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Help with foreign language choices

(26 Posts)
2018name Mon 05-Feb-18 22:29:31

My son needs to decide on his foreign language choices in the next fortnight. He has to chose 2 out of these 3 languages for the next few years and was wondering if some naturally fit better - he has to chose 2 from French, German and Spanish. As an aside he also has to study Latin and maybe Greek starting next year if this also makes a difference to language choice. He is flummoxed what to chose as he likes them all and is of same standard in all. Thanks.

Charismam Mon 05-Feb-18 22:33:26

I'd choose german as it's more useful in the EU and Spanish as it's so useful generally and in the US.

French is like an art now.

So your son could be doing 2 out of the main three, and latin too, and Greek??

why so many languages? Is this normal in the UK?

ClaudiaWankleman Mon 05-Feb-18 22:33:40

Spanish is the most useful in the long term - holidays, growing economies etc.

None of them will be particularly useful as a stand-alone GCSE, but they’re a great introduction to language learning, which is a skill in its own right. Making a success of a language GCSE gives you the tools to be able not to learn a more difficult language later on, maybe in contemplation of certain work etc.

At this stage he should just choose based on whichever country/ teacher/ films he likes best. At least then he will be enthused to learn.

2018name Mon 05-Feb-18 22:36:13

I agree it does seem a lot but the Greek is a maybe though the Latin is a definite subject they study for a couple of years minimum. I think they drop one or more of the modern languages as they get higher up the school unless it is really there thing but I know several older children in his school that are doing Latin and 2 other modern languages.

Checklist Mon 05-Feb-18 22:42:06

Latin will make Spanish words easier to understand; its possible to see how some French words have descended from Latin (although it tends to be more evolved imo)

Latin will mainly help with German in that they are both case languages, and if you understand the function of cases in one, it makes it easier to understand them in the other. IIRC, German has 4 cases, where Latin has 6 (or 7 if you count the Locative). Assuming you mean Ancient Greek, that was also a case language.

Leeds2 Mon 05-Feb-18 22:58:43

My DD had the exact same choice, albeit 9 or so years ago now. She chose Spanish, German and Latin, taking Spanish and Latin to GCSE but not beyond that. Her main motivation was dropping French, which she had done at primary school and disliked!
She was quite happy with her choices. Some of the DC who had chosen German found it difficult; some who chose French and Spanish found it confusing to remember which language was which!

Altwoo Mon 05-Feb-18 23:00:37

Where would he most like to travel to in the future?

GU24Mum Tue 06-Feb-18 07:42:28

If he's the same standard in them all and likes them equally, I'd let him choose what he wants. My DD has taken French & Spanish (& Latin) to Y9 but finds running French & Spanish to the same level at the same time confusing (I know lots of people don't) so she would in hindsight have been better doing French & German. I love languages so chose the ones I enjoyed.

AuntieStella Tue 06-Feb-18 07:47:02

If he's doing Latin, then I suggest doing German and whichever he likes best from French and Spanish. The latter has an enduring reputation for being slightly easier (easier to spell, at least), so it might be the better choice if languages aren't his thing.

If they are his thing, check which languages can be picked up later on if they are not taken at this stage (so he knows the widest possibly choice is there at Year 9 or whenever). I'd still go for German and a Romance language, as it will develop him most as a linguist.

ScipioAfricanus Tue 06-Feb-18 10:16:57

Spanish is usually easier for pupils. As PPs have said, Latin will help with Spanish (and French) vocab, but also with German grammar. I would definitely advise, since he will have a wide range anyway, that he takes what he enjoys.

Historically, Latin and German have tended to be tougher in GCSE than the other two, but now the GCSEs have changed I don’t know if that’s still going to be the case. This means that they were useful ‘stand out’ GCSEs if you got an A* and were aiming for very top unis/Oxbridge who might use GCSE choices as a discriminator in a pinch, but on the other hand meant a less able linguist was better off picking Spanish and doing relatively better in the subject.

I’ve known quite a few pupils who loved French and Spanish but I find them too similar to each other and think I’d have been bored by that. For GCSE (a way off) it is nice to have a bit of variety.

Michaelahpurple Tue 06-Feb-18 11:17:44

At my son's school there was a pattern of non-linguists who chose German in year 9 frantically bailing to Spanish over the first term - there was a whole set of refugees. Having said which he was hopeless at Spanish too so is now just doing French for gcse.

If your actually has talent I agree with the German plus another, to help distinguishing vocabulary but I wouldn't claim to be an expert.

mocha70 Tue 06-Feb-18 11:40:24

I think French and Spanish are likely to be the most useful for work or leisure.
Germans are more likely to speak very good English than French and Spanish people therefore German is of less use in my opinion.

I did French, Spanish and Latin at school and found that when I was in Italy recently I could guess quite a few words despite knowing no Italian.

Shen0102 Tue 06-Feb-18 11:50:51

1. Spanish
2. French

that's what I'd pick.

randomsabreuse Tue 06-Feb-18 11:54:21

German and preference of French and Spanish largely based on holiday preferences. Germanic inflected language plus a romance language. I did French and German at GCSE (plus Latin...) and it worked well for me.

Soursprout Tue 06-Feb-18 11:56:49

Dd started with French and Spanish but found them too similar and confusing. She dropped Spanish and now only does French at gcse and wants to take it on to A level

Steamcloud Tue 06-Feb-18 11:59:56

I disagree with the statement 'French is like an art now'!

(Nothing wrong with arts subjects either.) But imho French is still valid because (a) France is our nearest continental neighbour (b) French is one of the very few languages spoken all over the world, ranked sixth after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. (c) That statement also ignores the rise of Africa; taking population growth in to account, there will be 700 million French speakers by 2050, 80% of whom will be in Africa, taking the proportion of the French speakers in the world from 3 to 8% and (d) it is the language (along with English) of diplomacy and one of the official languages of the EU (which I believe will still be very, if not more, useful post Brexit).

Having said all of that, either Spanish, or German would also be great, I would go with whatever language he loves the most and with whatever teacher is best!

BubblesBuddy Tue 06-Feb-18 12:16:26

I do not think it matters one jot at GCSE regarding which one. He is hardly likely to be able to work using the GCSE level languages and holiday chat will be limited quite frankly.

However, doing MFLs says something about you. My DD did not get the chance to do Latin but she did French and Italian and continued them to degree level. Her views were that the subjects had the best teachers at school and the best overseas trips! The Japanese students did not go to Japan! She also loves History of Art and studying that in Italy during her degree was a highlight. So choose the language where the country (countries) might float his boat as well as the language itself.

If he is interested in a language at Degree level, German is nowhere near as popular as it was. Many universities will be very pleased to see a well qualified student who wants to do German! Spanish and French are more competitive because far more students take these languages at A level. So if he wants to stand out, do German.

Unless you do a degree in a language, your ability to use it for work is very limited unless you are gifted enough to teach yourself way beyond the syllabus or have family members who have that language to get you ahead.

roguedad Tue 06-Feb-18 13:48:10

OP you might google “Languages for the Future” published by the British Council which does a through survey and looks at ranking by various criteria. Gives an objective basis for deciding. DS picked German and Mandarin in the end with no argument from me but with your options I think Spanish and German would have been the route taken.

TabbyTigger Tue 06-Feb-18 15:26:34

I don’t think it’ll matter much but I think generally French and Spanish complement each other - there’s quite a bit of grammatical/lexical crossover as they’re both Romance languages, and they both therefore also have more of a crossover with Latin.

But as everyone upthread has said - it doesn’t matter at this stage and all are immensely useful. Whatever he chooses will be great.

clary Tue 06-Feb-18 17:46:02

You don't day what year he is op but I assume yr7/8.

Agree with others, pick what he likes. If he can't choose then I personally would go for German and either Spanish or French. Just because of the greater variety of language.

Plus if you have done French and want to pic up Spanish it's a lot easier than picking up German.

Work wise, industry says it wants German first, then French, then Spanish it's think, then mandarin.

clary Tue 06-Feb-18 17:46:55

Sorry for stupid typos!!

Uninspirednamewise Tue 06-Feb-18 22:31:51

OP, I would encourage your DS to pick German as one of his options. My DD is taking French and Spanish at GCSE and although she is good at languages she does sometimes muddle the two because there are so many similarities. As German is more different from both French and Spanish, there is much less risk of muddling the two languages if he does German as one of his options. (I took French and German to A level and never muddled the two.)

Another point is that German appears to be dying out at state schools and may therefore have more scarcity value in the jobs market in future.

egginacup Tue 06-Feb-18 22:43:17

MFL teacher here! Lucky boy, at my school they can only do one language 🙁 I would say he should think about what he likes and where he might want to travel in he future- if, for example, you are likely to go on holiday to Spain then I would go for that one. The new GCSE is much more rigorous than the language teaching we might remember from school- a good GCSE will give him a decent level of the language.

As an aside, you can often pick up Spanish at university without having done GCSE or A Level but the same doesn’t go for German or French, so if he wants to keep all his options open he might be best with German and French.

Vietnammark Wed 07-Feb-18 07:10:01

I very much agree with Cloud that French is not a dying language.

The British Council published this report last year:

Which, in summary, says the best modern foreign languages for Brits to learn are, in order:


TonTonMacoute Wed 07-Feb-18 10:04:38

As someone who is learning languages as an adult, for shits and giggles, I would say that learning French and Spanish together can be as confusing as it is helpful, because large chunks are similar but other parts are completely different.

It would be a bit easier if he already more advanced in one of the two.

Latin does help, but Greek is very, very hard. My DS did his A levels last summer, in Greek, Latin and Portuguese. He started Greek at 13, and nearly gave it up three times!

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