General Question

robmizelldotcom's avatar

What is a good second language to learn?

Asked by robmizelldotcom (198points) July 6th, 2008

What is a useful, second language to learn? I’m trying to decide between German or French. I do realize Spanish is useful in the US, but I’d prefer to prep myself for Europe.


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36 Answers

beast's avatar

…and Spain isn’t in Europe?

I prefer Italian.

eambos's avatar

What area of Europe are you located in? Location would be the deciding factor for

willbrawn's avatar

I dont know if I’m wrong but I thought English is a language that is being taught over in Europe. I would imagine that prepping to learn a language would be hard cause most of the counties speak 2–3 languages.

I would learn Spanish myself. It would come in handy and there are plenty of countries where you could use it. Not just the U.S.

Rosyblue's avatar

I speak/read spanish and because of it I can understand Italian, french and Portuguese. I can, also, read it a bit, when I take my time. Spanish would be my pick,if you are going for a romance language.

beast's avatar


You can’t understand French just from reading and speaking Spanish. They’re completely different languages. That’s like saying I can speak Russian because I know Italian. They don’t fit.

willbrawn's avatar

@beast I actually know a couple people that understand French because they speak and read Spanish. She did say understand. A lot of word appear similar

wildflower's avatar

Written French and Spanish are actually relatively close. I learned some Spanish and because of that (and English and beginners german) I can make sense of some French (words)

To answer this question though, I’d go for German, it is the biggest country in Europe. You could also go for French, but that would just fuel their stubborness in not speaking English…

eambos's avatar

It helps to know what you are talking about before you speak, beast. Spanish, french, portugese and Italian are all romance languages. They are all formed from the same base. Because of this a speaker of one is able to comprehend the others.

Rosyblue's avatar

@willbrawn, @Eambos, @wildflower Thank You.

beast's avatar


Just because you group several languages together and give them a common title (romanic languages) doesn’t mean they are similar. I could group English and Spanish together and call them “North American Languages”. That doesn’t mean they’re similar in the least bit.

wildflower's avatar

There’s a big difference between languages that originate from the same language and those that happen to be geographically close. Take Swedish and Finnish as an example. They are nothing alike, but are both spoken in Aaland and in parts of Lapland. Now take Norwegian and Icelandic, there us a good bit of ocean between them, yet they are similar because they originate from the same language.

marinelife's avatar

@beast Stop flaunting your ignorance. What Eambos is telling you is that the languages are grouped together because of their common origin. Eambos did not group them together and give then that name, linguistic experts did. This site shows the development of the Romance languages.

willbrawn's avatar

I think I learned about the romantic languages and there close relation in ummm…...6th in Spanish class. The teacher would write french words on the chalk board and we could identify them.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Chinese. 2 billion people can’t be wrong.

beast's avatar


“Romantic” languages? Never heard of ‘em.

willbrawn's avatar

@beast look them up then.

marinelife's avatar

As to the question, I would choose to learn Spanish. I think it has more currency in more places in the world today. I say that having learned French.

jonno's avatar

If you want to learn a language that is useful in Europe, then consider these statistics of European Union citizens:

Native speakers
German has the most native speakers in the EU (18%), followed by English, French and Italian (all at 13%) and Spanish (9%).

Total speakers
English has the most number of speakers who can conduct a conversation (51%), followed by German (32%), French (26%), Italian (16%) and Spanish (15%)

(see the table on this Wikipedia article, under “Languages” – or see the source [PDF] which has quite a lot of interesting statistics)

jonno's avatar

@willbrawn – I think beast is pointing out that they are actually called the Romance languages, not the Romantic languages

beast's avatar

Actually you can use Romance or Romanic, not “romantic”.

Skyrail's avatar

German. Because I want to learn it to hah. But yeh it’s a common language in the EU (as in is a second/third language in a number of countries) then again so are Spanish and French.

jonno's avatar

@beast – you can also call them the neo-Latin languages, don’t forget!

robmizelldotcom's avatar

Cool. German it is!

jacksonRice's avatar

if it’s between german & french… consider that other romance languages will certainly be easier once you have a basic grasp of the structure of french. but german, while it is a more difficult language because it is more complex, is also more similar to english both in form & vocabulary, so that might be less taxing. learn both!

@beast—italian, french, spanish, portuguese, & romanian are all offshoots of latin, which is why they are called romance languages (see: rome). that’s why it’s easier to learn one of them once you’ve learned the other, the same way it’s easier to learn dutch once you’ve learned german or english; these three are all germanic languages.

Trance24's avatar

Well seeing as you already know English, German would be a easy next language to learn. At least that is what I experience. I am currently a student taking German, and it very much relates to English a lot. Some think it is harder to learn, but that may be because it is a lot like English. Which is known to be a difficult language to learn. How ever I encourage you to take it. I think you would really enjoy it.

As a note it is a pretty frequent language used in Europe like Skyrail said. So enjoy your new language! =]

susanc's avatar

I speak French quite well and Spanish okay but when I
went to Romania I was entirely lost.
For example, in other Romance languages, there are articles before the noun, as in English: “the” “an” “a”, “el”
“la” “los” “las” etc. In Romanian, you add the syllable
“ul” to the end of the word. For example, “wordul”
would mean “the word”. That seems different to me.
Just an example.
But it’s exquisite there.

Mrs_Dr_Frank_N_Furter's avatar

Spanish or french.

For me at least spanish is kinda hard (i got a C in Spanish 2 so I just barely mad it to Spanish 3) because there are 17 tenses, but it is a fun language.

pathfinder's avatar

I agree with you to learn french but from may research and deductione goes something else.if you look in to the future in europe starting slowly to born one of languages witch is boering.

Knotmyday's avatar

Standard Mandarin, Arabic, Russian. In that order.

Vincentt's avatar

German is ugly… But if I set my personal preferences aside, it’s probably a good choice because it’s also a language many Dutch people, and probably from other countries too, can also speak a bit (me being an exception). Then again, if you already speak English, you can be very well off with that too, except for France, where people hardly seem to speak English. Not sure about countries farther off from the Netherlands, but if you speak French and English I suppose you can manage in a lot of countries.

shrubbery's avatar

I’d probably go with French because they’re possibly the only ones who refuse to speak English for you (that’s a very general sweeping statement I know, but hey :P)

Jack79's avatar

Having travelled all over Europe, I’d say jonno’s answer above is not only statistically correct, but also empirically true.

The point is not how many people speak a language in total, but whether you’ll be able to communicate eventually in a given situation. I have found that, wherever English was not spoken, German was. Even if the person I was trying to communicate with didn’t speak it, someone else would. In fact in Eastern Europe it’s even better to learn Russian than any other language, since older people will have learnt that at school.

French is way low on my list, since I never met anyone outside France who could speak it (talking about real everyday situations here, like petrol stations, borders, restaurants). Possibly because the people who learn it are more posh and would only be found at embassy parties (where you’d find everyone speaking English anyway).

Of course French and Spanish (as well as Italian) can be pretty useful because they are connected to each other, and learning one can help you with the others (and also Portuguese and Romanian). But in terms of a SECOND language, I’d go for German too. Oh and you do realise you’ll have to actually spend a couple of years practising in Germany before it’s of any use to you, right?

Dr_C's avatar

OK…. this one was fun for me. I’m a Mexican citizen living on the border with the US… English was my first language, Spanish my second, French and German 4th and 5th Respectively, Italian my 6th….. I can tell you from experience all Romance languages are very very similar…. having learned spanish (which in theory should have been my first) french and italian were a breeze… German serves you well in most eastern european countries… Spanish will get you by most other places… french helps a lot too…. but if you’d like a little more variety standard mandarin is a beautiful language and can get you through most of asia.

atlantis's avatar

German is harder than French. And I’ve learned French, I can speak it. Where I went, Alliance Francaise, they instill the culture too. I thought that was really a ‘french’ way of instruction.

KK1nOnly's avatar

Iv’ e learn some French, German, and Spanish in school. Iv’ e been to all of these countries and lived in Germany for a while. French was the easiest for me. And for all of the miss informed people out there, French, Spanish, and Italian are very similar languages. Almost the same alphabet. German is totally different but all of them are fairly easy in difficulty. I would go for French first and the Spanish.

jesienne's avatar

haha you have no idea how English is popular among Chinese, China is famous for its strong English market…Maybe you can teach English in China while travelling there, also you can learn some Chinese

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