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[Inspired by the What is meant by "steep learning curve"? question]

Is there a phrase similar to steep learning curve (i.e. [some-word] learning curve) describing something that is easy to learn?

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  • 1
    No learning curve? :)
    – Kosmonaut
    Dec 4, 2010 at 15:34
  • "It's easy to pick up" or "It's easy to learn" would make sense. We start wondering how difficult things are to learn when they're actually hard to learn. Feb 23, 2018 at 8:44
  • Easy to learn subjects have a steep learning curve, how about "a long learning curve" as it requires longer time? Apr 6, 2018 at 18:23

13 Answers 13

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How about gentle learning curve?

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  • I like this: it says that the learning is gentle without making any mistakes about the shape of the curve. So a gentle learning curve would be, properly, a steep learning curve! Dec 6, 2010 at 13:41
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    Is it commonly used? Sep 12, 2017 at 23:35
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A "gradual learning curve".

You can Google the phrase - it's used all over to imply the opposite of "steep learning curve".

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I prefer flat learning curve.

It does not have confusing positive connotations (as in 'gentle' or 'smooth') as mild learning curve is a Bad Thing. Flat means horizontal, ultimately never reaching the value L(x)=1, implying, this is something not possible to learn, no matter how hard you try.

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    I agree that flat curve is the best opposite for steep curve, but I believe the questioner was in fact looking for something with positive connotations. Dec 6, 2010 at 13:40
  • How can something be curved and flat? This sounds more confusing than the other offerings, IMHO.
    – CJM
    Dec 6, 2010 at 14:08
  • @CJM: A "curve" is a general mathematical term for, roughly, any connected shape that has no width (formally, the image of a continuous function defined on an interval), and in particular straight lines are examples of curves. I imagine most people who know about the meaning of curve as the graph of a mathematical function know this. Dec 6, 2010 at 14:38
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    @ShreevatsaR: In Maths, a curve is [effectively] a line that is not required to be straight. I'd agree that a curve can be straight, especially if sampled appropriately, however it's generally-understood meaning is that is isn't straight. Furthermore, flat cannot be an antonym for steep because a steep curve could equally be flat. For those two reasons, Flat is not an appropriate choice. Steep refers to the rate of change and not the linearity. 'Gentle' does not require the curve to be flat or not, but does infer a lesser rate of change.
    – CJM
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:19
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Just for completeness: As I answered on the 'steep learning curve' question, "steep learning curve" itself technically means something that's easy to learn.

(Admittedly, unless you're going to explain this, or are writing for an appropriate technical audience that understands the phrase in this sense, it is advisable to use a different phrase.)

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I often hear "smooth learning curve"

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  • As per my comments on 'flat', I'd argue that 'smooth' is not an appropriate antonym for 'steep'. A curve can be both smooth and steep.
    – CJM
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:21
  • for a street curve I agree, for a learning curve I'm less sure. Anyway I just reported it as idiom I often hear at work.
    – Uberto
    Dec 8, 2010 at 11:35
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To my ear mild learning curve sounds best.

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I'd agree that 'Gentle' is a suitable antonym for 'Steep', but perhaps one might tackle the problem in a different way.

Perhaps, rather than having an 'antonym-of-steep learning curve', it is stated that the subject 'doesn't have a steep learning curve'? My point is, if figuring out the most appropriate opposite was a matter of some debate, perhaps it's easier to negate the original phrase... a phrase that is universally recognised and understood.

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Personal preference:

  1. soft learning curve

  2. no learning curve

  3. light learning curve

  4. benign learning curve

  5. genial learning curve

  6. moderate learning curve

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If you think about the verticality of something you could have a "level learning curve".

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Personally, I say "protracted learning-curve" or "shallow learning-curve" to describe the opposite of "shallow-learning curve." Thank ya.

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  • Hello, alexander. ELU concentrates on common or reasonably common usage. Have you evidence that this is commonly used? If not, it becomes writing advice and off-topic. Sep 12, 2017 at 23:35
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I agree with @alexanderjsingleton: shallow learning curve. Since steep is a geometric expression, its antonym should also be in the same domain.

I wanted this to be a comment but I could not add below image there. Image source: here

steep/shallow/zero slope

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how about minimal learning curve

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From the above posts (which I must admit are quite well technically reasoned out), I am inclined to go for the near literal opposite of "even curve", if anything like that can be found in the vocabulary of the field of study — just for clarity purposes.

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