What language should English native speakers learn?

People say that English people are lazy when it comes to learning languages, and that when foreigners coming to England speak English, English people should return the favour. Fair enough! I think this is true, but what language should English people learn? Europe is linguistically quite diverse, so even if everyone in England spoke fluent German as well as English, no doubt the French and Spanish would think that we were unwilling or lazy for not learning their languages. But, no doubt it won't be long before the international language changes again. Only 100 years ago, Latin and French were important languages, 50 years ago, English and Russian, and now only English. It is only a matter of time before another language takes over the role of international languages, and at this rate it looks like it will be Mandarin!

Sent by: James


Imo, England 2011-06-04

I'm 15 and I learn French (fluent) , Spanish (almost fluent) and Latin (A* grade). I also am teaching myself Irish and can speak a smattering of German and Italian and Russian. I know a bit of Dutch and Hungarian. Wherever I go, I try to learn enough to get by in that country as languages- communication - is vital.

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Ancient Brit, England 2011-05-22

Languages evolve like many other aspects of a living community. There has to be a reason why people choose to speak English. The principal reason is to communicate. Listen to the conversations of interpreters at an International Conference and for the most part they use English To talk among themselves. :-)

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McKenzie 2011-01-27

I agree, Mandarin is really popular and the worlds most spoken language, even though English is a very common language. I would love to learn Latin, French, and Mandarin.

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Agata, Rome 2010-09-27

For English native speakers I would recommend German.

I've learnt so far English, German, French and Italian. I must say that my English and American colleagues had always loads of difficulties with Italian and French pronunciation. Sometimes it is really hard if not impossible to understand the English speakers talking in French and in Italian for example.

However I remember the English native speakers to be always one of the bests in my German classes. Their pronunciation was always right and clear especially if they were following an Austrian or South-German teacher. The verbs are very similar in English and German so it makes the language easier to understand and then in the cultural aspect the two countries are not too far from each other.

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Michael Kenmuir, Hampshire 2010-09-20

Ian Anderson, Asker, Norway, expresses some sommon misconceptions about English and its historical predecessors. The language of Shakespeare is Modern English, though an early form of it. The language of Chaucer, a distinct language different from Modern English, is termed Middle English. You and I would not be able to understand Middle English, because too much of it is beyond recognition

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Alan E., Leeds 2010-09-20

Simon J from Newport, on the main article comments, makes a very depressing comment. I would say that languages are not just for communication, or at least not merely stating facts so that they can be understood by everyone else in the world today. Languages are also for poetry and literature, and what sounds wonderful in the original language rarely translates well into another tongue. They are for communication down the ages as well, so e.g. Shakespeare used an earlier form of English but it was still English. They bind a particular community or culture together. How boring it would be if all we had was one "universal language"! Does Simon think it is somehow key to peaceful coexistence that we all speak the same? Isn't it notable that one smallish European country that speaks as many as four main languages has avoided war and stayed neutral for centuries? I'm talking about Switzerland of course.

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Aishoka, Japan 2010-09-20

I will never regret taking the opportunity to learn Catalan while living in Barcelona. Everyone there speaks Spanish too, so it isn't particularly necessary, but not only did I feel closer to my Catalan friends as a result of being able to communicate in their birth language (instead of the imposed Spanish), but I also felt deep within my soul just what meaning language has for people, communities and cultures. I am now experiencing something similar with Japanese - you can get by with just English here, but it is so much more rewarding and enriching to gain intimate insights into the people and their culture through understanding of their language. I really hope people in the UK don't give up on learning other languages - if you stick with the imperialist idea of everyone should speak English, you're merely narrowing your own horizons and missing out on a big wide world out here.

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JULIO, COLOMBIA 2010-09-12

Nobody knows which language will be the most used in the future. But everyone recognize the importance of learning more than one language. I speak Spanish, a little of English and like GERMAN, and it leads me to be an openminded person, a person of the world. OR not?

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Mark, USA 2009-11-09

For adult English-speakers who have never studied another language, I recommend Spanish because it's pronounced exactly the way it's spelled, its grammar is highly regular, and much vocabulary has close cousins in English (via French). For children any foreign language will be fine if they start learning it young -- no later than age 10, which is when their brains begin to be fixed in their native tongue's thought-patterns. I began learning foreign languages at age 9 (5 years of conversational French) and later kept acquiring new ones -- Latin, Spanish, German, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew (so far). My teachers all marveled at how quickly I picked up the new tongue, even well into my 30s, until I told them how early I'd started. They told me how great it was to get an early start (well, early for an American, anyhow) and how they wished more kids could learn at least one other language while in elementary school, because that makes it much easier to learn ANY new language as an adult.

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Sarah Ashley 2009-09-17

Every 5th person in the world is Chinese. Asian languages are greatly underestimated and disregarded because they involve more work in learning. And statistically speaking, you'd be able to communicate with a clear 20% of the world's population by learning the Chinese language.

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