
+2
Level 74
Mar 20, 2020
You'll be arrested for public drunkenness for slurring your words.
+8
Level 75
Mar 13, 2020
I have a really hard time understanding how italian is more similar to english than french. French has a lot of germanic influences and the way of not pronouncing things or pronouncing differently every word is very similar to english.
+4
Level 83
Mar 13, 2020
Pronouncing doesn't count here. Otherwise I agree that French is a lot closer on the whole.
+2
Level 71
Mar 25, 2021
Looking at that site, what they measure is the pronunciation of the consonants in some sample words. (Vowels are ignored.)
+1
Level 45
Mar 13, 2020
Forgot how to spell Norwegian lol
+1
Level 56
Mar 19, 2020
is this excluding creoles?
+5
Level 50
Mar 19, 2020
I speak Friesian and it is indeed similar to English
+2
Level 61
Mar 19, 2020
You forgot to include American :)
+1
Level 49
Mar 19, 2020
Haha, nice one. XD
+2
Level 60
Mar 19, 2020
Where are Greek and Latin? 1/3 of English came from Greek.
+2
Level 51
Mar 19, 2020
I'm assuming Latin isn't included because there are no native speakers. Greek has a score of 69.9, so it isn't as closely related to English as the other answers.
+1
Level 68
Mar 19, 2020
Also, if it's in writing, Greek has a completely different alphabet. It absolutely influenced the Latin alphabet, but it's different.
+1
Level 44
Mar 19, 2020
Can't be. That language is all greek to them.
+1
Level 83
Feb 9, 2023
'one third of English' is misleading. A lot of our technical vocabulary comes from Latin and Greek, but in terms of language we use every day - and indeed our grammar - there's hardly any Latin involved, except filtered through other Romance languages, and even then we're still mostly Germanic
+3
Level 38
Mar 19, 2020
Well this explains why so many Scandinavian, German and Dutch people speak English
+3
Level 68
Mar 19, 2020
In case anyone is interested, here's some basic background for where English came from. Old English was the language of the Anglo-Saxons in England until 1066, when French was brought in with the Normans' conquest. The Anglo-Saxons of England (also including Jutes and Frisians) came from the land of northwest Germany, the Netherlands, and Jutland, until they invaded Great Britain and founded various kingdoms that would become England, including Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria, East Anglia, Kent, etc. Since they came from that area of continental Europe, Old English is in the same language family as modern Danish, German, Dutch, Frisian, etc. At the time of Old English, Frisian and English were practically indistinguishable. With French influences, the language evolved into Middle English, which is why we have things like the common example of beef vs cow (cow being Germanic, spoken by the common people referring to the animal and beef being French, spoken by the elite referring to food).
+1
Level 47
Mar 19, 2020
Was very surprised not to see Spanish, Latin, Greek, and French on here.
+1
Level 79
Mar 22, 2020
What's not so much surprising but striking is the non appearance of the languages which have co evolved on the same island for well over 1,000 years - Welsh and Gaelic. No part of Wales is further than about 100 miles from England, yet English has more in common with Italian.
+2
Level 53
Mar 19, 2020
Description says it's written similarity, but the method described in the source uses sound correspondences...

Also, if anyone is interested, the numbers here don't really mean all that much. It's more of a proof of concept - i.e., if you set the parameters and methodology /very/ carefully, is it theoretically possible to give a numerical 'relatedness' value for a pair of languages - the answer being yes. Which is pretty cool in a way, but there are a lot more ways a pair of languages can be related, beyond just sound correspondences in a very limited set of words - for instance syntax, morphology, or lexicon. This is why Danish is so surprisingly high despite being so unintelligible to an English speaker. In reality, 'relatedness' is a very complex factor which cannot really be quantified in a helpful way.

+1
Level 23
Mar 19, 2020
cant believe i wrote luxemburgish :/
+1
Level 76
Mar 19, 2020
A weird quiz. Danish is hugely different from English even in written form, yet is supposedly the most similar. I bet no English speaker who doesn't know Danish would ever guess that, for example, Hej, det er meget rart at møde dig means Hello, it is very nice to meet you.
+1
Level 74
Mar 20, 2020
Agreed. "I'm sorry, I just can't remember your name" in Danish is "undskyld, jeg kan ikke lige huske dit navn."
+3
Level 56
Apr 23, 2020
Yes, and "beautiful girls" is, er, "smukke piger" - which I think we can all agree looks at least somewhat different.
+1
Level 50
Mar 19, 2020
Frisian?
+1
Level 34
Mar 20, 2020
..Italian? Really?
+1
Level 24
Mar 23, 2020
I think the quiz should specify "National, official languages." Because while not guessing Luxembourgian I guessed Frisian, Cornish, Gallic, Gaelic, and Welsh.
+2
Level 56
Apr 22, 2020
Can we allow Letzeburgesch as a variant of Luxembourgish? OED says so...

https://www.lexico.com/definition/letzeburgesch

+1
Level 82
Oct 22, 2020
I'm surprised by how much variation there is between the Scandinavian languages, since they are all mutually intelligible. I'd expect them to cluster together more tightly in terms of similarity to English.
+1
Level 65
May 27, 2021
The quiz should contain Frisian, Its very similar to English,

and actually is one of the two official languages of the Netherlands.

+1
Level 78
Mar 2, 2023
Frisian, like Scots and Welsh, are "regional languages". I think a line is drawn between them and an "official language"
+1
Level 37
Oct 14, 2021
they cannot be serious not putting scotts on this list...
+1
Level 28
Dec 29, 2022
In the first 30 seconds I tried English itself, Scots, Yola, West Frisian, and nothing happened
+1
Level 76
Apr 21, 2023
ah yes, French and Italian, two languages that are VERY similar to English in every aspect
+1
Level 74
Apr 21, 2024
This website did updates this year. That may not have affected English very much, but it did to Spanish. Perhaps this list has changed some