A World of Languages

At A Grade Ahead, we provide educational enrichment for math, English, science, and even history. We believe in building a strong academic foundation for our students’ futures. Part of this solid foundation that some students overlook is world languages. In the United States, world language study is strongly recommended for high school and college students. In Ohio, for example, it is not required for high school graduation, but it is definitely encouraged. This is because many universities require at least two years of world language study for admission. Choosing a language may be a challenge for students as every language has its own benefits and difficulties. This article explores various aspects of a few languages offered in high schools and universities across the country.

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According to sources across the web, Spanish is the most studied second language throughout schools in the United States. As a member of the Romance language family, Spanish is written in the Latin alphabet. It is spoken natively in Spain and in countries throughout South America. According to speakeasybcn.com, some difficult aspects of Spanish grammar are verb tenses, irregular verbs, and gendered words. Regarding pronunciation, students often struggle the most with the R, J, and G sounds. Check out this video here for a quick lesson on Spanish pronunciation. On the plus side, Spanish and English have very similar alphabets. They also share many cognates, or similar words.


French is another commonly studied language in high schools and colleges. Along with Spanish, French belongs to the Romance language family and uses the Latin alphabet. French is spoken natively in France, Canada, and countries throughout Africa. Like English and Spanish, English and French share many cognates. However, French has a reputation for being more difficult to learn due to grammar, pronunciation, and spelling. French grammar requires complex verb conjugations and spelling changes. Some of these changes involve very subtle differences that can only be seen in writing. For example, when conjugating certain verbs, the pronunciation remains the same, but the spelling changes. Consider the following sentences:

Il mange – He eats

Ils mangent – They eat

While these sentences differ in meaning and spelling, they are pronounced the exact same way: EEL MAHNJ.

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German is also a popular option for second language students. It is a first language in many European countries including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, and Northern Italy. As a part of the Germanic language family, it is closely related to English. One aspect of German that is easy compared to English is the spelling. English spelling is full of numerous rules and exceptions. In German, once you learn the letters and the sounds they make, spelling is more straightforward. One difficult aspect of German is declension. For example, the endings of adjectives and articles change to show the subject and object of a sentence. At fluentu.com, they use the following example sentences to demonstrate this:

Der Mann füttert den Hund. – The man feeds the dog.

Den Hund füttert der Mann. – The man feeds the dog.

Both sentences translate as “The man feeds the dog.” In the English version, the order of the words reveals the subject (The man) and the object (the dog). In German, word order does not matter here. Instead, the articles der and den mark the subject (Mann) and object (Hund) respectively. This aspect of grammar requires a shift in thinking for native English speakers.


With over 1.35 billion speakers, Chinese is the most spoken first-language in the world. That fact alone should make it a popular option when choosing a language to study. Chinese is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family. It is spoken natively in China and other Asian countries including Taiwan and Singapore. Unlike Romance languages, Chinese has a completely different writing system that can be difficult to learn. Pinyin, the transliteration of the Chinese characters, can help students when first learning the language. Another difficult part of learning Chinese is mastering the different tones. Chinese relies heavily on tones to give meaning to words. Tones are distinguished by a rise or fall in pitch. At first these differences may be very subtle and hard to understand or produce for native English speakers. However, as with any new skill, practice makes perfect! Check out this video about mastering Chinese tones.


Russian is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. It is also spoken in Eurasian countries including the Baltic states, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. As a member of the East Slavic language family, it is written in the Cyrillic script. The modern Russian alphabet contains 33 letters. Native English speakers may find it challenging to learn this alphabet and to master proper pronunciation. Check out this video for a lesson on the Cyrillic alphabet. Once students master the alphabet and sounds, they might find Russian spelling to be simpler than English spelling. Regarding grammar, Russian verb conjugations are relatively intricate. Like German, Russian also uses declension to identify the subject and object within sentences.

Do you have school-aged children that are studying a foreign language? Which language did they choose? What are their favorite and least favorite parts of language learning? We would love to read your comments below!


Author: Amanda Hutson, Curriculum Assistant at A Grade Ahead, Inc.


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