What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

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Elizabeth_S
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Elizabeth_S » 16 Dec 2020, 1:04pm

I think the answer is, the one that you enjoy learning. I learned french, welsh, and german at school, and I did badly, then I lived in Germany for a while and spoke very bad german (many of my friends spoke very little english, or none). Then my son started going out with a Norwegian girl and we both learned norwegian together, and apart from the german cross over problem, I enjoyed learning a language for the first time and I've gone back to german and I'm learning portuguese also.
There are now many free language courses on FuturnLearn and other places, so you can dip in and see what you like before going further (sorry broken wrist so minimal capitalization).

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Ride-sleep-repeat
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Ride-sleep-repeat » 16 Dec 2020, 1:17pm

mjr wrote:
Ride-sleep-repeat wrote:From a Country or business point of view then Chinese or Indian.

Edit to add: those are not languages. You might as well be telling people that British is the best language.

I was trying not to complicate things :wink:
Ask the average Joe on the street what language they speak in China or India and no doubt you would get 'Chinese and Indian' or most likely "should be bloody English" :oops:

paddler
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby paddler » 16 Dec 2020, 1:23pm

It would be French for me, having been there three or four times. Would love to be able to converse easily. However, I'm hopeless.
As it happens, we are set to have a Portuguese daughter in law. We have visited her family and, again, I would love to learn the language and have been trying. But I think for me the only way would be immersion, so to speak.

Aside from that, German would be useful I think.

Jodel
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Jodel » 16 Dec 2020, 1:26pm

I'd agree with a couple of points already made as they are quite pertinent.

It's good to know the basics (hotel / restaurant encounters) in several languages, even if it just out of politeness. Learning whatever language you actually like / enjoy will make things a lot simpler.

I can manage basic conversational German and can stumble by in French. In my experience, most Germans will reply in English even if you start the conversation in German - and their English is invariably better than my German. In France, if you start an interaction in French, they'll keep going in French, regardless of how bad your attempt may be.

I'd be inclined to go with either German, French or Spanish.

reohn2
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby reohn2 » 16 Dec 2020, 1:27pm

Surely the most useful foreign language is the one you make most use of to communicate where you intend travelling or living.
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CliveyT
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby CliveyT » 16 Dec 2020, 2:00pm

I would say I speak German but to a German I probably speak some ungodly chimaera of Hochdeutsch (as I was taught when I was a lad) low German, Swabian and some form of Bavarian. And even then I went to Zurich for a week and I had no clue. It's useful to me because I collaborate a lot with groups in Germany but not really necessary. I'm generally pretty good at picking up bits and pieces from places I'm staying at and retaining them for the next time (all except Dutch- I've tried many times and it just doesn't make sense).
I am currently struggling through learning Finnish, which is of absolutely no use whatsoever (most Finns I know will apologize for the quality of their English and then come out with something that would put me to shame). I'm at the stage where I can just about understand what someone is asking, but trying to formulate my own statements is painful- I know the verb, but what type is it and how do I conjugate it? Now to the subject- which of the 16 or so cases is it in? what ending do I add? Now lets do the same to the adjectives. A quick check for vowel harmony and...... oh he's wandered off to talk to someone else

drossall
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby drossall » 16 Dec 2020, 6:11pm

I did French, German, Russian and Latin O-levels, although I eventually studied sciences. I've made limited use of them (effectively none of the Russian, and even my teacher recognised that I was unlikely ever to meet anyone on whom I could practice the Latin) - mostly on holidays although occasionally a few broken words for work.

The other thing though is the way it makes you think about words, and how even your own language works. German, for example, depends on cases much more. And words in one language don't have exactly the same connotations as the nearest equivalent in another, which is what makes translation interesting. So you learn about your own language indirectly, even if you don't end up speaking another much.

sizbut
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby sizbut » 16 Dec 2020, 6:31pm

I would have said JavaScript or PHP, though a lot of people rave about Python these days.

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Mick F
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Mick F » 16 Dec 2020, 7:13pm

What is the commonly spoken language, spoken by the most people on Earth even if it's not their native tongue?
English or Chinese?

I doubt there's another one up there with those two.
Mick F. Cornwall

Carlton green
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Carlton green » 16 Dec 2020, 7:31pm

My thanks for all the answers so far, each has provided something.

Just for reference the original post was :
“In today’s World I can now see me using the tools called foreign languages; it is (now) actually practical and possible for me to talk to people in other parts of the World, I can now visit foreign places and I can now buy from and sell to people in foreign places.

With the above in mind I’m wondering two things about about trying to learn another language:
# how much day to day practical use is being able to speak a second language? (When you’re normally resident in the U.K.)
# which foreign language is likely to be of most advantage to a U.K. resident? (I had French, German and Spanish in mind to choose one from. I would like to use the language on-line and, if I able to visit, use it in the particular country to which it belongs).”


I’ll now try and address my own questions:
# If you’re able to speak a second language well then you can use it to trade in another country (buy off of eBay or Amazon, etc.) , you might be able to watch their television channels and you might gain from hobby forums in that language - German would probably support my hobbies and purchases most. I suppose it all depends how well you read and speak the chosen second language and how well internet connected you are.
# It’s hard to say which one would be more useful if all you did with it was use it from this country. However when travel is involved then where are you most likely to go? For me the answer to that question is clearly France.

I approached the question from another angle. What teaching and practice resources are more obviously available to me and what would family members speak? Primary School age children are increasingly being taught French and my own children learnt it at school too. The only night school / adult education classes I could find were for French. I took a poll of U3a groups in various communities and by a factor of at least 2:1 they favoured French over German and German over Spanish. So really only French is available as a language to practice with others.

French seems to be both the most logical choice and the only viable choice, unfortunately it is also a language that I’ve struggled to grasp in the past so the outlook isn’t good. Oh well, we’ll have to see what happens when I dust off my text books and locate some better learning material.

Thank you again to everyone who has responded, it’s helped me answer the question. Please do add additional posts if you want to.
Last edited by Carlton green on 16 Dec 2020, 8:06pm, edited 4 times in total.

thirdcrank
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby thirdcrank » 16 Dec 2020, 7:36pm

reohn2 wrote:Surely the most useful foreign language is the one you make most use of to communicate where you intend travelling or living.


Hole in one.

It's also worth think about the type of people you want to talk to when you get there. In a previous existence I studied modern languages + the then compulsory Latin. I spent an academic year in France and initially hardly spoke any French at all except in shops etc. Most of the people in my initial circles were people like English teachers wanting to maintain their skills or families who invited me for a meal and some supplementary English for their children. It was only through joining the bike club that I met loads of people without a word of English and who welcomed me into their homes.

You need only think of the number of people who speak languages of say Chinese types to see that no language is really any harder to speak than another: if it's your native tongue, bingo. The problem for students from elsewhere is that the further you are from home, so the entire structure of the language is different. On that basis, your initial suggestions of European languages might fit your bill. There are other bits and pieces to think about. eg, Spanish is now largely written as it sounds so I'll guess that fotograf = photograph. (I've just checked and see it's photographer but the point remains.) Just over the border in France, the written form is a minefield. Dictation is widely used as a test of comprehension through a knowledge of the rules of grammar. If you only want to be able to chat, then the written versions are irrelevant.

I think English is only so widely spoken because of the former extent of the British Empire but one result is that no matter what the rules for people taking English exams, it's easy to make yourself understood without sticking to those rules.

It follows from what I've said about native speakers that it doesn't get any easier to learn another language as you get older. That's not to say it's impossible. Also, if you found language a bind at school, that may not change with adulthood.

Esperanto has been mentioned but I'm not sure how much it has ever caught on. The International Police Association is a social network, arranging exchange visits etc, probably from the days when the typical peeler (?) couldn't afford a foreign holiday. Its motto is Servo per amikeco = Service through friendship. Most of the probably few IPA members I've asked seem to depend on their counterparts speaking English. I was once asked by a retired colleague to show a German IPA member around Dewsbury nick and his English was impeccable.
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Ben@Forest
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Ben@Forest » 16 Dec 2020, 7:37pm

Mick F wrote:What is the commonly spoken language, spoken by the most people on Earth even if it's not their native tongue?
English or Chinese?

I doubt there's another one up there with those two.


Chinese isn't a single language, but Mandarin is the most commonly used language in China. It's commonly said 'Chinese' (incorporating all Chinese languages or dialects) is the language spoken by the greatest number of people. English is the language most widely used around the world.

Cyril Haearn
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Cyril Haearn » 16 Dec 2020, 7:52pm

Maybe 400 m are native English speakers
Those speaking it as a secondary, learnt later, acquired language are much more numerous, twice as many or more, so proper English is the exception. I mean, most people who speak read write English are not perfect

I wonder if this applies to any other language
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Bonefishblues
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Bonefishblues » 16 Dec 2020, 8:02pm

Is the answer English SPOKEN VERY LOUDLY?

Jdsk
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Re: What’s The Most useful Foreign Language?

Postby Jdsk » 16 Dec 2020, 8:09pm

Cyril Haearn wrote:Maybe 400 m are native English speakers
Those speaking it as a secondary, learnt later, acquired language are much more numerous, twice as many or more, so proper English is the exception. I mean, most people who speak read write English are not perfect
I wonder if this applies to any other language

If you use the ratio of non-first language speakers to first language speakers (and put Modern Standard Arabic to one side as a special case) you get:

English: 2.4
but
Indonesian: 3.5
French: 2.6

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers

Jonathan