Picking a foreign language to learn is much simpler than you think. In fact, if you’re having trouble deciding, it’s probably because you’re thinking too much.
Learning a foreign language is like taking a journey. The language you choose is your companion.
So you should choose your foreign language like you would a travel companion.
You need to get away from the idea of translating your native language. Each new language you learn is unique. Think of a language as a group of sounds that convey a meaning. Don’t try to simply look for similar sounding words. Totally let go and approach a foreign language as if you were starting from scratch.
When you let go, you won’t waste time judging how “complicated” or “easy” your target language is.
I started with French because I thought it sounded cool and I could take the course in high school. A few years later I studied German.
Most people you ask will tell you that German is more difficult to learn than French. After all, you have more going on with the grammar in German. German has three genders instead of two, German declines the nouns, and people always debate whether you should try to learn the “rules” about forming the plural in German or if you should forget the rules and learn the plural form of each noun in German separately.
So do I consider it more difficult to learn German than to learn French?
I learned German because I loved the sound of the language. I also wanted to read the great philosophers in their native tongue. And from the moment I stepped into my first German class, I loved talking to people using German.
Because of all that I found German easy to learn.
I think the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a language to study is that you need to get excited about some aspect of that language and the culture that speaks it.
If you choose a language because it is similar to your native language but you can’t get excited about the people who speak it and the way it sounds, you will never spend the time needed to get a feel for the rhythm.
What about one that is exotic? Maybe you can find one that is so bizarre that everyone will raise their eyebrow when you tell them how to say hello?
The question will be, will you be energized about the language enough to spend 15-30 minutes a day with it on a regular basis? If not, that language isn’t your friend. Maybe it will be later, but for now find a language that gives you goose bumps when you hear a few words of it.
I feel the same about using the criteria of how many people supposedly use the language. Will you ever go there? Do you like the people who speak it? Do you get off on just listening to the sounds when someone says hello?
What has given me the energy to learn German, French, Portuguese and Spanish is excitement about making the sounds to connect with others who speak those languages. I love to see the their faces light up when they hear that I know the right sounds to tell them about myself and to ask them about what is important to them.
Read some travel books and blogs, listen to some recording, talk to some people, GET EXCITED and choose a foreign language and start the journey of your life by learning a foreign language today.