Best Foreign Language for a History Major?

#1
Hello everyone. :)

This is my first post to the forum, although I've been a member here for a while. While I haven't had much to contribute, I've read through a lot of threads here, and there is some great information to be found on this forum. Absolutely fantastic. I'm a young college student just starting out on my degree. I'm going to be majoring in History.

In my college, we are required to take a foreign language for at least two years, and I plan on selecting a language to turn into a double major along with History. For example, if I was to take German I would continue after the two years and take upper level courses to make my degree a History/German Studies double major.

My question to everyone here at the forum is what would be the most beneficial foreign language for a history major to learn? I'm in my first semester of college right now and I'm enrolled in Latin. I'm going to be dropping that next semester to take a "real" language. While Latin is fascinating, I want to learn a language that I can use to communicate with other people. :)

I'm honestly interested in all areas of world history, but I have a great interest in Medieval Studies as well as Classical Civilizations.

Right now I'm strongly considering Italian, but I'm also considering German or Portuguese.

Forgive me if I posted this in the wrong forum. This seemed to be the best choice. If anyone needs clarification on my question, please feel free to ask me anything! :)

What's the best foreign language for a History Major to learn!?
 
Aug 2012
1,733
Colorado
#7
French was the lingua franca until the 20th century, and Latin fulfilled that role before French. I'd go with French and/or Latin for the western world, depending on your period of expertise. French has easily proved to be the most useful language for me in regards to post-dark age history. I really wish I knew Latin so I could read European documents from before the middle ages. Greek is the other competitor to Latin for proficiency in the ancient world.

TBH Italian, German, or Portuguese aren't going to come in handy unless you specialize in German history, Portuguese history, etc. On an international level, these regions and countries used French to communicate across linguistic borders. For example, I know Spanish but it has only been useful in a historical context when reading documents directly dealing with Spain and her Empire.

In short, choose French or Latin depending on whether you plan to focus on ancient or post dark age history.
 
Oct 2011
7,654
MARE PACIFICVM
#8
Can you explain to me why? So far I haven't been convinced.
Latin was a lingua franca throughout medieval Europe and even into the Renaissance and the beginning of the Age of Discovery. All learned people were expected to speak, read and write Latin and many of the historical documents and accounts that we have regarding Europe are written in Latin.
 
#9
Quick responses on this forum. Cool. :)

I haven't given French much thought simply because I don't have much interest in French history on its own. Now that you mention it, I have heard that French is used as a universal language in treaties between countries and things of that nature...

Basically what you're saying is French is the modern equivalent of Latin as a "trade" language? I'll give French some thought.
 
#10
Latin was a lingua franca throughout medieval Europe and even into the Renaissance and the beginning of the Age of Discovery. All learned people were expected to speak, read and write Latin and many of the historical documents and accounts that we have regarding Europe are written in Latin.
Wouldn't it be fair to say that many of the "important" historical documents written in Latin are already translated into modern languages? Is that false?
 

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