You may always have the attraction to learn a foreign language. But picking a language that suits you best can be exciting yet challenging.
As a result of weighing your options, you finally came down to choosing between French and German.
This is a logical option since both are beautiful, popular, and useful for various causes and goals. But it isn’t easy to select the right one.
If you are still trying to decide which one to favor and need some solid reasons, you have come to the right place.
To simplify things, I have compiled a list you should contemplate when debating which European language to study next — French or German.
Now is the time to get started!
- French or German — Consider these 6 factors!
- How much time does it take to be fluent?
- Final Verdict — French or German?
French or German — Consider these 6 factors!
Taking up a new language is no longer merely a leisure exercise. Both personally and professionally, it has become indispensable.
The benefits of learning a language are endless. Still, every tongue comes with its own set of obstacles and difficulties.
Chinese and Japanese, for example, require you to learn new characters. Some languages also have the perplexing hardship of being too similar to the one you already know.
Other issues are many grammar rules, tricky vocabulary, diverse dialects, challenging sounds, and scarce resources. There is no end to the list.
Because of this, you may speak strangely (and in your head).
My search for this topic has been narrowed to French and German.
It is a good idea to consider various aspects, reasons to study, benefits, and shortcomings linked to two European languages before deciding which language to study.
Deciding between two options requires consideration of many factors. Some of these criteria and features include but are not limited to, those listed below.
1. Similarities based on your mother tongue
A language that is simple to understand is one of the top motivators for people to learn it.
You can learn French or German more quickly if your mother tongue is close to it. This is because the language is linguistically similar to your native tongue.
As a Romance language, French grew out of colloquially spoken Latin on the Iberian Peninsula. Although German origin is the same but belongs to a distinct branch, the West Germanic language family.
Even though both belong to different sub-branches, their Latin roots are the same. That is why there is a lot of overlap between the words, phrases, grammar, and other fundamental parts of the language.
Whether you speak English or another Latin language like Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian, either is fine. As part of the broad Indo-European language family, they are also somewhat related to Indian languages.
French is easier if you speak Portuguese, Spanish, or Italian. This is because all have similar written styles, grammar rules, and vocabulary. But French differs vastly in pronunciation, and many sounds in French do not exist in the Romance family tree and other languages.
As a Germanic language, German is like English, Dutch, and Nordic languages. Romance languages have a lot in common with it because of their shared roots, but they have different sounds.
While German and French are derived from the same source, their diction differs wildly. Both also differ in many ways, like grammar and words.
While German grammar is complex, the pronunciation is ok. On the other hand, French is more complicated, with sounds for an average speaker of English and European languages.
2. Number of speakers & where is it spoken?
The sheer number of people who speak a language is one of the most compelling reasons to learn one.
The more speakers, the more opportunities there are to practice with natives and learners. Also, it offers more options to study overseas, work abroad, and have diverse careers requiring languages.
Nearly 300 million people speak French worldwide, according to many estimates. This includes natives, L2 and L3 speakers, and learners.
French is the official language of 29 countries like France, Canada, Mali, Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Algeria, Cameroon, Monaco, Senegal, etc.
French is widespread in Europe, East Canada, and North, Central, and West Africa. It is one of the few languages spoken across five continents.
Over 100 million people are learning French, making it the 2nd most studied language in the world, after English. In short, French is a favorite tongue among learners.
The number of speakers of German is considerably lower than French, with only around 150 million. Natives account for about 100 million of the population, while L2, L3, and learners make up the rest.
Liechtenstein, Austria, and Germany speak German as a de jure language. It is also the co-official language of Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and South Tyrol in Italy. It is also the national language of Namibia.
Compared with 29 French-speaking nations, German has legal status in only 6 countries.
Central Europe is the primary region where it is spoken. Plus, many German speakers live in countries such as Russia, Brazil, the USA, France, the Netherlands, Poland, and the UK.
The German language is the 12th most spoken language in the world, with over 150 million native speakers and those who speak it as a second or third language.
European Union recognizes French and German as two of its 24 official languages.
French has a notable advantage when we compare the total number of speakers and countries where the two languages are widely spoken or official.
Speaking French makes you more globally ready since you gain a deeper understanding of countries. So, in this German vs. French contest, the latter would have a higher inclination toward education.
Do not let the number of speakers deter you. Rather than knowing how many people speak a language, it is more important to know who and where they are.
3. Which one of the two is easier to learn?
Having Latin roots, French and German belong to the Indo-European family of languages. But there are many differences between the two.
From the difficulty perspective, both are the same. Both are easier and more hard languages to learn at the same time, depending on various aspects of the language. This is primarily true for speakers of English and Latin-derived languages.
It is simpler to write in French than in German. But French has tricky pronunciation and articulation rules compared to German.
Most learners can learn French online at the beginner’s level and on their own using various websites and French language apps.
Most students need to work hard to enhance their speaking and listening skills. The alphabet is standard. In time, you will notice unique sounds, symbols, and grammar rules, such as complex cases, as you study.
Both languages use suffixes to write nouns and adjectives. With a few exceptions, this shows their grammatical gender. That’s masculine and feminine in French, but it’s both as well as neutral in German.
German verbs are like English verbs, with a few subtle differences. But the pronunciation of most words differs from that of English.
It needs to be more precise for beginners, making mastering it more difficult. Also, it seems odd since both English and German are Germanic languages.
French and German have the same difficulty level, and variation is more on specific parts of the language.
Initially, it is easier to learn than German. But as you progress, French becomes more tricky because of accents, complex sounds, expressions, idioms, exceptions, and dialects of French.
As for German grammar, it is challenging at the beginning since there are prepositions, verbs, and cases. But the more familiar and advanced you are, the more manageable it becomes.
As the classic saying goes, “Nothing truly outstanding ever came simple.”
4. Global recognition and demand
German GDP contributes one-fifth to the GDP of the European Union. And with many government regulations and social help programs, it is a “social market” economy based on market principles.
With about 84 million consumers, Germany is the EU’s largest market. So besides its own borders, its market has a global impact.
As French-speaking countries engage with the rest of the world more intensively, it has become an essential language in commerce and economics.
Economy-wise, France, Canada, and Africa are the top 3 Francophone regions. They are all doing fine, but not as well as German-speaking Europe.
With German being the powerhouse of Europe, it has the edge over the French in Europe. But from a global perspective, French has a broader reach and importance.
Learning languages and interacting across cultures is critical in today’s demanding and civilized world. But, in terms of culture, the French have more benefits. Across all digital media platforms, it has a huge fan base.
Youth have always been attracted to French and Francophone culture through music, songs, art, wines, films, dance, fashion, festivals, and food.
Oktoberfest, foods, movies, and carnivals are among the unique cultural forms in German-speaking countries. But the French-speaking region is more diverse and striking.
5. Opportunities for study, job, and career advancement
Germany is home to several world-renowned companies. Examples are SAP, Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, Allianz, Siemens, and Bosch.
Studying German makes you more attractive to employers and can stand out. As a result, German language-related jobs are indeed plentiful.
German universities are among the most prestigious in the world. The country ranks third in the number of international students.
One of the most popular student cities in the world is Berlin, the capital of Germany.
French academic institutions like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland are also well-regarded.
In the past few decades, Germany has produced several important innovations. All types of bicycles, power, computers, machines, engines, electronics, and chemicals fall into this category.
You will significantly benefit from studying German if you plan to become an inventor or investigator or seek employment in such a field.
There are plenty of career opportunities in German-speaking regions. Yet, they are less influential than in French from a job perspective.
Organizations have become accustomed to recruiting candidates who can help them with global commerce and business. French is also necessary for the current context. Companies can benefit from knowing French.
Trade growth and purchasing power are increasing in the French-speaking market. Due to this, the importance of French for businesses has never been greater.
Besides traveling, French allows you to work in a French-speaking nation or study in an academic institution in that country. These are just a few of the reasons you should learn French!
6. What is the purpose of learning?
Choosing the right reason for learning a language is one of the most vital factors.
Choosing what you want to accomplish with a language is crucial before learning it. It can be more effective if it has personal or professional motivations.
You may need to pursue higher education in Germany for various reasons. If you are interested in working in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, or Hamburg, you should check those out.
France’s culture, food, monuments, fashion, and music allure you. Or work or higher studies in France, or migrate to Canada and take the TEF or TCF exam.
Identify your goals and work toward them.
It is undeniable that self-motivation works best when we choose to do what we want. The most important thing when learning a new language is an inspiration.
It will be easier to choose between French and German if you strongly prefer one language over the other.
How much time does it take to be fluent?
According to the FSI, English speakers need 36 weeks (900 classroom hours) to learn German. German falls under category II, which is neither easy nor difficult — a moderate language.
You will need to spend these total hours on becoming skilled in German. And the same can be achieved in 200-250 and 450-500 hours if your only goal is elementary and intermediate.
Adding a 1:1 class to self-study ratio would mean 1800 hours total to attain an advanced level, such as the C1/C2 of the Goethe-Zertifikat.
Becoming fluent in German in two years is possible if you’re motivated and willing to work 15-20 hours each week. Yet, the time frame may vary depending on how intensive or slow-paced the studies are.
French falls under category-I. The languages in this category are some of the easiest for English speakers.
You can reach a good level of fluency in French in around 18 months if you work on it 10-12 hours a week. It is equivalent to 600 to 750 study hours.
Spending more or less time per week will undoubtedly affect the time it takes. Thus, some people only need one year to speak well in French. And some can attain conversational skills after a decade.
Several factors determine the duration, and it is just a hint. There are many factors to consider for learning, such as your style, approach, method, and dedication.
No matter your target level and how and where you study, both take a similar time to master. For an advanced level like near-native C2, there is little difference regarding the difficulty level.
Final Verdict — French or German?
Ultimately, deciding which language to learn depends on your interests and goals. Both French and German are excellent choices and can provide a rewarding experience.
The educational system of Germany is one of the best in the world. For students, learning German opens many doors and gives them fantastic opportunities.
German-speaking Europe has a prosperous economy. Germany plays a significant role in the international trade powerhouse. Due to this, German is beneficial for business and professional purposes.
Besides, studying German provides the opportunity to learn about the country’s culture, customs, festivals, history, and arts.
French offers a competitive advantage if you are interested in learning a widely spoken language, traveling, and learning about the culture of the French region.
Having a command of French can allow you to communicate with a large Francophone community throughout Europe, Africa, and Canada. It also benefits jobs involving French in aviation, fashion, leisure, outsourcing, education, export, tourism, and international sales.
French and German have advantages and disadvantages, so make your choice based on what best suits you.
The most important thing is to pick a language you enjoy learning and are genuinely interested in. You will have a more enjoyable and rewarding language learning experience if you do this.
Are there any questions you would like to ask or thoughts you would like to share? Then, let us know what you think in the comment section!