Learning a new language

While at least 80% of students across Europe learn a foreign language, in the US, just 20% of students do.


While speaking a second or even third language can come in handy when you’re traveling, to work internationally, or to communicate with your older relatives, it’s believed it also helps improve the brain’s cognitive ability, helps with multitasking and even delays the onset of symptoms of dementia.


So, if you’re looking to learn another language, which ones should you consider?


·       Mandarin: With China’s economy likely to overtake the US’s by the end of this decade, learning Mandarin is a smart choice to increase business opportunities in the future. While it’s considered one of the more difficult languages to learn in the West — Chinese characters and tones can be particularly challenging — the language’s grammar will be more familiar to English speakers, with simple sentence structure and few gender-based words, unlike many European languages.


·       Spanish: With nearly half a billion native speakers around the world, learning Spanish is a great idea for broadening your horizons all around Central and South America (except Brazil), in Spain of course, as well as with growing numbers of Spanish-speakers living in North America. Spanish pronunciation is straightforward — it usually sounds the way it’s spelled — and, because it’s a Romance language derived from Latin, English speakers will find many Spanish words familiar, for instance: bicicleta, elegante and futbol,


·       Arabic: Though it’s one of the top five languages in the world, Arabic can be hard for English speakers to learn. Not only does it have a non-Latin alphabet (which does share a common history with ours), like Hebrew, vowels are usually excluded, which can make it hard for beginners to decipher similarly spelled words. And, also like Hebrew, it’s written right to left, which can take getting used to. But with some 25 countries speaking one Arabic dialect or another, and Arabic speakers found throughout Europe and North America, it can be useful to learn.


·       Swahili: Considered one of the easier languages to learn (though not the easiest!), Swahili is widely used across eastern Africa and it’s a common second language for many Africans. Like Spanish, words are usually spelled the way they’re pronounced and it includes a lot of English loan words.


Have you learned a second or third language? How was the experience for you and do you find being multilingual useful? Share your experiences with the Shop Talk community – we always appreciate hearing from you!

Did you know? Norwegian is the easiest language to learn


Well, that’s if you’re an English speaker. Norwegian is related to English, shares similar vocabulary and grammar. With a little attention, it’s not hard to figure out that “Kan du hjelpe meg?” means “Can you help me?” Congratulations — you’re learning Norwegian. (Source)

35 thoughts on “Learning a new language

  1. When my mother returned to college, the babysitter I had was a displaced person (after WW2), she spoke English, Latvian, and German. She spoke German to me at a year old, and I had little problem learning German as a 2nd language. Not so much with French which I had from 3rd grade to 8th. I can fairly well read Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish-very close to German. As a result of having French, a romance language, I can figure out written Spanish, Italian, and Latin.

  2. Have you ever considered Picture Language”? I am semi retired as an educational consultant after many years teaching at a developmental center. My students included deaf and other non-verbal individuals. Sign language was difficult for them to learn . Unfortunately very few community members can read/understand the signs. Communication pictures on 3″x5″ cards are easy to carry and universally understood. Cell phone translation programs are good but expensive and difficult for some to use. To repeat an old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

  3. In high school, I took German for two years. On both sides of my family, it’s our ancestral language. However, I have a lot of catching up to do, and apparently some modernizing–the last time I greeted a German friend in German, specifically wishing her Merry Christmas in German, she said “What was that?” Apparently, they say it another way now! German is the root of most English words; in fact, German has contributed the most of all languages to English. And in the Revolutionary War era, there was contention between English and German speaking colonists. It was put to a vote–which should be the official language of the newly formed united States of America, English or German? English won–by a single vote, cast by a German-speaking farmer!

  4. I’m old enough to have had to be able to speak multiple (at least 2-3) languages to be able to graduate from High School (nowadays, I don’t know what they are learning, but it certainly isn’t English nor a few other languages — just a half-way whatever that doesn’t make sense).
    Mainly, the easiest way to learn is to be immersed in the new language (For example, most of us who have Served in the Military do speak several languages, because we have been overseas and learn by using and living/socializing in the area around the posts/bases). So yes, it was a bit difficult to start, but when you realize that (for example), it is not that large of a drive to cross a few nations in the European Union, nor that difficult to have to learn the nuances from various regions that you can adapt quite quickly.

  5. I never new Norwegian was an easy language to learn, I’ve always wanted to learn a new language but it’s hard to find who to speak it with.

  6. I’m really not interested in earning a new language. I would never use it and would prefer to spend my time learning something else that I would use.

  7. I would definitely learn Spanish. I live in California & it would really help me to better understand others that live around me.

  8. I spent a year in Poland . Studied polish and Russian. Nothing like being on the streets of a country to experience the language. but many there want to practice their English with us

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