Learning a foreign language is a trend gaining rapid popularity in today’s youth and school children. There are a variety of language options available for those interested.
While European languages such as German, Spanish and French are popular options, Asian languages such as Japanese and Chinese are also being sought after.
Before learning a specific foreign language, it is essential to understand what the associated benefits are. Knowledge of a foreign language usually is recommended and deemed as an additional requirement for admissions in many foreign Universities.
Usually, knowing the basics of a native language of the University’s country helps in official as well as day to day interactions. Secondly, a language is never learnt in isolation. Cultural and religious practices of a land are understood from the regional language.
Moreover, recent scientific evidence points out the fact that knowledge of a foreign language influences our thinking and hence, urges us to take a more rational choice during a decision making process.
Choosing a particular foreign language over others should be given a lot of thought.
In case of higher education or professions in the West, we Indians face stiff competition with our fellow Indians as well as other Asians (including the highly competitive Chinese and Japanese).
Thus, knowing the fundamentals of a non-English European language is an added asset while applying to European and North American Universities or job positions.
German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union (EU). Countries including Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Poland recognise German as an official language.
German is also spoken by a smaller number in the USA, Canada and Australia as well as the erstwhile African colonies of Germany. German is in a way similar to Luxembourgish, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages (spoken in the Netherlands and Germany) and the Scandinavian languages (Swedish, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian).
This makes learning German easier and also learning other similar languages easy after learning German.
French is the fourth most widely spoken first language in the EU and the third most widely known language in the EU (next to English and German).
With a wide reach, French is an official language in France, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom in Europe; and several other countries in Africa, South America, North America and Asia. French is also very close in its form to Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. It is hence, simpler to learn one of these languages to learn the rest of the 3 languages.
Spanish is third language with the most number of speakers in the world. Spanish is spoken by minorities in several countries in the EU.
Nevertheless, Spanish is spoken widely in South and Central Americas, Africa and the USA. As mentioned earlier, Spanish is similar to French, Italian and Portuguese.
German, French and Spanish cover most of the languages spoken in the West and thus, it is a wise choice to select any of these three languages if Europe, North America or Australia is the target for education or profession.
As most of Africa and South America also recognise any of these three languages, there would be no language problems during visits there as well. As they use Latin alphabets, it is also easy for Indians to learn these languages.
The steep competition for education or profession in the West has begun influencing people towards choosing Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan and China as their destinations.
Chinese, with more than 10 dialects, is officially recognised in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Chinese also has some presence in Indonesia and Malaysia. Being the language (Mandarin) with the largest number of speakers in the world, Chinese has a notable presence also in the West.
Japanese, not entirely similar to Chinese, is also a language with notable international presence. Japanese is also spoken in parts of China, Taiwan, Korea and Philippines as well.
As both these languages use scripts that Indians are not exposed to commonly, learning these languages is not very easy for an average Indian. Sometimes, it takes years to reach a good grasp of the language.
Considering the fact that Asian countries like China, Japan and Singapore have in place intensive English teaching programmes, Indians can easily manage life in these countries by learning to use both English and the local language in the initial stages.
Learning a foreign language out of curiosity is a good thing. However, there are no specific advices in this case. The ability of the student, the availability of the study material and the exposure to native speakers are the only parameters to be considered.
While the above-mentioned 5 languages have plenty of resources (online and offline) easily available, it cannot be said to be the same for other languages.
To summarise, choosing German, French or Spanish is best for a future career in the West. Learning Chinese or Japanese is good to an extent in East Asia. However, considering inherent difficulties in the learning process, European languages are easy for Indians to learn quickly.
Some good tutors for foreign languages can be contacted below:
Kamal Khatri for Spanish HERE.
Fatema Tarwala for French HERE.