Aside from factors like being in the same language family and sharing vocabulary of common origin I think there is another reason English is easier to learn. Even if your native language is not related to English the language has a wider reach than any other language. It covers more boarders, is used as the global lingua franca, and has majority influence on global entertainment and politics/business. Also the majority of content on the internet is English. So even for a person who speaks a language with almost no relation to English they will have ease of learning just by the great opportunity for English exposure. Even though Chinese and Spanish are spoken by more people(by 1st language) they are only regional. So the exposure to those languages is less. English can definitely be hard to learn, but it is artificially made easier by the reach of English across the world.
Those are just my thoughts, What do you think?
Michael, your thoughts about English being easier to learn seem to be my
exact thoughts. You can't consider a langauge you are surrounded by 24/7 hard
to learn. I'm not saying English doesn't need an actual learning process, but
it's way easier than other languages due to the reasons you have listed above,
at least for me :)
Perhaps you could say that it is easier to reach a level of basic communication in English than in many other languages because of the simplicity of the grammar. People say that you need only 200 words in English to express yourself at a basic level. To echo Jimena, there are about 80 possible verb endings in Italian. I haven't counted for Spanish but it the number is probably similar. In English there are 4 (or 5 if you include -es for third person present simple).
My guess is that it is not easier to reach an advanced level of English compared with other European languages because of the size of our vocabulary.
In concluding, English is easier because of its high degree of exposure in the world, and because the majority of its speakers have been involved with the language since they were kids. They have forgotten how hard was to learn.
I can tell you one reason more of English is easier. As many Spanish learners of
English know, English doesn´t require verb conjugation when using simple past , past participle, continuous future, etc., as we do in Spanish. Besides, there are more verbal tenses in Spanish than in English, and there are no different male/female adjective as we (spanish speakers) have.
I actually don´t know others languages, only these points are enough for me to say English is easier.