Many people wonder: which language should I learn? We’ll explain how to best and strategically answer this question for yourself.
What people say…
Maybe you are like many people in this world. You somehow have the idea to learn a new language. Or you need to learn a new language, for example because it is required in your school, your Ausbildung or your studies. Maybe you just want to qualify for new jobs? In many situations there is always the same question: Which language should you learn?
We don’t want to recommend you a certain language, because it might be in high demand or offered very often. With this article we want to help you to strategically deal with the question of which language you should learn. Only your own personality, your goals and your current living environment can decide which language is really good for you.
… what educational institutions want …
And here you already see the problem: You should decide about the language you want to learn and not others. If you turn to your educational institution or a language school with a question about a foreign language worth learning, then you might get an answer that pleases that institution first and foremost. In schools, you will certainly be advised to learn the language that is taught there, for which you will certainly be given good reasons, and these may be true.
In many cases, however, the language classes that are offered at that educational institution are also advertised. Foreign language teachers employed at a school have a certain language profile and the school cannot offer just any language. Teachers may be able to fill their classes, but it’s another matter entirely whether that particular language will help you personally.
A similar thing can happen to you in language schools: here, presumably, courses are recommended in which there is a lack of participants or courses in which the profit margin of the language schools is particularly high. Again, the question is whether this is actually in your personal interest.
If you live in the countryside, where the choice of different educational institutions is small, then you might not even think of learning a language other than the one offered there. In most cases this is English and French and maybe Spanish. But what about the most spoken languages in the world like Chinese, Hindi or even Arabic?
… and what you should do
Fortunately, there is a lot of choice for you today due to the colorful online world. Also, the number and quality of different language schools in Germany has increased in recent years. This gives you new options. One problem remains: which language should you learn now?
Our recommendation is to make a strategic decision here – that is, to think carefully about what your goals are and what options you have. Language learning is also management. And good management has goals and uses the available means optimally.
Think from the result!
The first factor you should consider in your strategic decision is the result. What do you want to do with your language skills? There are several reasons to learn a language:
- because it is a requirement in a new job
- to get better career opportunities in general
- because it is compulsory at school, during vocational training or studies
- for personal development
- to be able to communicate better with your international partner
- to obtain a longer residence title in Germany
- to move the center of your life to a certain country.
For you, there may be other criteria and certainly several in parallel. It is best if you can determine a main reason and possibly a secondary reason. These reasons will then help you decide which course to take: Do you want to learn business English or do you want to read French literature in the original? Do you want to speak Spanish on vacation or minor in Latin? Be very clear about your goals and write them down.
Look at your options!
The second factor you should strategically look at is this. People have different opportunities to learn a language. The possibilities are determined by, among other things:
- the time available
- the time of day when it is best to learn
- languages learned so far
- the range of languages available for learning
- the support from the environment.
You should use these criteria to consider exactly where your options lie. Do you perhaps only have a limited amount of time available to learn a new language? Then perhaps you should only aim for a low level or you want a language that is similar to one you already speak.
Listen to your voice
The third factor in your strategic decision about which language to learn is your inner voice. In our experience, learning a language only because you have to or because it may be the only language available in your field doesn’t help at all. You should rather have a positive attitude towards your new language.
It should have a positive effect on you, you should be enthusiastic about learning and have fun with it. If you find that this is not the case, your progress will probably be slow. The time you spend learning this language will probably be time wasted.
Fourth, and finally, be realistic about your choice of language. It can be quite difficult to learn Mandarin, Japanese or Hindi. The grammar, writing, and logic of these languages differ significantly from Indo-European languages such as German or English.
So for the same amount of time, you will make less progress in these languages than you would in learning other Indo-European languages such as Spanish, French or Italian. Of course, it may make great sense for you to learn Mandarin or even cuneiform. But you should be realistic with your expectations about how quickly you can make progress and what you need it for.
Most likely, the faster you learn, the more successful you will be. And more likely in life, you’ll need one of the most common languages in the world – unless you’re desperate to specialize.
Check different learning methods, teachers, and language apps
These are some of the outstanding options to learn and improve your German skills. See also our article on German language learning apps.
- Duden Learnattack*: This platform offers interactive learning materials and exercises for all school subjects, including languages. It’s a great place for individuals learning German as a foreign language to find resources and practice their skills.
- Babbel*: Babbel is a popular language learning app that offers courses in 14 different languages. It’s an excellent platform for language learners to improve their German proficiency and connect with experienced language instructors.
- Jicki*: Jicki takes a unique approach to language learning. Their ‘Language Showers’ method allows learners to intuitively and comfortably absorb German. As someone learning German, you can benefit from this platform’s distinctive learning experience.
- ErsteNachhilfe.de*: This platform serves as a valuable resource for language learners and teachers. If you’re seeking German language instruction, you can connect with experienced teachers on this platform who can provide personalized guidance and support.
From the above points about your rational choice of new language, you can make a little checklist and then check it for each language you are considering. In this way, you logically deduce the language of your choice. In this way, you avoid being driven by offers made to you by others or by ideas that you have in your head but which may not be entirely correct.
It can be helpful to try out the language or languages of your choice. Sometimes local adult education centers or language schools offer trial language courses. Within one hour you can immerse yourself in the new language and see if you like it.
Of course, this is also very easy to do online, and it’s free. For example, you can find appropriate beginner courses on YouTube. Or you can use an app like Duolingo. Try out different languages and see which ones you remember the most and where you have a particularly good feeling.
Maybe there is a language that you remember a lot of words from: You could continue learning with this one, as there is a high probability that you will be successful here.
Language certificates are an essential part of language learning and can serve as a valuable asset in both academic and professional settings. They provide a standardized measure of a person’s language proficiency, which can be particularly useful when applying for jobs or educational programs where a certain level of language proficiency is required. In Europe, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is widely used to describe language proficiency levels.
The CEFR is an international standard for describing language ability. It is used around the world to define language proficiency levels and interpret language qualifications. The framework consists of six levels: A1 and A2 (basic user), B1 and B2 (independent user), and C1 and C2 (proficient user). Each level describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking, and writing.
In Germany, several language certificates are recognized and respected. These certificates align with the CEFR and are often required for university admissions, job applications, or visa applications. Here are some of the leading language certificates in Germany:
- TestDaF: This is a German language proficiency test for non-native German speakers planning to study in Germany. It corresponds to levels B2 to C1 on the CEFR.
- Goethe-Zertifikat: The Goethe-Institut offers German language certificates for all proficiency levels (A1 to C2). These certificates are internationally recognized and often used by employers and universities as a reliable assessment of German language skills.
- DSH (Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang): This is a language examination that tests the German language proficiency of foreign students who wish to study at a German university. It corresponds to levels B2 to C1 on the CEFR.
- TELC (The European Language Certificates): TELC offers more than 70 certificates in 10 different languages, including German. The TELC certificates are aligned with the CEFR and are recognized worldwide.
- Deutsches Sprachdiplom: This is a school based program for learners of German as a foreign language.
In conclusion, obtaining a language certificate that corresponds to the CEFR can be a significant step in demonstrating your language proficiency. Whether you’re planning to study, work, or live in Germany, these certificates can open doors and provide opportunities.
Try to get a grant!
There are different kinds of funding for further education. If your language training is related to your job, you can ask your employer for support by your national employment agency. Even if you don’t need the support: Why not try it and use the money you save to go on vacation to the country where you can try out your new language?