Should I learn French or Spanish?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by MikeH, Apr 8, 2004.

  1. MikeH

    MikeH Stunt Coordinator

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    I decided I want to learn a new language. I'll start in Sept. when the new semester starts but since registration starts tomorrow I need to decide.

    French - since it is one of the official languages I feel some obligation to learn, plus it would help if I decide to move to a job with the federal gov't.

    Spanish - spoken in more places by more people? I am more likely to vacation in places that speak Spanish compared to French.

    I have no real preference. Any opinions?

    Mike
     
  2. Leo Hinze

    Leo Hinze Stunt Coordinator

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    I have been struggling with this question myself. Since I already speak English, choosing other languages to learn is not an easy task, because there are many good reasons for choosing one over another.

    Spanish is great if you live in the North/South America. I would guess that a majority, or close to it, of people living here speak Spanish. Aside from that, though, Spain and the Phillipenes are the only other places it would be useful.

    French is good, because it is spoken worldwide by dipmlomats and offical types. Plus, many places in Africa still speak lots of French. For an example of business applicability, I know that to work in the European Patent Office, you must speak English, French, and German.

    Here's another idea - Chinese. More than one-fifth of the world's population speaks some form of Chinese.

    FYI, the six official languages of the UN are Chinese, English, French, Russian, Arabic, and Spanish. The first four were the original official languages, the last two were added later.

    I'm slowly working on learning Spanish. I had four years of German in high school, but if I had to do it over again, I would have learned Spanish.
     
  3. GordonL

    GordonL Supporting Actor

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    I doubt knowing French will really help you with govt jobs but I guess that depends on what kind of govt job. Right now and for the near future that would have to be a Middle Eastern language because of the growing terrorist threat. Spanish would be more useful than French in the US because of the growing population that speaks Spanish. I think close to 20% of the population in the US is Hispanic. If you're a business major and forward thinking, consider Mandarin, because China is rapidly becoming a world economic power. The way jobs and manufacturing are being shipped overseas now, that might not be a bad language to pick up.
     
  4. Garrett Lundy

    Garrett Lundy Producer

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    Remember that the French of France (what they teach in schools) should only be considered the basis of the French of Canada, which is so far distorted to be almost another language. Think of Brittish slang and Deep south american english, and you'll understand the differences.

    Even though upstate NY is closer to Quebec than New York City, I still chose to learn Spanish in school, simply because there aree more spanish-speaking people here (ARMY base nearby). And there are more Korean and Cantonese speakers still, but these were not offered when I was in highschool.
     
  5. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    My personal opinion: it doesn't matter.

    In the end, learning a language in school is one of the most useless things you'll probably ever do. You won't really know the language, regardless of how many years you study it. I can't think of anybody I know that is able to speak more than two easy sentences, let alone fluent, in a language they solely studied in school. The only bilingual folks I know learned their second language through immersion.

    School can get your foot in the door, so to speak, but to really learn a language you need to be immersed in it. In other words, pick a language that you have the greatest chance of actually speaking on a day-to-day basis.
     
  6. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Still? [​IMG] Yes, and we're not stopping anytime soon. However, we barely register on the geopolitical map so (as much as I hate to say it) I wouldn't base the decision on that.

    --
    H
     
  7. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I partially agree with Leila. I've dabbled in various languages - but am really only marginally fluent in the language that I was immersed in from birth (Cantonese). Not to say that taking a language course is totally useless. It is learning something new and working your brain (and mouth) in a way that wouldn't happen otherwise. Picking a language you will use more often is certainly the key for getting the most from your study time. I have about six years of French under my belt but never use it. If I had to do those six years over I would do Spanish, seeing that many of my neigbors are Mexican immigrants and my job has at times put me in contact with migrant workers.
     
  8. Tom Meyer

    Tom Meyer Second Unit

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    If I had to do it over again, I'd take German or French instead of Spanish (better for movies!). And yes, immersion is the only way to go. I'm currently taking German classes and even though I'm learning the basics, it will still be difficult to become even somewhat fluent without spending a lot of time in Germany. Then again, that might mean spending more time in Berlin and I've had Good Things happen in Berlin [​IMG]
     
  9. Philip_G

    Philip_G Producer

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    it's kind of funny, I felt the same way.
    Took 8 credits of German in college, did OK but never thought I'd need it. Guess what? I need it.
    In fact, it's the ONLY class in college I could really apply to my current job. My German is so bad that I found it was WORSE to try and speak simple German phrases and better to just stick with English when I got sent to Germany for work.
     
  10. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    i know a few people. my gf, who took up spanish in college just for fun, fell in love with it and took many more classes. after graduating, she took a job as a high school spanish teacher. 3 years after that, she went to spain to get her masters in spanish literature. apart from the weekly phone call and 3 weekly emails i get from her in english, she speaks nothing but spanish, and has done this since she left in september and will do it until almost june. up until she was immersed in spain this year, she had only formal training in the language. using only the formal training and no immersion, she was able to gain admittance to one of the best foreign language masters degree programs in the world. so i guess i'd say it depends on how badly the person wants to learn. the knowledge is out there for anyone who wants to absorb it.

    CJ
     
  11. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    I didn't mean to make it sound that nobody will ever get fluent from taking it in school, just that I don't know anybody who has. I think for some people, like Christ's gf, who really have a passion for the language and want to make it a career, then certainly it's possible.

    For most people who take the required 2 years at the HS or undergrad level, though, it's simply not enough. Unless the language is going to be the focus of your career, I wouldn't expect to get so much out of it that you'd have an advantage over other job applicants. If you are serious about learning another language, taking a summer program in France or Germany would probably help you learn much faster and better than 2-3 hrs a week.

    Now, please don't think I'm against taking foreign language classes. I think they can provide other benefits such as culture awareness and exercising a different part of your brain. But if your main focus is to learn a language to be better qualified for certain jobs that require it, you'd be better off learning it via immersion.
     
  12. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    to me, it sounded like that IS what you were trying to say. i guess that is why i felt i had to share my (her) experiences. but i look at it like this - you may not gain all that much from taking a foreign language in hs or college for a year or two...but many colleges require a certain amount of foreign language in hs, even if a student is not interested in learning one. if a student IS interested, i think it takes more time to learn a language than is required by a college. once you determine what you want to study, all we are debating about is time. if you take calculus, the basics of integration and differentiation can be taught in a semester or two. after that, you are pretty well set on what each of those methods can do, unless you want to apply the calculus to other areas of study. however, unless you are a language prodigy, you simply cannot learn a language that quickly, there is too much to learn. difficult concepts take a long time to learn, and i think learning to speak a language that you do not natively speak is pretty time consuming, if not difficult. if you want to be fluent, you have to put in much more time.

    CJ
     
  13. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    That's pretty much why I think taking it in school is (in most cases) useless. Language is just not one of those things that is easily learned through a classroom environment. It's much more efficient and practical to learn a new language outside of the classroom environment.

    Calculus is hard to learn on your own. Hanging around with a bunch of engineers won't get you to learn the stuff. Having a teacher explain the concepts and guide you through it makes it easier.

    I also think taking PE in high school is useless because running around for 45 min here and there isn't the best way to get fit. Just like language, there are better ways to go about it.

    But for the sake of college admissions and graduation, just about everyone has to take the language. In that sense, it's necessary. My 2 years in HS and 2 years in college have gotten me to know a handful of words and phrases. I can understand a few people shoping in Walmart and some of my co-workers, but I'm far from being fluent. Having grown up in the El Paso area, which borders Mexico, I was told to take Spanish in school because it would be very helpful. But honestly, it hasn't been so. At least not for the kind of jobs I've had.

    In fact, I'm much better at understanding Arabic, a language that I've never studied, even informally. I certainly can't read or write it, but I have a much better grasp on it. My relatives speak Arabic and the little time I've spent time with them have been far more invaluable than the 4 years I spent trying to learn Spanish.

    So, I apologize for offending you and your gf. It's certainly doable with enough effort and work. But the impression I got from the OP is that language is NOT want he wants to do with his life. He's looking to study probably because it's required and just wants to pick a language that makes him most marketable to the job market. In that case, I see little use in fretting about which language to take. My opinion (which is probably quite disagreeable) is to just pick one and study it. Get good grades, get admitted to college and graduate. If language isn't your true calling, I'd spend most of your effort on the subject that is. And if language is your true calling, well the advice still applies. You will spend most of your effort on it, which will make you learn it well.
     

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