Poll

What Language Should I Learn?

French
8 (18.6%)
Italian
1 (2.3%)
Spanish
15 (34.9%)
Japanese
5 (11.6%)
Norwegian
4 (9.3%)
Latin
6 (14%)
Other (please specify)
4 (9.3%)

Total Members Voted: 32

Author Topic: What Language should I Learn?  (Read 1200 times)

Raenia

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What Language should I Learn?
« on: August 27, 2019, 06:05:04 AM »
I would like to learn a new language!  I have always been interested in linguistics, although I haven't had the opportunity to study it, and I am not phenomenal at language learning, based on my school experience, but darnit, I want to anyway.  DH has expressed interest in joining me, which would be great, as we could practice together.  However, this has me torn between starting a new language from scratch, so we are both at the same place, or trying to relearn something one of us has studied before.  I also mentioned the plan to my mom, who was interested in practicing with me if I choose a language she has studied.

I have studied:
 - French (7 years in high school)
 - Italian (1 year in college)

DH has studied:
 - Spanish (but doesn't want to continue because he can't roll r's)
 - Japanese

Mom has studied:
 - French (only a little)
 - Norwegian (fluent, but rusty)

My ideas are:
1. Relearn French with Mom.  Pro: Both have some background already, useful for travel.  Con: DH not interested.
2. Learn Japanese.  Pro: DH interested and has background.  Con: Mom not interested.
3. Learn Norwegian.  Pro: Mom fluent, DH interested.  Con: More interested in Danish or Icelandic, if going for a Nordic language.
4. Learn Latin.  Pro: Everyone starting from scratch, useful for etymology.  Con: Everyone starting from scratch, not useful for travel.
5. Something else!  Finnish?  Polish?  Swahili?  Arabic?  Navaho?  Suggestions welcome!

Note: I'm trying to add a poll, but not sure how.  Anyone know how to do that?
ETA: Got it!
« Last Edit: August 27, 2019, 06:06:52 AM by Raenia »

Life in Balance

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2019, 07:14:51 AM »
I voted for Spanish as it's useful for travel in many countries and Norwegian since your mom is fluent, even if rusty. 

If your DH can pronounce "butter" and "ladder" in English, he can do /r/ in Spanish.  :)

MMM18

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2019, 07:31:41 AM »
I voted for Spanish as it's useful for travel in many countries and Norwegian since your mom is fluent, even if rusty. 

If your DH can pronounce "butter" and "ladder" in English, he can do /r/ in Spanish.  :)

I agree. Spanish will be more widely used in a variety of countries (that and french).

Hula Hoop

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2019, 07:34:14 AM »
Spanish or French (or Norwegian).  I speak Italian and it's useless outside Italy.

Kris

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2019, 07:39:53 AM »
Not wanting to learn Spanish because one can't roll one's R's is ridiculous.

As for which language to learn -- languages are meant to be useful. What do you want to USE it for?

Watchmaker

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2019, 07:42:29 AM »
I chose Norwegian.

Since you are pursuing this due to an interest in linguistics, I didn't consider the utility of the language much with my answer. Having a fluent speaker to practice with is a great help for learning languages, and this could also be a good bonding opportunity for your family. I also took a guess that you may have Norwegian roots (since your mother speaks it), and if that's true learning the language can be a great way to learn about the culture as well.

I think Norwegian and Danish are quite similar languages, so learning one would probably help with the other.

If you're concerned about utility, what are the most common other languages in your area, or where do you like to travel?
« Last Edit: August 27, 2019, 07:45:22 AM by Watchmaker »

FLBiker

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2019, 07:46:41 AM »
To me, it all depends on your future plans.  For travel (in a vacuum) I suppose French and Spanish are good.  It really depends where you want to travel to, though.  Personally, I think studying Chinese is a good idea.  Sure, you can only use it in a couple of countries, but one of them is huge and very diverse.  It's also a place that isn't so easy to travel in if you don't speak the language (which I would assume isn't particularly true of France).  And I say this as someone who has studied the languages of and spent time in both China and France.  I also think that, professionally, Chinese would be more valuable.

Having said all that, I'm working on brushing up my French.  That's because we're moving to Canada from the US in a few months, and French is way more useful there.  To put it another way, we have a 4 year old daughter.  If we were staying in the US, we might have her study Chinese or Spanish or German (wife has a connection).  In Canada, though, French certainly seems like the way to go.  So, again, I think it's tough to recommend anything in a vacuum.

Furthermore, personally, I find it very difficult to study something without a real purpose.  At work, I've done various online courses (R, Python, SQL) but if I don't have an application, it's tough to maintain the momentum.  So I'd pick which every language you have the most "juice" with, which could be determined by future plans (or just because you like it for some reason).

One last thing on Chinese -- don't be put off by it being "too hard".  I've heard that a lot, and I actually find it way easier than French.  The pronunciation is different than English, but very consistent (unlike English).  If you drill the phonetics at the beginning, your pronunciation will be good forever.  And, grammatically, it is WAY simpler than French.  Verb conjugation is dead easy (just adding a couple of particles), there's no gender / formality stuff, word order is flexible, etc.  I also find reading to be not so hard.  And, if you can read and know what words sound like, you can type.  All that being said, learning how to write seems very challenging, and I can't write a lick.

Raenia

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2019, 08:12:54 AM »
A few notes to answer people's questions:

- Norwegian Heritage: Nope, not a drop.  My mom was an exchange student in school, then lived there for a year and became fluent.
- Usefulness of Italian: Agreed, I studied it because my family has Italian heritage, and because I am involved with classical music.  Most operas and classic art songs are in Italian, so it was useful for that more so than traveling.
- Usefulness of languages generally: French would be useful if we travel to Canada, Spanish is more useful here in the US.  DH also has family in England, so European travel is likely in the future.  I would love to visit Iceland, have friends in the Netherlands, and have enjoyed time in Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden before.  I do not anticipate traveling to China any time soon, given the political situation and the historical difficulty getting visas.  Japanese would pretty much only be for watching anime without dubs/subs, or if we travel there (DH has been before)
- Rolling R's: I agree that this is a silly reason not to learn a language, especially as I can roll my r's just fine.  I'm told it's something that can be learned with practice, as well.  However, DH is insistent that he can't do it, and I'm not sure how to convince him.
- From a linguistic perspective, I'd love to learn something that is not as similar to English.

I should note that I don't actually enjoy international travel that much, and we do it very infrequently.  I more want to learn for the sake of learning, because I feel it is a skill Americans tend to lack, and something to keep my mind active.  It would also be nice to read literature in the original language, which I suppose is an argument for Greek, Latin, Italian, or maybe French.

thesis

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2019, 08:32:39 AM »
Everyone is different, but I'd strongly suggest having a deeper motivation to learn a particular language. Not that anything is wrong with just wanting to learn a language (because this is something American's often lack), but I have often found that people without a deep and meaningful purpose for studying a language usually drop out before reaching any level of fluency. Of course, I've done this with languages I DID have a deep and meaningful purpose in studying, so YMMV.

If you happen to be an anime fan, Japanese will be something you can learn to internalize from your couch :)

[correction: meaning, you can internalize and use it from your couch, no real need to travel if that's not your thing :) ]
« Last Edit: August 27, 2019, 08:35:27 AM by thesis »

BlueHouse

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2019, 08:36:56 AM »
I voted for Spanish, not just because of travel, but because it's a life skill that's becoming more and more necessary in the US.  Already, I have trouble when I hire people to do maintenance on my house because I don't speak their language.  I no longer want to pay the "english-only upcharge".


koshtra

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2019, 08:40:34 AM »
I voted Latin. For just plain linguistic curiosity -- which seems like your main motivation -- it is SO FUN, and so illuminating. You're always going "so THAT's where that came from," and "THAT's why we do that!"

Plus Latin poetry is incredibly beautiful. Latin prose is the most godawful boring stuff there is -- Cicero and Caesar are officially the most boring people ever to live on planet earth. But the poetry is weird, baroque, beautiful, over-the-top, gorgeous. Nobody ever told me that. Virgil, Catullus, Ovid. Totally amazing.

Plus, if you do ever want to brush up French or Spanish or Italian, your Latin will make all of them feel familiar and comfortable. I don't know a word of Romanian or Italian, but I can look at a page of either and pretty much puzzle it out.

Watchmaker

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2019, 08:55:45 AM »
A few notes to answer people's questions:

- Norwegian Heritage: Nope, not a drop.  My mom was an exchange student in school, then lived there for a year and became fluent.

Oh, ignore most of my first post then.

- Usefulness of Italian: Agreed, I studied it because my family has Italian heritage, and because I am involved with classical music.  Most operas and classic art songs are in Italian, so it was useful for that more so than traveling.

My SO is a musician and studied Italian, Spanish, French and German in school. Do you have musical interests in other languages? Her favorite language to sing in is German.

- From a linguistic perspective, I'd love to learn something that is not as similar to English.

I should note that I don't actually enjoy international travel that much, and we do it very infrequently.  I more want to learn for the sake of learning, because I feel it is a skill Americans tend to lack, and something to keep my mind active.  It would also be nice to read literature in the original language, which I suppose is an argument for Greek, Latin, Italian, or maybe French.

Like koshtra just mentioned, Latin could open up a bunch of historical and literary texts to you--would that be of interest? Or how about studying Old English or Old Norse?


koshtra

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2019, 09:09:44 AM »
Oo! Old English is really fun too. And you can come up to speed in a year, instead of four :-) But it's harder to find a good class.

Watchmaker

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2019, 09:18:51 AM »
Oo! Old English is really fun too. And you can come up to speed in a year, instead of four :-) But it's harder to find a good class.

Signum University has some excellent Old English courses.

firestarter2018

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2019, 10:27:34 AM »
It really depends on what your goal is with learning the language- it is primarily so you can speak it when you travel, or just the satisfaction of accomplishing a really big, difficult project?  If the former, I'd definitely go with Spanish or French, as those are spoken in so many countries around the world (French in particular is spoken in way more countries than you might imagine -- Switzerland, Canada, many countries in Africa, and a couple of Caribbean islands, for starters).

If you more want to tackle a big learning project, then I'd go with a harder language like Norwegian or Japanese.  Sure, you probably won't become fluent, but you could probably pick up enough of the structure to be conversant and do "the basics" if you were to travel to those countries.  Japanese in particular is so different than Romantic or Germanic languages that it would make your brain work in a totally different way.

Finally, don't discount all those years of high school French you had.  Once you pick it back up, you'd be surprised at how quickly some of the grammar and vocabulary will come back to you if you put in just a little effort.

Raenia

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #15 on: August 27, 2019, 04:07:50 PM »
Reading all the responses, I'm realizing that the pertinent question may actually be, which language to learn first, as I think I will ultimately want to learn several, though probably not to full fluency.  From that standpoint, I think French (because I will learn it faster, having studied it before) and Latin (will make other languages easier to learn, can set a goal of reading Ovid) are probably the best bets to start.  Then Spanish should be much easier to pick up as a third language, and I can work on more difficult languages like Japanese or Norwegian post-FIRE when I have more time to devote to it.  Does that sound right?

solon

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #16 on: August 27, 2019, 04:12:39 PM »
I voted for Latin because awesome. It takes a giant brain to read Latin, and you'll have some major cred.

Moonwaves

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #17 on: August 28, 2019, 04:10:42 AM »
I voted for Latin because I've heard so often about how other languages would be easier to learn if I only had a good grounding in Latin.

And I chose "Other" for my second vote to throw Irish in the ring as an interesting one. There are a good few interesting podcasts and twitter accounts now for people learning/re-learning Irish and it would definitely tick your box of "different than English". :)

kaposzta

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #18 on: August 28, 2019, 05:22:33 AM »
I voted for Spanish, because after learning French and a bit of Italian you won't have any problem with this new language.
I'm also learning Spanish, but I think nowadays when almost everyone speaks English, learning languages are less and less important.
That said, it's always great to chat with locals on their own language, my Latin American colleagues are extremely happy every time when I tell them basic words like "gracias" or "de nada" :)

And how about German? Apart from a few minor WTFs it's a relatively easy language, astonishingly easy compared to Spanish or French. In addition, if you know German, you can learn Spanish with 2x speed (similar grammar) - my experience.

Or, you can always start learning my language, Hungarian, but I can assure you it's an insanely hard language with a very limited user count :)

yakamashii

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Re: What Language should I Learn?
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2019, 07:29:26 AM »
Which languages do your areas of expertise pair well with? If there's a dearth of people in countries that speak a given language, who know what you know, and speak and write English well, you could set yourself up with a Plan B if you ever need to work again, or if you want to use your expertise in new lands.

Speaking as a Japanese-English translator who works in several fields, I don't know of any fields where there are enough native or high-level English speakers to bridge the gaps that need to be bridged. J-E translation itself is low-supply/high-demand, so generalists like me have plenty of work that's there for the taking if real experts with language skills ever show up. Maybe your expertise and one of your languages aligns this way?