If you type “Which language should I learn?” into a search engine, you’ll come up with hundreds of different articles. With so many options and possibilities, it’s difficult to know which language is for you.
Since I didn’t really have an option in learning German, I didn’t have to think about why I wanted to learn it. I took it to GCSE level because I thought it would be good for a future job. I took it to A level and for my degree because I was good at it, and because I liked it.
Any other language I’ve looked at or learnt has been for work related reasons – to teach in the UK it’s helpful to have two languages, since beginners French wasn’t available at my university then, I chose Spanish. I’ve started to look at French again because I work in a school as a Learning Support Assistant and I could be asked to cover some French lessons, and it’s more helpful to the kids if I understand a little of what’s going on. I started learning Dutch because it’s a useful language combination to have to translate out of along with German.
But why should you learn a language?
There are many different reasons, the two most common are probably work and travel. For many people, studying a GCSE in language is encouraged for job purposes. Even though you may not use that language everyday, if you’ve got something like that on your CV , and the company you work for is having a conference in Germany or Mexico, you’re much more likely to get picked to go than the person who didn’t bother.
Some people like to go on holiday knowing a few phrases of the language of their holiday destination. Some non-language learners get bogged down in fluency or proficiency, assuming that to learn a language your aim is to be fluent. This isn’t always the case, and treating languages like a game of double or nothing is only likely to put people off. For some, understanding every minutiae of grammar is their goal. For others knowing how to order dinner or buy a train ticket is enough. Each journey is personal, and competition puts needless pressure on everyone.
Depending on what you want to do or where you want to go, this obviously will effect your choice. For finance and business, German or Madarin Chinese is a good option. In the USA, Spanish is the secondary language and boarders Spanish speaking countries,making it more practical on a day-to-day basis. If you’re going on holiday to Sweden, knowing or recognising important words would be most useful.
However, it doesn’t mean that you need to have a practical reason to learn a particular language. Learn Italian because you love the food. Learn French because you think it’s romantic. Learn Portuguese because you love Brazilian football. Having an personal investment in a language is one of the most important tools you have. Passion is more important sometimes than practicality is more important than rationality. If you hated French at school and have tried to get to grips with it on your own and you still find it uninspiring, then maybe you should look at a new language. Sometimes it’s not meant to be.
Resources and source language are important too. As a native speaker of English, German and Dutch are easier options phonetics and grammar wise. Italian Spanish, Portuguese and French have similar roots.
Some languages are easier to find resources for. If you’re up for a challenge then this may not be a problem. If you’re a beginner, maybe more mainstream language may be for you.
Language learning is personal – both the reasons and the language. Don’t let a difficult task put you off, but don’t let yourself get dispirited either.
No language is learnt in a day.
Which language have you learnt and why? Leave a comment below or tweet me at @amjscorr.