Should you learn Spanish or Italian? 5 insights to help you decide

November 10, 2023

Thinking of learning either Italian or Spanish? That’s fantastic! 

Learning a language has incredible benefits, and can introduce you to wonderful new things you might never have otherwise gotten to know.

But one area where a lot of people get stuck is trying to choose one language over another. How do you decide which door to open when both open up an incredible new world?

If you’re considering learning either Italian or Spanish, in this blog post we’ll help you pick. We’ve put together everything we think you need to consider. 

Here’s everything you need to decide whether your next language should be Spanish or Italian

1. Which culture appeals to you?

Every language in the world comes with ties to a unique set of traditions, foods and cultures worth knowing about. And that’s certainly true of both Spanish and Italian. 

Learning the Spanish language will expose you to a rich tapestry of philosophers, artists, and thinkers from both sides of the Atlantic. Think everyone from Cervantes to Picasso, Pablo Neruda to Frida Kahlo. Not to mention modern-day filmmaking giants, like Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro (check out some of their Spanish film classics on Netflix). And that’s not including huge pop-culture sensations, like Shakira and Selena!

Likewise, Italy, the heart of the Roman Empire, has similarly made many incredible contributions to Western culture, from Galileo to Vivaldi, to all-time great filmmakers like Federico Fellini.

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And then there’s the food. Do you prefer paella or risotto? Tacos or pasta? Tres leches cake or gelato? 

We’re not saying it’s an easy choice (it’s not!), but if one appeals to you more than the other, maybe it can start to sway your opinion.

2. How challenging is it?

To be perfectly honest, when it comes to difficulty, these two languages have a lot in common. They’re both Romance languages (meaning they have origins in the Roman Empire, not that they’ll sweep you off your feet – although, they’re plenty Romantic, too).

In fact, though they have many differences, Spanish and Italian share enough root words that, when spoken slowly, native speakers of each can largely get the gist. 

If you’re an English speaker with no experience of Romance languages, the challenges you’re most likely to face are similar for both languages: pronunciation, verb conjugation, and masculine and feminine word agreements. In both cases, there may be some new sounds – both languages use a rolled ‘r’, and Spanish also has a separate, second ‘r’ sound that we don’t use in English.

Though arguably for Spanish may be a tad easier. Italian has far more irregular verbs to memorise, and the symbols you see on Spanish words actually tell you how a word is pronounced, whereas Italian pronunciation can be more of a guessing game. 

3. How do you want to use it?

Another big consideration is the relative ‘usefulness’ of each language. Italian is the 22nd most spoken language in the world, with only about 65 million native speakers in the world. 

Spanish, on the other hand, has recently overtaken English as the second most spoken first language in the world. It’s also the fourth most spoken language in the world when factoring in all speakers.

So, if you’re looking for a language that will be useful to you in business and in travel more broadly, Spanish is a great choice. It’s one of the official languages of the UN and is spoken in Spain, Mexico, and all over Central and South America. Italian, on the other hand, is spoken primarily in Italy, with speakers in nearby Switzerland, Croatia and Romania.

That said, if you’re working for an Italian fashion company or planning a move to Milan, Italian, of course, makes a bit more sense.

4. Where are you?

Another huge factor to consider in making the choice between starting to learn Spanish and starting to learn Italian is where you live right now. While a future trip can be a huge incentive to learn, it’s worth considering who’s already just outside your door.

 If you live in a predominantly Italian neighborhood, or in a city with a large Spanish-speaking population, then that personal connection can be a great motivator – especially on days when you don’t feel up to studying. Plus, having the option to hear the language being spoken by native speakers can help you get a better handle on the language in practice.

5. Why are you studying?

Last, but certainly not least, we have what’s possibly the single most important question you have to ask yourself when choosing which language to study: what’s your motivation? If you have a personal motivation behind your studies, you’re much more likely to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

In the end, choosing what language to learn is a personal choice. There is no one language that is better than another – it comes down to you. If your heart is in it, you can learn any language. Even Hungarian, which is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn

If you have an abuela you want to be able to understand better, learn Spanish. If it’s your dream to take a pizza-making class in Naples, then you’ll have a strong reason to learn Italian.

Whichever you choose, keep your big “why” in mind, and you can’t fail. 

And that’s all there is to it. Those are the most important things to keep in mind when deciding whether to learn Spanish or Italian.

Ready? Do you know which language you’ll pick? The time to start learning is now.

Take a deep breath and click.

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