What language should I choose?

Spring is here and it’s time to start learning a language! What language should I choose?

You may already have the answer to this question but in case you’re not sure, here are some tips on how to choose your next language:


The Easier Ones:

Spanish: It’s all around – Spanish is super useful here in New York and there is a whole continent south of the border offering a plethora of opportunities to put the language to use. Pronunciation is pretty easy and the basic vocabulary isn’t hard to pick up.  The verb conjugations can take some getting used to, not to mention the 2 ways of expressing “to be”, but it will all come together during your next trip to Mexico over guacamole and tequila. From country to country, you will find different accents and variations but the basic language is not so different.

French: C’est si bon! For many, French is the high school language that got away so maybe it’s time to go back and finish the job!  It’s a beautiful language and there are great places to use it (Paris! Montreal! Tahiti!).  Pronunciation is a bit tricky in the beginning so you’ll need a little patience but you do get used to it after a few lessons.  Verb conjugations are easier than Spanish and Italian and, heck, it’s French!

Italian: Mamma mia! – If you love Italy and you want an excuse to go there, here it is “I need to practice my Italian!”. Outside of the tourist centers, Italian is really, really helpful. Italians LOVE to speak their language and are thrilled when a visitor is making an effort. This is also a great language to pick up if you already speak a romance language.  Pronunciation is not hard, grammar is about as complicated as the other romance languages, so very manageable.

Portuguese: Feijoada anyone? – If you know Spanish or any other romance language, this will be easy to pick up and then you can call yourself tri-lingual. How funsy is that! Just learning how they say the days of the week is worth dipping your toes into the language. Most Portuguese learners here are interested in the Brazilian variety so you can assume that when referring to “Portuguese” most schools mean Brazilian Portuguese. The language is the same but, like British versus American English, there is some variation in pronunciation and vocabulary between Brazilian and European Portuguese.  In the beginning, it’s doesn’t much matter where your teacher is from but, if you are more interested in the European variety, eventually you’ll want an instructor who is a native or fluent in European Portuguese.

German: Ausgezeichnet! German is a notch harder than your romance languages, which just makes things spicier (even if the food is not).  Although you’ll find that many locals in German-speaking countries speak a fair amount of English, it’s great to know some to break the ice and de-mystify things a bit. Regular verb conjugations are easy and pronunciation is not a big deal. There is quite a bit of anglo-saxon vocabulary that will be familiar. The challenge with German is that there are 3 genders and you’ll kind of have to memorize the gender as you learn the words (it comes together with practice).  The cases are a fun challenge as they will heighten your awareness of grammar (which can be fun BTW!). A great language if you have a bit of a mathematical mind.

The Challengers:

Russian: конечно! You don't have to go far to practice your Russian: Hello Brighton Beach! The exciting thing is that the script only takes a couple of lessons to learn so you don't have to put in too much effort to come up with a new party trick.  Pronunciation and verb conjugations are not too bad. If you've studied a case-based language (e.g. German), you'll find the concepts to be familiar but just more of it. It's an incredibly rich language, that allows you to express concepts with a beautiful precision … including an incomprable list of swear words!

Mandarin: The Easy Hard Language: If you have a grammar phobia, you might want to try Mandarin. Are there genders? Nope. Cases? Not a one. Articles? No siree Bob.  What’s best of all? NO VERB TENSES!  Yes, you heard correctly. None of that I go, I went, I have gone shenanigans.  In Mandarin, you just say I go and add a temporal adverb like yesterday or tomorrow to get the point across.  Chinese is really just about learning new sounding words, word order, and sentence structures, so once you get those down, you can just plug and play. Ok, fine, so there is ONE caveat to the simplicity that is spoken Mandarin, and that’s the tones.  It’s not as bad as it sounds (ha!) and you get used to them quickly (especially after the first time you say “horse” when you mean to say “mother” or vice versa). Sure, characters can be a challenge, but at ABC we ease you in using Romanized pinyin until you are conversationally proficient. It doesn't take as long as you might think!

Arabic:  السَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ - There are millions of reasons to learn Arabic these days.  Arabic, like Mandarin, is a personal challenge along the lines of running a marathon. First off, it takes around 8-12 lessons to get the hang of the script as well as learn some basics so even in a short time, you can really get something out of your Arabic classes.  The next thing to know is that when we talk about “Arabic” we are talking about Modern Standard Arabic.  Although MSA is no one’s native language, like Latin was in Europe, MSA is the only written form of the language and, therefore, the version all native speakers learn at school. This is where most students start.  Granted, when you speak MSA in the Arab-speaking world you will sound a bit stilted but you’ll get your point across and you’ll be able to use it everywhere.  Once you’ve got a handle on MSA, you can start diving into one of the spoken varieties. i.e. a native, spoken language the most common being Maghrebi, Levantine, Egyptian, Gulf and Sudanese.

Happy Language Studies!