Use this detailed guide to determine whether you should learn German or Italian.
Choosing to learn a foreign language is one of the best things you can do for your brain, your cultural education, and your career opportunities. People who speak more than one language have skills that can be used in all areas of life and also get the added benefit of improved cognitive health. Choosing which new language to learn can be difficult, though. If you’re vacillating between German and Italian, then this will break down the pros and cons of both.
Similarities Between German and Italian
Although most people wouldn’t put German and Italian together in a group of similar languages, they do share some traits. First off, both languages use Indo-European letters, so figuring out the basic sounds that words make in either of these choices will be fairly easy, as opposed to an Asian language that uses characters or an Aramaic language that uses script.
Both languages also have a masculine and feminine gender. For example, certain vocabulary words use the feminine form of “the” and others use the masculine, whereas in English we only have one.
Lastly, since Italy and Germany are both European countries and there has been plenty of trading, sharing, and marrying that has happened over the years, these languages have borrowed plenty of vocabulary from each other. Thus, you’ll find some similar vocabulary and verbs in each.
Differences Between German and Italian
German and Italian don’t have a lot of crossover. German is a Germanic language (obviously), and it shares plenty of sounds and letter combinations with English. Italian, on the other hand, is a Romance language with Latin roots.
Although English does have some vocabulary and verbs that are similar to Italian (because English is a blend of many other languages), the Italian sounds and accent are quite different than in English.
Remember how we said both German and Italian have gendered language? Well, German throws another in there: “neuter” (neutral). German also has four different noun cases: accusative, dative, genitive, and nominative.
You’ll notice that all German nouns are capitalized, as opposed to the “common and proper” cases in English or Italian. This might sound difficult, but know that in Italian, you’ll have to memorize plenty of irregular verb forms, too.
Which Language Is Easier To Learn: Italian or German?
If you’re coming from a fluent-English perspective, Italian is fairly easy to learn. It’s consistently voted as one of the top ten easiest languages for English speakers to use. Although German isn’t up there, it isn’t one of the hardest, either.
Both Italian and German have plenty of words that sound and look similar to their English counterparts. (These are called cognates.) Italian grammar and pronunciation take the cake for ease compared to German, but German is much simpler concerning verb forms and various rules. It’s more logical than Italian (or even English, for that matter.) Logical doesn’t always mean easy, though.
German shares many of its common, everyday words with English. Italian shares plenty of words with English, too, but these are usually more scientific or intellectual, as opposed to layman’s nouns and verbs.
Thus, picking up the beginning stages of German might be easier, while those who learn Italian might have a slower start and then fly forward once they begin using academic texts.
Why You Should Learn German Rather Than Italian
If you plan on working in Germany or you have German ancestry that you want to connect with, then German might be the winner. Perhaps you’re trying to learn a language that isn’t going to be brand new to you if you are already fluent in English or another Germanic language (such as Dutch). These are great reasons to pick German over Italian.
Surprisingly, German is more popular worldwide than Italian (even though more people probably learn Italian in American high schools). German is the 11th most-spoken language; it has over 150 million speakers throughout the globe. Almost half of these live in Germany, though.
German is quite useful if you’re going into business, too, since Germany is highly influential in the European Union. The Power Language Index put out by the World Economic Forum also ranks German as number three regarding economic opportunities.
Why You Should Learn Italian Rather Than German
Italian is not only a Romance language, it’s often considered the language of romance. If you’re planning on going to Italy to travel, explore food and wine, put your mark on the fashion industry, or delve deep into the beauty of art and architecture, then Italian is the way to go. If you’ve already taken Spanish or Portuguese in high school or college, then Italian will be a pretty easy one to pick up quickly, too.
Although fewer people speak Italian throughout the world, over 30 countries have numerous Italian speakers. So, if you’re thinking about traveling the world, then Italian might be more useful than German.
Although German ranks higher as a more widely-spoken language and one with more economic opportunities, that means that many of your career competitors will speak it, too. So, if you want to learn a skill that other people probably don’t have, then picking up Italian can give you the edge you’re looking for.
There’s no one right answer to the question of “which language should I learn, German or Italian?”. The right foreign language for you is the one that checks off all your boxes.
- Are you looking for an easy new language or a challenge?
- Where will you be traveling or spending time?
- What are your career goals?
- Do you have ancestral roots that you’d like to connect to?
- Do you know anyone that speaks either language who can help you practice?
Whichever language you choose, keep it fun. Enjoying your journey toward becoming proficient—or even fluent—in another language is one of the biggest factors in success.
Don’t let all your hard work go to waste, either! Make sure that you’re using your new German or Italian skills each day so that you don’t lose your valuable new knowledge.
Choosing between German and Italian as a new language is a tough call. Though they share some similarities, there are far more differences. If you did well in high school Spanish, Italian may be easier given the Latin roots. However, German is generally considered easier for English speakers given the common lingual roots with English.
Because of the complex verb conjugations in Italian, German is generally learned more quickly, at least at first. Once Italian grammar and verb forms are mastered though, Italian can be learned just as quickly.
For business purposes, German is a much more important language to speak given Germany’s status as the economic powerhouse of Europe. It is also spoken on the Pacific rim. Italian will obviously be more useful in Italy and Italian-speaking pockets around the world though.