This article will attempt to solve the problem – Which European language to learn? French, Spanish, or German? A while back, I wrote an article “Which Foreign Language to learn in India”. The purpose of that article was not to suggest which one is best but my only intent was to elaborate the importance of different foreign languages, and why you should learn it!
Over the past 7 months, I have received not less than 500 comments, messages, emails, and calls. The question remains same “Which foreign language is best to learn”. I admit too many choices exhaust & confuse us and even make us unhappy and desperate too. I found a logical way to solve the problem.
Out of all languages, there are two main confusions. a) Among European Languages in India – Which language to opt between French, Spanish, or German, and b) Choosing the right East Asian languages in India – Mandarin Chinese or Japanese or Korean. Next article will be about picking an East Asian language.
Foreign language is a unique thing for anyone to learn and use. There is a plethora of reasons why you should learn a foreign language. One of the most sought-after skills in the professional world today is being able to speak one or more foreign languages. Your native language or ability to speak English no longer suffices.
However, most people who fancy learning a particular foreign language are motivated to do so as a result of the nature of their work. But then, this is only beneficial for people already in a paid employment or who have a well-defined reason to study that particular language.
For instance, if you are in a long-term contractual / business relationship with a French firm or group of investors, you will become more motivated to learn French as a way of maintaining a cordial relationship with your business partners.
But what about those who are not in the same shoe as you? That is, people with no defined or specific reasons to choose one particular language to learn, but want to learn a language? Career options in foreign languages is probably the most important reason. Many want to choose translator and Interpreter as a Career Options. However, which language should you take or important between French, Spanish, or German remain a difficult question to answer.
People whose business operations or social interest cut across different facets of languages, client / customer base or different regions? To these set of people, choosing what language to learn becomes a herculean task.
German or French or Spanish : More useful in India?
If you ever find yourself in this category, you just might be wondering which is the most important and useful language you can add to your knowledge of English as an Indian?
Nevertheless, I have found five criterias or reasons that can help you to select the right language to learn among three most popular European languages i.e. French, Spanish, or German.
1) Most Spoken and List of Places You’d Like to Visit or Study or Work.
Spanish : If we take number of people (native and non-native speakers) that are speaking the language “all over the world.”, then Spanish is one of the three most widely spoken languages in the world after Mandarin and English. Spanish is the official language of 20 Spanish countries worldwide. With There are more than 500 million Spanish Speaking population across 44 countries of the world. This makes its one of the most important and useful languages in the world.
Planning to visit US? then I’d go for Spanish. It is the most spoken language in South and Central America. In addition, It will be very useful in countries like USA, Spain and Philippines.
French : Like it or not, French is a global language. It is probably the only language after English that is taught in all countries. A language that is spoken as the official language of 32 Francophone countries of the world, with over 300 million French speakers worldwide, is a force to reckon with in the economic and political world. French is also the second most spoken languages by number of countries.
If your target countries are France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Québec (Canada), North and Central Africa. French is the best option.
German : German is spoken by over 100 million native speakers and a total of 185 million speakers worldwide. German is the official language of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium and Luxembourg. It is also a lingua franca of Central and Eastern Europe. While German is distinct third in the category, still it is the most widely spoken native language in Europe.
If you have something to do with Germany, Austria and Switzerland – Then German would statistically be more useful. However, These countries are not strictly monolingual. A large number of people in these countries do speak English unlike French.
Conclusion : If you have the intention to travel, study or even work in companies related to the origin of these countries – Then learning that corresponding language will be more beneficial in your career. However If nothing specific in mind, then importance of any language has little to do with the total number of speakers. It is much more to do with who those speakers are and where it is spoken. Don’t give more than 10% weightage for this criteria.
2) Career objectivity and Job Opportunities
Spanish : Thanks to rising career scope in Spanish language in India, If you are engaged in business activities or seeking jobs in the BPO/KPO sectors that go beyond serving the interest of the local population, Spanish skills can be an asset for profitable communication. Majority of the BPOs and KPOs comes from the United States where Spanish is the second most dominant language after English.
The huge size of the Spanish speaking population in Latin America, and also in the United States offers a great attraction on your resume. Many Spanish-speaking regions such as Latin America are specifically seeking bilateral cooperation with India. Like French, Spanish is also useful in the field of Tourism and Hospitality.
From conglomerates Aditya Birla Group to the IT giant TCS to other indian companies who have opened development centers or acquired companies all across Latin America. This approach is opening a world of opportunities for many Indian companies specially in the export sector, healthcare, banking, law, manufacturing, etc.
French : There are plenty of reasons to learn French in India. France is a dominant economy in pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, telecommunications, energy production, and more. If you have a career or doing businesses in these fields, the French language can help you to succeed.
France is also the number one point of tourists’ destination in the world. There were more than 85 million visitors in 2016 alone, and the numbers keep climbing. Therefore, if you’re in the travel & tourism or hospitality management business, or that you love traveling to where the language is widely spoken, French offer you the best chance of success, far more than what the German and Spanish language can offer.
If you’re thinking which foreign language has more job opportunities in India? Then French has an edge over German or Spanish. France also has a bigger influence on art and cuisine.
Paris is regarded as the fashion capital of world and the country is also the home to the aviation industry. or Want to be Chef or desire to work in Food or Hotel industry. If you are engaged in these fields, learning French would serve you more than what Spanish or German can offer you. Also, if you are into export and import dealings with regions like in West Africa, North Africa, Central Africa, or you’re planning to migrate to Canada; learning French will be of great benefit compared to German or Spanish.
German : If you are into online marketing or doing business on the internet, the German language should be your priority. This is because Germany has a well defined and dominant internet presence. The country’s top level domain—the .de is one of the highest ranked domain in the world. At some points, it ranked 2nd and 5th to dot com, and has since remained an important force in measuring internet market success.
If you have a career in the auto, engineering, machines, ship building, power sectors, psychology, or practical science sectors, or you are interested in the import and export of these goods, Germany is the pace to go. And to be at positive advantage, you need to learn the German language.
From vehicles to machines, to metals and chemical products, the German economy is a power house which you can simply tap into through investment and by speaking the language. German like French are two most taught and popular Foreign language in India. As a result, skilled language teachers are finding their services in higher demand. Interested in literature or Music, German is more useful.
Conclusion : Think about your existing skills, academic qualification, Industries or Sectors or Jobs – you are interested, Possible immigration or higher studies or working visa, etc. This is the most important criteria. Give 40% weightage.
3) Difficulty level (French, Spanish, German) – Easiest to Learn
Spanish : Spanish probably got its reputation as the “easiest” language among three because it is a more phonetic language and has fewer pronunciation rules than some other languages. The language is rated very easy to learn. Thanks to the phonetic nature of the language, it is easy to read words exactly as they are written.
Even though grammar is quite vast and lengthy, Spanish is the easiest language to learn between three. How long should it take to learn Spanish ? Depending on one’s’ intellectual level, it may take up to 1.5 to 2 years to study and complete Spanish proficiency test DELE B2 or equivalent SIELE Exam in India.
French : Of all the three languages in this group, French is the most difficult one for Indians or English speakers. There are several rules for French pronunciation that can drive English speakers crazy. French pronunciation can seem really tricky. It is definitely not a phonetic in the sense that its not pronounced exactly how it’s spelled.
There are some sounds that don’t exist in English. As an English speaker, it is not an easy language to master! You can complete French Proficiency Test DELF B2 or equivalent TCF and TEF Exam in 2-3 years.
German : Let me admit – German is as difficult as French. Grammar part is quite confusing and difficult. Some might find the syntax not easily discernible. But one thing is certain; if you are already an English speaker, then learning Germany shouldn’t be more difficult at least in the beginning since both languages belong to the same family tree. Not to mention the fact that many Germans speak good English.
How long should it take to learn German? Depends how much you study and dedicated, it may take up to 2 years to 3 years to study and complete German Language Proficiency Test i.e. Goethe-Zertifikat B2.
Conclusion : French or Spanish or German which is easier language? Spanish is definitely easier to learn than German (Thanks to complicated Grammar rules). However, French is more difficult than German due to difficult pronunciation and accents. Difficulty level – Spanish – 5/10, German – 6/10, French – 7/10. Don’t learn any language just because it is easy or difficult. Consider this as least important criteria i.e. 5% weightage.
4) The economic and political relevance of the language in a global context
Looking at the above criteria, we can quickly establish that, apart from the English language, there are seven languages that meet these criteria, and they are the Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and German. Out of these seven languages, we can select three – French, Spanish, and German – to narrow down the choice.
Therefore, what languages to learn would become French, Spanish, or German, and their reasons why you would want to learn either of these language(s).
Why a language becomes a global language has little to do with the number of people who speak it. It is much more to do with who those speakers are. Without a strong power-base, of whatever kind, no language can make progress as an international medium of communication.
When countries succeed, on the international stage, their language succeeds. When they fail, their language fails. Take the example of Russian. There was a time, when it was one of the most popular European language in India and was taught in several cities and in a host of universities. However, the loss of Russia’s superpower status was accompanied by loss of interest. Similarly, popularity of Japanese despite of small number of speaker is more to do with brand “Japanese” and Japan’s success story in the last century.
On one side Germany remains the powerhouse of Europe whereas some of the French-speaking Francophone countries such as France, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland have strong economy and strong influence in various sectors.
Spanish and South and Central American economies are doing ok but no where like German speaking region or Francophone countries. Argentina and Mexico are two importants Spanish speaking countries. However, it does not offer enough career scope and job opportunities for Indians. Spanish is second most popular language in USA but that does not mean it is mandatory to learn. Most americans in southern part do speak two languages including English.
Conclusion : This is an important reason. Think about languages and where it is spoken, international and power status, economy conditions. Give 20% weightage.
5) Which one you prefer or your interest lies? French, Spanish, or German ?
For many people, certain languages are just plain intriguing. If you are interested in any language, for whatever reason, that is probably the best choice. Those who take a language other than their favourite language tend to do less well in the language chosen for them. This is one of two most important reason. Give 25% weightage. If you don’t have interest, find it. If you cannot find it, it might not be worth to learn. Trust me on that.
If you want to learn, Whatever your reason – as long as you have a reason – you’re more likely to reach your language goals.
Knowing what language to learn is the key to making a success out of your effort, provided your aim is to make a career out of your knowledge of foreign language. With either one or two of the aforementioned languages, the sky will be your limit in becoming a highly placed and successful multilingual individual.
If you don’t feel motivated to learn a particular language, you will likely stop before being able to perceive any potential benefits. You should ask yourself : “Why do I want to learn Spanish, French, or German?” Don’t learn without any reason. If you don’t have anything specific in mind. Then consider two most important criteria i.e. 2 and 5. Read, Think, and Choose between French, Spanish, or German.
Disclaimer : This article reflects my personal opinion based on my knowledge, experience, interaction in the field of languages. Since i have studied all 3 languages though my German is not that good. I don’t have any personal preferences or biased view. I consider all languages equally good and important.