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Which language to choose

(37 Posts)
happygardening Thu 09-Jun-11 10:57:01

Which would you choose my DS (year 9 now) starts his senior school in September and has to choose now between Ancient Greek, Spanish, Mandarin or German. He will be doing French and Latin and is exceptionally good at Latin, has a little experience of the Greek and no expeience of the others. I favour the Spanish my hubsband the Ancient Greek.

shesparkles Thu 09-Jun-11 10:59:54

What's your ds's preference? Depending on any future plans, I'd say Spanish or Mandarin would probably be the more useful languages

Bethanne Thu 09-Jun-11 11:00:14

Spanish is a very widely spoken language in the world, and German a very important business language.

midnightexpress Thu 09-Jun-11 11:07:30

I agree with shesparkles. I think Spanish or Mandarin would be most useful. With Mandarin, if he has a flair for it, I think that adding another Chinese language such as Cantonese, or even Japanese would be easier with an understanding of Mandarin. Spanish the most useful European language in terms of future emplyment.

BearBehavingBadly Thu 09-Jun-11 11:10:14

Which language would your son like to learn?
If you enjoy something you usually do well in it.
Agree with Shesparkles re Spanish or Mandarin though.

slipshodsibyl Thu 09-Jun-11 11:11:30

It's harder to get a top grade in Mandarin than in other languages. This shouldn't stop him if he wants to do it. Nice to do a Classic language but unless it looks as though he wants to be a classicist I'd say Spanish. Ultimately, he's doing the work - which does he like?

midnightexpress Thu 09-Jun-11 11:12:44

And yy to letting your DS choose which he's interested in. IMO, the more languages you learn the easier it is to pick up new ones, so any language he enjoys will be better than none and he can add another new one later (eg at uni) if he is so inclined.

Lilymaid Thu 09-Jun-11 11:13:22

Spanish is very easy to pick up if you have already studied French and Latin. If he would like a challenge, he should take Mandarin, which will be a very important language in his future.

sue52 Thu 09-Jun-11 12:35:22

I did Latin and ancient Greek many years ago. I wish I had studied a modern foreign language instead, it would have been more useful. Unless he wishes to take classics at university, I would go for a European language, I don't think 2 years would be long enough to develop any degree of fluency in Mandarin.

happygardening Thu 09-Jun-11 14:15:59

I favour the modern foreigh language, my DS favours Ancient Greek because he loves latin and currently thinks he's going to do it at Pre U (A level) but this is because he's had a fantastic Latin teacher and he's only just 13. He also thinks he's not that good at French (untrue if you look at his exam entrance exam marks) and therefore modern languages in general but this is because he's had a rubbish French teacher.
My husband thinks if you do Latin and ancient Greek for three years then you will find it easy to pick up Spanish or Italian at any stage in your life. This is what he's done.

cory Fri 10-Jun-11 08:29:18

I'd favour German: if he does French and Latin he will find Spanish easy to pick up anyway. Like your husband, I have found Spanish and Italian easy to pick up after doing Latin.

German very useful, not least for future university studies.

notcitrus Fri 10-Jun-11 09:01:09

Whichever he wants - German gives excellent grounding in grammar useful for other languages later (really useful for me learning Arabic atm), and is a less-common EU language much in demand.

Motivation is vital for language learning.

mummytime Fri 10-Jun-11 10:41:43

I think Ancient Greek is supposed to be fairly easy, and with Latin he should be able to pick up modern languages easily. If that is what he wants to do then let him. However you could get him some New Testament Greek stuff to see if he really is interested. He does realise its a whole new alphabet.

I'd tend to go with what he wants. I do presume his senior school is high achieving and full of good teachers.

BTW my DD has chosen French and Spanish, her choice, she has to do the studying after all.

quirrelquarrel Fri 10-Jun-11 10:47:51

You pick a language because:

a) It helps you with other subjects (i.e. Latin with Classics/History)
b) You really enjoy it
c) It's another skill to put on your CV/to use in a job
d) You have family ties to it (i.e. you could once speak a language fluently, now you don't and you want to relearn it in a structured way)
e) If you learn two structurally dissimilar languages, you cover more of a "terrain", so to speak
f) You're very good at it and it's an easy grade A

It seems like Greek would fall into a), b) and d). But these could all be outweighed by c) and e)- i.e. French, Mandarin, Spanish and German.

Since he's already doing Latin, that would get him onto a Classics course at uni no problem, if that's what he wants to do (you can even do a four year course and start from scratch).

nonicknamemum Fri 10-Jun-11 12:21:36

I think you should point out to your son that modern languages will be more useful when he is an adult and looking for a job (unless he already has some very specific career ambition for which ancient languages will be useful!) I think you should also strongly make the point to him that he is not useless at modern languages, so he shouldn't avoid modern languages just because he thinks he won't be any good at them. However, if he still wants to do ancient Greek I think you should be supportive of that decision because your son is more likely to do better at subjects he feels a personal sense of commitment towards. NB The fact that your son is particularly good at Latin suggests to me that he has a strong aptitude for grammar, which makes me think that he would probably take to German like a duck to water!

captainbarnacle Fri 10-Jun-11 12:27:07

I think that there will be plenty of opportunity to learn modern euro language later - lots of (correspondence) courses available. However, ancient Greek and Mandarin are much less accessible so requires you to be taught properly by an experienced teacher. So I would go for one of those two smile

happygardening Fri 10-Jun-11 12:59:29

Many thanks for all the replys lots of good points particularly about the German which I hadn't really thought about. Although I can see that Mandarin is useful and sounds good I suspect that the amount you would learn up to GSCE level would not make you in the slightest bit proficient. I seem to recall someone telling me that there son did it but at that level you only concentrate on the written side.
My husband. who did latin to A level. jokes that he learnt Spanish on the way to the airport and Italin in the separture lounge.

arionater Fri 10-Jun-11 15:15:05

I am a classicist! But actually I would suggest either the Greek or the German, assuming that he will have to continue with the French. (If not, I would say that he should maintain at least one modern language, either French or German, alongside the Latin; and if classics is really his thing he can pick up the Greek later.) Assuming that he will keep the French anyway, I'd say that both Greek and German are likely to appeal to him as if he is very good at Latin he probably has an aptitude for complex grammar; Ancient Greek is quite different from but about as difficult as Latin, although having studied a grammatically complex language (like Latin) already will help. I would say that German is a little easier (because quite a bit of the vocab is fairly close to English) but has similar challenges to the classical languages in terms of grammar and word order. Of course the spoken element may also be an attraction/challenge for him. If he is a literary type, or may become so later on, both French and German will open up a huge amount of literature and related culture (as do the classical languages of course).

I would leave the Spanish for now simply because with good French and Latin it is not difficult to pick up to a conversational level.

As for Mandarin, I think this would be fantastic in theory, but it is a completely different sort of language (very little grammar of the Latin sort, for instance) and unless he continued it for years and/or had good home/background support or related interests I think you're right to think that he probably won't get that far with it.

quirrelquarrel Fri 10-Jun-11 15:15:41

My dad thinks that Chinese will be the language of the future, something worth considering.

German is great for good decoders- all those compound nouns.
Personally I love German, I'm so glad I was in the year I was in at school when both German and French were compulsory- the next year had to choose either/or, even at GCSE. Any school which zones in on teaching multiple languages (3 or 4, even) is fab in that respect.

DialMforMummy Fri 10-Jun-11 16:26:21

Chinese is trendy these days. However, two teachers I know from 2 different schools (where they offer Chinese) once told me it was often badly taught by actual Chinese teachers flown from China with zero experience of teaching in Britain. So if you are going down the Chinese route it's worth checking out if the course is delivered by a teacher (Chinese or not) who has experience in this country.
Chinese might be the language of the future but considering how difficult it is, it will be quite some years before your DS has a level that can be useful (unless he has regular exposure).
If you DS does French and Latin, he can pretty much teach himself Spanish as they are all very similar.
If he already does Latin, I would not bother with Greek unless he's mad for "dead" (hate this word) languages.
So as a result, I'd say German.

mousymouse Fri 10-Jun-11 16:40:41

I would go for a modern european language.
would make moving for work easier.
german is tough but a good basis for other languages grammar wise.

cookcleanerchaufferetc Fri 10-Jun-11 19:28:00

Mandarin ... Of more interest to potential employers in the future. Chances are whatever language he learns he will only remember the basics ... Can I have a beer please!!

Xenia Fri 10-Jun-11 22:01:55

I did German A level and had the older 3 children do German (along with Fernch and Latin) but I now wish we'd encoureaged Spanish instead as it's more useful (and I bought somewhere in a country where Spanish is spoken) so I think I might encourage the younger two to do Spanish.

mathanxiety Sat 11-Jun-11 00:08:01

I would choose whichever one has the teacher with the best reputation. Otherwise you're wasting your time no matter what the actual language is. A bad teacher makes learning uphill all the way, and your DS is already expressing some doubts about French, whereas his Latin experience is enhanced greatly by a good teacher. If you know anything about the reputation of the teachers of the various languages, try to choose among teachers instead of subjects. I learned more German in two years than French for seven.

Going just on languages of the future though, I would choose Mandarin; though Germany is a major economy it's not too hard to pick up if you need it later and Latin is a language that covers just about every grammatical twist and turn known to mankind so ideal as a base for learning others. Forget Spanish, it's Portuguese you need (Brazil is becoming a major world economic player) if you're thinking South America. Spain is not a major economic player, never was and will not be for the foreseeable future. Ancient Greek is an option that might make an admissions officer prick up his or her ears no matter what he was applying for. No practical application, but I would say your DS's choice would be between Mandarin and Ancient Greek.

arionater Sat 11-Jun-11 13:04:19

Good point about the teacher of course. But hard to tell if it's a new school he's moving to in September. The other advantage of Greek may well be small classes for GCSE (since it's usually a pretty minority option) - worth checking the size of the German and Mandarin classes too perhaps? Even more so with a spoken language, a small class size makes a huge difference.

One other point about GCSE is that in the classical languages students actually get to read some literature in Latin and Greek for GCSE which they don't for the modern languages where you have to wait for AS for that (the time is taken up with spoken/aural element I suppose). If he's interested in literature as well as language that may attract him.

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