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Posted by EVO (3782 posts) 3 months, 20 days ago

Which language should I learn? (188 votes)

French 12%
Spanish 31%
Japanese 32%
Other 25%

For years I've wanted to learn a second language, in particular Japanese. But after flicking through some books, listening to some podcasts and even living there briefly, I've never really taken Japanese or any other language seriously.

That all changed a few days ago when I discovered Duolingo. (I'm not a shill, promise.)

Voted iPhone app of the year, I gave it a chance and a few minutes later I had learnt more French than I ever did in high school. Mind you, I was a total dipshit in high school, but it's pretty amazing nonetheless.

Basically, it gamifies the learning process. Lessons are comprised of a set of questions, and you have a limited amount of lives available. Fuck up a question, lose a life. Complete a lesson, gain XP. Earn enough XP, achieve your daily goal. It's simple, but effective. And for the first time in my life I'm actually motivated to learn a second language.

Problem is, Japanese isn't currently available on Dualingo. At the moment, there's only Spanish, French, German, Portuguese and Italian. I'm probably more likely to travel to a Spanish speaking country in the near future, but I think the French accent is sexy so I decided to go with that.

However, I'm having some second thoughts:

  • Are there similar/better learning tools available for Japanese?
  • Should I Iearn Spanish instead?
  • Should I just stick with French?

As far as I know, French and Spanish are much easier to learn than Japanese. But if anyone can recommend other software of has some advice I'm open to learning something else. Keep in mind, Duolingo is free. I've considered stuff like Rosetta Stone but it's too expensive.

#1 Posted by Darji (5295 posts) -

If you want to learn Japanese I really suggest to take real classes or get a tutor. Otherwise it is near impossible to learn Japanese in a "fluent" or more than basic level. French and Spanish are much easier for self study but it always depends if you even want to use it or not.

#2 Posted by hermes (1270 posts) -

You should start with Spanish. Not only is spoken in more countries than the others, but its latin roots make it easy to jump from it to Portuguese, French, Italian or Latin if you ever have to learn those.

#3 Edited by Popogeejo (572 posts) -

If you live in the US then Spanish is best, French if you're in Europe (though english will get you by with German coming a close second.) Mandarin would be more useful than Japanese for East Asia.

Of the languages you have available I'd say Spanish is the most practical. French may sound sexy but odds are it won't when you, as a non-native speaker, try (unless you're talking to people who don't know French and are easily charmed).

#4 Posted by Humanity (7958 posts) -

A lot of people speak Spanish, in the US at least. Japanese seems pretty cool, but it will have very limited usage.

#5 Edited by bigjeffrey (4162 posts) -

spanish for sure.

#6 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1281 posts) -

I really love French. I work as a translator, and of all the languages I speak, French is definitely my top 3. Fuck practicality of Spanish.

#7 Edited by ch3burashka (4906 posts) -

If you want a marketable skill, Spanish is probably the way to go.

If you want to play Final Fantasy II the way it was meant to be played, go for Japanese.

A bit reductive, but it's the only reason I've seen given for learning Japanese (on gaming forums).

#8 Posted by JoeyRavn (4887 posts) -

Go with Spanish. Trust me. I am in no way biased, since I'm Spanish.

There's a shitload of questionable Japanese dating sims that you may enjoy if you learned the language, though.

#9 Posted by Darji (5295 posts) -

@joeyravn said:

Go with Spanish. Trust me. I am in no way biased, since I'm Spanish.

There's a shitload of questionable Japanese dating sims that you may enjoy if you learned the language, though.

Go google visual novel reader and you can play these too without knowing Japanese.^^

but Seriously if you only want to learn Japanese because of videogames, movies or music you will ot win this battle. Learning Japanese is very tedious and require a ton of time.

#10 Edited by TheHT (10285 posts) -

Japanese if fun to speak (or at least the random lines from anime and movies I've remembered are fun to say), but lately I've been really interested in french. It's so smooth and pleasant. We had to learn it over here (Canada), but unfortunately I lost interest around high school, right around the time you didn't have to learn any more french.

That thing looks cool. Seems to be getting a lot of good press at least. I might have to check it out.

#11 Edited by Cybertification (170 posts) -

If you live in the US then Spanish is best, French if you're in Europe (though english will get you by with German coming a close second.) Mandarin would be more useful than Japanese for East Asia.

Of the languages you have available I'd say Spanish is the most practical. French may sound sexy but odds are it won't when you, as a non-native speaker, try (unless you're talking to people who don't know French and are easily charmed).

French if you're in Europe? I live in Europe and unless you're going to France I would think Spanish is way more useful, but... If you are going to France knowing French might as well be a requirement.

#12 Posted by Nasar7 (2500 posts) -

Spanish is more straightforward than French and just as beautiful, I would learn that first. Afterwards, French will be a breeze.

#13 Posted by joshwent (1778 posts) -

I'm American, live in Philadelphia, and even my not so great Spanish ability has helped me get 2 jobs.

Spanish is also crazy easy to learn. There are very few irregulars, only 2 extra letters that you can grasp instantly, and almost every sound is pronounced phonetically (might not seem like a big deal, but pronunciation is a huge pain in the ass when it's random (like in a ton of English words) and you have to learn every individual case). Conjugation is mostly the same as English, and the grammar is also practically the same, only with some words flipped around. And as others have aid, learning a romance language like Spanish will make the others (French, Italian) which are more complex, easier to quickly pick up in the future.

Basically, it's really useful and really simple, so it's a great first language to learn.

And if you live in the US, with the rising influx of folks from the south, you'll be better prepared to strike up conversations with immigrants and sound cool, and of course, order awesome food and sound legit.

¡Buena suerte!

#14 Posted by TheManWithNoPlan (4445 posts) -

Spanish is probably the most accessible of those three.

#15 Edited by Sooty (8082 posts) -

If you really have to ask and the availability of them on Duolingo is a factor, then probably none of them.

The correct answer is to learn Chinese, it's not as hard as it looks (grammar is so easy) and it's probably the best language in the world to have on a resume.

@darji said:

If you want to learn Japanese I really suggest to take real classes or get a tutor. Otherwise it is near impossible to learn Japanese in a "fluent" or more than basic level.

As someone that self-studied Japanese before going to university to study it, I completely disagree.

It's really all about just taking the right steps when starting to learn and then building appropriately. Language learning in my experience is very much so something that is done out of the classroom and topped up with immersion (either being in Japan or consuming media) and actually using it to communicate - whether that's in real life, via text messaging or Skype. Having Japanese friends can help but it's difficult for most Japanese to explain something about Japanese in English. (at least with my friends)

#16 Posted by Warchief (646 posts) -

The 1000% correct answer is learn Chinese.

#17 Posted by Tatsuyarr (48 posts) -

I'm French but I would advise Spanish. French is a chore to learn, it's so much full of irregularities that even French have problem writing it correctly. I'm not even joking.

I learned Japanese by myself and it's not difficult if you are motivated. It's a beautiful and straightforward language (except the writing part obviously) but I must admit its use is very limited.

#18 Posted by ILikePopCans (713 posts) -

Yeah, this is a interesting question cause I am kindof in the same boat. I want to learn Japanese, but hearing how shit hard it is discourages me big time. Maybe I will go french.

#19 Posted by Video_Game_King (34613 posts) -

@sooty said:

Having Japanese friends can help but it's difficult for most Japanese to explain something about Japanese in English.

And in my experience, it's hard to schedule anything past the first few conversations. On that note, I should stress that you don't have to speak or anything to use a language. There's comprehension, too.

#20 Posted by Salarn (445 posts) -

C++ or C#

#21 Edited by EVO (3782 posts) -

Thanks for the responses guys. Should probably mention that I'm Australian, so neither of these languages are really that useful over here. I just wanna speak something that sounds cool. That being said, I wouldn't mind living in San Francisco and travelling to Spain/Mexico so I might switch to Spanish. Mandarin is probably the responsible choice but whatever.

#22 Posted by Brodehouse (9370 posts) -

Spanish is relatively easy. German, the grammar is (almost typically for Germans) super logical once you understand how it works differently.

But yeah, @sooty is right. If you're going to take a time to learn a language for pure personal development; learn Mandarin. The Chinese are about to undergo a change, they're about to become consumers like everyone in the West became after WW2. In the span of a generation we could end up doubling the amount of people who live in 'privileged societies' or whatever, and at that point there will be as much Mandarin spoken as English.

#23 Posted by ch3burashka (4906 posts) -

@warchief said:

The 1000% correct answer is learn Chinese.

Sounds like something your racist Republican dad would say, "Mark mah wurds sun, we're all going to speaking Chinese in 10 years." Now that I think about it, that's exactly Fry's dad of Futurama.

#24 Edited by Darji (5295 posts) -

@sooty: you will surely learn he basics alone but to actually be able to use Japanese correctly you need a class or tutor in my experience. Of course it is different for everyone else but at least it was like that for me. I only really learned the language in my classes at University.

@German Language.

I am German and personally I had most problems with the German language than I had with English or even Japanese. German grammar is horrible in my opinion^^

#25 Edited by Vuud (1441 posts) -

You should pull a total hipster move and learn Esperanto.

#26 Posted by noizy (637 posts) -

Java or C.

#27 Posted by alwaysbebombing (1281 posts) -

@vuud said:

You should pull a total hipster move and learn Esperanto.

Your kind isn't welcome here.

#28 Edited by alwaysbebombing (1281 posts) -

Also, as a German speaker I can tell you, German grammar is not super easy. There is a lot of difference in the order of sentences between different ideas, throw away words, and some just plane memorization.

For the record, I speak German, French and English

#29 Posted by tourgen (4236 posts) -

I tried Cantonese because I thought it sounded cool. Blew my mind. Mandarin would be pretty useful I think. There are a lot of people that speak it.

Spanish is super easy, but I only learned enough to harass a co-worker and exchange filthy jokes.

#30 Posted by TyCobb (1924 posts) -
#31 Edited by Random45 (807 posts) -

Spanish would probably be the most practical of those you listed, though I would also recommend Chinese if you're being serious. Knowing mandarin is a very, very, VERY useful skill in the business world, and it would get you pretty far. Spanish is practical because as a US citizen, it's practically becoming our nation's second language.

Though learning Japanese would be cool to watch anime without subtitles, haha.

#32 Edited by LTSmash (556 posts) -

Spanish, because you will end up using it.

#33 Posted by biospank (641 posts) -

why not try all 3 and eliminate the ones that is hard. Then you will come to the magic number of one.

#34 Edited by Brenderous (1079 posts) -

ア,ア、ア、ア、ア、ジャストジャビング。

#35 Posted by afabs515 (834 posts) -

@salarn said:

C++ or C#

Was hoping to see programming languages pop up in here.

Also, spanish would probably be the most useful.

#36 Posted by MariachiMacabre (6937 posts) -

Icelandic. It's a basically untouched version of the language that Vikings spoke so you could be the most authentic guy at all the Viking LARP sessions that are all the rage these days. In all seriousness, I do want to learn Icelandic because of that fact. My moms family is Norwegian whose family tree is mapped back to around the year 900 and I've always been fascinated by the Vikings. In even more seriousness...learn Icelandic.

#37 Posted by clumsyninja1 (817 posts) -

I would learn Chinese or Portuguese I were you, . I you want to learn Spanish, I wouldn't unless you are going to live in South America or Spain (maybe Texas)...

#38 Edited by TheMasterDS (1867 posts) -

I think Japanese could be cool to know. Whenever it comes up that Brad knows some amount of Japanese it seems impressive and cool. There's nothing impressive or cool about knowing Spanish. I took 3 years of Spanish classes in High School, as did boatloads of my peers, I have forgotten all of it. I don't think it's especially valuable to me because I've never needed to talk to Mexicans. And I'm in Texas. I'd think if you were farther north you'd have even less need and opportunity to talk to non-English speaking Mexicans.

I would also randomly back up Mariachi Macabre. Learning Icelandic seems like a pretty cool idea especially considering how they name modern things by ramming old words together. A Computer is called a Number Witch!

#39 Edited by slyspider (1037 posts) -

Well Spanish is way more useful for life, but I hate spanish and I play video games so I'm learning Japanese.

#40 Edited by HatKing (5567 posts) -

Spanish and French have a lot of similarities. Those Romance languages. So, if you know one you can pick up the other relatively easily. Or at least easier. I took a couple years of French in high school, then some Spanish in college. Retention has always been my problem. That app you mentioned sounds fascinating. I might have to check that out and brush up on French before I visit family in Louisiana again.

#41 Edited by noizy (637 posts) -

@tycobb said:

@noizy said:

Java or C.

Who the hell would learn those in today's programming world? It's all about readability now (or completely unreadable for skill purposes).

If you're intro unreadability, I'd recommend LISP.

#42 Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx (2579 posts) -

#43 Posted by joshwent (1778 posts) -

@mariachimacabre: I've listened to Gling-gló enough times that I can basically sing those songs phonetically.

(now if only I knew what the fuck I was saying)

#44 Posted by MB (11302 posts) -

Learning Japanese because of video games or anime seems like one of the biggest misuses of thousands of hours of study that I can imagine, but of course that's subjective.

Moderator
#45 Edited by TyCobb (1924 posts) -

@noizy said:

@tycobb said:

@noizy said:

Java or C.

Who the hell would learn those in today's programming world? It's all about readability now (or completely unreadable for skill purposes).

If you're intro unreadability, I'd recommend LISP.

Oh my...

Glad F# exists in case I ever needed to use a functional programming language.

#46 Edited by Video_Game_King (34613 posts) -

@mb:

What would a legitimate reason be, then? Under this logic, I can't imagine anything comprehension-based (reading/listening) being defensible.

#47 Edited by MB (11302 posts) -

@video_game_king: To travel and or work in Japan, for instance...professional development if one's business deals with Japanese people...to find work as a translator...to converse with one's friends or family who speak Japanese...I'm sure you could have thought of these things on your own.

Moderator
#48 Edited by I_Stay_Puft (2597 posts) -

learn latin and never fuckin use it.

#49 Posted by Video_Game_King (34613 posts) -

@mb:

So is there any legitimate asocial reason for learning a language? All of those involve other people, often communicating with them.

#50 Posted by joshwent (1778 posts) -

@mb: You're disregarding how learning a language is beneficial on its own. When you understand a foreign language, you're learning fascinating bits of history and social structure that even visiting another country can't do. Not to mention that it also helps broaden your world view in general.

And discounting using it for gaming or movies seems out of place... on a gaming site. There are hundreds of great Japanese titles with either fucked up dubs or translations. If games are your passion, and you can better yourself by learning Japanese and improve your appreciation of video games, that seems like a vastly better reason to me than hypothetical business opportunities.