As I think I'm confusing my question with too many details, here is the blunt version:
- German: lots of words with similar sounds and written forms as English. Therefore it is easy to transfer knowledge from English when learning German, so German is a relatively easy language to learn.
- Bengali: different script, and scarcely any words sound like those in English. Therefore there is little scope for transfer, and Bengali is a relatively hard language to learn.
- Question: is there a language with a different script where the sounds/forms are otherwise similar enough to English to make transfer possible. Hence the language would be relatively easy to learn once the script barrier had been overcome, i.e. more like German than Bengali.
And now the longer version!
Some examples of what I mean. German vocabulary has many words with a similar written form and sound: "answer"-"Antwort", "what"- "was", "water"- "wasser" etc. This similarity is easy to see as German is written in (mostly) the same letters, and it also comes out in speech.
When learning Bengali vocabulary not only is the script different, but the underlying word structure and sounds are different: instead of "w-" question words we have "k-" words, e.g. "where"-"kothay" written কোথায়, or "water"-"jol" written জল etc. There's a vague similarity in some of the numbers ("eight"-"aat", "nine"-"noy"), but that's all I've noticed until you get to obvious modern borrowings.
So I'm wondering if there is a language with a non-latin script/alphabet where, once you got over the script hurdle, you might find lots of familar word forms/sounds rather like German. The words would look different, due to the script, but perhaps sound the same and so would look similar once written in a latin alphabet? (I thought Greek might be a candidate, but Greek parallels/borrowings mostly seem scientific or technical terms, so I don't see English helping when learning Greek - I may be wrong.)
Although Bengali vocabulary is so different from English, I find some of the grammar appears a simpler version of Latin or German. Noun cases, verb extensions etc. -b- is even used for the future tense as in those half-remembered latin declensions! So there's a small amount of transfer there, or at least a vague feeling of familiarity.
I'm thinking about transfer in learning: transfer in the surface form, like English to German, or transfer in a deeper sense, like ...? The closest I get is the grammar parallels in Bengali.