Determine whether you should learn Spanish or German in this detailed language comparison.
So, you want to learn German or Spanish. Congrats! Learning a new language is always a smart academic, cultural, and social choice.
However, choosing which language to learn can be a real bear, especially when the two languages you’re considering are as different as German and Spanish.
That’s alright. If you’re trying to decide between German and Spanish, then this article will help give you some insight.
Similarities Between German and Spanish Languages
German and Spanish both share the same alphabet as English—the Indo-European or Latin alphabet. Of course, German and Spanish both have a few new letters and combinations, but you’ll be able to pick up a German or Spanish text and be able to pronounce most of the words from the beginning of your linguistic journey.
Both German and Spanish have gendered language. Certain nouns have one form of the word “the” and others have, well, another. In fact, German actually has three genders for its nouns (masculine, feminine, and neuter).
They also both have auxiliary and reflexive verbs. In Spanish, these are “me,” “se,” and “te”; in German, the word is “sich.”
German and Spanish also share many similarities with English concerning vocabulary and verbs.
English is a hodge-podge language that pulls from many others, so you’ll find cognates (words that sound and look similar in two languages) in both. German wins with the number of similarities, though—it shares over half of its words with English!
Differences Between Spanish and German Languages
Spanish and German come from different roots: Spanish is a Romance language that pulls mostly from Latin, whereas German is—ready for it?—Germanic.
This means that it’s sort of a distant cousin of English. Spanish flows off of the tongue and is quite melodic; German is more throaty and “harsh” sounding.
Again, we already covered gendered nouns, but German throws a third gender in there: “neuter.” German also has four different noun cases (accusative, dative, genitive, and nominative), and all nouns are capitalized.
German is also known for its highly compound noun structure—it has very long words that are a mash-up of many others. However, you can break these down just like you break down syllables in English to get the hang of it. Spanish plurals all end in ‘s,’ but German has many different ways that plurals can end, including ‘s’, ‘n,’ and ‘r.’
Spanish and German also vary widely when it comes to grammar and sentence structure. For example, Spanish and English both use subject-verb-object (although they flip nouns and adjectives).
Germanic word order is very flexible, yet very logical (which could be a good or a bad thing depending on the way your brain works).
Which Language Is Easier To Learn: Spanish or German?
Most fluent English speakers who have learned both Spanish and German would say that learning Spanish at the beginning was easier since Spanish shares a similar grammatical structure and plenty of cognates with English.
German is more difficult at the beginning because of its convoluted grammar rules, but once learners get the hang of it they’re good to go.
Most language learners can become proficient in Spanish in about 600 hours of study; German students can reach the same level in three times as long: 1,800 hours.
If you already speak a Romance language, such as Italian or French, then Spanish might be easier for you to pick up. But remember that German shares a lot of similarities to English, so that could be beneficial, too. If you already speak another Germanic language such as Dutch or Yiddish, then German should be a breeze.
All that to say, once the basics are covered, becoming proficient in one over the other isn’t necessarily easier.
Reasons To Learn Spanish
If you live in one of the United States regions where Spanish is spoken in high numbers (such as all along the Mexican border), then Spanish will be very beneficial.
Spanish is also widely spoken worldwide, so if you plan on doing some European travel, or Central or South American travel, then you’ll get plenty of use out of your Spanish skills.
Plus, in these places, you’ll be able to figure out the new dialect fairly easily as they’re all closely related to Spanish.
Spanish is high in demand in the business world, as it’s the second most common global language (behind Mandarin Chinese). If you speak proficient Spanish, you’ll be a part of the almost 550 million other people who speak it.
You’ll also have plenty of people who can help you practice while you are learning, including resources easily available in the United States such as Spanish radio and television.
Reasons To Learn German
German is highly desired in the business world, too, as Germany is one of the most influential powers in the European Union.
However, almost half of the world’s German speakers live in Germany, so your German-speaking partners will be fairly concentrated in this region of the world.
Even though Spanish is high in demand in many economic and social spheres, German might give you more of an edge as fewer people are learning it across the world. If you want to stand out, then German might be your best bet.
Both Spanish and German are highly useful languages, and both share plenty of similarities with English which makes them fairly easy to learn. However, the best new language for you is the one that you’ll use the most, enjoy the most, and that will give you the most opportunities.
So, think about what you’re going to use your linguistic skills for in real life as well as which language makes you the most excited about beginning your journey. Then you can go forward confidently.
Once you’ve got a good handle on either Spanish or German, go ahead and learn the other, too!
The answer of which language to learn turns largely on what you want to do with it once you speak it. If you will be spending time in Latin America or need Spanish for work, definitely learn Spanish then. If, however, you want to connect with your German heritage or travel to Germany, Austria or Switzerland, then learn German.
Generally speaking, Spanish is easier to learn than German. Because German uses four different cases and three different noun genders, it can be difficult to master. To be clear though, learning Spanish is not a walk in the park.