Picking a Language to Study

So you’d like to learn a second language. Maybe you would just like to dabble in a few phrases for the fun of it, or to exercise your brain. Perhaps you are in college and you have a language requirement and you’d like to know what would be best. Maybe on your next trip, you would like to speak to locals, instead of just standing around dumbfounded with only English at your disposal. Being multilingual is very impressive to those of us in Anglophone countries; however in many cultures being multilingual is something people experience from childhood. Read on for a few tips and advice and resources for language learning.

Choose a language you think you may like and can succeed at.

When I was in middle school and high school I studied German for a total of five years. I was never very fond of it. I only continued with it because I thought it would look good on a college application. In high school I was shy and afraid of making mistakes.  I didn’t learn it all that well because I wasn’t using it a whole lot. Choose a language that you think you might enjoy learning and you will have a lot more fun with it and learn it more effectively. It is easiest to learn a language that is closest to your mother tongue in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure, and sounds. So an Arabic speaker may pick up Farsi easier than an English speaker could. The BBC says that the easiest language for English speakers to pick up is Dutch while Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and Korean are among the most difficult. But don’t let that stop you!

Don’t think you have to choose the most widely used languages.

It’s true there are some languages that are more widely spoken than others. For example according to the BBC the top five most spoken languages in the world are Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi, and Arabic. Each of these languages rely heavily on dialects from country to country. So learning Spanish in Spain may not help you any with your Mexican Spanish. Plus by learning one of these widely known languages you are putting yourself in a broader pool of competition. If you choose to specialize in a lesser known language you may have an edge in the job market.

How do you want to use your new language?

Would you like to understand a French cooking show? Maybe speak with your Japanese grannie. Perhaps you want to understand Russian literature. Whatever your reason is, pick your language based on what you want to accomplish. Focus on the things that will get you to your goals. Maybe it’s just some common speaking phrases or in depth grammar structure.

Some ways to get you started learning:

BBC Languages (bbc.co.uk/languages)– Free online language learning tools for 40 languages. Videos, lists, and exercises come together to help you get learning.

Before You Know It (www.byki.com/)-Free downloadable flash cards that will help anyone learn a language who thrive off visual learning and repetition.

Find a class near you-Search at your local community colleges or universities. Or even community centers and libraries.

Enlist a friend-You are best at learning a language when you are using it. Swindle a friend into going on your language learning journey with you. Learn on your own and come together to speak!