If you really love Europe, then just going there occasionally as a tourist may not be enough. If you’re truly a fan of the culture and if you really want to know what it’s like for the locals to live there, if you want to get to know the people and if you want to be accepted as anything other than an inside; then you have to put the time in and learn a language.
The good news is that learning a European language will also have all kinds of other benefits. You will find you end up using the language on many occasions and that it opens up doors for you in your professional and personal life.
So what’s holding you back? Well perhaps it’s simply deciding on which European language to learn. Here we will attempt to answer that question and get to the bottom of it by looking at each of the popular European languages and what they have going for and against them. The rest is up to you…
Which European Language Should You Learn
English: The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re already fluent in the most widely spoken language across Europe. Even though not many European countries speak English as their first language, you will find someone who does speak it almost anywhere you go on the continent. And of course if you go to England it will be easy…
Note obviously that there are differences between American and British English. Words like ‘pants’ and ‘chips’ have slightly different meanings over there and this is worth learning to save some embarrassment. Otherwise that’s all you need to do to become ‘fluent’. The only downside? It doesn’t count one bit…
French: There are tons of great reasons to speak French. Not only is it spoken throughout Europe, but it’s also the first language in many European countries. Furthermore, it’s also widely spoken throughout the rest of the world meaning that you’ll often be able to muddle by with a mixture of French and English even when you’re in the far flung reaches of the planet.
As though that wasn’t enough reason to learn French, there’s the added bonus that it’s a highly romantic and attractive sounding language that you can use to pick up men/women back home. And it’s also a very easy language to learn for native English speakers. This is thanks to William the Conqueror’s invasion of England which is where words like ‘excellent’, ‘colour’ (color) and more come from. That’s right – a whole bunch of vocabulary is the same – and you’ll remember half of the others from school – so you’re halfway there already!
Spanish: Another language that is both easy and widely spoken is Spanish. What makes Spanish a beginner-friendly language, is the fact that it has a shallow ‘orthographic depth’. That means that the words are mostly written as spoken (they are spelt phonetically which means it’s relatively easy to ‘blag’.
Spanish is a language that will come in handy back in the states, and it’s another that can help you in your love life too – so if you aren’t keen on the nasal sound of French, or want to speak something different from your friends, then this is a good alternative.
German: German gets something of a rough ride. It’s not as widely spoken throughout the world as French, and few people find it ‘attractive’ as such, which means that very few people will end up speaking it.
On the other hand though, German is actually quite useful in Europe thanks to the number of Germanic countries that speak either German or Dutch (which is similar). You’ll get by with German whether you’re in Germany, Holland, Belgium or Switzerland. Furthermore, German is again relatively easy to learn and as there are fewer people in the US who speak it you may find that it can give you the edge when going up against candidates in job interviews.
Italian: Italian is again one of the best European languages to learn if you are looking for something that sounds instantly familiar. Of course most of English comes from Latin, which means you’ll already recognise a lot of the words. Again Italian has a shallow orthographic depth (try and get that into your next conversation…) and the rhythmic nature makes it fun to learn and speak as well.
What’s more, Italian is once again a highly romantic language, and has the added bonus of allowing you to order in Italian restaurants. This is a great way to impress on a date, and particularly if you don’t tell the other person that you can speak Italian – just casually order the wine in fluent Italian or chat to the staff there and tell a few jokes…
Russian: Russian might not seem like the most appealing European language to learn off the bat, and particularly as Russia isn’t even entirely in Europe. Nevertheless, many European countries speak a Slavonic language, meaning that Russia is another useful one for getting by in lots of destinations whether it’s Poland, Croatia or any of the other Eastern European countries. This isn’t an easy one, but with Russia being such a huge country it’s also a useful language for business and a great one to have on your CV as a result.
Ultimately the language you choose will of course come down to you; only you know what you need the language for and you will find that you are more partial to the sound of some than others. Use these tips to guide you, but really any language you learn will be an incredibly useful tool.