Continued from part 1 – Which Language Should I Learn?
Probably the langue most often learned at school, prior knowledge can be a great avantage if you enjoyed your classes, though perhaps not if you were anything like the adolescent portrayed in this humorous clip from The Catherine Tate Show. Although some students find the grammaire and spelling difficile, le français shares a large proportion of its vocabulaire with English so you would be halfway there before you’d even started. With some persévérance, you’d soon be able to converser with one of our main trading partenaires, visit the most popular country in the world for tourisme as well as communicate with Francophone people in Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and countries in Africa and other parts of the world. As the original lingua franca, French is also spoken as a second language by millions of people worldwide. It still enjoys some prestige as the former language of diplomacy and is an official language for scores of international organisations. So, allez-y, commencez!
Deutsch also shares a large proportion of its vocabulary with English, particularly everyday words such as Wasser and Haus. The grammar is often considered difficult, with declensions and cases to be mastered. It’s spoken by 80 million Germans and by many others either as a first or second language, and is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union. Many educated Germans working in business and trade speak English nowadays, but this is not an excuse not to make an effort. Willy Brandt, former leader of West Germany, famously said: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. But if I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”
Español, the third language in the world in numbers of speakers, is not only for holidays on the Costa del Sol. It’s also the language of emerging economies in Latin America and is growing in strength in the United States. Often considered a fun and easy language to learn, it’s phonetic and therefore simple to spell. Anyone with school-level French or Latin should take to it like a duck to water. Its popularity is attested by the fact that it’s the only foreign language that has seen the number of students taking it for GCSE rise in recent years.
Even in these times of globalisation, people living in Wales have much to gain from learning the indigenous language. Learning Cymraeg would also give you access to an ancient culture of music and poetry. Despite the dreaded mutations, it should be remembered that Welsh is an Indo-European language, including borrowings from Latin, Greek and English. It is not as hard to learn as some may have you believe. As with Spanish the spelling is phonetic and regular and very easy to master once you’ve got your head around the ‘ll’s and ‘ch’s. With recent developments such as the Welsh language measure of 2010 consolidating the language’s status, Welsh is much more than an ancestral language for researching family history, it is now useful in a wide variety of jobs dealing with children or the public in general and is a co-official language in the European Union. Pob lwc! (Good Luck).
With around a billion speakers, Mandarin is the most spoken language on the planet. Couple this with the economic power of China now and the projections for the future and Chinese seems a very enticing proposition… at least until you consider the amount of work involved. There can be no denying that Mandarin would take the average learner longer to grasp than the languages mentioned above. It has a completely different writing system of several thousand characters and speakers would have to master the many tones to be able to converse clearly. On the other hand, its grammar is reputed to be quite straightforward with no lists of conjugations to learn by rote. The fact that it’s a longer-term challenge could be seen as an advantage for the most dedicated learners among you.
Arabic is another language with a completely different writing system. The successful learner would then have access to a language that, in all its forms, covers a large part of the Middle East and North Africa with 280 million speakers. It’s also a major language in international organisations and is widely used among immigrant communities in Europe as well as being the language of the Quran and Islam, one of the world’s major religions and a growing faith within Europe.
Having said all this, each person has his/her own interests and will find different things difficult or easy. You, as a learner will have to decide which language is best for you. The same goes for learning methods. At Business Language Services we can provide bespoke courses tailored to your needs in these languages and many others. Being able to learn in a small group or one-to-one means no time is wasted on activities that don’t interest you and all the time is spent working towards your goals. Contact us to discuss your particular needs and interests.