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Why learn a new language?

There are many reasons why you might choose to learn a new language. For example, you may want to:

  • take up a new hobby;
  • visit another country on holiday or for business;
  • attend a course of education in another country;
  • migrate or reside in another country;
  • apply for a job in another country;
  • explore the history and culture of another country, such as its literature;
  • understand technical or scientific journals, documents or research contributions in another language.

Both French and German are popular languages to learn if you are an English language speaker or any other language speaker for that matter, including Chinese and Japanese, as well as in most E.U. states where neither French nor German is spoken. There are contrasting opinions about which of these two important European languages are easier to learn. Some of the reasons why one or another of these languages might be chosen are explored below. There are often very similar reasons why one language might be chosen over another when someone is making a choice about which language they should learn.

The top factors you need to think about when choosing whether to learn French or German

1. What is the purpose of learning the language?

This is probably the most important factor affecting your choice of language to learn. If it was just a hobby, e.g. after retirement, then either language would be suitable. If you were intending attendance at a German university or college then learning French rather than German wouldn’t make any sense! The younger you are, the easier it will probably be to learn any language, but that doesn’t make your choice any easier. Note that if you intend travelling around the world (after the pandemic?) French has the advantage of being more of an international language compared to German. French is spoken in Canada (Quebec anyway), parts of the Caribbean, parts of North and West Africa as well as some rather nice islands in the Pacific. German is spoken in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein as well as some scattered communities of German speakers around the world.

2. What sort of language technicalities will you experience?

Language choice could be influenced by the language family relationship between French or German and your own language. Dutch and Scandinavian people, for example, probably find German easier to learn because German is more similar to their own native languages than French. This includes vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation. English language natives are probably more inclined to find German slightly easier than French, despite the closer relationship between Britain and France. This is more because of the French pronunciation which English language natives often find hard to master.

3. What cultural association do you have or are likely to have with that language?

Some people have family connections to a particular language. For example, there are significant German speaking communities in many parts of the world. Young people raised in these families may not take any interest in learning their parents’ or grandparents’ native language until they are older, but the cultural connection may propel them to do so. There are similar reasons why disparate French speaking communities around the world may be inclined to want to learn French or at least improve their knowledge of the language.

Conclusion

There are many excellent resources available to learn either French or German. These include language classes, online courses, CDs, TV and radio lessons and practice listening, watching French or German language films, talking to French or German people, language books and hard copy resources.