“This language doesn’t make any sense!”
I’m pretty sure we’ve all said that at some point when trying to learn a new language.
Most of the time it’s just out of the frustration of not being able to understand something.
However, sometimes it’s true: Languages can be downright illogical.
Sometimes spelling is convoluted, rules have more exceptions than followers and everything you learn gets thrown out the window.
There has to be some language that makes sense… right?
Right! Believe it or not, some languages actually follow their own rules. Let’s explore some of the most logical languages you can learn today.
What Do We Mean by “Logical”?
We’re looking for languages that, regardless of your mother tongue, make the most “sense.” What might that mean? Logical languages have:
- Regular grammar. There’s little more frustrating in a language than studying hard to remember verb conjugations or preposition patterns only to find that there’s a list of exceptions as long as your arm. Many natural languages have developed irregularities from what might once have been sensible and consistent rules but were lost along the way; a logical language should be much more predictable than this.
- Consistent syntax (word order). Some languages structure their sentences in a very clear and regimented order, while others allow for a more flexible and inconsistent approach to building phrases—meaning it can take longer to work out what a native speaker would use.
- Easy-to-grasp phonology. English is one of the worst (or most interesting) offenders when it comes to pronouncing words as they’re written. A logical language should be straightforward to pronounce once you know the rules dictating it.
It’s worth noting at this point that “logical” does not mean the same as “easy to learn.” This is a much more subjective term, and also depends a lot on what languages you already speak. For instance, Spanish would seem comparatively easy to an Italian but completely alien to a speaker of an Asian language.
Some of the languages we’re looking at are listed among the most difficult to understand, but once you know the rules and the vocab your journey to fluency will be smoother than something less logical.
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What About Constructed Languages?
Before we move on to the natural languages most of us are used to, it’s worth mentioning artificial or constructed languages, also known as conlangs. Believe it or not, there are dozens of these, created for all sorts of different reasons.
Some of them, like Klingon from “Star Trek” or Elvish from “Lord of the Rings,” are designed for fictional purposes and intended to imitate natural languages. These are less likely to be what we might call logical.
However, other conlangs are created with logic in mind. Here are some examples:
Probably the best known conlang, Esperanto was designed with the intention of being a universal, international language. Created in the late 1800s, it now has around two million speakers and you can even learn it on Duolingo.
With ease of learning being a top priority for its creator, Esperanto has an extremely regular grammar and a vocabulary that draws from existing languages (albeit from a Eurocentric perspective.)
With some links to Esperanto, this is considered a “zonal” conlang. That means it’s created by fusing elements of existing languages from a certain region in a logical way. There are no special endings or declensions in Slovio, so clarity is communicated with as much efficiency as possible.
Slovio has an official website if you want to find out more.
Lojban’s name is formed from the roots of its own words for “logical language”—so you can see why it might get a place on this list! It’s an obvious contender for the most logical language.
Primarily built for the purpose of linguistic research, Lojban’s unambiguous grammar is based on the principles of formal logic. There are no exceptions to any of its rules, and it’s culturally neutral, meaning there should be no difference in difficulty of learning and speaking regardless of where you come from (although it does use the Latin alphabet.)
You can find resources to learn Lojban on its website.
4 of the Most Logical Natural Languages
Conlangs are fascinating and definitely an adventure for an experienced polyglot. However, other speakers can be hard to find so their utility is limited. In terms of natural languages, then, what are the most logical ones?
Basque: Complex but Straightforward
Remember we said earlier that logical and easy are not the same thing?
Basque, the language of the Basque Country which straddles northern Spain and southern France, is regularly listed as one of the most difficult languages to learn. It has complex grammar and, although it has some loanwords from Spanish, it’s considered a language isolate—meaning that it’s unrelated to any other known language.
But despite its complexity and isolation, Basque speakers will still say that it’s a logical language. Once you get your head around its many rules, there’s very little irregularity in verbs and syntax compared with other European languages. This means you can predict much more consistently how sentences ought to be created as long as you’ve studied the basics.
One word of caution: Despite the small size of the Basque Country, there are several different dialects. However logical the standard language might be, there are still a number of idiomatic tendencies that you’ll have to learn. Check out Euskal Kultura to get started.
German: Efficient and Logical
Could you have guessed this one? The stereotype of the German people is that they’re efficient and logical, so it’s no surprise that the language spoken mainly here—as well as in Switzerland, Austria and parts of Namibia and the north of Italy—lives up to the stereotype.
Like other European languages, German does have some irregularities in verb and plural forms, so it might not get as many logic points as other languages. However, the syntax is fairly rigid, meaning German sentences are extremely consistently structured.
Meanwhile, although some very long German compound words can appear intimidating, they’re constructed in a satisfyingly logical way—helping hugely with comprehension. Consider the daunting Naturwissenschaftenlehrer. A 25-letter monster. But break it up: Natur means “nature”; Wissenschaften is “knowledge”; Lehrer is “teacher.” The word means “science teacher”!
German is widely taught and learned, and you could even start with FluentU to pick it up! Take a look at our German-learning blog for lots of tips, or visit the German-learning section of the FluentU videos to get started.
Turkish: Phonetic and Consistent
Like with Basque, the Turkic languages might be a language family you haven’t come across before. Nevertheless, time and time again you will hear that Turkish is a very logical language.
Despite its diacritics, which can make it look alien to English speakers—consider the consonants in a word like açığı—the language is phonetically written. Once you know how to read each character out loud, you’ll have no problem reading words and sentences.
There are also suffixes that change the meanings of words and can appear confusing, but they’re very consistent. With Turkey being an important country on the global scene as well as a great tourist destination, it would be a great language to pick up.
Chinese: Daunting but Straightforward
Scary, right? Another one of those languages which is notoriously hard to learn, at least for speakers of English and other European languages.
Having said that, I can’t help but get the feeling that a lot of this is because people are put off by the script. Sure, the vocabulary is tough, but isn’t that true in any language?
Chinese has a lot going for it from a logical perspective. Words don’t change their forms, and meaning is assigned simply by combining different words together. For example, a sign you see everywhere in China is 出口, meaning “exit.” This is created by combining the character 出 (“out”) with 口 (“opening” or “mouth”). It’s literally an opening you go out of. Straightforward, right?
It does have a disadvantage compared to some of the others on this list since the characters bear no phonetic resemblance to the words—exacerbated by the fact that many Chinese characters have multiple pronunciations, especially when dialectical variations are factored in. But once you start building sentences in Chinese, you see how logical this widely spoken language can be.
BBC Languages is a great place to start learning Chinese if you’re interested!
Which of these is the most logical? Well, that’s hard to say: Ultimately they’re all natural languages and millennia of development have left them with illogical quirks. Try one out and see how you find it. And, if you can’t master it, there’s always Lojban!
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