Best language to learn?

I hope someday to master Spanish. I’ve taken it for 2 years in High School, and plan to take it in college. I’ve always wanted to be fluent in another language.

Pero, despues de ingles y espanol, que debo aprender? (sorry, don’t know how to add the accents upside down question marks)

But after English and Spanish, what should I learn?

What I’m considering…

German: Seems like a very manly sounding language. Well worth considering.

French: Very romantic.

Japanese: It would be quite exotic to know a language which is so very different from English. However, it would be tough, especially the written language.

Arabic: In this day and age with all the trouble in the middle east, it might be helpful to know Arabic.

Esperanto: It’s a completely artificial language, but it seems easy and might be interesting in the unlikely event that I run into another esperanto speaker.

Klingon: Pretty much same as above, except I’d be an even bigger geek.

African, Aboriginal, or Native American Tribal Language: Just another consideration. The obscurer the better. :slight_smile: How impressive it would be to know the language of the Hopi Indians!

I’d suggest Esperanto. I’m currently learning it and it’s relatively easy but I’m having my ass handed to me trying to learn the accusative.
Good luck on Klingon. It’s a language which is not meant to be spoken and the number of people who can speak fluently in Klingon are about twelve. I do not have a cite. I don’t like Klingon for the simple fact that the alternating caps looks stupid and the bad words, the best carrot for learning a new language, are always listed as “censored” rather than saying what they really mean.
Spanish is easy enough but Italian is prettier.
Anyway this site may help you out with your choice.

I love French, everything about it. It’s a very beautiful language.

Esperanto is interesting, I know a basic vocabulary in it, but I don’t see any forseeable use for it. It is a novelty. It’s cute, a great idea, but it’s a novelty.

I really enjoyed learning sign language. I am planning on taking it some more in the future. I just completed level one last year.

Depends a lot what you anticipate doing with your life. My mom thought I was nuts to study Russian (she was voting for Japanese), but it did get me my first real job as a refugee vocaitonal counselor, and it was a requirement to complete my grad prgram.

Spanish is handy for many public-contact careers in the U.S., but if you want to become, say, a physicist, it pays to find out what languages will help you with the professional literature. (I’d guess German and/or Russian would be handy for that purpose.)

Wow, sign language is something I never thought of. It really is a separate language in it’s own right, isn’t it? Any good sources on that?

Well, you’re from Oregon, so Spanish is a good choice.

Personally, I would learn Portuguese. This opens up, along with Spanish, almost all parts of Latin America. Not only that, it is very easy to make the jump from Spanish to Portuguese. IIRC, they were the same language until c. 1500, and are both in Iberia. But besides Brazil, Portuguese is spoken in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Congo(?) and others) and I THINK, in parts of Southeast Asia (But that’s more Dutch, isn’t it?).

German, a language I attempt to speak, is also useful, for the scientists, and because of the emerging importance of the german speaking countries in the world stage. Ever since the reunification, Germany has been steadily increasing in importance.

Dutch and/or French - Because they got around!

Old English would be interesting. Just imagine your friends faces when you start speaking it and when they ask you what it is, you reply, English!

Generally, though, I would suggest looking back in your family tree, and maybe choosing a language from your past. That’s always interesting. Who knows, you could wind up speaking Irish, or Italian, or Polish.

Langauges I would recommend not studying (the following is STRICTLY IMHO):

Latin - they call it a dead language for a reason. While I’m sure you could find a reason to study it, it would be best to not select it out of hand.

Japanese - while you could have a •rare• affinity for it, the language is notoriously difficult, and it’s one of those things you need to start young on.

Languages with more than three predicates(I think that’s the word for “the”) - Zulu, Chechen, etc. If you study German, you’ll have trouble with their three, and I imagine you’ve had trouble with Spanish’s two. Native english speakers typically don’t handle predicates well. If you have problems with two or three, don’t even bother with insane ones like 9 or 12. Again, these languages you need to start young on. Although who knows, some people speak languages very well.

Languages that use a different alphabet/script/right to left rather than left to right form - Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, etc. Nothing wrong with it, necessarily, but it is confusing (especially with ideographic scripts) and I would recommend ‘bulking up’ with more than two languages before tackling these.

But think of all the great Japanese cartoons you could watch before they’re dubbed or subtitled! Learn Japanese!

nani, I think you mean definite articles, not predicates (and my apologies for mistyping your username, because although I was a Spanish major, I don’t have the patience to figure out how to type a tilde on a standard keyboard!).

I’ve always been partial to Fortran, meself. :smiley:

I’d vote for French. They speak it in a lot of countries, and if you already know Spanish it’s not hard to learn. Italian looks really easy, too, but I’ve never actually studied it so I’m not sure.

I do not recommend Czech unless you either have a very good reason, or are a masochist.

Portuguese over French, if you are thinking in terms of how many people already speak the language. Both are Romance languages with some similarity with Spanish, although Portuguese is a trap… :wink: just when you get past the basic stuff, the difference between Portuguese and Spanish deepens, and it can be confusing. French does a much better job of confusing you first with the vocabulary. :slight_smile: Knowing both English and Spanish will help you with French.

PD. This from a native Spanish speaker who is planning to do a Portuguese minor and is taking a French intermediate course with no previous knowledge of the language except Edith Piaf.

My favorite foreign languages are French and Latin. I think you would find French and Latin easy to learn, because both of these languages are related to Spanish. On the other hand, German, Japanese, and Arabic would be useful, too. Maybe you could learn two or three additional languages if you have time.

Saluton! Blalron, there are a fair number of Esperanto-speakers on the boards here.

I found Esperanto on the net and decided to try it because it was a) an interesting idea, and b) easier than other languages. I got into it, ended up going to Esperanto-speaking festivals and all, and it’s become part of my life. It’s just my luck that I live in the part of the world (North America) where Esperanto is spoken least, so connecting socially is difficult. Fortunately, the net has made it dramatically easier for people with such minority interests to hook up.

My next language is going to be French, but that’s partly because of political considerations unique to my country–it’s hard to advance in national affairs unless one is bilingual. And I want to leave my options open. I’m embarassed that I can’t speak to 25% of my compatriots. (Of course, the fact that there is a beautiful French intern in the next cubicle at work has nothing to do with this decision…)

I’m learning a little Japanese, mostly because of the anime and manga cartoon connection.

For you, Blalron, If you already have some Spanish, I wouldn’t reccomend another Romance language like French just yet, if you have no other reason to take it.

Esperanto is comparatively easy, and gives you a look at something that goes together very differently than English or Spanish. Japanese is harder and even more different from English, plus it’s got that funky writing system as well.

I know someone who speaks Middle English. This form of English is not too difficult for the Modern English speaker to read, and it sounds beautiful. This is because the vowels are very similar to those of Italian… it dates from before the Great Vowel Shift, when the vowels of English morphed into their present forms. (Side note: The spelling of English had begun to freeze around this time, so it didn’t keep up with the pronunciation changes, which is why present-day English spelling is so screwed up. In Middle English people did things like pronouncing the silent E on the end of words.)

Old English is very different, more like a Scandinavian language, and I suspect that it is very difficult. At least my sister said so, when she was taking it.

Do you have career choices, an SO, or family connections that would take you to another country, whose language you could learn? I’ve met so many people who have let their old family languages slip away, and then regretted it.

I don’t have any solid plans for what I’ll do with my Spanish, maybe working as a translator or a social worker in areas with a heavy hispanic population. I don’t have any plans to live outside the country, although I’d like to visit places.

Latin, man.

Sunspace - I was recently reading about Esperanto and I noticed that there exists something called Pasporta Servo for Esperanto speakers travelling the world. Just wondering, have you (or any other Esperanto-speaking dopers) every had an opportunity to travel and use the Pasporta? If so, could you describe some of your experiences?

Thanks much,

Ne problemas, leander! I’ve used Pasporta Servo to stay at someone’s apartment in Copenhagen, and I’m a host on the system in my own country as well.

I bought the guidebook at the Kultura Esperanto-Festivalo in Helsinki and stuck it in my backpack. I initially hesitated to use it because I wasn’t terribly fluent in Esperanto at that time. I’d been studying the language somewhat intensively for only nine months, and it was still difficult to speak on the phone and such. Since Pasporta Servo is Esperanto-only, the arrangements were not the easiest to make. But I managed to do it, and stayed for free in Copenhagen for a couple of days.

My host simply pointed me to space on the floor in the spare room. Hosts and guests may of course make additional arrangements for meals, but the basic service is simply “a place to sleep” for “no money”. Some friends who just got back from Japan reported that their Pasporta Servo hosts there went above and beyond the call of duty for their guests: picking them up at the train station, cooking vegetarian meals, showing them around town, etc, but of course experiences will differ.

Next time I use Pasporta Servo, it’ll be a lot easier, because I’m a lot more fluent.

In my own city, I’ve had a few visitors. I live in a bachelor apartment and work during the day, so I can’t offer more than a basic “air mattress on the floor” service. But the lack of hotel bills is definitely appreciated.

The most memorable was a retired Japanese computer executive whe had got off the plane in San Francisco, bought a motorcycle, and was circumnavigating the Americas. He stayed at my place for three days, and we got along well. That was over a year ago. I still get the occaisinal email from him; he’s in South America now, I think. I wonder whether he’ll ever get back to Japan…

Hmmm. The one advantage of learning French - and the main reason my Dad signed me up for it instead of Spanish, when I was 7 - is that phonetically it’s an absolute bastard. Once you’ve mastered French phonetics you can pronounce just about any European language, and lots of non-european as well. Otherwise, there’s not much reason to favor it over other possibilities, unless you’re planning on cooking school. (Do people still cite diplomacy as a reason? They did back in the 70s, and it was just as much of a joke even then…)

My second foreign language was Japanese. Unless you’re living in Japan and need to get by, there is amazingly little point in knowing just a little Japanese. On the other hand, fluency is a wonderfully lucrative skill to have, but to get there you’ll have to spend a couple of years doing almost nothing else. That was not a commitment I was ever willing to make, so although I had some great experiences in Japan, my not-great Japanese has done diddly-squat for me since then.

I heartily recommend German. The vocabulary is quite easy to remember, German and English being related rather closely–around fifteen hundred years ago, they were just dialects of the same language. The grammar’s tough, but it’s not nearly as tough as say, Russian or Japanese. Don’t let Mark Twain scare you off; German’s easy once you get past the declensions and weird grammatical exceptions; German is easy enough and close enough to English to be learnable without having spoken it from childhood.

Though German is kinda hard to pronounce and the words are long enough to span ravines. Remember Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung? It’s not a typical word in German, but its ilk are common enough to make German a language of abbreviations and acronyms.

German is used a lot in the science community, and is spoken by about a hundred million people worldwide, making it a pretty major language and a good choice if Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese don’t appeal to you. German’s a lingua franca in Central Europe, especially in the former USSR, and you can find quite a few German-speakers in Japan–here I’m told it’s a requirement for a lot of scientific degrees, and in the US–mostly tourism and immigration, but lots of youngsters, like myself, think it’s hip and have learned the language for the same reason people learn Japanese to read manga.

And if the sentence es ist Frühling hier, und die Hügel sind wieder am Leben mit Vogelsang isn’t the most beautiful-sounding verbalization in the world to you, I recommend French, Japanese and Danish as really cool languages to at least look at.