What Foreign Language Is Easier to Learn?

Updated on August 30, 2019
E.N. asks from Winter Park, FL
19 answers

Hello, my teenaged son needs to take a foreign language next year, and it is between German and French. Does anyone know which language is easier to learn? Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much, elmnt5 for your nice and thoughtful comment! There is nothing wrong in choosing a language that is easier than the other, to make sure my son passes the class! A couple replys were rude beyond my comprehension. All I asked was for advice about a language that would be easier to learn. No harm in having a little bit of an easier time learning a foreign language!

Featured Answers

W.W.

answers from Washington DC on

E.

Sorry - I have both under my belt - and I felt that German was easier than French. But if he has another language like Spanish or Italian under his belt already? He'd find French easier....

And languages are VERY personal - I know that sounds funky - but it's true. Every one has a different way of learning things.

Good luck!

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R.P.

answers from Tampa on

Hey fellow Floridian.. and actually we are not that far from each other!

I say between French and German... French is easier. I think it’s much easier on the ear too! But it depends a lot on the kid or us adults as well.. some just pick up languages a lot faster.

Is your son more of a “serenade the ladies “ type when older, French all the way!! Is he more of a Oktoberfest type, than schnitzel it is!! Lol kidding! 😜

By the way there is an excellent and I mean excellent mini series called Spiral. ( drama) It’s in French . I was reading the subtitles.. excellent acting and story! It also is informative of how justice system in France works... it’s work and personal life of cops, judges and lawyers. Superb!

And no one expects this child to be fluent in language after a school year of taking it. And absolutely nothing wrong with asking which one is easier.. no one wants to take on an elective class to flunk or get a crappy grade! This is in hs, it’s pretty important to keep up a high average.

Have him listen to both, of you guys are bilingual see which one is closer sounding to what is used at home and or let him pick!

Lots of luck!

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D..

answers from Miami on

Added after your SWH: I have to say I totally agree that there is nothing wrong with determining the difficulty of a language when deciding which to study! Not everyone is good at learning or speaking languages! I was very good at it when I was young, and I actually sing in many languages (not the same as learning or speaking them), one of my sons is also very good at it, but my other son struggled with a capital S... He’s the one who ended up taking German and had to repeat German 101 in college. And he worked hard too.

I’d love for the people busting on you about this to apply their arguments to Asian languages. They’re full of hot air!

Original:
They are both are hard. French spelling and pronunciation is difficult, but the sentence structure makes sense to an English speaker. German’s sentence structure is a real bear. Spelling is hard too.

My kids took Spanish in high school for their foreign language requirements. Spanish is easiest. But when they got to college, they were not allowed to take beginning Spanish again. That was difficult. Several years had passed and they felt they couldn’t walk into a higher level course, so they ended up in other language courses. (Unhappily, I might add, especially the German...)

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M.G.

answers from Portland on

I was curious, and googled it. I kept coming up with this same list, and French ranked Easier than German. Here's the Business Insider list of top easier languages (after English to learn) (safe site)

https://www.businessinsider.com/easiest-foreign-languages...

My father spoke multiple languages, and spoke French better than German, so for him it was easier for him to pick up.

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E.B.

answers from Denver on

What are his interests? He may like German because of the tech aspect (many pioneering projects in tech/science/research are based in Germany, for example). Or he may be interested in art, and might love learning about the French culture and art history with a plan to go see the Louvre museum some day.

The reasons to learn a foreign language are many. It increases analytical thinking skills, improves memory and problem solving skills, and broadens one's knowledge about the origins of English words.

It shouldn't be approached as a "filler", a class that a student just needs in order to graduate.

Maybe your son could listen to some basic first lessons online, in both German and French. He should pay attention to the pronunciation - some people have trouble with certain aspects of languages and find other languages easier to pronounce. He should look at some basic lessons about grammar, verb conjugation, etc. And perhaps he can ask his school counselor about the curriculum in both classes. Some teachers have students recite and recite, others create a broader approach. Your son may gravitate towards one of the teachers' teaching methods.

And if he's going to go to college and is interested in a particular field of study or a particular college, look up that field or college and find out if either language might be more useful. Have his ask his school counselor things like "I want to study ____" or "I want to major in _____" and ask which language might be more helpful.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

I find Spanish to be easy! Both German and French are Latin based languages so both will have similarities to English. My 15 year old son took Latin for a while. This year he switched to French and loves it. He got on Duolingo this summer and learned a ton himself just for fun. Have your son listen to both German and French and see if he likes one better just based on how they sound. Go on Duolingo and start doing some practice...my son thinks it's fun.

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T.S.

answers from San Francisco on

My youngest was able to take American Sign Language as her "foreign language" requirement! Not at her high school, but at the local community college, but of course it counted and even counts again towards her total college credits.
I'm only mentioning it in case that's an option that may be available that you're not aware of. I took French in HS and college and it wasn't too bad. Not sure about German.

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C.C.

answers from New York on

The two working languages of the ICC (International Criminal Court) are English and French...I’m certainly not sure why one poster says that French is not spoken much “outside the classroom”.

I have found French to be fun and very useful. And I did not find it to be difficult.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

My son wanted to take German. We live in Texas for goodness sake!! (and we do have pockets of German speakers in the hill country area they are few and far between.)

So, his father and I highly suggested Spanish probably 20% of our family speaks it most other families we know here speak it to some extent. Some of my son's friends are fluent. His grandmother is fluent. We have family that lives in Mexico.

Learning Spanish living here would be beneficial and useful...he could order in restaurants and grocery stores. It is heard on a daily basis.

When we pointed that out and he did a Google search. He is taking Spanish and has many people who can tutor him.

My daughter wants to study medicine, so for her either Spanish or Latin would be good choices. (Still leaning towards Spanish).

I took French to answer your question...with only two years in high school and no college requirement to take more...I could have studied any language. It wasn't horribly difficult, but I didn't retain much. Are those his only options?

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B.C.

answers from Norfolk on

I took Spanish in high school and it just never took well with me.
I had a much better time with computer languages.
Our son wants to be an engineer so he decided to do Latin for the language requirement in high school.
Greek and Latin roots are endlessly useful in understanding English better.
If your son is interested in science, biology, medicine, etc then Latin will help him the most with the scientific terms he will be working with in his major.

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L.H.

answers from Abilene on

I took 4 years of Spanish and 1 year of French. French was a lot harder than Spanish for me. I am unfamiliar with German.

I found French to be harder to spell and pronounce. If you are truly in Florida, Spanish would be easier to practice. Becoming fluent in a language is directly related to how much exposure to native speakers you have (in my opinion).

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R.M.

answers from Albany on

Let me first say that I speak both languages...as well as Italian. I also teach English as a second language.
One would think that English is closer to German than to French and therefore easier for an English person to learn. After all, English comes from old German. But because of the invasion and conquest of England by the French (the battle of Hastings in 1066) the French language had a huge influence on English. English and French are 60% similar. Not as much with German, however.
Vocabulary example: the word government in French: gouvernement. government in Italian: governo. government in Spanish: govierno. government in German: Regierung.
There are, of course, many similarities between English and German. Some parts of the body, for example. Hand, Arm, Finger, Lippen, Nase, Fuss. But don't be fooled, German is a very complex language to learn with 3 genders (masculine, feminine and neuter...and then all of them as plural) as well as 4 cases. That results in 16 ways to say the word 'THE'. And for 'A' there are again 16 ways to say it. You must know which 'case' you are using. Then there are 16 endings to learn for the adjective that follows each of both 'A' and 'THE'. One has to memorize them and practise, practise, practise, that's all. Then life is easier. And you feel proud because it's an accomplishment.
I learned German in school for 3 years starting at age 16 and at first it was fun (the first month)...then came all the rules to memorize.
Spanish would be the absolute easiest but that is not an option.
Not to discourage your son but girls are btw generally much better at learning languages. Whatever he decides, I hope he LOVES the adventure which it truly is!

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

It depends what you mean by "easier." First of all, why are you looking for "easy" (does he have special needs, for example)? Secondly, I'm curious about why these are the only 2 choices. Is there no room in any classes but those? Or has he felt forced into a corner and those are the 2 he has latched on to? What are his reasons and motivations? Kids learn better when they want to, but you're seemingly asking for something simple. I'm not sure if that's a general question because he has a heavy course load, or if he's got learning challenges or heavy activities. I'd have to know that before advising you further.

I major in Spanish, have used it in every job since college, and I tutor it to adults and college students (and an occasional high school student if the kid is there voluntarily and not because the parents are forcing it), Spanish is phonetic; French and German are not. The grammatical structure of the German sentences is tougher than that of Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian), although there are also some differences in English. And many would argue that they are easier than Russian, Mandarin, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic or any other language that uses an entirely different alphabet.

Neither French nor German are spoken much in life outside the classroom, so there's virtually no opportunity for him to practice or see the relevance of the language. (ETA - I am editing this to clarify that neither language is spoken much in local communities in Florida, where you are. Of course, there are international opportunities for pretty much every language, in international business, the State Department/diplomacy, and more. But it's hard to practice in high school at that level. I was referring to immediate application in "real life for a teenager" and reinforcement outside the classroom during the high school years.)

Feeling that something is "pointless" doesn't much motivate a student to learn. Unless you have stores and communities in your area that are highly populated by German- and French-speakers, your son is going to have a harder time than if he learned Spanish.

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S.H.

answers from Santa Barbara on

I do not know your background or your son's interests. In general French is rated an easier language to learn for English speakers.

If 'easy' is the goal ASL (American Sign Language) is the easiest and often used by students with learning disabilities for this very reason. Spanish is considered slightly easier than French.

German is popular for students wanting to go into Science for advance learning.

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J.K.

answers from Washington DC on

I think it’s a fair question because you don’t want your son to have his GPA impacted due to the foreign language requirement. Languages are hard to pick up and not intuitive for everyone despite all their best efforts.

I took French for 4yrs in HS and found it easy. My oldest son chose French and struggled. He took 3 yrs and maintained a B-/C throughout. My youngest is currently taking German. He’s interested in the language and culture (and his friends are also taking it) so I’m hoping that will help motivate him to learn.

Overall, I think all the languages are hard if you don’t know them and it’s kinda a personal thing. Spanish looks hard to me yet everyone says it’s easy. I found French easy but my son didn’t. German looks REALLY hard to me but my youngest wanted to try it. We listened to lessons online and I couldn’t pick up the basics.

I agree to try listening to lessons on YouTube to see what sounds pleasing to the ear and go from there.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

are you really going to base a decision for your teenager's language choice on which one is 'easier'?

is that the basis for your other educational selections? is that what he's learning from you? to pick the easiest?

i'm breathless.

khairete
S.

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燕.张.

answers from Los Angeles on

I say German.
好运气
怡怡

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S.M.

answers from Boston on

Our mother is from Germany but never taught us kids. My sister took French and German. She said German was so hard I never even bothered to try. So that was her experience at least.
And yes - if he’s not interested in languages, why not take the easier one? People can be so judgmental. I have zero interest in languages. I find some pretty and it’d be great if I’d learned at such a young age it was second nature. But to me investing the time isn’t worth it for me or my children if they don’t have an inherent interest. They can then focus on what they are more interested in. No shame in that. Of course they have to take a language but both hate it.

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J.B.

answers from Detroit on

french is easier than german! tell them if they think of it like learning the english language (i.e. a noun, adjective, verb etc makes a sentence) it will be easier to learn. sometimes people think its harder to learn than it really is :) i took french in high school and college.

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