Difficulty Level: Relatively easy (600
Interests: Art, dance, or culinary arts;
international business, politics, or diplomacy; English literature; films; music;
acting as a translator.
German is the third most commonly
studied language in the entire world,
largely because Germany has the third
strongest economy in the world and is
the world’s #1 exporter. German is also
the most widely spoken language in
12 Many of the world’s greatest
theologians and most influential thinkers
came from Germany, so knowledge of
the language can aid in studies of religion
and philosophy. Because of Germany’s
continuing contributions to science
and technology, it is the second most
commonly used language in those fields.
In addition, German follows only English
and Chinese in terms of books published
in that language. In fact, 10 percent of the
world’s books are published in German.
English is a Germanic language, so
German is fairly easy for Americans
to pick up; however, its more complex
grammatical structure means that it is a
little harder to become adept at German
than it is to master the Romance languages.
On the other hand, German requires clear
enunciation, so it is generally easier to
understand spoken German than spoken
15 As an added bonus, knowledge
of German can boost your income 4%
as opposed to the 1.7% premium that
Spanish speakers earn.
The fourth language most favored by
American foreign language scholars is
Italian. Italian is a beautiful language
long associated with art and culture.
Italian sounds lyrical when spoken,
which may account for its wide use
in operas and other forms of classical
music. Italian, the most direct descendant
of Latin, is one of the easiest languages
to learn and speak; in addition, mastery
of Italian makes it easier to learn other
Romance languages. Though it is in less
demand than Spanish, Italian language
skills still generally earn a 4% premium
in the workplace.
AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE
Many people overlook sign language
when it comes to second language
studies. In the past, American Sign
Language (ASL) was not considered
acceptable for fulfilling a foreign
language requirement, in part because
its very nature precludes it from having
a body of literature. However, that
perception is changing and now, many
states and colleges accept work in ASL
for academic credit.
20 If the academic
credit is important to you, be sure to
check with your state or the colleges
where you plan to apply to make sure
that American Sign Language fulfills
Reading • Writing • Math • Science • History
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56 Winter 2010/11 l Foreign Language