Best language to learn for travel?

Indecisive about what to study (and I’m a monolingual-cel so I’d like to get to fluency in one language than passibility in several) out of German, French, Russian, etc. I care about literature, and travel is also important.

Don’t really care about Latin America or Africa, so reach there doesn’t matter as much. I know for example Germans can often jump right into English while it’s much less common with a Frenchman…

  1. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    >German, French, Russian
    Out of these German covers the smallest area, which means is the least useful one "for travel".

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      I found that in Europe German goes further than French or Spanish. This is due to French being spoken only in France, Belgium and Switzerland as a first language and a second language in Spain and maybe Italy. Whereas German is spoken as a first language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and is spoken as a second language in the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovenia, etc.

      Source: just travelled Central Europe and when nobody spoke English they normally spoke German.

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        Also german spoken in Alsace france, and some danes living border understand german

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          >Also german spoken in Alsace france
          As someone who lives fifteen minutes from Alsace and spends a lot of time there, I find this a bit of a stretch. People living and working close to the borders have often studied German and can get by, but the real indigenous Alsatian Germanics speak Alsatian, their own Alemannic code (closer to Swiss and a few other regional dialects than to Hochdeutsch, and quite hard for most people from Northern Germany to make sense of), and then French on top of that if they want to be formal. The Alemannic varieties are always referred to as Dialekte, but it’s a linguistic misnomer and they ought to be considered at least one distinct language closely related to “German.” At their purest they’re not much closer to Upper Saxon than they are to, say, Flemish, and many, many more Germans than admit to it can’t really understand them.

          At least here in Switzerland, most of my expat German friends (at least the Northerners) admit to struggling with comprehension, and almost nobody is arrogant enough’ to claim to speak it very well, if at all. My Swiss friends, meanwhile, almost universally mock German attempts to speak Schwiitzertütsch. The only German I know here who speaks it well by local standards has cousins here and was raised spending most summers in Switzerland.

          Of course there are exceptions, but not that many.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            Might be a stretch but cant deny that knowing fluent german is better than knowing only englush in Elsass

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        German is spoken by like 80k out of 11m people in belgium and only near the german border. Even the supermarkets opt for dutch & french on their labels. Luxembourg prefers those as print on languages too.

        + German's generally speak english unlike french(imagine living 5km near the german border, in the german speaking part of belgium and being hard locked to french?) or spanish tards.

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        Very surprised to hear this claim made for Romania; I know there’s a population of returned guest workers out of Germany and Switzerland there, but French is a far more common L2 there than German in my experience. Met a few L2 Italian speakers there, as well, although not as many as in Albania and Greece.

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          German is literall a minority language in romania dumbass

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            It’s a gesture to history. I’ve been to the Saxon villages, dumbass, and they’ve been all but depopulated of living ethnic Germans for going on a century now. There are not more than 30,000 of them left (down from a peak of nearly 800,000), and most of them speak Romanian as a first language in modern times.

            • 2 months ago
              Anonymous

              bro you just googled german romanians and came up with that post lol you never been anywhere

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        There's a region in Italy where they also speak German. It's called south Tyrol.

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          Yeah, Südtirol is basically a stray piece of Austria. You meet Italians with varying levels of of L2 German proficiency working in most Italian tourist towns, too—a boat captain I was hanging out with in Taormina a couple of weeks ago said he got a lot more German tourist business than his competitors because he can address them auf Deutsch. He’d spent a couple of years doing some kind of work in Germany, so he actually spoke OK; your average Italian waiter in a place with German menus doesn’t, but he might fake it.

          English is still more useful.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            English dose fuck all.in rural italy you dumbass

            • 2 months ago
              Anonymous

              >English dose fuck all.in rural italy you dumbass
              Perhaps not. I wouldn’t know; I speak Italian. But I don’t buy for a fucking second that German “dose” any better.

  2. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Hindi

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      this but unironically. india and pakistan covered, most bagladeshis speak hindi, more indians than locals in most gulf states, uk is literally india lite, sizable minorities of jeets in southern africa and eastern africa

  3. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    >

  4. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Roosh said it best. If you speak English as your native language, all you need for women and survival abroad is Spanish and Russian.

    Spanish
    Russian
    Chinese
    Arabic
    Bahasa Malay/Indonesian

    You could literally go anywhere and be understood.

  5. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Don't learn french. Out of the three you mentioned Russian is probably the most useful especially since you say you have an intererest in literature. I don't see any point in learning German unless you plan to live in that area of Europe or want to read the original Mein Kampf. Honestly if you're only planning to travel through the 1st world you don't need more than english.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      Thanks anon. Why do you say no French?

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        Not him, but while French is obviously a language with a lot of culture and is mandatory for France, if you're more interested in broader travel it will come up lacking compared to other options. Unless you're fascinated with West Africa I guess.

  6. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Spanish is the obvious answer, but if you're not interested in the southern hemisphere then not just Spanish but the other colonial powers like French and Portuguese lose some relevance.
    This makes German or Russian possibilities as they are more localized but useful within the northern hemisphere and literature giants.
    I still think Spanish is the best L2 you can possibly have in general (and it opens the world of Romance languages up if you do decide to pursue others later), if English is your L1.
    But between German and Russian I would definitely cast my vote for Russian both in travel (because while still localized it has much wider regional influence, like Chinese and Hindi, compared to German) and literature (all my favorite authors are Russian).
    It may also be a more interesting choice professionally in today's political climate.

  7. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    English, but louder & slower.

  8. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Latin, so you can communicate with all educated persons across the entire Roman Empire.

  9. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    After Spanish, I’ve personally had the most mileage out of Russian, without much competition—alongside the actual former Soviet countries, most of which still use it as a lingua franca (particularly in Central Asia, where it’s not regarded with any hostility, unlike in the Baltics and Georgia, and presumably increasingly in Ukraine despite it being the main language used on the street in Kyiv and Odessa), you’ll meet people who were educated in the USSR scattered all over the red or formerly red world. I have fluent Russian-speaking friends from Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, and China, among other countries. And although it’s been on the decline for some decades now, you still meet older people in former East Germany who speak better Russian than English.

    German is only useful if you want to live in a German-speaking country or really like German literature. You meet German speakers in Turkey and a handful of European countries, but they’re always outnumbered by English speakers. And while it’s an exaggeration to say that everyone in Germany speaks English well, you’re never far from someone who speaks it well enough. I speak some German and have never used it outside of German-speaking countries except for with struggling German package tourists in Spain and Italy.

    French is mandatory if you want to live in a French-speaking country, and very helpful if you want to travel in former French colonies in Africa; it’s all but useless in Asia (even Indochina, where the French speakers are all either dead or moved to France a generation ago) and less useful than English in Europe. It’s appreciated, so worth learning if you really like it, but not all that powerful for traveling anywhere you say you want to go. I would say that its biggest advantage for a native English speaker is that, if you’ve got a decent ear for the pronunciation, it’s probably easier to pick up than German and certainly easier than Russian for most English speakers.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      Very helpful. About Spanish, I’ve never really considered it, as I unfortunately don’t really enjoy the language and there isn’t a ton of good literature in it, particularly in the last couple hundred years, compared to the other languages. Is it really ever helpful outside of Spain and Latin America?

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        >Is it really ever helpful outside of Spain and Latin America?
        Of course—it’s helpful wherever Latin American emigrants live, and you can find them in the margins all over the place. My housekeeper in Switzerland is from the Dominican Republic; her predecessor was Cuban (this was totally random—I hired them through an agency). And I spoke Spanish nearly every day for a couple of years when I lived in a largely Latino neighborhood in the US.

        I also respectfully disagree that there’s no good Spanish-language modern literature; alongside early 20th-c Spanish writers from the “Generation of ‘98,” (Miguel de Unamuno being a personal favorite), there’s what I consider a lot of innovative and interesting 20th-century-and-beyond writing out of South America, both poetry and prose. But if you’re not into it, you’re not into it, and if you’re not interested in Latin America Spanish probably isn’t for you.

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          You’ve piqued my interest somewhat. Thanks for all your input. I’ve still got a little Spanish from high school, albeit extremely rusty, and plenty of people to practice with — tons of Latinos are in my area. If you don’t mind me asking, how’d you go from a largely Hispanic US neighborhood to Switzerland w/ a housekeeper? Sounds like a sweet gig.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            >how’d you go from a largely Hispanic US neighborhood to Switzerland w/ a housekeeper? Sounds like a sweet gig.
            My family (me, wife, two kids) elected to get relocated to Switzerland a few years ago through my wife’s job; she’s a pharma executive. So the gig is indeed sweet, albeit not strictly mine. And when I say housekeeper I don’t mean live-in maid, or anything—just a cleaner who comes in for a few hours weekly.

            Before we came here we spent many years in San Francisco, a couple of them in the neighborhood known as the Mission, which is historically predominantly Latino and still home to a lot of native Spanish speakers among the (once surging, later dwindling) hipsters and (once-proliferating, I guess now finally dwindling) tech douchebags. I could almost certainly have survived without Spanish there, but I had it, so I liked to use it, and monolingual hairdressers gave the cheapest haircuts.

            And while I don’t want to push you into learning Spanish if you really don’t like it, I will also say that a solid foundation in the language made it very easy and quick for me to pick up simple Portuguese and Italian through self-study, as well as helping me with my fake French (I know a lot of words and phrases, can read it with limited effort, and I understand a lot, but my pronunciation and grammar aren’t good—unlike the others I would be lying if I said I could speak it). But you may have a similar experience if you elect to invest effort in French.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            I will take this opportunity to shill baselang to you. If you want to learn a language, 1-1 instruction is the most efficient way, and the service provides unlimited [sic] 1-1 instruction for $5 a day. The teachers are great, I think there's a free trial too.

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            You will have to decide between
            >What's INTERESTING
            >What's USEFUL
            Germany, Dutch and Nordic countries are so good at English that it makes no functional sense for you to learn it, but if you love the culture, go for it.

            The easiest and most useful language would be Spanish because it gives you a gateway into Romance languages. Portuguese (basically a dialect of Spanish), Italian, French. Also, you can practice it daily and watch people in your surroundings light up instantly.

            Thanks anon. Why do you say no French?

            French is much harder to pronounce and understand as a first foreign language IMO

            After you gain some confidence and hopefully start to enjoy learning languages, then you can branch out and have a crack at an Asian or Slavic language. I'm Croatian so I understand the gist of what the other Slavs are saying, and I'm at peace with reading translations of Russian classics, as not much is lost. Got high school German to get around, intermediate in Spanish. Mandarin/Japanese is the next frontier, and boy is it a big can of worms. Good thing - a lot of characters overlap, as they were imported from China to Japan.

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        >here isn’t a ton of good literature in it, particularly in the last couple hundred years

        Spanish is the oldest and arguably greatest literary language in Europe.

        A LOT of great stuff the last 200 years, especially in poetry and novels.

        In mid-brow novels and romances the output is unbelievable.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      French can also be useful in various 2nd world countries where they didn't like to teach English because it was seen as the language of the enemy or because there used to be a French-speaking country nearby.
      You can meet L2 French speakers in the weirdest places.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      Sounds like you never actually reached fluency in any of those langs? Does that feel bad?

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        >Sounds like you never actually reached fluency in any of those langs?
        Nope, not really. I’m officially a C1 in Spanish and have worked effectively in Spanish-medium environments, so I’d say it’s pretty close, and my comprehension is nearly 100%, but I’m never going to be mistaken for a native speaker. I also find that although I can have spontaneous conversations about any subject, which some consider an indicator of fluency, I often find holes in my vocabulary that I have to talk around, not always very elegantly. The other languages I can actually converse in probably average a high-B1, low B2 on a good day, some better than others. But there are a lot of them, plus I can phrasebook-level fake it in even more. I can live with with that.

        >Does that feel bad?
        Not really. Speaking many languages badly feels pretty good in its own way, especially as an American. And I find it easy to make the most of what I’ve got, even if it’s limited, so I’m usually pretty content when trying to communicate. Would it be nice to speak all the languages I’ve ever studied fluently? Absolutely. But it’s not realistic for me and I can live with that.

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          But you sound like youre in your late 40s thats a lot of time you had to get to c1 in all your langs, just apply yourself and bring all your langs to C1

          • 2 months ago
            Anonymous

            > But you sound like youre in your late 40s thats a lot of time you had to get to c1 in all your langs
            Eh, too much ADD, not enough autism. And while I’m not quite as old as you seem to think I am, I am old enough that I only have so much free time alongside my career, family, and other responsibilities. I was lucky to have six months almost free to dedicate to intensive language study, but that was really a fluke.

            > just apply yourself and bring all your langs to C1
            I continue to make progress in a couple of them. But “all my langs” equals eleven of them; I will never find the time to master them all.

            I do appreciate your concern, but you really shouldn’t worry about me.

            • 2 months ago
              Anonymous

              Im worried 4 u lad ur one divorce away from getting sent back to ur shithole u need a plan b

  10. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Just learn them all gay,
    Currently speak 5 langs and im from a monolingual chud country

    On the cefr scale all you really need for travel is an A2 maybe b1 if you want to have spontaneous convos with locals

    A2 really only takes a year to reach

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      >A2 really only takes a year to reach
      If that. I hit B1 in German in not much more than six months, starting from nothing. But they were pretty intensive months of study (~15 hrs/week of classes for much of that period, daily practice outside of class).

      But OP specifically said he’d rather speak one language well than multiple languages passably. Lots of languages at various intermediate levels is also my style, whether I like it or not, but it’s not for everyone.

      Which are your five (assuming that’s four in addition to your native language?), and how well do you speak them?

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        Spanish fluent C1 , French C1, German C1, Croatian A2.

        >But OP specifically said he’d rather speak one language well than multiple languages passably

        If thats the case i still hold the opinion that he should learn 3 langs to fluency .

        In my case its different , I love languages so much I made it my goal to learn at least 12 of my favorite to b1 or higher level. If i could learn all 12 to C1 it would be great but realistically there just isnt enough time

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        How do you plan to learn swiss german? Swiss dont like speaking high german

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          >How do you plan to learn swiss german? Swiss dont like speaking high german
          I’ve already picked up some just by living here for a few years, and I speak Standard German with a noticeable Swiss accent already (plus a lot of Swiss-style French loanwords), but I hope to take a dialect course in the next year or so. I understand the local Swiss variant better by the day, because I speak German just confidently enough that locals frequently don’t bother switching into High German when responding to me (as you say, most of them don’t like it much). But I admit that the dialects of other cantons mostly remain pretty inscrutable to me. I was chatting with an old dude waaaay up in the Bernese Oberland a couple of months back, and he started off trying to speak Standard German and telling me how good my German was, all the while slipping deeper and deeper into pure dialect… before long I stopped even getting the gist. There is work to be done, no question.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      how the hell do you manage to learn so many languages? are you a neet or in school or something?

      >A2 really only takes a year to reach
      If that. I hit B1 in German in not much more than six months, starting from nothing. But they were pretty intensive months of study (~15 hrs/week of classes for much of that period, daily practice outside of class).

      But OP specifically said he’d rather speak one language well than multiple languages passably. Lots of languages at various intermediate levels is also my style, whether I like it or not, but it’s not for everyone.

      Which are your five (assuming that’s four in addition to your native language?), and how well do you speak them?

      class in university? 6mo to B1 is impressive. 15/hrs a week plus some outside work doesn't even sound like an extraordinary amount of study

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        >class in university? 6mo to B1 is impressive. 15/hrs a week plus some outside work doesn't even sound like an extraordinary amount of study
        Intensive courses at language schools, in this case; three hours a day, five days per week. Really useful for my conversational skills and vocabulary, although I wish I’d had a somewhat more academic rather than conversational course mixed in there, such as I might have had with a university class. I would have liked more formal grammar lectures and drills than I got.

        I was also quasi-immersed outside of class, and feeling motivated. I was on some level practicing just about all the time during that period.

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        >how the hell do you manage to learn so many

        Black studying languages isnt some herculean task instead of wasting my time watching some shitty show, I use like 1 hour a day to read text books. 1 hour a day for like 8 years goes a long way

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          What exactly is your routine? How do you know what text books to choose and how do you work on things like speaking and listening if you're only reading text books?

  11. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    don't bother with the optimal travel language, since you speak english. Learn the language of people you want to relate with. i like the way latinos get down and thus focused on spanish, which ironically helped me the most in... Taiwan.

    When I lived in Singapore and mostly interact with chinese people and became pretty good (hsk6) so i could communicate with them in a heart to heart way. it helped my career tremendously, even though i could've been speaking English this whole time.

    This is what should motivate you to learn a language. "visiting a place" isn't reason enough. Speaking someone's language as a foreigner is to get as close you can to the way someone thinks. Pretty hard to look at a chinese factory worker and call him a bug when the guy eloquently explains that he's on a date with the reception desk lady. Speaking many languages allows for superhuman levels of understanding and empathy.

  12. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Mandarin, Russian, or Indonesian.

  13. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    English is the only useful language. The rest are not worth anything at all. English is spoken all over. There is no point in a European language, you will realize not only do they speak English but Europeans are wannabe americans with no culture except copying the US.

  14. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    French is a decent option - you will have reach in Canada and France, and many educated upper-class people all over Europe are fluent in it

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      >educated upper-class people all over Europe are fluent in it

      French just isnt popular in europe anymore

      In fact most learned language in europe is german after english

      Maybe in the 1800s mate not anymore

      • 2 months ago
        Anonymous

        There's a difference between "the educated upper-class people" and "most learned language".
        German is studied by Eastern Europeans to work in Germany, French is studied by people in paths leading to academia due to it being the dominant Romance language in Europe.
        For travel French is massively more useful than German, assuming you speak English already.

        • 2 months ago
          Anonymous

          exactly. poster seems to mistakenly think a bachelor's in journalism or criminology is equivalent to "educated upper class"

          > german studied by eastern europeans to work in germany
          indeed, at least in Poland, the only people who can speak german in eastern europe are those who work part time or full time in germany/austria, which statistically is no longer quite a significant number

  15. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    you just need English. you'll find an English-speaker in just about any city

    some of the people posting in this thread are morons who probably never even had a passport

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      To quote the resident spammer:
      >cities

      Of course you can get by with just English, but in many places you'll have a much better experience if you speak even a little of a locally understood language.

  16. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Only retards learn French. There is no French speaking country worth visiting on the whole earth.

    Learn Spanish instead, you cover more area with it.

  17. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    you learn which ever language of the place you want to live or work in
    it is 100% based on your own interest to live in a country long term or maybe if you plan to visit many times throughout your life
    why even ask this question? no one knows what region you like
    for books and shit that you mentioned definitely Russian though

  18. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    English, and then grind whatever language of the country you're going to.

    Look man, English is the lingua franca. If you got that, well there you go. There's no broader of a spread than English, so it's best to, instead of sinking your time into another broad language, specialize in the language of the country you're going to visit. Once you get used to it, it's not really learning "different" languages, it's learning the same language (human speech) in a different vernacular.

  19. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    You should look into studying the English language. It's very useful internationally. You can study back many centuries and in a few years you should be fluent enough to live in places like North American and the United Kingdom and other places.

  20. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    i'd say Spanish, but you pointed out that you arent interested in Latin America.
    Dont bother with Mandarin Chinese, unless you plan to spend alot of time in the various "chinatown" enclaves throughout the world. Even then, they might not understand you b/c they only speak Cantonese, or some other Chinese dialect. nor are you planning to do intl business with them. its #2 on the list, as the most speakers, but thats b/c most are (you guessed it) in mainland China.

    imo, Im thinking its either a toss up of either Russian, or Arabic. depending (obviously) on more of where your travel focus will mostly be. im told Arabic is a bit tricky, insomuch that the middle east arabic countries cant understand the north african arabic, but vise versa is ok, b/c alot of north africans watch middle eastern arabic TV channels.

  21. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    If you exclude LatAm and Africa then probably Russian for the former USSR; some type of Arabic for the Mid-East; Iranian for Iran and Central Asia; Hindustani for the Indian Subcontinent; Mandarin Chinese for China/Taiwan; and some type of Malay for Southeast Asia.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      >and some type of Malay for Southeast Asia.
      That will have you covered in most of Indonesia or Malaysia (Indonesian and Malay aren't exactly the same, but close enough), Brunei, and parts of three of the southernmost provinces of Thailand; I guess you could try getting by with it in Singapore, as well, where it's at least official even if it's not very widely spoken. But you'd be out of luck in virtually all of mainland SEA, as well as the Philippines (I think a real language maven could use good knowledge of Malay to make learning Tagalog easier, but apart from a handful of cognates they're not close enough to understand each other). Honestly, there are parts just of Indonesia where it seems like proficiency in Bahasa Indonesia is pretty low.

      Anyway, with national status in three/four countries, I suppose it is still technically the most international indigenous language of contemporary Southeast Asia. But it's got a lot of big holes in it.

    • 2 months ago
      Anonymous

      > Iranian for Iran and Central Asia
      Yep, there’s a lot of conservation and cross-intelligibility among the Persian languages—you can get a lot of mileage out of fluency in Farsi. Much is conserved across the Turkic languages, too, so fluency in Farsi and Turkish can enable you to communicate effectively if not always effortlessly with a huge geographic range of people in inland Asia.

  22. 2 months ago
    Anonymous

    Probably Spanish, French or Arabic depending on where you wanna go. Mandarin as well if your specializing to go around PRC/HK/Macau and other surrounding areas.

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