French is sexy. Spanish is exotic. German is a lovely logical puzzle. When deciding on which foreign language to take at school, the choice is not an easy one. Here are some useful questions to ask yourself or your child before you make that important decision.
Which language do you enjoy more?
We work hardest and are usually much more successful at the subjects we enjoy the most. When languages are taught effectively they should be brilliant fun, and it will not be hard to choose one you love.
But beware of why you enjoy any subject. If it is simply because you like the teaching, remember you could well have a different teacher next year and no schools give you the luxury of choosing your teacher.
Which language do you find easier?
Languages, like musical instruments, become easier with each new language as they all rely on similar transferable skills. So it is wise to start with an easier language to make quicker progress and build your confidence.
Beware however of the possible ‘language honeymoon period’. German looks daunting at first as one cannot speak with prepositions. Spanish on the other hand looks deceptively simple, until that is you experience the delights of the imperfect subjunctive.
Which language would I use more?
This does not just depend on where you generally go on holiday, but also on where you might like to go on holiday, which job you would like to do, who you may be able to practise with. Think outside the box and indeed outside the continent. Remember that Spanish is spoken in most of South America and French is spoken in several Caribbean countries like Guadeloupe or Martinique, but granted these are not every families regular haunts.
Which language is more useful in the business world?
If you are choosing a language for job prospects, you need to try your hand at predicting the future. We can only hope that Europe as a whole will pick up soon. Until it does there will be lots of students and older adults coming to the UK from Spain, Italy, France…attracted by the relatively more robust (and apparently more glamorous!) jobs market in London. If they speak two languages and you only speak one, you will be weaker competition for the multilingual vacancies. Beware also of discounting a language such as German, because Germans are well known for speaking fluent English. If you enter into a business relationship with any nationality, they will respect you more for speaking their language. In marketing, sales, negotiations or discussions you will enjoy additional credibility if you can communicate in the client’s language rather than arrogantly assuming that they should speak yours.
Which language has better teachers?
Although you can never choose your teacher at school, certain subjects have a reputation for more friendly, fun or generally competent teachers. If your school only has good teachers of German but it is far more ‘touch and go’ with French, it may be worth selecting German at school, and finding yourself a tutor for French.
Which language can you get help with?
It might sound obvious but if your parents (or your parents’ friends) can offer you help with a particular language, why not take advantage of that help. Alternatively, why not ask around or search the net for languages tutors. There are lots of us out there who are passionate about languages and I am sure you will find one which fits your needs and wishes. It is also then much easier to focus on the parts of the language you find hard, such as a particular tense or grammar point, or speaking in general due to lack of confidence. Without your teacher confusing you or your friends putting you off asking embarrassing questions, you may find that any language can be easy and certainly any language can be enjoyed.