Which European language to learn? French or Spanish or German?
Which is better or more useful, valuable, or easy? This article will attempt to solve the problem.
A few years back, I wrote, “Which foreign language to learn.”
It became one of the most popular articles on this blog.
The purpose of that article was not to suggest which one is best. My only intent was to elaborate on the importance and usefulness of different foreign languages.
And why you should learn it and embark on the enthralling journey of language learning!
Despite all my efforts, the question remains: “Which foreign language is best to learn,” remains a difficult question to answer.
I admit too many choices exhaust and confuse us and even make us unhappy and desperate.
I found a logical way to solve the problem.
Of all languages, there are three main confusions.
- European — German or Spanish or French?
- East Asian — Chinese, Japanese, or Korean?
- West Asian — Arabic, Persian, or Turkish?
Table of Contents
- Reasons and Reflections of Learning a Foreign Language
- German or French or Spanish: More useful or better?
- 1. Most Spoken and List of Places You’d Like to Visit or Study or Work.
- 2. Career objectivity and Job Opportunities
- 3. Difficulty level (French, Spanish, German) – Easiest to Learn
- 4. The economic and political relevance of the language in a global context
- 5. Which one do you prefer, or your interest lies? French or Spanish or German?
- Final Thought
Reasons and Reflections of Learning a Foreign Language
A foreign language is a unique thing for anyone to study and use.
There are many reasons why you should learn a foreign language.
One of the most sought-after skills in the professional world today is speaking one or more foreign languages.
Your native language or ability to speak a language like English no longer suffices.
There is a myriad of perks of learning a new language.
Most people who fancy learning a particular foreign language are inspired to do so due to the nature of their work.
But then, this is only beneficial for people already in paid employment or who have an apparent reason to study that particular language.
For instance, if you are in a long-term contractual and business relationship with a French firm or group of investors.
You will then become more motivated to learn French to maintain a cordial relationship with your business partners.
But what about those who are not in the same shoe as you? People with no defined or specific reasons to choose one particular language to learn but want to study?
Of all the reasons, careers in languages is the primary motivation for language enthusiasts.
You may have the wish to make a career as a translator or interpreter, interested in teaching, or perhaps getting a position in embassies is your long-cherished dream.
The possibilities can open up depending on your level of engagement with the language.
Do business operations or social interests cut across different aspects of languages, client or customer base, or other regions?
To this set of people, choosing what language to learn becomes an arduous task. Read along!
German or French or Spanish: More useful or better?
If you ever find yourself in this category.
You might be wondering which is the most important and valuable language you can add to your knowledge of English as an Indian?
Nevertheless, I have found five criteria to help you select the right European languages, i.e., French or Spanish or German.
1. Most Spoken and List of Places You’d Like to Visit or Study or Work.
(i) Spanish: If we take the 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.
Over 500 million Spanish-speaking populations across 44 countries make it one of the most important and valuable languages globally.
Planning to visit the US?
Then I’d go for Spanish. It is the most spoken language in South and Central America.
Plus, Spanish is advantageous in countries like the USA and Spain.
Moreover, Spanish fluency can go a long way towards helping you learn Portuguese, Catalan, and Filipino due to various similarities.
(ii) 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 widespread official tongue of 32 Francophone countries.
With over 300 million French speakers worldwide, it is a force to reckon with in the economic and political world.
French is also the second most spoken tongue by a total number of countries.
If your target countries are France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Québec (Canada), North and Central Africa, French is the best option.
(iii) German: The German language is spoken by over 100 million native speakers and 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 a distinct third in the category, it is still the most widely spoken native language in Europe.
If you have something to do with Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, German would statistically be more helpful.
These countries, however, 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 acquiring that corresponding language will be more beneficial in your career.
However, If nothing specific in mind, then the importance of foreign languages has little to do with speakers’ number.
It is much more to do with who those speakers are and where it is useful. Don’t give more than 10% weightage for this criteria.
2. Career objectivity and Job Opportunities
(i) Spanish: Thanks to rising career scope after learning Spanish, If you are engaged in business activities or seeking jobs in the BPO/KPO sectors beyond serving the interest of the local population, Spanish skills can be an asset for successful communication.
The majority of the BPOs and KPOs come from the United States, where Spanish is the second most dominant language after English.
The Spanish-speaking population’s colossal size in Latin America and the United States offers a great attraction on your resume.
Many Hispanic regions, such as Latin America, are specifically seeking bilateral cooperation with India. Moreover, like French, Spanish is also beneficial in the field of Tourism and Hospitality.
From conglomerates Aditya Birla Group to the IT giant TCS, several Indian companies have opened development centers or acquired companies all across Latin America.
Spanish will be beneficial in many sectors.
This approach opens a world of opportunities for many Indian companies, especially in the export sector, healthcare, banking, law, manufacturing, etc.
(ii) French: There are plenty of reasons to learn French.
France is a dominant economy in pharmaceuticals, fashion, aeronautics, telecommunications, energy production, and more.
If you have a career or do business in these fields, the French language can help you 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.
And if you’re in the travel, tourism, or hospitality management business.
Perhaps, you love traveling to where the language is widespread.
French offers you the best chance of success, far more than what the German and Spanish can offer.
If you’re contemplating which language offers more job opportunities involving languages?
Then French has the edge over German or Spanish.
France also has a more significant influence on art and cuisine.
Paris is regarded as the world’s fashion capital, and it is also the home to the aviation industry.
If you want to be a chef or desire to work in the Food or Hotel industry or engaged in these fields, learning French would serve you more than Spanish or German can offer you.
If you are into export and import dealings with West Africa, North Africa, Central Africa.
If you plan to migrate to Canada, learning French will considerably benefit you compared to German or Spanish.
You can earn some additional points by taking the TEF or TCF test.
(iii) German: If you are into online marketing or doing business on the internet, the German language should be your priority.
It is because Germany has a well-defined and dominant internet presence.
The country’s top-level website tld — the .de is one of the highest-ranked domains in the world.
At some points, it ranked 2nd and 5th to dot com and has since remained a vital force in measuring internet market success.
Suppose you have a career in the publishing, auto, engineering, machines, shipbuilding, power sectors, psychology, or practical science sectors or are interested in importing and exporting these goods. In that case, Germany is the place to go.
And to be at a decisive advantage, you need to learn the German language.
From vehicles to machines to metals and chemical products, the German economy is a powerhouse that you can tap into through investment and speaking the language.
Because careers requiring German are high, like French, these are the two most taught and popular Foreign languages in India.
As a result, skilled foreign language teachers are finding their services in higher demand. Interested in literature or Music, German is more practical.
Conclusion: Think about your existing skills, academic qualification, industries, or jobs – you are interested in, possible immigration or higher studies or working visas, etc. It is the most critical criterion. Give 40% weightage.
3. Difficulty level (French, Spanish, German) – Easiest to Learn
(i) Spanish: Spanish probably got its reputation as the “easiest language” among the three.
It is because of being more phonetic and has fewer pronunciation rules than some other languages.
The language is rated very easy to learn.
Thanks to the language’s phonetic nature, it is easy to read words precisely as they are written.
Even though grammar is quite vast and lengthy, Spanish is the most straightforward language to learn between the three.
How long it takes to learn a language like Spanish?
(ii) French: Of all the three languages in this group, French is the most difficult for Indians or English speakers.
There are several rules for French pronunciation that can drive English speakers crazy.
French pronunciation can seem tricky.
It is not phonetic in the sense that it’s not pronounced precisely how it’s spelled.
Some sounds don’t exist in English. As an English speaker, it is not a natural language to master!
(iii) German: Let me admit – German is as tricky as French.
The grammar part is quite confusing and challenging. Some might find the syntax and cases not easily discernible.
But one thing is sure.
If you are already an English speaker, then learning Germany shouldn’t be more difficult.
Well, 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.
While French and Spanish are classes of the Romance languages, German and English relate to the Indo-European language family’s Germanic branch.
How long should it take to learn German?
It depends on how much you study and are dedicated.
It may take up to 2-3 years to achieve the German proficiency test, i.e., Goethe Zertifikat B2 or C1 or TestDaF.
Conclusion: Which is easier? Language difficulty is not very easy to define since it depends on innumerable factors, including language learning techniques.
It is an entirely subjective topic, and the difficulty level of any language varies significantly from one person to another. Plus, every tongue has both hard and easy parts.
For example, Spanish grammar is easy, but sometimes listening is quite tricky due to many dialects. On the other hand, the German grammar rules are very complicated, but the elementary and speaking part is somewhat ok.
On the other hand, French is a little challenging as far as accents and pronunciation are concerned. Moreover, the different dialects make it even more confusing. In short, Spanish is more straightforward than German and French.
I feel French is slightly more complicated than German and French though it is based on my personal experience. Don’t be surprised if you hear the opposite.
Difficulty level – Spanish – 6/10, German – 7/10, French – 7.5/10. Don’t learn any language just because it is easy or difficult. Instead, take this as the least relevant criterion, 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 English, seven languages meet these criteria: Chinese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, and German.
Out of these seven languages, we can select three – German Vs. French Vs. Spanish — to narrow down the choice.
Therefore, what languages to learn would become French, Spanish, or German, and their reasons why you would want to study either of these language(s).
A language becoming 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 common European languages in India and was taught in several cities and a host of universities.
However, the loss of Russia’s superpower status was accompanied by a loss of interest.
Similarly, the popularity of Japanese despite a small number of speakers has more to do with brand “Japanese” and Japan’s success story in the last century.
Germany remains the powerhouse of Europe.
On the other hand, some French-speaking countries such as France, Canada, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Belgium have a strong economy and influence in various sectors.
You can explore a lot of employment that requires French skills.
Spanish and South and Central American economies are doing ok but nowhere like German-speaking regions or Francophone countries.
Argentina and Mexico are two important Hispanic countries.
However, it does not offer enough career scope involving Spanish for Indians.
Spanish is the second most popular language in the USA, but that does not mean it is mandatory to learn.
Most Americans in the southern part do speak two languages, including English.
Conclusion: This is an important reason. Think about languages and where it is beneficial, power status, economic conditions. Give 20% weightage.
5. Which one do you prefer, or your interest lies? French or Spanish or German?
For many people, some languages are just plain intriguing.
If you are interested in a particular one, for whatever reason, that is probably the best choice. In short, learn the language you like.
Those who take other than their preferred tongue tend to do less well than their chosen language.
Conclusion: It is one of the two most important reasons. Give 25% weightage.
If you don’t have an interest, find it. If you cannot find it, it might not be worth learning. Well, you can 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 you aim to make a career out of your knowledge of a foreign language.
With either one or two of them mentioned earlier, 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 perceiving any potential benefits.
You should ask yourself: “Why do I want to learn French or Spanish or German?”
Don’t learn without any reason. If you don’t have anything specific in mind, consider the two most important criteria, i.e., 2 and 5.
Read, think, and choose between French or Spanish, or German.
Disclaimer: This article reflects my personal opinion based on my knowledge, experience, and interaction. Since I have studied all three languages at different levels, I don’t have any personal preferences or biased views. On the contrary, I consider all equally good.