Our medium of communication, languages, have long and complex histories often entangling themselves with each other. Languages end up having striking similarities or vastly different features. This leaves many to compare languages to see which one is best. In this article we’re comparing German and Russian, is one better, harder, or more useful?
German is easier to learn for English speakers, has history relating to northern and central European countries, and is more useful in higher education. Russian is harder for English speakers, with history involving eastern Europe and parts of Asia, and is useful in the oil industry.
As it is with many other topics, a few words are not sufficient enough to properly discuss it. For starters, how do we know German is easier to learn, or that Russian is better in the oil industry? Likewise, how do the languages themselves differ? Diving deeper into the subject, how do we know which language is better, harder, or more useful?
How Different Are Russian And German?
We should discuss the differences and even similarities between Russian and German, so that we can start to learn which is “better or “worse”, relatively speaking. Since the structure of a language, it’s origins, or even it’s availability in the world can all negatively or positively effect a language’s worth.
So, how different are Russian and German?
Russian and German are very different, this is mainly due to both of them being in different language groups. German is a part of the Germanic languages and Russian in the Slavic languages. This leads them to have differing grammar rules, pronunciations, and sharing few historical events.
The Slavic languages are those found in eastern Europe, the Balkans, and a portion of the central European countries. This is important since the history, and equally important cultural aspects, of these languages all share common traditions and customs (yet, they still remain distinct from each other).
German occupies a prominent spot in the Germanic languages (the name sort of gives it away, does it not?), and because of this German shares many of the Germanic language’s traditions and cultural features.
So, how does this help us understand the differences between Russian and German?
First and foremost, this will lead them to have differences with grammar rules, vocabulary, and etc. However, there is a “deeper” affect, since these language groups are akin to families. And, in any family there might be two siblings that, though are uniquely different, share fundamental traits like religion, culture, and beliefs.
As such, German and Russian are not “siblings” (more like distant cousins, at best), leading them to have different features in their respective language, true. Yet, just as important are the cultural differences that follow suit, making them both different in a deeper meaning.
One similarity that can be pointed out is how they can both benefit one in finding jobs in a certain field, thus commonly on this basis some say that one language can be better over another. Leading to our next question: Is German or Russian better?
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Is German Or Russian Better?
First off, what does it mean when we say that a language is “better” compare to another? You can determine a language worth by looking at a variety of factors, but there are some chief things to consider.
- The cultural significance, which essentially means whether you’re learning for religious, or hereditary reasons. This would all fall under the cultural “umbrella” so to speak.
- The ease of learning the language, and in turn it’s availability throughout the world. Languages like Japanese are notoriously known to be complicated to learn, while languages such as Elvish (link to my article about the language) have very few resources to help learn it. Thus, all of these languages are often considered “hard”.
- The practical aspect of learning a language: This just means whether you can find use relating to a career, skill, or education that a language can help with.
If these are some of the parameters of deciding a if a language is “better”, then is German or Russian better?
For higher education or for descendants of northern Europe or Germany, German would be a better language due to its international status and the cultural benefits. On the other hand, if of eastern European or Slavic descent then Russian could be an option.
Since we discussed the cultural aspects of languages and its importance, along with the ramifications of a particular language’s culture we should now move on to consider which is harder, and more useful (and, why that is the case).
Is Russian Harder Than German?
For any language to be hard, it must have at least one of the following:
- Lack of resources to learn the language
- A complex grammar rule set or structure fairly dissimilar to the learners native tongue
- Foreign concepts and components (i.e. Japanese’s alphabet as compared to the Romanized version)
There can be objective ways of knowing whether a language is hard, but subjective reasonings tend to be more common (we don’t need to discuss those in detail). So, which language is harder, German or Russian?
The perspective that most hold is that Russian is harder than German to learn, and even more so for English speakers. Russian has a different alphabet and unique pronunciations when compared to western and Asian languages. Along with this Russian has strict and complex grammar rules.
German and Russian are both usually considered to be hard to learn, with German and it’s complex grammar, and Russian with it’s odd and strict rules particularly relating to it’s verbs. Yet, none of that stops many from learning these languages, since they are both spoken by millions.
To be exact:
- Russian, with 248 million speakers
- German, with 134 million speakers
These numbers are provided by Ethnologue.
Learning German or Russian coming from the perspective of a English speaker…
From an English speakers perspective, German would be easier to learn compared to Russian. Research from the U.S. Department of State on foreign languages, states the German generally takes 36 weeks to learn while Russian (under the category of hard languages) takes around 44 weeks.
Another note about these FSI designations: These times are for intensive training on a daily basis consisting of many hours of class time as well as dedicated solo training. There is also a screening process the the State Department does to ensure the student has the proper ‘language learning aptitude’.
Keep in mind that every language is hard to learn (namely, they all take effort and time). German is by no means an easy language. Especially since it has grammar considered to be hard in comparison to English.
These are all generalities for the most part when discussing how long it takes to learn a language, but it does help to bring a objective answer to which language is harder to learn.
Which Is More Useful?
How is talking about what language is useful any different from what language is better?
- A language can be better than another language for personal reasons (meaning it won’t help you gain anything material, like money), and these could be related to religion or culture (and, most of the time both).
- Whereas, what is more useful is related to how a language can help with material gain or its benefits in the world of higher education.
Though learning for gain can seem to be a lesser purpose for learning a language, this in no way means that it is immoral or necessarily wrong to do so. In fact it is essentially the main cause for most to learn languages.
So, which language is more useful, German or Russian?
German is more useful in higher education and careers requiring a post secondary degree. In comparison, Russian is not all that useful in academic settings. It’s use becomes apparent in trade, particularly in raw exports like oil since Russia is one the leading nations in the oil business.
It really all depends on one’s own situation and intentions for learning a language to decide whether one language is more useful.
Along these lines of thinking, some languages can be inherently more useful at certain times in history due to their prevalence throughout the world (for example, English could be described as the current “most useful” language).
German in the workforce and schooling…
Work. German in the workforce will significantly benefit engineers (seriously, Germany is the place to be for engineers). Modern manufacturing is also dominated by Germany, and this especially the case in Europe (nothing like German engineering, right?).
Education. Germany is known as being one of the popular choices for studying abroad, and having access to great universities. If interested in studying in German, this website will take you to a go-to resource for those discerning studying abroad in Germany.
Russian in the workforce and schooling…
Work. Russia is often considered to be one of the leading economical powers of the world today. As is discuss in this article and many others, Russia is the top oil producer in the world. Thus, businesses and companies dealing with that line of work could certainly benefit from a Russian speaker.
Education. Russia is not known as favorite among students abroad, though programs surely do exist. Essentially, Russian in education is only useful or pragmatic in Russia.
If interested in studying abroad in Russia, the largest university in Russia would is Moscow State University, that is located in (drumroll, please…) Moscow.
Is Russian A Dying Language?
For some when they hear a “dying language”, they may misunderstand it and think it a ludicrous proposition. Yet, what it really means is that certain language become less and less used over time. For instance, vulgar Latin was once spoken among all of the major nations throughout the “known” world.
Yet, no one speaks Latin today, making it a “dead” language. Would Russian be consider a “dead” language then? Or, at least is Russian becoming one?
Russian is not a dying language, however recent historical events has left Russian mostly spoken in Russia. It can seem as if Russian is dying to due the decline of it being spoken less in other countries, yet Russian still remains alive and well in Russia.
As is discuss in this article, in places like Lithuania (and others), the use of Russian has been discouraged and as such has effects on the language itself.
However, some mistake this to mean that Russian is dying. Due to its decline in usage in other countries some make this assumption. Yet, Russian has simply become isolated in Russia for the past few decades. It’s not being stop altogether, and on the contrary, it is doing just fine.
Russian is akin to Japanese currently, this means that the languages are just mainly spoken in their respective places of origin. Along with this they both are actually common choices for second languages. Just another blow to the notion of the Russian language dying.
The Final Talking Point On German Vs Russian…
German and Russian do not have an abundance of similarities, and as such whether their harder, better, or more useful depends mainly of a person’s own circumstance.
Despite this, there are some concrete truths like:
- German is easier to learn than Russian for English speakers (comparatively)
- German is more useful in modern manufacturing, while Russian is more useful in the oil industry
- German is better if in central or northern Europe, whereas Russian is better in eastern Europe or parts of Asia.
Then of course, whether or not you like German or Russian in of themselves can be the deciding factor on which language is better.
If looking for more information about language learning, or about German, then check some of my other articles!