https://www.duolingo.com/GeniusJack

Which is the best language to learn?

This article makes a compelling argument for French as the best language to learn for native English-speakers.

February 6, 2015

35 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/DXLi
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    This is obviously a subjective question, but I do think French is a great choice for all Anglophones. French is one of the most similar (and thus easiest) foreign languages to learn. Perhaps only Dutch and Afrikaans would be easier. French was actually the official language of England for hundreds of years starting with the Norman invasion in 1066, so even though English is a Germanic language, it's far more similar to French in vocabulary and grammar. Also, learning French makes it much easier to learn other Romance languages.

    French is nonpareil when it comes to cultural significance, at least in Western culture. I would try to name important French writers, scientists, and philosophers, but I'm sure I'd wear out my keyboard first. Experiencing the source material is vastly different than experiencing the translation. It's like watching a dub of a movie. Some things are just lost in translation.

    For business, the top contenders are usually Mandarin, German, French, Russian, or Spanish, depending on what you intend to do. For instance, if you want to do import/export with Europe, then German or French would be ideal. If you're a doctor in the US, then Spanish is very useful. If you're in the oil business, then you may want to study Russian, Dutch, or Arabic.

    When I first started on Duolingo, I was torn between French and German. I ended up picking French because one of my good friends is a native speaker from Paris. However, if I didn't already speak Mandarin, I might have chosen to work on that instead.

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/tbvjshqk017

    To be honest, french looks closer to English as English borrowed lots of french words, I mean a lot. Bar a few grammar challenges, french seems closer to English more so than Spanish.

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/IAmJon

    I 100% agree with this. People here will go on and on about language trees/families. But I think they are a poor way of classifying languages. I am about 3/4 through the French tree and i'm still amazed at how similar the words I am learning are to English ones. German on the other hand, although it is part of the same language family to English, feels much more foreign and difficult to me than French does. It is the same with Dutch too, although to a lesser extent.

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/tbvjshqk017
    <h1>Le français est plus similar à l'anglais qu'a l'allemand.</h1>

    The French is more(plus) similar(similar) a(to) English than(que) to(a) German.

    Am not really sure if it's grammatically correct but see how words and structure are surprisingly similar to its English counterpart.

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/Bountycoast

    I mean there are words like cafe, restaurant, deja-vu, cul-de-sac, film noir, Grand prix and faux pas that definitely show just how many words we pick up from the French. It's something like 45% of our English words were actually borrowed from French.

    November 15, 2018

    https://www.duolingo.com/shalfyard

    Depends what you call "best"... For me, I learned a bit of Japanese on my own when I was younger purely because I wanted to look away when watching anime. Now, I want to make my wife happy so French is a very obvious choice for that. If you want the language with the most people speaking it you would pick Chinese but it has the downfall of being only in very specific regions of the world. Or if you wanted the language with the largest spread across the world you might pick Spanish.

    Honestly, there is no "best" language to learn... Learn the one you actually have a desire to learn and that alone will get you much farther than trying to adhere to why others say language x is the best.

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/Langmut

    I strongly support your last paragraph! It would be like studying economy because somebody told you there is money in it. But if you have no talent for it, if it doesn't interest you, then your heart isn't in it, you're not motivated and you'll never be any good at it. What good is the money if it doesn't make you happy.

    I had to learn French at school. At the time I hated it and consequently I was useless. Many years later, about 3 years ago, I fell in love with French, and I have learnt so much in such a short time!

    February 6, 2015

    https://www.duolingo.com/Bountycoast

    The exact same thing happened to me. I used to hate French so much when I was at school, being forced to learn it (despite them saying I was apparently good at it) so I dropped it in year 9, 3 years ago. But now I have fallen in love with the language and am trying to learn it again, I believe I'm doing so rather quickly. Appears that I didn't just completely forget everything I had learnt in those classes like I thought I did, just most of it so I suppose that somewhere in me I did like the language but not to the extent I do now, where I want to learn it and have relearnt like 2 years of French taught in school in like 2 weeks.

    November 15, 2018

    [deactivated user]

      It seemed to me that the writer had his mind made up before writing the article. Now, I'm enjoying the challenges of French, so I'm not complaining, but I didn't see the article as completely compelling. For example, Spanish is said to be "regionally concentrated" in the article... yeah, the entire continent of South America, the southern part of North America, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Spain/Portugal and many speakers of both those languages throughout Europe. Yes, France may top the tourist list as a single country, but did the writer verify the tourists by how many went to Spanish/French/Portuguese speaking countries? Probably not. Sorry to be a bit contrary, but my two cents' worth...

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Pyrrhia

      I'm only doing French now, but so far I think it's the easiest language.

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Sophie.Field

      Well, I haven't read the comments yet so I don't know if anyone else wrote this but there is really no 'best' language to learn. You could try each one, and see which one YOU would like to do!! :D Have a nice day!

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/bropeace

      i think german is the best

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/assaulttrooper35

      JA. ER IST GUT!

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      I didn't find that article very compelling (and I am learning French). To me, the best language to learn is the one you are truly interested in learning, for whatever reason. If it turns out that you need another language later--the second one is often easier than the first. And you can't really predict what you'll need. Based on the part of the US where I grew up and the career I chose, Spanish was the best choice of language for me [even if I hadn't chosen to be a Spanish teacher, speaking Spanish as a teacher in that part of the country was a good plan]. I took French in high school because it was all that was offered, and I was good at it, but where I grew up, it wasn't (and still isn't) very useful. There was no way for me to predict that, 20 years after finishing high school, I would marry a French-speaking person and move to a French-speaking city.

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Cruise2525

      Even if I don't travel extensively at the moment, my husband and I hope to travel more in the future. However, I don't need to travel to hear French or Spanish as tourists speak both especially when they visit during the spring and summer. Like others, when we were originally taught French, I wondered why cause back then, outside of school, I didn't hear it often.

      February 9, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/CinnamonBoy

      It's your choice, but I love Italian! I think Italian's definitely the language you should go with!

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/ShongZuo

      I agree XD

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Cruise2525

      In the 1960s and 1970s, it was a very common practice for many schools and churches in the USA to offer or require Latin, French, or Spanish. In other countries, bordering countries are much closer, so the residents often acquire several languages spoken in a family or region.

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Cruise2525

      German was also offered as an elective. That was a long time ago. I find Duolingo challenging. It does require a lot of time and work, especially since I forget far more rapidly now than I did in my youth. It's also at a more advanced level than I had in my youth.

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Bvogel1

      They also offered German at my junior high school in the mid-70's. I agree that getting older has rather an adverse effect on language learning. A friend moved his family to Italy a few years ago and his four-year-old son was like a sponge, soaking up words and becoming conversant in a very short time. What I wouldn't give for a four-year-old mind sometimes!

      February 6, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/Azure_Waters

      Thanks for sharing (: I like reading compelling arguments! XD

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/FrankKool

      I very much agree with the first part of the article, in its arguments on why to learn a foreign language (for intellectual, personal, or economic benefit). I do not agree with his argumentation French being the best choice for English speakers, because first he goes on that French connects many countries and cultures, and then goes to say that Spanish is "regionally concentrated."

      Also, bit of a personal grievance, but it bugs me how the French economy subsists in a huge part of tourism, but the French in general take little to no effort to speak or understand English, even and especially those people who work with tourists.

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/assaulttrooper35

      LATIN. It is the mother language of French, Spanish, Italian, and Romanian. It had an extremely big impact on the English language. It's the cousin of German and it is a language used a lot in poetry, art, and History.

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/G0108

      Those are not good enough reasons to learn Latin. If you want to, go ahead. Not many people speak it and it would be nearly impossible to find a native speaker to talk with to improve. I'm sure you'll find a lot of differences between Latin and German. If you want to find a language that'll help you the most in Europe (as a native English speaker) I'd say it would be German or French.

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      Those are definitely good enough reasons to learn Latin--if you want to learn Latin. If your goal is to learn a language that will advance your career (and you're not a classicist or historian, or something similarly academic), or one that will let you have conversations with the nice woman at the shop, or whatever, then no, Latin is a terrible choice. But it all comes down to, "Why do you want to learn a foreign language?" and "What do you hope to do with it once you've learned it?"

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/G0108

      That's what I said. If you want to go ahead, but the reasons he gave are not good reasons to learn it.

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      You're conflating "not reasons I, language020, would choose to learn a language" and "not good reasons."

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/G0108

      No. Tell me how it being the mother language of French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian will benefit you.

      February 8, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      Perhaps I'm interested in linguistics and/or the history of language. Perhaps I'd like to get a look at how and why all those languages are related, and starting with their common ancestor is one way to do it. In those cases, the fact that Latin is the common ancestor of the modern Romance languages means that Latin would be a beneficial language to know.

      February 8, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/assaulttrooper35

      It being the mother language of those other languages helps because it gives a better understanding of the descendent languages. There are still people who speak it, It's just not anyone's official language. Also, it can be helpful in private conversations. For example: If your in public and you don't want anyone to over hear ,(if it's a personal discussion or if you want to mess with someone's head), you can speak with someone who also knows the language. It also culturally enriches you. Also, you said that there are a lot of differences between Latin and German. I speak some German, I know there are differences. The relation is a little distant. But, in the case of French, there are quite a few more similarities.

      February 8, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      Okay, you're over-emphasizing the importance of Latin, here. (And I was the one arguing that Latin was beneficial! I was on your side!) Yes, there are "people who speak it," but there are no people who speak Latin as their primary, day-to-day language ("official language" is a political construct), and most of the people who study Latin do not do so to develop conversational skills. (Reading/translating, yes.)

      Also, while you can certainly speak Latin with a friend so that other people cannot understand you (assuming that your friend can also speak Latin), you can do that with any language that is not widely spoken where you live. My friends and I could choose to study Norwegian; while I am sure there are a few people in my city who speak Norwegian, there aren't very many. (Just as you and your friend are probably not the only people in your city who know Latin, although there may not be very many.) Not to mention the fact that Latin is ill-suited to a lot of modern conversations, because the vocabulary isn't really there.

      February 8, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/MaggiePye

      It's also a dead language. I would absolutely agree that Latin is a good language to study--it's on my "bucket list" of languages to learn, along with Ancient Greek. But whether it is a good choice for a particular person depends on what their reason for learning a new language is. If they want to be able to have conversations with native speakers, Latin is a poor choice--and what the best choice is will depend on who those native speakers are. (For example, if you live in my city, and you speak only English, your best choice of a second language is definitely French. If you live in the city where I most recently lived, though, it would be Hmong, and if you live where I grew up, it would be Spanish.)

      February 7, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/marcuspeace

      i would love to speak french but german and spanish are famous we i live

      March 3, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/lapapesse

      I agree with all the other commenters saying there's no such thing as best language to learn!

      This article has what I suspect is a UK/Europe bias or the author is woefully out-of-touch: calling Spanish "regionally concentrated" only makes sense if you also include large parts of the US, including most (all?) major American cities, in that region. Based purely on going-to-be-useful-with-people-I-meet as a criterion for language study, most Americans should study Spanish. I don't want to minimize the global importance of French speakers (who are also going to be in most major US cities!) but I think Spanish is a lot more obviously entrenched in America's culture and future and gives you just as much access to art, culture, food, whatever this author says French gives you. I think he sounds like a bit of a snob, tbh!

      Also can we please stop with the Western academics going into China and/or Japan and bemoaning the state of students' ability to read/write characters? Predictive typing technologies and spellcheck/autocorrect are changing the way people spell/remember spellings all over the world. The amount we write by hand is decreasing and the amount of information we don't memorize, instead storing it in our little devices, is increasing. Plus, the fact that typing makes it so easy to get the character you're looking for makes it EASIER for non-native speakers to communicate in Chinese and Japanese, so it's hardly a reason not to learn the language.

      Besides that, the reasoning that Chinese will never be a global language because it's too difficult to learn is tired and disguises the fact that English's currently-solid hegemony over global business, politics, and media is mostly why Chinese will not become a "global language" any time soon; this has nothing to do with the nature of the languages and is simply an accident of complex historical causes. People will learn a language if it's the most useful to them, no matter how hard it is, as people all over the world are doing with English!

      February 8, 2015

      https://www.duolingo.com/JohannesBe321028

      French is a good language to learn. Italian also, although it is slightly more complex.

      August 5, 2018
      Learn French in just 5 minutes a day. For free.