Thinking of becoming bi-

Lingual, that is. Always wanted to try, anyway. The local community college offers the list below. I notice manny of the TM versed in additional languages, so I’ll ask yooz guys. Here are my criteria:

  1. User friendliness (I’m not getting any younger, not much time left)
  2. Relevance to daily life (business, etc.)
  3. Payoff (watching foreign movies without subtitles)

Current nominations are: German, Spanish, Japanese, Russian and French. Which language would you recommend and why?

[[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

Depends on your desires:

In much of the United States, especially the Southwest and Florida, Spanish is your best bet. Many cities have at least one Spanish channel, so if nothing else you can watch Spanish TV with your newfound abilities. There are also some excellent Spanish movies (Tango, Bunuel, Almovodar), and quite a few items of Spanish literature (my personal high: reading a collection of essays “Siete Noches” by Jorge Luis Borges in Spanish). Without further information, Spanish would be my default choice.

French is also excellent, especially if you are planning to visit certain areas of Canada or the Caribbean. No TV programming in most cities in the US, but excellent music (opera and chansons), movies, and literature.

German, on the other hand, may allow you to decipher enough Yiddish to figure out what Rowan is writing about in some of her more obscure posts. Yiddish is, as far as I know, one of the few languages used regularily on this board. Most German speakers in America speak good English, and there are few TV programs out there. There are, however, some excellent movies and plenty of literature. From personal experience, knowing German and English will also enable you to understand most of Dutch comic books (but not make ANY sense of spoken Dutch), which is of dubious advantage unless you visit The Netherlands or Belgium.

Unless you are going to visit the Far East, or have Japanese business contacts you would like to impress, I would not recommend Japanese. Even if you speak Japanese perfectly you will not be able to read it (Rowan is PARTIALLY correct about their phonetic spelling: Japanese has two alphabets that are syllabic, one character for each syllable; however, the bulk of their writing is done in Kanji, a variation on Chinese writing – learning this is a SERIOUS project). There are some excellent movies in Japanese, and it is also useful if you have an interest in tea ceremony and Oriental board games (I used to love to play Go).

I don’t know much about Russian. A lot of Russian is spoken at computer shows among the dealers, maybe that would be useful. I have never met a Russian speaking person who did not speak English. Again, not much TV programming. The most recent Russian movie I remember enjoying was Battleship Potemkin (1925). There is a lot of famous literature, though.

Just a helpful hint- I took 4 yrs Spanish in high scool, and 2 in college, but going down to Cancun for spring break did so much for my comprehension in one week it was incredible. After studying a language for awhile, try to get immersed in it for a week or two. It will really help.
For what it’s worth, the people down there really tried to help me speak it, too. It’s been 3 years since I took any, but they worked with me when I struggled. I think they view it as an honor if you can speak their tongue(or try to, as was my case)

Of course, sly, if you’re thinking about checking out any other bi experiences, you might want to brush up on your Greek skills.

I spoke German, lost it very quick without use. And you’ll never use it in practice unless you reall try, like vacation in central Europe frequently.

I suggest Spanish, you’ll likely be familiar with more of it than you realize, and traveling to Mexico (assuming your american) is cheap and common. Spanish is very easy for english speakers to learn.

German was easy for me at the time, it is very logical, and has few shortcuts and exceptions to rules. Most is phonetic, and words can be figured out easily by disecting the root.

For the nominations you already have, the previous comments seem pretty exhaustive. I differ with Rowan in one point: French seems pretty logical to me. It’s still complex, though, which is no contradiction.

As a new candidate, how about Italian? Also pretty logical (so I’m told; I never got too far) and rather easy to learn, especially - but not only - if you’ve done some Spanish, French, or Latin (yeah, right) before. You’ll find an Italian equivalent for most English words with Latin roots.

Italian has a beautiful sound that the chicks will love (hey, you asked about payoff, didn’t you?), and the spelling is almost purely phonetic. If you can get a native speaker to talk a bit more slowly (“Parli piu lentamente, per favore.”), it’s easy to understand, and it’s also easy to pronounce unless you feel you MUST roll your R’s like the natives do. It uses your normal alphabet without diacritics except to mark a variant stress (stress is otherwise very regular, too).

It’s useful for the cineast, and I think there’s quite a share of people of Italian descent in the US. Italian is very expressive (like Rowan said about Russian), and you’ll be able to borrow a few words - including some expletives - for your everyday English. Italians are generally open-minded toward foreigners, and Italy is a nice country for your holidays.

The main drawback seems to be the small number of countries where Italian is spoken: Italy, parts of Switzerland, and that’s about it. And don’t get involved with the mob!


Spanish! Spanish! Spanish! Spanish! Spanish!

No hay lengua más hermosa que la lengua española.


An easy starting point for the major languages is a CD Rom course. Some are pretty good at the speaking part.

Well, Bob Dylan sang: “Spanish is the loving tongue, soft as music, light as spring…”

But if we can nominate NEW languages, might I suggest Czech? Apparently they sold all their vowels to the Hawaiians in prehistoric times, allowing them to use sentences like:

Strc prst skrz krk.

(There should be a hook (inverted circumflex) over the first c)

I’ve only taken Spanish and French, so I won’t discuss the others.

Between these two, for sheer pronouncability, I recommend Spanish. Spanish is very easy to pronounce - the only sound that they use not in English is the trilled R - and many dialects don’t even trill the R. (I was in Cabo San Lucas, diligently trilling my Rs and the waiter looked at me funny, then repeated my order with no trills.) In addition, the rules on pronunciation are simple - each letter & dipthong has exactly one way to be pronounced and is almost always pronounced that way.

French pronunciation, OTOH, is almost byzantine. As far as I can tell, a third of the letter are vocalized, a third aren’t, and for a third, you start to vocalize the letter, then change your mind.

For the sheer fact that there are so many speakers of Spanish in the US (I’m being USA-centric and assuming that’s where you’re from), I’d say that’d be the most useful language to learn.

My brother took four years of Spanish in high school, and was disappointed that he didn’t get to use it - until he got a job where the other chef/kitchen guys were Mexican. He got a great kick listening to them talk about the other workers in Spanish, thinking that no one could understand what they were saying. :wink:


El español se parece ser el favorito. Gracias por su entrada de información.

Japanese is also a little more difficult if you don’t have the time to spend on it. Here are some reasons why:

Most vocabulary is 100% removed from english (i.e. not like the Vaquero- bucaroo= cowboy connection).

You need to learn 3 count em 3 alphabets to read it. 2 are phonetic, one is the pictogram system of common word characters, to be at a 6th grade level you only need to memorise about 1600 of them.

Most japanese movies and tv they speak so quicly it’s hard to distinguish the words unless you have a lot of audial experience with the language. As someone pointed out, if you live in an area that has less japanese speakers, this is not a good idea.

To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

Sly: There are a number of “immersion” Spanish schools here in Cuernavaca. What they do is to accomodate you with a mexican family who is instructed NOT to speak English with you. You take classes at school for a number of hours every day, and then you get to enjoy our beautiful weather (even when it rains, it’s gorgeous!), our great food, and you learn the language by practicing it or starving… :slight_smile: (kidding)

It’s almost like being on vacation!

I can send you some info if you want. Just e-mail me.

Espero que pronto podamos platicar en español.


A word of caution about French: I took French in high school, then ended up moving to south Louisiana and marrying a Cajun.

It ain’t the same French.


Learn German!!! The real language of romance. Just picture it, you cuddling up close to your love, and whispering a sweet 'ACHTUNG FRUELINE’s in her ear. :slight_smile:

>>while contemplating the navel of the universe, I wondered, is it an innie or outie?<<

—The dragon observes

No no, you must learn sign language, then you can talk about people in the room, restaurant, etc and they don’t know what you are saying.

As a Francophone, I have to agree with Holg and Zyada: French is indeed logical (sometimes much too much for its own good!) and occasionally byzantine in it’s pronunciation – but then again, it is definitely not alone in this last respect. As for degree of difficulty, it would certainly be easier for an Italian or Spanish speaking person to learn French (all in all a rather complex language) than it would for an Anglophone, given the respective affinities.

Spanish is different all over the world and, as an example, the South Americans say that the Puerto Ricans don’t speak spanish.They say that, not me.

Given the rise in spanish usage throughout our country and the probability that it will increase I recommend Spanish.

However make sure it’s what is called
‘Kitchen Spanish’ and not Castilian.

The number of places where Castilian is spoken are so few as to be uncountable.

Some of the textbooks used in the southwestern states[Ariz,N.Mex etc] are kitchen spanish and ,while not non-existant,the rolled -R is minimized.

Adios Y buena suerte.