zjs
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I'm particularly interested in all three of these languages, albeit for different reasons.

A lot of family have relocated to Spanish-speaking countries, and so learning the language would be useful for me. German is something I studied for GCSE and throughout school, and feel is relatively easy in terms of its similarities with English on words/grammar. Japanese is something I'm interested in learning due to potentially wanting to work in the country, the culture, relative rarity of native English speakers with the language etc.

The similarities between English, German and Japanese - tonally - are appealing. I'm off put somewhat by Japanese being described as one of the hardest languages for Westerners to learn.

I've toyed with French and Mandarin in the past also, given the utility of Mandarin and lack of grammar, and the fact I did a lot of French at school.

Essentially, for those that have learned any of these languages, which would you say would be the easiest to learn?

I want to learn independently as much as possible, before potentially looking towards paying for lessons with a uni/private institution. I want something that I won't get bored learning and will actually progress with learning as a language exchange and independently initially.
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Nezumiiro
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Spanish, out of all of them, is the most similar to English so I would say that it is the easiest. I am currently trying to learn Japanese right now as well, the most difficult stage is learning all of the kana symbols if anything because it is so unlike the Latin alphabet (making both German and Spanish somewhat easier as their alphabets are similar to that of the English one) and you also have to get used to using syllables to write rather than letters. I don't know about German because I haven't really learnt much about it.
Out of all of them, Spanish will probably prove to be the most useful since it is the most widely spoken. I would recommend the Apple app Duolingo for independently learning/improving Spanish and German (unfortunately not yet available for Japanese). If you have a Windows phone, you can use Japanese Hub free and Tango Master - Japanese to learn Japanese independently.
I must say that it is probably easier to practice your German/Spanish with other people and natives because Europe is not that far away - it may not be as easy organising exchange trips to Japan.
Over all, just have fun with whichever language you choose.
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missfats
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Japanese.
It will definitely help you with career prospects.

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TroyAndAbed
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Spanish is probably the most useful/widely spoken but it really depends which you're more interested in. Enjoying a language is the key to success as it will give you the drive to keep going and become more fluent.
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ronmcd
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(Original post by zjs)
I'm particularly interested in all three of these languages, albeit for different reasons.

A lot of family have relocated to Spanish-speaking countries, and so learning the language would be useful for me. German is something I studied for GCSE and throughout school, and feel is relatively easy in terms of its similarities with English on words/grammar. Japanese is something I'm interested in learning due to potentially wanting to work in the country, the culture, relative rarity of native English speakers with the language etc.

The similarities between English, German and Japanese - tonally - are appealing. I'm off put somewhat by Japanese being described as one of the hardest languages for Westerners to learn.

I've toyed with French and Mandarin in the past also, given the utility of Mandarin and lack of grammar, and the fact I did a lot of French at school.

Essentially, for those that have learned any of these languages, which would you say would be the easiest to learn?

I want to learn independently as much as possible, before potentially looking towards paying for lessons with a uni/private institution. I want something that I won't get bored learning and will actually progress with learning as a language exchange and independently initially.
These are the 3 foreign languages I speak, so I suppose I'm in as good a position to offer advice as anyone.

Spanish is the easiest of the 3 in just about all aspects. It's pretty simple grammatically and the orthography is very regular. Knowing French makes it even easier. The only problem I've found is that native speakers talk really quickly.

German may be superficially closer to English than Spanish, but in some ways it's very different. Yes, there are cognates, but are you really going to suss out that Verbindung means connection through the fact that it sounds like 'binding'? (compare withSpanish conección.)

People talk about German being a systematic and logical language but that's absolute rubbish. German does what it likes, and if you're not a native speaker you just have to wait till you get a feel for it. Hard and fast rules are very rare. For example, plurals can be formed in about 6 different ways, and most of the time you have no way of knowing which will be used. For example Der Apfel becomes die Äpfel, das Buch becomes die Bücher. You have the exact same problem with gender in that it's not easy to tell what gender a word will be just by looking at it. Half of the grammar isn't even essential, it's just there - adjective endings in particular serve very little purpose.

Don't let me put you off it though - as frustrating as it may be linguistically, I've had plenty of chances to speak German in places I wouldn't have expected to, and there's a lot of good German philosophy out there if you get to a good enough level.

I may be biased about Japanese since it's my favourite language, but it really is wonderful. Grammatically speaking just about everything is there for a reason, and it is very flexible. The grammar is not difficult per se - no remembering huge conjugation tables - but very different from European languages. I personally liked this since it made learning grammar interesting instead of just muttering amo amas amat amamus etc. to yourself. The downside is that you will come across concepts which have no English equivalents and have to be learnt through practical experience, which isn't something that will happen when learning German or Spanish.

The difficulty of learning Japanese is massively overrated. As a spoken language I'd say it's pretty easy. The main problem is learning kanji, firstly because there are lots of them and secondly because they aren't implemented into the language as well as they are in Chinese - by this I mean that each kanji will have various readings depending on whether it's in a verb, on it's own or used to form a compound word with another kanji.

Learning kanji takes a long time unless you use the Heisig method which would have you learn the 'meanings' of all the 2000 or so 'general use' kanji proscribed by the Japanese government. I don't approve personally because most kanji can't be given a simple one word meaning that will actually be of any use, but many people learn this way.

The plus side is that Japanese is probably the most convenient language to learn on the internet with self study materials, many of which are free. Tae Kim's guide is probably the best thing to use for a beginner, and I haven't seen a comparable thing in other languages.
There is also a lot of Japanese language material on the internet in the form of anime, J-pop, manga etc. Unless you are really passionate about Tatort or Latin American soaps, German and Spanish can't offer that.

tl;dr Spanish is the easiest, Japanese is the most rewarding and 'convenient', German is tolerable if you have a reason to learn it.
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happysmile
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(Original post by zjs)
I'm particularly interested in all three of these languages, albeit for different reasons.

A lot of family have relocated to Spanish-speaking countries, and so learning the language would be useful for me. German is something I studied for GCSE and throughout school, and feel is relatively easy in terms of its similarities with English on words/grammar. Japanese is something I'm interested in learning due to potentially wanting to work in the country, the culture, relative rarity of native English speakers with the language etc.

The similarities between English, German and Japanese - tonally - are appealing. I'm off put somewhat by Japanese being described as one of the hardest languages for Westerners to learn.

I've toyed with French and Mandarin in the past also, given the utility of Mandarin and lack of grammar, and the fact I did a lot of French at school.

Essentially, for those that have learned any of these languages, which would you say would be the easiest to learn?

I want to learn independently as much as possible, before potentially looking towards paying for lessons with a uni/private institution. I want something that I won't get bored learning and will actually progress with learning as a language exchange and independently initially.
I'd suggest learning Spanish or German - Spanish because, like you said, it would be useful for you, and German because you've already studied it at GCSE and that would be a good foundation for you to build on, especially since you feel it is relatively easy for you to learn. Good luck, and happy learning a new language!
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zjs
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(Original post by ronmcd)
These are the 3 foreign languages I speak, so I suppose I'm in as good a position to offer advice as anyone.

Spanish is the easiest of the 3 in just about all aspects. It's pretty simple grammatically and the orthography is very regular. Knowing French makes it even easier. The only problem I've found is that native speakers talk really quickly.

German may be superficially closer to English than Spanish, but in some ways it's very different. Yes, there are cognates, but are you really going to suss out that Verbindung means connection through the fact that it sounds like 'binding'? (compare withSpanish conección.)

People talk about German being a systematic and logical language but that's absolute rubbish. German does what it likes, and if you're not a native speaker you just have to wait till you get a feel for it. Hard and fast rules are very rare. For example, plurals can be formed in about 6 different ways, and most of the time you have no way of knowing which will be used. For example Der Apfel becomes die Äpfel, das Buch becomes die Bücher. You have the exact same problem with gender in that it's not easy to tell what gender a word will be just by looking at it. Half of the grammar isn't even essential, it's just there - adjective endings in particular serve very little purpose.

Don't let me put you off it though - as frustrating as it may be linguistically, I've had plenty of chances to speak German in places I wouldn't have expected to, and there's a lot of good German philosophy out there if you get to a good enough level.

I may be biased about Japanese since it's my favourite language, but it really is wonderful. Grammatically speaking just about everything is there for a reason, and it is very flexible. The grammar is not difficult per se - no remembering huge conjugation tables - but very different from European languages. I personally liked this since it made learning grammar interesting instead of just muttering amo amas amat amamus etc. to yourself. The downside is that you will come across concepts which have no English equivalents and have to be learnt through practical experience, which isn't something that will happen when learning German or Spanish.

The difficulty of learning Japanese is massively overrated. As a spoken language I'd say it's pretty easy. The main problem is learning kanji, firstly because there are lots of them and secondly because they aren't implemented into the language as well as they are in Chinese - by this I mean that each kanji will have various readings depending on whether it's in a verb, on it's own or used to form a compound word with another kanji.

Learning kanji takes a long time unless you use the Heisig method which would have you learn the 'meanings' of all the 2000 or so 'general use' kanji proscribed by the Japanese government. I don't approve personally because most kanji can't be given a simple one word meaning that will actually be of any use, but many people learn this way.

The plus side is that Japanese is probably the most convenient language to learn on the internet with self study materials, many of which are free. Tae Kim's guide is probably the best thing to use for a beginner, and I haven't seen a comparable thing in other languages.
There is also a lot of Japanese language material on the internet in the form of anime, J-pop, manga etc. Unless you are really passionate about Tatort or Latin American soaps, German and Spanish can't offer that.

tl;dr Spanish is the easiest, Japanese is the most rewarding and 'convenient', German is tolerable if you have a reason to learn it.
Great reply, thanks.

At what point would you start taking on Kanji (or did you)?
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ronmcd
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(Original post by zjs)
Great reply, thanks.

At what point would you start taking on Kanji (or did you)?
Pretty much as soon as you've learnt hiragana. Katakana isn't as essential, and people tend to have more difficulty with it, so you don't have to focus on it immediately. In any case, avoid romaji! (Japanese written in the Latin script)

The longer you put off learning kanji, the longer you have to wait before you can read meaningful Japanese. Learn kanji and grammar together.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/ is where to start.
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zjs
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(Original post by ronmcd)
Pretty much as soon as you've learnt hiragana. Katakana isn't as essential, and people tend to have more difficulty with it, so you don't have to focus on it immediately. In any case, avoid romaji! (Japanese written in the Latin script)

The longer you put off learning kanji, the longer you have to wait before you can read meaningful Japanese. Learn kanji and grammar together.

http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/ is where to start.
Again, helpful advice.

How did you learn the language, out of interest? Via school / uni / classes?
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ronmcd
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(Original post by zjs)
Again, helpful advice.

How did you learn the language, out of interest? Via school / uni / classes?
No problem.

I'm self-taught.
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freyahm
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(Original post by zjs)
Great reply, thanks.

At what point would you start taking on Kanji (or did you)?

theres a great book called 'remembering the kanji by James w. Heisig that will teach you ways to learn the characters through stories )
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doodoofan
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(Original post by freyahm)
theres a great book called 'remembering the kanji by James w. Heisig that will teach you ways to learn the characters through stories )
I also used Remembering the Kanji to learn Kanji. It's an awesome book. Sometimes I even created my own stories to remember the Kanji.
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Sandtrooper
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LEARN JAPANESE. IT'S AWESOME.

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Iggy Azalea
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Don't learn Japanese if your motive is career ambitions.

Japanese is set to age significantly in the next few decades. In a sense 'the whole nation is set to retire'. It's going to make getting work significantly harder, taxes higher and a lot of other issues of having a very old population. While it's a brilliant place, it's reaching the end of its era sadly. Still a good place for tourism however! But finding work other than English teaching is ridiculous.

You would be much better off learning either; Mandarin or Korean if you want a language that useful in the future. The benefits of these languages is that they can help you understand Japanese if you ever did want to try it out later. Plus they're slightly easier.

German is at the moment still in high demand for jobs but I'm not sure this is set for the long term as the German economy shrinks. The language isn't that bad to learn, and there's some fun aspects to it that make it special. Germany is also spoken in Austria and Switzerland so it's got some diversity and the while the economy might shrink, it's still pretty solid.

Spanish is a language I absolutely recommend you study. It's already ahead of English and is having a significant influence in the US right now. The benefit about Spanish is that it's a straightforward language to learn, and acts as a passport to so many places. You could go the icy south of Argentina if you fancied a winter break, or the beaches of Cuba and Mexico for some sun, or travel to Peru to visit some Incan ruins. Then you have historic Spain and the Asian Philippines to explore as well. The side benefit is that it makes learning Portuguese (Brazil!) achievable in the space of a couple of months due to the similarities between the two. If you have ambitions to work in the US, especially the West and South, Spanish is a great boost to your employability there.
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