Which language should I learn?

rike   Friday, August 06, 2004, 18:40 GMT
Hi! I'm a Latvian girl. I learned english for three years now. I just decieded to learn another language. I thought about German or French. But what is the better one?
I found the folowing points in old topics and the internet:

German: + Most spoken language in Europe (offical language in Germany,
Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and
Italy) and widely spoken in Poland, Cz, Hungary and some
Balkan countrys as a forigin language.

+ Great and very old culture. Especially Music (Bach, Beethoven,
Haydn, Mozart etc...)

+ Big economy

- Most Germans are able to speak english nearly perfectly, so
you can also travel to Germayn without speaking the language.

French: +Very popular in the World (but only offical language in poor
African countries)

+ Also a great old culture

+ Many French people don't speak english, so you will need the
language, if you visit the country

But what I want to know: Which language is harder to learn?
I planned to master the language within three years.
Easterner   Friday, August 06, 2004, 19:35 GMT

First of all let me say I am writing from Hungary and I have learnt both French and German.

I think people can give you advice, but in the end it is you who will decide. Here are a few useful points to make that easier:

If you want to travel more in Germany or the Eastern part of Europe, German will come in very handy. True, a lot of Germans speak English, but in the countries east of Germany, people still tend to speak German more than English, due to historical reasons. As a matter of fact, a lot depends on your purpose: from the point of view of economy, I think German presence will be stronger in this part of Europe than French one.

Which one is more difficult? I think French seems easier at the beginning, but later you must really work hard to sound really French: there are peculiarities to French syntax and vocabulary which I think you can master only if you spend a lot of time with French people. On the other hand, it may take a little more time to master the basics of German, but once you get the grip of it, it wont't really cause any difficulty afterwards (just an example: German has fewer verb tenses than French, and less irregular verbs, which are by the way closer to English verbs, due to the Saxon kinship). I also feel that spoken German is easier to understand than French (at least the standard variety).

Finally one more thing: looking at posts here I have found it strange that French people themselves feel the use of their language is declining, and don't really mind about it. They are actually becoming rather happy with using English (at least all French people I have met all spoke English). On the other hand, German may soon become the second most important language after English in Europe.

So from a practical point of view I definitely recommend German. I think you should learn French only if you are a lover of French culture (or have specific plans about staying in France). As I said I have learnt both languages, and personally I like French more because of its melody, but I have been less able to use it. However, German also has a music of its own: try reading German poems or listening to some musical pieces where they sing in German, it can be very rewarding.

I hope you will find this advice useful. Good luck/Viel Glück/Bonne chance!
Goran   Friday, August 06, 2004, 20:20 GMT
I would say German. I started learning German four years ago, and tried to start learning French this year (but I cnaged my mind and started Spanish instead). In my opinion, German is less difficult and more useful. I, personally, spend a lot of time reading German magazines and books, or watching German TV channels. Oh, and the thing about a lot of German people being able to speak English nearly perfectly ... sorry to burst your bubble, girl. Almost everyone in Germany studies English, but still ... They've isolated themselves too much, all the American movies and TV shows are dubbed into English, so there's no way youll hear a word of English on TV. All the computer programs and games are also translated. So, except for school, German people don't use English in everyday life. But French people don't either. I read that they have this institute that is taking care that English doesn't become too much used in France, because many French people still hope their language will be the most spoken again (my parents and all people their age used to learn French in school here, but now nobody learns it). If I were you, I would choose German. I plan to learn German for a few more years, till I'm perfect at it, and after that I'm starting French.

P.S: German, official language in Italy ... Are you sure?
Someone   Friday, August 06, 2004, 23:22 GMT
I think you should work on improving your English even now...
Steve K   Saturday, August 07, 2004, 01:52 GMT
How widespread is German in Eastern Euorope? German is certainly easier than French for Scandinavians, is it also so for Slavs and other Eastern Europeans? Could German eventually rival English as the common language East of the Rhine?
CalifJim   Saturday, August 07, 2004, 04:48 GMT
<<P.S: German, official language in Italy ... Are you sure?>>

There's always a big hubub going on in northeastern Italy where most people speak German. They aren't happy about any attempts to get them to speak Italian. It really is quite possible that it is one of the official languages of Italy, but you'd have to research that.

(Northwest Italy - French)
CalifJim   Saturday, August 07, 2004, 04:57 GMT
<<I thought about German or French. But what is the better one?>>

You didn't mention anything about the similarity of the structure of German or French to Latvian.

I imagine that the German case structure would be a snap for someone who already knew Latvian. On the other hand, the lack of all those cases to learn in French makes me think French would be even easier for you (or anyone), even if the case structure of German would be manageable for you. If you already know English, though, you'll find a lot of the same vocabulary in French, spelled exactly the same way but pronounced differently. That would make French easier for you in your own particular case, knowing English.

All the pros and cons usually balance out, and each language ends up being about equally difficult in the long run. You should probably choose between the two for other reasons, for example, how useful one or the other will be to you in the future. Consider studies, travel, and so on.
Random Chappie   Sunday, August 08, 2004, 00:28 GMT
I would say German, simply because it's one of my favourite languages and there are just not enough people learning it these days.

"Blüh im Glanze dieses Glückes, blühe, deutsches Vaterland!"
Tom   Sunday, August 08, 2004, 22:35 GMT
"How widespread is German in Eastern Euorope? German is certainly easier than French for Scandinavians, is it also so for Slavs and other Eastern Europeans?"

In Poland, it's much harder to find skilled speakers of German than skilled speakers of English. German is probably the second most popular foreign language in Poland, but it's a distant second.
Basically, everyone under 35 can speak English to some degree, whereas only a few can speak German.

Polish has some German influences, especially in vocabulary, but its grammar is distinctly Slavic. In my opinion, the similarities do not outweigh the overall complexity of German as opposed to English, so I would say that English is easier to learn for Poles.

"German eventually rival English as the common language East of the Rhine?"

Not a chance.
Dani   Monday, August 09, 2004, 15:00 GMT
Subject: German as an official language in Italy

The only official language in Italy is Italian. It is true anyway that in some places of Alto Adige (part of Trentino Alto Adige northeastern region), also called Sud Tirol, they also speak German and Ladin (a sort of german dialect mixed with some italian) as well as Italian.

We can then say that German is an official language in Alto-Adige much like French is in Valle d'Aosta region (northwest Italy) and Slovenian in some places of Friuli Venezia Giulia (northeastern region bordering Slovenia).

Damian   Monday, August 09, 2004, 18:37 GMT
I am always happy when the Continental Europeans come to my checkout till at work, and as I have mentioned previously I do try and say a few words with them apart from the usual mundane business talk....like "hi" or "good morning" and "would you like help with packing?" etc etc etc. I find that the Poles, in particular, speak almost flawless English. Furthermore, they all seem to like the local Scottish accent and very few have any difficulty understanding it. I'm not sure if that would be the case if they were in Glasgow though some 70km away ;-)
nic   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 10:18 GMT
Glaswigian accent is very difficult to understand when you come the 1st time, it looks like dutch, german accent.... very guttural.
nic again   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 11:55 GMT

Italian is spoken for example in tirolian city called "Tarvizzio", am I right?
About the "Vallée d'Aoste", Mussolini tried to stop the use of french, i believed he made it, i am surprised to learn some aostian still use french. I have heard some piemontese speaking, it's very very close to french, saloparia saloperie, bordel bordel... very interesting. Are you italian? Have you read Primo Levi who was from Torino, very nice town. When you are french, especially from Lyon, Torino has a very bad reputation, when i came the 1st time in Torino, i found a very interesting town, typically north italian with strange mixes between french and italian culture. I liked Trieste, where some italian speak as 1st language Slovenian.

Guys, you forgot greek which is spoken (is it again?) in (i don't remember where but it's certainly not in Calabria") in a south place.


If you are interested about north Europe, it's of course German which seems the best choice, if you are looking for center and south Europe, french seems to be the most appropriated. Then which one do you like the most?

About the famous cliché which says french do not speak english, it's wrong. The only thing to know is to ask before to speak english, do you speak english, parlez-vous français?. Believe, people will be nicer. The thing is most of the french are a little bet lazy, so this is true it's a country where you must use sometimes the "DIY" system, without it, you will encounter a few problems. In germany people has the habit to be served, not in France.

If you like countries where you enjoy to be served choose Germany, they know their job, if you like countries where you need to impose yourself between people who do the same, choose the France.

I like Germany, very nice country and friendly people, what I said proves there has been big changes in France about the French perpeption of german, they were hated there is not so long time.

For a French speaker, all the French I know told me German was a very very difficult language.

About economy, business, there is only one language : English sir!
Indi   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 16:20 GMT
"I think you should work on improving your English even now... "

Hello Someone,

That was mean.
Rike asked for advice on German and French.
The fact that she wants to learn another language doesn't have to mean that she is giving up improving her English. I think it's a great idea to learn two or even several languages parallely.
Xatufan   Tuesday, August 10, 2004, 16:53 GMT
OK, I'm Ecuadorian and I started learning French last year. Very interesting language. I'm learning it because I'd like to go to Chad and Congo.

Rike: German or French? Spanish is easier than both (just my opinion). But it won't be very useful if you live in an ex-Sovietic country.