Best language to learn

Mar 22nd, 2001, 07:30 PM
  #1  
Cassandra
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Best language to learn

Hi, i'm going to europe later this year and was wondering what people thought would be the best languages to learn to get by....i'm only thinking of learning minimal aspects of the language. doing a tour of about 12 different countries around eastern europe including greece, italy, france, switzerland, germany etc...
 
Mar 22nd, 2001, 07:52 PM
  #2  
StCirq
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Given your itinerary, I would guess German would be your best bet. There will be plenty of people at each of your destinations who will know a minimum of German. AND it's a pretty easy language to learn at a basic level, so good luck.
 
Mar 22nd, 2001, 09:02 PM
  #3  
Florence
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Given Cassandra's itinerary, German is hardly the best bet: except in Germany and German parts of Switzerland, it will guarantee she'll talk only to German tourists and offend the locals ...

Better stick to English, and take along one of those multi-language dictionaries.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 01:38 AM
  #4  
kate
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Agreed. If anyone speaks a second language in these countries, it's more than likely to be english. German tourists are also viewed by some with the same disdain as american tourists (I'm sorry to say), and in some countries that suffered greatly during the war such as greece and certain east european countries they are positively despised. So if you're going to come out with anything other than the local language, english is a safer bet. It is also the most widely spoken second language.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 01:43 AM
  #5  
Elaine
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A lot of the eastern countries speak German (whether they like the people or not). Most Germans and Swiss speak English. I think French is the best to learn. The French don't like speaking English (broad generalization but true) and would much prefer that you attempt French than to make them speak English. Probably the same could be said for Italians but I think they're more willing to speak English. Just my opinions, by the way.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 04:18 AM
  #6  
Andrea
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I think you would be far better off dividing the amount of time by the number of countries you'll be visiting and mastering basic courtesies and numbers in each language. This will be far more helpful to you in my opinion than trying to learn the "secondary basics" like time of day and days of the week in one or two languages.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 04:42 AM
  #7  
nancy
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Italian , because it is so beautiful, and fun!
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 06:00 AM
  #8  
StCirq
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Italian certainly is beautiful and fun and relatively easy to learn, but NOBODY but the Italians speaks it.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 06:07 AM
  #9  
Florence
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Sorry StCirq, but Ticinese (Swiss from Ticino) speak Italian too.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 06:37 AM
  #10  
Rob
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Suggest you learn simple greetings and how to say yes, no, please and thank you in the language of each country. (To be polite try to append appropriate titles in your greetings: Bonjour, Madame; Buona sera, Signore; etc.)

In my experience, no matter how little English Europeans may seem to have, in the shops, restaurants and hotels they all seem to be able to give you the price in English.

French can be exhilarating to speak. Just know that you'll never really get it right. The French are very exacting about how their language is spoken -- not just pronunciation, but grammar as well. (Must be the influence of the Academie).

Italian is delightful to speak. And the Italians are generally very forgiving when you mangle it -- and you will. (They seem to be pleased that you are making the effort).

In any case, you don't have enough time to learn enough of a new language to be effective -- but if you have one you can brush up, start now.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 06:42 AM
  #11  
xxx
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In "eastern Europe" I guess German would be good, but the countries you listed were not "eastern Europe" so German shouldn't be necessary. (I've never been to Germany or "eastern Europe" so can't speak from experience, but have heard that German is widely known in eastern European countires, e.g., Hungary, Czech Rep., wherever English is not.) Greece, though in the eastern part of Europe is generally not deemed to be "eastern Europe" for some reason.

I was amazed how widely known English was in Greece. I noticed that a fairly high proportion of middle aged Greeks seemed to know Italian. Though there are a lot of German and other nordic tourists there, these tourists usually know English, and I don't think too many Greeks want to speak German. I noticed that a lot of French tend to visit archeological sites, so in those places maybe some Greeks would speak French, though more likely they's know English. But, for example, if you want a guided tour, and an English one isn't available at the moment, knowing French gives you more options. In Heraklion, where I went by myself, I tried to listen to the guides when I felt like it or needed to know something. There was a really bad English-speaking guide and an excellent Italian-speaking guide, who spoke clearly and slowly, so I followed her for a while. In Palermo, where I was wandering by myself, I briefly followed around a French guide in a church, because he sounded interesting and I didn't happen to notice any English-speaking one.

I'd suggest (1.) brushing up on ANY foreign European language you already learned in school, (2.) learning a few basics, words for "where is...?" and foods and bathroom and train station, etc. in the languages of each of the countries you plan to visit, (3.) if you want to take classes or really study one more foreign language, choose (a) the one of the country where you'll spend the most time, or (b) the one that appeals to you most for subjective reasons, or (c) French if you don't already know it and it doesn't already get picked for the other two reasons.

Many OLDER western Europeans (definitely the case in Italy) who had at least the equivalent of a h.s. education tend to know French. (I'm guessing that in eastern Eur. this might be true for German.) In some traditional areas that don't see too many foreign visitors (e.g., parts of Sicily), French rather than English is still the language that children learn in school. I think many younger Europeans (except in more isolated, less touristy areas), urban people, people in businesses involved with international trade, retail sales, "hospitality" etc. generally know English.

cmt
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 08:22 AM
  #12  
Tracy
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Hey Cassandra,

I vote for French. Besides obviously having the crucial phrases in any language, I always learn 'I'm sorry, I don't speak ___; do you speak English or French?'

Apologizing for not speaking *their* language, then giving a choice, has always got me a smile & *exactly* what I wanted . . . !

HTH - and pick up the Berlitz Euro phrasebook, nothing like flipping through the colors as you hit the different countries!
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 08:34 AM
  #13  
John
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Come on folks. Spanish gives you the opportunity to understand a little Italian and French.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 09:22 AM
  #14  
come on yourself
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Kinda like saying learn Norwegian so you'll catch a little bit of English and German which are also Teutonic languages. Never saw spanish bieing used as a COMMON lang. in Eur. except in spain.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 11:56 AM
  #15  
John
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Come on yourself: If you new a little more about language you might learn a little. If your a language teacher go back to school. Do a little research on Spanish, you might surprize yourself.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 12:21 PM
  #16  
Il Babuino
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John, it might be a good idea if you learned English next. Three misspellings in 3-1/2 lines? Whew!
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 12:34 PM
  #17  
Art
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I keep reading that the French don't like it if you butcher the language. We all butcher languages when we are learning them. When I was learning German many years ago I did my fair share of butchering it but I found that the Germans would laugh and then help me correct it. I've also found this true in every other country that I've visited. They appreciate the effort that you make. Since the French don't appear to, then I would do as suggested above, learn the basics of several of the languages ie. German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and let the French s***w them selves. If this is not true than add the basics of French also. I found it to be true in Paris (many years ago) but not in the rest of the country.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 12:46 PM
  #18  
Liza
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I spent a summer in Lyon with a family, as the final requirement for my French degree. The woman of the household constantly told me that my pronunciation was horrible, and that I shouldn't even try to speak French. She would only speak English with me, and outright refused to help me improve my French skills.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 01:12 PM
  #19  
jason
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The French are fine. If you're intelligent enough to figure out things on your own...nobody may ever know you don't speak French let alone being an American. I grunted my way through Paris buying tickets, bread, wine, and french onion soup without any surly Parisian attitude. If you're buying tickets, use the automated machine as much as possible or hold-up your fingers at the window for the amount you want and say, "Billetes si vous plais." Ordering food, read exactly what the menu says. If you're in a bakery, "Un baguette si vous plais" will do just fine. My French is probably more basic than most people who travel to France, and I found the French somewhat pleasant. The Dutch seemed to have an attitude and so did the Swiss, but not the French. Stop being ugly Americans and you won't see the ugly French.
 
Mar 23rd, 2001, 01:30 PM
  #20  
xxx
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My French is not good. I learned it in h.s. and college, was very good at it at that time, but that was decades ago and I forgot very very much of it. The French were very nice when I spoke French to them. Some told me my pronunciation was very good (it really isn't; it is not a typical "American" pronunciation, but it's far from great, more like French with a slight Italian accent), and a few said I spoke well (I don't). Not a single one ridiculed my efforts to speak French, and all of them understood me. Occasionally I'd suggest, and someone would agree, that for a more complicated conversation, I'd speak English and the French person would speak French, so we'd both have an easy time speaking, but understand each other. Or we'd just switch back and forth between my struggling French and their struggling English. I guess the rude French people must have been on vacation or in hiding when I was there (fall 1999 Provence, fall 2000 Dordogne and Paris).



cmt
 

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