Which Language is Right for You?

Thinking about learning a language this fall, but not sure which one will be the best fit? Read through some of our SLE Tips below to help you determine the right language for you in the upcoming semester.

Stop asking us—ask yourself!

The most important part of choosing a language is figuring out how you are going to use the language you pick. What excites you about the prospect of learning a new language? Think about the potential a new language opens up for you specifically.  Do you want to know a language or actually speak a language? Do you want to travel to the place it is spoken or use it for business in your own country? With over 7000 living languages in the world, the opportunities for exploration are endless, and you should choose one that fits your own path.

What do you have time for?

Think about how much time and effort you will be investing in learning a new language… months?… years?… the rest of your life? What do you have realistic time for, or what would you like to make time for? Spend the next few weeks considering how much precedence you would like to put into your new learning pursuit—this should be easier once you have figured out how you want to use the language! Determining your own commitment now will allow you to set achievable goals for yourself to keep your language-learning journey a motivated one.

Culture and language are not mutually exclusive.

When choosing a language, don’t forget that every language has its own unique culture and significance both locally and globally. Some languages apply to a multitude of cultures, ethnicities, and regions! Consider your own culture and how learning this new language could complement your own background as well as how it could expand both your perspective and cultural horizons moving forward. You could discover a whole new area of the world and a new part of yourself, too.

Availability is important.

In addition to planning out what you have time for, this would also be a great time to consider what resources are available in your area to learn a language. Some things to think about include:

  • Are there free programs in my area, such as MeetUp groups or a library with a Mango Languages subscription?
  • What languages does my university offer, and does my university have any joint programs with other campuses to take languages they don’t offer? Is my campus an SLE campus, where I can take free courses taught by my international peers in underrepresented languages?
  • Do I want to learn a language more casually online through applications or web learning portals?
  • Is there anyone who would like to learn this language with me? (Having a partner can help you stay on track!)

Practical applications?

Now that you have determined how you would like to use a language and how to make that a reality in time and availability, what are ways that you can use your new language in your every day? Find restaurants in your local area that cater to the native cuisine where you can practice the language with the chef or even just through reading the menu. Listen to music or watch movies in the language. How could this language apply to your major or your desired career path? Consider studying abroad in a place where you could immerse yourself in the language completely!

Kirsten Craig

Kirsten Craig

Kirsten is a graduate student in Columbia University's Masters of Global Thought program. A lover of anything friend and everything sweet, she is passionate about the environment and the many ways our communication is intricately linked to its preservation.

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