- The Romance Language = French
- The family of Latin-derived Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portugeuse) all connotate towards warm Mediterranean evenings overlooking azue waters, leisurely meals and generally living the good life. You can find plenty of compelling arguments for learning any of them: population of native speakers, professional advantages, ease of acquiring the language, etc. In the end though, if I had to choose one it would be French.
I learned French in secondary school for a number of years (thus making my life slightly easier for me). I’ve visitied Paris several times and been utterly entranced. Let me tell you, my French isn’t spoken: it’s purred. As far as I’m concerned the sound of spoken French is the most wonderful thing about it. My enthusiasm for the language makes it easier to master the pronunciation (at one point my French teacher commented that I was actually speaking with a French accent. I don’t know if I’ve been able to hold onto that, but I thought it was a great compliment). Since I currently envisage my future European connection being in central Europe, I’ll never be far away from Francophones either.
- The “Getting in touch with my Roots” Language = Gaelic
When I tell people that I’m Scottish they are liable to remark upon the fact that they can actually understand what I’m saying. Of course, the fact that my parents are English probably skews my accent towards the intelligible. However, the plain truth is that I’m a Lowlander. An East Coaster. Not a “proper” stereotypical Scot.
There’s no bilingualism on the East coast of Scotland, really. Gaelic is confined to the northwest Highlands & Islands, there isn’t any use for it in the densely-populated multicultural cities. Knowing and speaking Gaelic won’t carry any sort of tangible benefit to my professional or social life…but it is an “endangered” language, so I’d like to do by bit to keep it going and appreciating it (for instance, I love Celtic music, it would be nice to understand the lyrics). It also gives me the option when people comment on the clarity of my accent, “Well, I can switch into something a lot more difficult to understand, if you prefer…”
- The Lingua Franca = Mandarin
Mandarin appeals to me because it sounds really difficult to master. China is so far removed from Europe geographically speaking that if there’s any overlap in our tongues it is only by coincidence. The vocal sounds are completely different, the writing system is totally alien.
You guys know me, you know I love a challenge. I can see a significant professional advantage to learning Mandarin as well: the pharmaceutical industry is currently outsourcing a lot of labour and resources into the Far East where things are cheaper. Getting some sort of professional headstart on a Chinese language could come in handy if I wish to stay in industry. It also opens up the Far East to me: Mandarin is widely known through China in addition to the local languages.
- Reading Literature In The Original Language = Icelandic
I should have lived in the Icelandic Saga Age. My father took my brother and me on a two week roadtrip around Iceland when I was at a younger – and evidently more impressionable – age. I loved the rugged, majestic harshness of the landscape: reading the Icelandic sagas I came to admire the rugged, majestic harshness of the people who first settled here. Reading the Sagas in their original Icelandic (which actually can be understood by native speakers of the language today, apparently) is quite a tempting prospect. I’m enough of a literature buff to know that translations diminish the power and subtleties of the originals.
The Scandinavian lifestyle is much touted across the rest of Europe: those blond northerners seem to have got it right, we think to ourselves. After reading ingredient lists on the back of Lidl’s cereal boxes I can assert that there is enough of an overlap in the Scandinavian family of languages (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic) to gain a foothold in several by starting out with one. Thus, if I decide to migrate to Sweden to raise a family I’ll be sorted…
- The “For Additional Bonus Points” Language = Swiss German
I’d need to make good progress with my German before attempting to master one of the many dialects of Switzerland. If I stayed longer in Switzerland then it would probably be easier to get exposure to the dialects than to hochdeutsch, which isn’t really spoken by the natives unless they have no choice.