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How to choose your target language
Home > Languages > Choosing your language

You want to learn a new language, but have not decided yet which one? Here are some tips to help you choose wisely:

Find out how you can use the language after you learned it. You can use some languages every day (for example Spanish if you live in Texas, or English if you live in Geneva). Other languages will need special circumstances for you to be able to practice them (you live in New York but you have a Chinese girlfriend). Keep the books-and-tv languages for advanced stages of your language adventure. If you'll be able to use your target language only while watching foreign TV programs or reading newspapers in that language, I would recommend you make this a third or fourth language, but not your first foreign language. It is much more fulfilling to have daily opportunities to speak your new language, and if you can, this will encourage you to learn another language.

Find out what learning material exist for your target language before starting. For some language there is a wealth of books, tapes, programs, websites, classes, to choose from. For others you are all alone with a dictionnary and a grammar book.

If this is your first "second language", I recommend you go for an easy language with a lot of learning material available and plenty of opportunities for you to practice it. Maybe you want to learn Arabic or Russian. Keep them for later. An "easy language" can be mastered in 6 months. A difficult one, especially for an inexperienced learning, can take years. If you begin with an easy language, this will increase your self-confidence and increase your commitment when you go after a more difficult language. 

Take your time to decide. Learning a language takes time and dedication. It is important you choose a language that you will be able to learn with the time and willpower you have available.

Do not try and learn two languages at the same time. It is great to be enthusiastic about language learning, but if you spread time and efforts across two languages, you will most probably never speak any of them correctly. And yes, this is also true when the languages are closely related.

As a general advice, a language that will be both useful and easy to practice is advisable. Beware of difficult languages that you can hardly practice, they will be hard to come and eventually you can loose them. Some people want to prove themselves they are smart enough to master the most difficult languages. They try to learn Mandarin, Japanese, Georgian, Finnish, Hungarian, etc... and most of them abandon quietly after 6 months. Those who don't go for several years before they are more or less fluent. This is a long and dry road to walk.

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