[[Current nominations are: German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian and French. Which language would you recommend and why?]]
Russian and German have case endings. This is a difficult concept for a lot of native English speakers. Russian has more cases than German. If you want more details on case endings, read on. If not, skip the following paragraph.
Some nouns (and sometimes their adjectives) have a special suffix depending on how the word is used in a sentence. The locative (location) case is for a word that tells where the verb happened. In the phrase “Prof. Plum, in the kitchen, with the knife,” “kitchen” would be in the locative. Knife would be in the instrumental. The accusative case is for the direct object of the verb. The dative case is for the indirect object. And that’s not all the cases.
The hardest part of learning a language, for many people, is memorizing vocabulary. German, Spanish and French will have the most vocabulary similar to English.
French and Spanish have grammar that is the most similar to English (no cases, most of the same tenses, prepositions have good equivalency). The problem with French is that native speakers (IN GENERAL) have an aversion to talking with beginners. You may be snubbed when you try to practice.
Russians, on the others hand, love to talk to beginners. Especially Americans.
Russian is very expressive. Facial expression is a big part of the culture, so it is easier to follow Russians using vocal tone and body language cues. If you know some Russians who will talk with you, you’ll pick up Russian the fastest, most likely.
However, with Russian, you will have to learn a new alphabet.
I don’t know Japanese, but my brother does. He says the biggest problem is that the word-to-word equivalencies with English are not very good. The word have to be learned by concept, not by English word equivalency. He says that people are pretty nice to beginners, however.
Russian and German (and I THINK Japanese, but I’m not sure) are spelled pretty much phonetically. French is most definitely not. Spelling French will be hard to learn.
Consider you strong points. If you are lousy at logic, but good at rote memory, go for French. If you are the opposite, Russian might be better.
But your primary consideration is what kind of community is there for you to practice with? If there are a large number of Russian speakers, and very few Japanese speakers, Russian will come easier. If there is an immersion program (a dorm you can live in, where only the new language is spoken, and where native and practiced speakers are there to set an example), then go for the immersion program language. Short of that, see if there is a club for speakers of the language.
If there is an Hispanic community where you live, and can hang out, Spanish is you best bet.
Shopping is still cheaper than therapy. --my Aunt Franny