German vs. Spanish: Which should I learn?
Published on June 20, 2023
Learning a new language is a big commitment, so it makes sense to do your research when picking which language to learn. Think about when and where you can use that language in the future. What is your motivation to learn it? Do you want to study in a different country? Do you want to use a different language for your career? Do you really like a certain culture and want to make communication easier?
Spanish and German are both great languages. Let’s review a few reasons to choose either German or Spanish.
German is the official language of six countries in Western and Central Europe: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland. 130 million people speak German around the world, and the majority of them live in Germany. If you live in the United States, it might be difficult to find German speakers with whom to practice your new skills. However, your familial heritage or a German descendant population in your geographic area (like in the Midwest and parts of Texas) might tickle your curiosity and motivate you to take up studying the language.
Spanish certainly offers a greater number of people to practice with; it’s the official language of 21 countries. It’s the world’s second-most-spoken native language and the fourth-most-spoken language globally. There are approximately 496 million native speakers of Spanish. If you live in the US and are looking to practice on a daily basis, Spanish is an easy answer. The US and its close neighbor Mexico have the largest Spanish-speaking populations on earth — way more than Spain itself!
If you don’t live in the US, you may have a more nuanced decision to make. Keeping in mind your life choices and interests will help you choose the language you may find more useful.
Are you thinking of moving to Europe to study or work? Germany is well-known for its automotive, engineering and pharmaceutical industries. If you want to live in Europe and these industries are of interest to you, then you might want to consider learning German.
Spain, Mexico and Central and South America are also home to a variety of industries and multinational companies. If you’re interested in studying or working in a Spanish-speaking country, you have many countries to choose from.
Still, a question remains in the Spanish vs. German debate: Which language is quicker to learn? Is German easier than Spanish? As a native English speaker, certain similarities and differences in each language might make things easier (or harder) for you.
Spanish generally uses the same subject-verb-object sentence structure that English uses, though it’s not identical.
German syntax, or word order, is more varied. The basic German sentence structure can be difficult for English language speakers to learn at first.
Both Spanish and German share some cognates with English. This will help you learn vocabulary. But, be careful! There are always false cognates out there.
In English, nouns are ungendered. Both Spanish and German have gendered nouns and adjectives, so there is a learning curve either way. Spanish has two genders, with feminine and masculine nouns. German has those two plus a third neutral gender, so that might add to the difficulty level.
Conjugating verbs in Spanish can sometimes be complicated for English speakers. In Spanish, the verb form changes depending on the person (or people), so you need to learn more conjugations.
German verb conjugation has similarities to the sound of cognates in English. This might be easier for a native English speaker to learn quickly.
English has twelve vowel sounds in total. By comparison, Spanish only has five vowel sounds that never change. They are straightforward and easy to learn, but they require a sharp ear for non-native speakers to pronounce correctly.
German has an impressive 17 vowel sounds, many of which are similar to English. Still, there are some unique German letters that have no English equivalent, like ä, ö and ü. Those take time to pronounce correctly, too.
Taking the plunge and learning a new language will expand your horizons. After reading about the number of speakers of German vs. Spanish and familiarizing yourself with the technical aspects of each language, you may be wondering about the cultural benefits.
Culture is an important factor to consider when choosing to learn either German or Spanish. You aren’t just learning a language — you’re also learning about the history and people that speak that language. In short, you’re learning a new cultural perspective. Think about which culture (or cultures, as the case may be) you’d prefer to integrate into. Which are you more excited about?
Are you into Spanish-language music? Hopefully, because it’s everywhere right now! Did you see the TikTok about the Spanish teacher who taught her class the lyrics to Mexican singer Peso Pluma’s song “Ella Baila Sola”? Peso Pluma has over 52 million monthly listeners on Spotify thanks to this major hit song. He even appeared on Jimmy Fallon to sing his lyrics — all in Spanish, of course. Music from Latin America and Spain are major global influences and great tools for learning the language.
Do you like watching Spanish-language movies or TV series? Would you like to watch them without subtitles?
Are you a foodie? Mexican cuisine is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. The Mediterranean diet found in Spain is also on the list. Do you want to learn the dance language of salsa and bachata? These are all cultural activities that you can get more involved in by learning Spanish.
Or do you prefer the symphony? Germany is said to be the birthplace of classical music. There are 129 professional orchestras that are publicly financed in Germany alone.
Germany is also well-known for its long tradition of beer brewing and consumption. Oktoberfest in Munich is a popular beer festival open to both locals and tourists.
Or maybe you love German craftsmanship: cars, clocks, violins and much more. Speaking of cars, there have been 54 German Formula One drivers, including three world champions. The most famous is now-retired Michael Schumacher, a German who holds the most world championship titles in the sport.
When deciding to learn German or Spanish, it’s best to consider your own interests. Do you have solid plans to travel, or would you prefer to practice speaking to people where you live?
The decision to dedicate time to either German or Spanish should be based on which one you are more likely to use — and which one you will enjoy more! Remember, learning a language should be fun. Both languages offer you a window to the world, whether it is through your ears, your eyes or your stomach. Choose what works for you. If you’re still not sure, take a trial German class or Spanish class to get a feel for what you like best.