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Picking a Foreign Language

RecklessReckless Registered User regular
edited February 2008 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey all.

I'm a freshman in college, and I've got to pick a foreign language to study starting next semester. In High School I BSed my way through Italian and didn't really pick up any proficiency in the language. I'm an International Politics major, so my language is going to be fairly important.

I've narrowed myself down to French or Arabic. French would be useful in some parts of Europe and a whole lot of Africa, according to my advisor. Arabic, however, would look much more smashing on a resume as well as open up Study Abroad programs in Morocco and Cairo.

I need a little more input to help make my decision. Which do you guys think would be most useful in the future?

Reckless on


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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    It really depends what you want to do. Lots of international organizations (OECD, UN, NATO, EU) use French as one of its official languages, and many jobs require fluency in two of their languages, of which english is one. So french is great.

    If you wanted to do direct services work (like habitat for humanity), it's more of a mixed question, I guess. Most arab countries are pretty closed politically, whereas lots of countries in africa that work with medicines sans frontieres or whoever are going to be francophone, or speak a language which you won't learn in college. If you wanted to do development work, doing Spanish is probably the most useful, and I think south america is a lot more fun than africa.

    If you wanted to do CIA work or something, they need analysts and interpreters who speak arabic fluently. But I think they need people who speak pashto or urdu even more.

    Personally, having studied abroad in lots of europe and from having friends who are africanists (and studied in morocco, algeria and egypt), I would much rather be a libertine europeanist than deal with north african squalor and religiosity, regardless of the wealth of cultural opportunities and exchanges available in that part of the globe.

    Another alternative is to take two languages - I think this would be a fantastic use of your time and not appreciably more difficult than taking one language.

    kaliyama on
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    LonestarRunnerLonestarRunner Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Man, I was gonna make a joke post, but Kaliyama is right in every respect.

    Do what he says and perhaps worship him as your new life coach.

    LonestarRunner on
    I wanna see it when you find out what comets, stars, and moons are all about
    I wanna see their faces turn to backs of heads and slowly get smaller
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    descoladadescolada Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Though it's certainly ambitious, I would also suggest considering two languages. This, of course, depends on your other major requirements--I have no idea how demanding the coursework is for your degree.

    That said, if you are able to balance your class load over the next few years and not overwhelm yourself, it should be entirely possible (especially if you are a non-language major, as these commitments tend to only be two years of lower division study). Not to diminish the difficulty of language study, but it's usually not a guaranteed time-killer until upper division, and even then it's highly dependant on the student's desire to learn beyond getting decent grades.

    descolada on
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    LoneIgadzraLoneIgadzra Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    You almost can't go wrong. Pick based on the professor I would say. I took french completely on a whim, having no prior liking for french anything, and I ended up having fun. It's been a more useful language than I expected (and I only took two semesters and completely suck at it due to lack of motivation), so my impression is that you'll find a use for whatever language you take.

    But yeah, French is kind of a pain in the ass, but learning a language can be a lot of fun regardless, and it gives you an excuse to go to France.

    LoneIgadzra on
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    Matt_SMatt_S Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    السلم اليكوم

    I'm taking Arabic right now in college, and I have to say it's a pretty fun class. The hardest part for me was getting the pronunciation for all the symbols down - for example, ح and خ sound close, but are different sounds along with ت and ط - but if you practice each night, you'll be fine.

    It's a Semitic language, so it's a lot different from English. But with any other language, if you practice enough and do the homework, you'll be fine.

    ماسلما رعكلس

    Matt_S on
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    ÆthelredÆthelred Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Have a look through the basics of each language and see which appeals to you more. Since you've done Italian, you might find French easier to pick up. Arabic's very useful for government work at the moment, of course.

    Æthelred on
    pokes: 1505 8032 8399
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    KivutarKivutar Registered User regular
    edited February 2008
    Reckless wrote: »
    I need a little more input to help make my decision. Which do you guys think would be most useful in the future?
    I find it's a lot easier than you think to study concurrent languages - you can sort of cross-reference vocabulary & grammar between the languages you're studying as you learn them.
    Arabic's in high demand in pretty much any sector obviously, French is a great pair for it.
    I did take both concurrently for a couple years, although I started Arabic a year before French I think.

    Kivutar on
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